4. BLACKMAIL-LIKE DOCUMENTS
On February 16th 1981 I first showed a xerox of the Blessing to the LDS Archivist, Don Schmidt... I was also willing to promise not to breathe a word of its existence to anyoneDon being the first person I had contacted. Since I had previously made several trades with Don in this same price range which were completed immediately,... (not wanting to come across like I was trying to blackmail the Church) I fully expected to relinquish ownership immediately. (Mark Hofmann, Sunstone Review, August 1982, page 1)
While Mark Hofmann seems to have possessed some documents which were somewhat embarrassing to the Mormon Church between 1978 and 1980, as far as we know his first major attempt to create a blackmail-like document, which the Mormon leaders might want to buy up to suppress, occurred in 1981 when he forged the Joseph Smith III Blessing document. The church's newspaper, Deseret News for March 19, 1981, reported:
"A handwritten document thought to be a father's blessing given by Joseph Smith Jr., first president and prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to his son Joseph Smith III, has been acquired by the Church Historical Department.
"The document, which includes the possibility of Joseph Smith III succeeding his father as prophet and church leader, was presented Thursday to authorities of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in exchange for another valuable church document....
"[Earl E.] Olson and other LDS officials said they are convinced the blessing is authentic. Handwriting and the paper were examined and compared with other documents....
"The blessing document, dated Jan. 17, 1844, is thought to have been written by Thomas Bullock, one of several men who served as clerk to Joseph Smith Jr....
"Church officials obtained the document from Mark William Hofmann, a collector of historical documents and antiques. He said he received it from a descendant of Thomas Bullock. Church officials declined to say how much was paid for the document...
"The document outlines a blessing given by Joseph Smith Jr. to his son, then age 11, and includes the possibility of the son succeeding his father 'to the Presidency of the High Priesthood: A Seer, and a Revelator, and a Prophet, unto the Church.' "
The Utah Mormon Church had always claimed that Brigham Young was the true successor of Joseph Smith. The Reorganized LDS Church, on the other hand, maintained that Joseph Smith had appointed his son, Joseph Smith III, as his successor. Joseph Smith III rejected the leadership of Brigham Young and became the leader of the RLDS Church. Mark Hofmann's discovery of the Joseph Smith III Blessing document appeared to sew up the case for the RLDS Church. The blessing seemed to provide devastating evidence against the Utah Mormon Church; therefore, officials from the church tried to downplay its importance.
In his blackmail-like attempt to sell the document to the Mormon Church, Mark Hofmann seems to have made a mistake in not going directly to the top leadership of the church. Instead, he approached Church Archivist Donald Schmidt. Since Schmidt did not immediately jump at the opportunity of buying the document, Mr. Hofmann turned to the RLDS Church. Officials of that church were very interested in obtaining the blessing and entered into an agreement with Hofmann. When Mormon leaders became aware of the importance of the document, they decided that the church must obtain it. By this time, however, it was too late to attempt to suppress it. Officials from the RLDS Church already knew of its contents and it is doubtful that they would have kept silent about the matter. Instead of selling the document to the RLDS Church, as he had agreed to do, Mr. Hofmann turned it over to the Mormon Church. This caused the Reorganized Church Historian, Richard Howard, to accuse Hofmann of "duplicitous negotiating" and to consider "the possibility of legal action in response to Hofmann's breach of contract (His written, self-imposed deadline of March 8, extended verbally to March 17, had been violated by his March 6 sale of the document to the LDS Church)." (Statement of Richard Howard, published in Sunstone Review, August 1982, page 7) In an attempt to bring about a peaceful settlement, the Mormon Church turned over the blessing document to the Reorganized Church in exchange for a Book of Commandments. According to the testimony of former Church Archivist Donald Schmidt, Mark Hofmann came out very well on the deal. Schmidt claimed that Hofmann received material from the archives which was valued "in the neighborhood of $20,000."
In his confession, Mark Hofmann made these comments about the Joseph Smith III Blessing:
Q. Let's talk about the Joseph Smith 3rd Blessing. Again, can you kind of tell us how it started and where you got the idea, what led up to it?
A. This, in my opinion, is a better forgery that the Anthon Transcript. At least the Bullock writing is. The Joseph Smith is probably not as good. As far as where I got the idea, it's pretty common knowledge in the Church, RLDS Church, that there's been a debate going on as far as whether or not such a blessing was ever given. Because of that controversy I figured such a blessing would be worth a lot of money to certain people so this was, although again as far as motivation, it is true that partially it had to do with my rewriting of Mormon history. It was mostly money oriented, mostly money motivated, I would say.
. . . . .
Q. So your intent was originally to go to the LDS Church rather than the RLDS Church?
A. That's right.
Q. And also besides the money, what fascinated you about this particular aspect of the history, of finding this particular document or producing this particular document?
A. Well, for one thing it has a controversial nature which always brings better money. Is that what you mean? What you want to know is all of my motivation or what I was thinking?
A. I believe my main motivation was money. My other would have been that it would be controversial so I could get the money. I thought that the Church would make a quick and secret purchase of it.
(Hofmann's Confession, pages 133 and 150)
On page 148, Mark Hofmann admitted that certain wording he used regarding Joseph Smith III "may have been to make the document seem more embarrassing to the LDS Church..."
When Mr. Hofmann was asked where he obtained the paper on which he forged the blessing, he replied: "It would have been an end sheet out of a book, most likely from the University of Utah but I can't remember the specific book it came out of." Hofmann went on to state that the paper he used for the blessing was actually made around 1880 (about 36 years after the blessing was supposed to have been given), but he felt that document examiners could not detect this since he made sure "it didn't have wood pulp" in it. (page 152) On pages 161-62, Mr. Hofmann gave this information on how he aged the ink:
A. It would have been aged probably on a metal screen such as you would find on storm doors with suction pulling down from the front of the document in to the back through an arrangement I had worked up with an old vacuum cleaner and then it would have been either sprayed or painted with hydrogen peroxide, I believe. The purpose of the sucking is to bring the characteristic aging or brown of the ink through to the back side. Then again, I'm just guessing how I did this because I can't say for sure.
I believe afterwards I would have, after the front of it was aged I would have added the words on the back and by reversing the document on a screen I would have aged the ink on the other side also with hydrogen peroxide. I shouldn't say aged, I should say oxidized the ink.
This document was examined by document experts hired by the RLDS Church and pronounced authentic. After the murders it was reexamined by forensic experts who had learned of the cracked ink and pronounced a forgery. William Flyn testified that although he could not condemn the document on the basis of the handwriting, he did note that the indentation of paragraphs did not match that found on authentic Bullock documents. On page 159 of his confession, Mr. Hofmann admitted that Mr. Flyn was correct about the indentation: "I believe that, for example, the indentations on the paragraph should have been greater."
As to the sources used in creating the document, Mr. Hofmann acknowledged that he found the testimony of a man by the name of "Whitehead" very helpful. This testimony is found in a book we photographically reprinted many years ago entitled, The Temple Lot Case. Investigators found a Xerox copy from our printing in Hofmann's home and questioned him about it:
Q. You had a copy in your stuff? Do you remember how you obtained that copy?
A. ...I know it would have either come from the Church or from the University of Utah.... Did you look at either of those places?
Q. This is a copy of the Tanners'.
A. This is from the Tanners?
Q. Yes. Do you know where you got it specifically?
A. Is this the actual transcript that I got?
Q. No, it is a copy of yours.
A. This is from the book by the Tanners then?
Q. Appears to be because there is the Tanners' and it matches.
A. I don't remember that I had purchased it from the Tanners so I presume that I got it from the University Library, made a copy. It may be that I had made that purchase from the Tanners but I don't remember it.
Q. Would that have been something on open stack or something you would have had to specifically order?
A. Probably something I would have had to order. Let's see, I'm thinking, I believe that's true with both the Church and the University of Utah library. I probably would have had to order it. So you can check to see if I ordered it and if I didn't, then I purchased the copy from the Tanners.
(Hofmann's Confession, pages 136-137)
In chapter 6 of Tracking, under The Blessing Document, I wrote the following about the blessing:
"As to the actual composition of the text of the Joseph Smith III Blessing, Joseph Smith's revelations found in the Doctrine and Covenants could have provided structural material. For instance, the wording in Joseph Smith's revelation of January 19, 1841, resembles some of the wording found in the blessing given to his son. In the Doctrine and Covenants 124:57 and 59 we read: '...this anointing have I put upon his head, that his blessing shall also be put upon the head of his posterity after him.... let... his seed after him have place in that house, from generation to generation,...' In the blessing to Joseph Smith III we find this: '...the anointing of the progenitor shall be upon the head of my son, and his seed after him, from generation to generation.' "
In his confession, page 144, Mark Hofmann said that he did use the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 124, but was not sure exactly which portions: "A couple of the phrases are similar to Section 124. I adopted them from Section 124 of the LDS Doctrine & Covenants."
In chapter 6 of Tracking, under The Blessing Document, I suggested that there was another blessing that could have influenced the wording in Hofmann's forgery:
"One document which was undoubtedly used to write the blessing was mentioned as early as 1976 by the Mormon scholar D. Michael Quinn. In BYU Studies, Winter 1976, p. 225, Dr. Quinn wrote concerning a 'patriarchal blessing given to Joseph Smith III by his grandfather, which stated in part: "You shall have power to carry out all that your Father left undone when you become of age." ' In footnote 104, on the same page, Dr. Quinn gives his source as: 'Blessing of Joseph Smith III, given by Joseph Smith, Sr., in Kirtland, written by Lucy Mack Smith from memory in 1845, Church Archives; Saints' Herald ... 65 (28 July 1909): 702.'
"Fortunately, I obtained photocopies of this document and was able to compare it with the Hofmann document. The Joseph Smith, Sr., blessing says that Joseph Smith III 'shall live long upon the Earth.' The Hofmann document promises, that 'his days shall be lengthened upon the earth,...' The blessing written in 1845 informs the boy what he will do 'after you are grown.' The purported 1844 blessing uses the words, 'When he is grown,...' The Joseph Smith, Sr., blessing says to young Joseph: 'You shall be a help to your brothers.' The Hofmann document claims that 'he shall be a strength to his brethren,...' The 1845 document contains these words: 'And a comfort to your Mother.' The 1844 blessing is almost identical: '...and a comfort to his mother.' "
At first Mark Hofmann felt that he did not have access to the blessing of Joseph Smith, Sr., until "after I made this forgery." (Hofmann's Confession, page 140) On the next page, Mr. Hofmann related that he did "remember discussing it with Michael Marquardt about the Blessing. He was interested in the wording of it. Was trying to find out relationships between Section 124 and the Doctrine and Covenants and the Blessing, as I remember." After he was shown some of the parallels between the two blessings, Mr. Hofmann said: "I would suspect that I did indeed see the Joseph Smith, Sr. Blessing before making the forgery, so that takes back everything I've said for the last 15 minutes." (page 149) In a later interview, Mark Hofmann was rather certain that he did, in fact, use the Joseph Smith, Sr., blessing document to create his forgery:
Q. Did you acquire possession of this blessing by the grandfather before you forged the Joseph Smith, 3rd Blessing and did you use it in your preparation and as a source?
A. Yes. I believe I did. I believe I had, before forging the document I obtained a Xerox of it. Certainly I used the contents of it where it parallels the document I forged I believe after forging the document I saw the original copy of this document rather than just a Xerox at the Church Archives.
In chapter 6 of Tracking, under The Blessing Document, I gave this information concerning the Joseph Smith III Blessing:
"...it was reported that the Blessing document came from a descendant of Thomas Bullock and that Mr. Hofmann was only playing the role of dealer in the transaction. The Church's own newspaper reported that Hofmann claimed 'he received it from a descendant of Thomas Bullock.' (Deseret News, March 19, 1981) I naturally assumed that the Church leaders had checked out Hofmann's story and knew all about this descendant of Thomas Bullock.... Unfortunately, it now appears that Church officials did not do their homework. There was no serious attempt to check out the story that the Blessing document actually came from a descendant of Bullock, and the Reorganized Church Historian who was interested in the source of the Blessing was discouraged from checking it out.
"I first became concerned about the authenticity of the Joseph Smith III Blessing after I began to have misgivings about the Salamander letter. I wanted to talk to the descendant of Thomas Bullock who was supposed to have originally had the document. I felt that if I could trace the document back beyond Mark Hofmann to the Bullock family, I would be sure of its authenticity. I soon found, however, that it was virtually impossible to learn the name of the descendant of Thomas Bullock. I became very suspicious and on August 22, 1984, I published the following:
" 'In his public statement about the Joseph Smith III Blessing document Hofmann has said he acquired it from a descendant of Thomas Bullock. An official from the Reorganized Church [RLDS Church Historian Richard P. Howard] told us that when he asked Hofmann the specific source of this document, he would not reveal it. The same man [Howard] asked us the question, "would you want to buy a used car from someone who wouldn't tell you who the last owner was?" At any rate, he was given a name by the Mormon Church historians, but never followed up on the matter because he was told it could prove embarrassing for the Mormon Church. The reason why it would prove embarrassing was not explained.' (The Money-Digging Letters, pages 8-9)
"As I indicated earlier in this book, on August 23, 1984, Mark Hofmann came to our home and talked to Sandra for a long time about the questions I had raised in The Money-Digging Letters. With regard to the Joseph Smith III Blessing, Hofmann indicated that he had given the Mormon Church an affidavit which stated where he had obtained it. He could not reveal the source to the public, however, because the member of the Bullock family from whom he had purchased the document also had important papers concerning Brigham Young's finances that would be embarrassing to the Church."
At Mark Hofmann's preliminary hearing, former Church Archivist Donald Schmidt testified that Hofmann had indeed given the church "a notarized" statement signed "by an Allen Bullock" stating that Hofmann had obtained the Blessing Document from him. Hofmann also informed Schmidt that "his full name was Allen Lee Bullock" and that he was born in "1918." When Schmidt was asked if he had any personal contact with Allen Lee Bullock, he replied: "I did not." He also testified that no one in his department had any contact with him and that the provenance of the document had never been checked out.
In his confession, Mark Hofmann testified that he had found a notary who did not require identification and that he himself had forged the affidavit:
Q. Was it signed in front of him?
A. Yes, I signed it right there.
Q. You signed it?
A. I signed Alan Bullock's name.
(Hofmann's Confession, page 170)
At the time I wrote Tracking, I felt that the name "Allen Lee Bullock" was only a figment of Mark Hofmann's imagination. I have since been informed that investigators found the name Allen Lee Bullock in a list of descendants of Thomas Bullock. Mr. Bullock was contacted by detectives. He claimed that he did not sign the affidavit, had never had possession of the Blessing document and had not even met Mark Hofmann. I suspect that Hofmann must have told church officials that he might be able to obtain the embarrassing records concerning Brigham Young for the church from Allen Lee Bullock if they did not bother Mr. Bullock. The reason that church officials asked RLDS Church Historian Richard Howard not to contact Bullock must have been that they wanted to keep these records suppressed from the public. If church leaders had not continued to suppress the name Allen Lee Bullock, we would have been able to contact him a year before the bombings and discover that the affidavit attributed to him was a forgery. This, of course, would have been the type of hard evidence we were looking for which could have led to Hofmann's arrest and conviction for forgery. If this had occurred, there would have been no McLellin deception, Hugh Pinnock would not have helped Hofmann obtain the loan for $185,000 and Steven Christensen and Kathleen Sheets would probably be alive today. This whole series of tragic events seems to destroy the claim that the Mormon Church is led by revelation. It appears, in fact, that church leaders are more concerned about protecting the image of the church than they are about being forthright with their people.
SMITH'S 1825 LETTER
In a speech given at the Brigham Young University Symposium, "Church History and Recent Forgeries," the Mormon Apostle Dallin H. Oaks tried very hard to make it appear that the church was not trying to suppress documents:
"What interested me most was the fact that these forgeries and their associated lies grew out of their author's deliberate attempt to rewrite the early history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and that so many persons and organizations seized on this episode to attempt to discredit the Church and its leaders....
"In the course of this episode, we have seen some of the most sustained and intense LDS Church-bashing since the turn of the century. In a circumstance where The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints could not say much without interfering with the pending criminal investigation and prosecution, the Church and its leaders have been easy marks for assertions and innuendo ranging from charges of complicity in murder to repeated recitals that the Church routinely acquires and suppresses church history documents in order to deceive its members and the public.... a February 11, 1987, New York Times feature states: 'According to investigators, the church leaders purchased from Mr. Hofmann and then hid in a vault a number of 19th-century letters and other documents that cast doubt on the church's official version of its history.' This kind of character assassination attributed to anonymous 'investigators' has been all-too-common throughout the media coverage of this whole event....
"Also conveniently omitted from mention in most of the repetitious media recitals of church suppression of documents is the fact that the most prominent Hofmann documents used to attack the origins of the Churchincluding Martin Harris' so-called Salamander letter, Joseph Smith's treasure-hunting letter to Josiah Stowel, and the Joseph Smith III blessingwere all made public by the Church many months before the bombings triggered the intense public interest in this subject...
"In his interviews with the prosecutors, Hofmann has recited the contents of conversations he said he had with President Hinckley.... I urge everyone to be thoughtful about who they will believe on conflicts of this nature, General Authorities whose statements about this whole episode have been confirmed by all subsequent investigations, or Mark Hofmann, who is renown for his record of deceit and his efforts to discredit the Church and its leaders." ("Recent Events Involving Church History and Forged Documents," Brigham Young University, August 6, 1987, typed copy distributed to the news media, pages 1, 2, 4, 5 and 18)
Although Apostle Oaks would lead one to believe that the Mormon Church did not try to suppress Joseph Smith's 1825 "treasure-hunting letter to Josiah Stowel," a document which was actually forged by Mark Hofmann, all the evidence points in the other direction. Mark Hofmann's testimony with regard to this letter seems to fit very well with evidence from other sources:
A. ...This whole document is a forgery.
Q. What is behind the idea of the Josiah Stoal forgery? How did it come up in your mind?
A. From the History of the Church, Joseph Smith's History of the Church, I think that it is commonly known that Joseph Smith was employed by Josiah Stoal. Also that Josiah Stoal was a fairly superstitious individual and believed in such things as money digging. Also that Josiah Stoal hired Joseph Smith for his abilities as a seer. And the document is obviously historically important and controversial, both of which means that it is worth a lot of money.
Q. Was your purpose, when you made it up, to go right to the LDS Church or was it to go to the highest buyer?
A. It was to go to the LDS Church. There was no competition since there wasn't any, it wasn't going to the highest bidder since there was no bidding taking place.
Q. Why was it going straight to the LDS Church?
A. I thought they would pay a considerable amount of money for it.
Q. Do you remember using any sources, particular sources? You talked generally it is well known [sic]. Did you use any particular historical sources to generate some of the ideas of contents?
A. When I was talking before, I was referring to Joseph Smith's History of the Church as far as his employment of Josiah Stoal. As far as the wording or whatnot, it was basically my own imagination again...
. . . . .
Q. Did you do anything to the actual markings on the paper to try to give some authenticity to it?
A. Yes, I, it appears as though as I was writing it I smeared some of the lettering.
Q. Why did you do that?
A. It's not an uncommon thing for someone in Joseph Smith, Junior's station in life to do, and something that occurs on some of his other letters.
Q. The stamp, is that another plate that you made?
Q. And would that have originated from a real letter at the time?
Q. Would that be another one you might have got from some of those same sources you talked about?
Q. The postage, is that again something you designated?
Q. And it came from your study of
A. 12 and a half cents, yes from my study of postal history, postal rates.
Q. The wax?
A. Probably from another genuine document.
. . . . .
Q. Do you remember where the paper [came] from?
A. There's a chance it came from the Niles Register.
. . . . .
MR. STOTT: Finally, can you tell us when you finished the letter what you did with it?
MR. YENGICH: That's two finalies but go ahead.
A. Yes, I sold it to the Mormon Church.
Q. To whom specifically?
A. President Hinkley.
Q. How did that go about?
A. I believe he was Elder Hinkley then.
Q. Why didn't you go through Schmidt or the Historical Department?
A. I may have shown it originally to Elder Durham I believe and he and I took it to President Hinkley's office.
Q. Why would it have gone to Durham rather than Schmidt? Your other contact seems to have been with Schmidt.
A. Only because of its controversial nature.
Q. You had met Durham earlier for some other transactions?
Q. Durham took you to President Hinkley?
. . . . .
MR. BIGGS: What did President Hinkley tell you relative to this document?
A. He told me that for the time being, or in other words, without giving a date as far as how long this would be in effect, that the Council of the Twelve and the First Presidency and Elder Durham would be the only ones to know about this document.
Q. Did he tell you anyone else would ever know about this document?
A. I guess I should include his secretary. Oh
Q. Well, go ahead.
A. Francis Gibbons.
Q. Did he say no one would ever know about this document other than those people?
Q. Did he ask you some other questions about who else knew about the document?
Q. And did he ask you, does your wife know about the document?
Q. What did you say?
Q. Did he ask you, did he say who else knows about it?
Q. What did you say?
A. I told him that no one else within the Church knew about it. I left open the possibility that someone out of the Church. Obviously, I claimed to have acquired it from someone outside of the Church.
Q. Did he ask you who else outside of the Church might have had it?
A. Not at that time.
Q. Did he at a later time?
A. At a later time we discussed, At a later time he asked me if Charles Hamilton was the source and I did not confirm or deny that possibility.
Q. Which is something that you did a lot, right?
A. That's right
Q. Why did you do that?
A. He had heard rumors.
Q. No, no. Why did you not confirm nor deny when you were asked that question? What was your reason?
A. I tried to never confirm or deny a source, especially if the source wasn't real.
Q. You did it so they would continue to go down the path?
A. Yes, that's right.
. . . . .
MR. STOTT: Okay. Mark, that was your meeting. Did you have a subsequent meeting?
A. I believe I had a total of three meetings concerning this document with President Hinkley. The last meeting when he gave me the check and made the purchase.
. . . . .
Q. Did you tell President Hinkley where the letter came from, the document?
A. No, I did not, other than an eastern source. Source on the east coast. Although I did, lets see, I did tell him that the document had been authenticated by Charles Hamilton.
Q. You told him that?
A. Yes, and he obtained a document signed by Charles Hamilton confirming its authenticity.
Q. Did he obtain that himself or did he obtain that through you?
A. He obtained that through me.
. . . . .
MR. STOTT: How did you come to settle on a price?
A. I named a price and told him that I believed it was fair, and that that is what I would accept.
Q. Was that the $15,000?
A. Yes, I believe that was the amount.
Q. And that's what he paid you?
Q. By check?
Q. On a church account?
Q. Do you know what he did? Did you just leave him the letter? Do you know what he did with it?
A. I left it with him and he told me at a later time that he handed it to Francis Gibbons with instructions to put it in the vault.
MR. YENGICH: Did you keep a xeroxed copy?
A. Yes I did, although I told him that I didn't.
MR. STOTT: Rumors started circulating around that time about the letter. How did those rumors come up?
A. Part of them came from me and part of them I believe came through Francis Gibbons but I never know [sic] for sure how some of the information originated. I believed at the time that Francis Gibbons had told Dean Jesse something concerning the document.
Q. Who did you tell and what did you tell, basically?
A. I mentioned the document to Lynn Jacobs, Brent Metcalf and Dean Jesse.
Q. Was this something that you were not supposed to talk about once you sold it to Hinkley? Was it an agreement you weren't going to talk to anybody else or did you feel free to go ahead and talk about it?
A. Yes, that was the agreement that I would not talk about it.
Q. But you went ahead anyway?
. . . . .
Q. Dean Jesse obtained a copy of that later on. Do you know where he got the copy?
A. Yes. I believe that he obtained a copy from me of the document but I believe that he had a type script beforehand of what the document said.
Q. Do you know where he got that from?
A. I believed that he got it from Francis Gibbons or from someone who Francis Gibbons had shown it to.
(Hofmann's Confession, pages 346-349,352-359)
When it came down to the specifics as to where he got certain parts of the 1825 letter, Mr. Hofmann's memory was a little fuzzy. He stated, however, that he had read "magic books" and "in the composition process it was, of course, a lot of it was subconscious as far as what I previously read." (page 369)
That President Hinckley bought the letter so that it could be suppressed is obvious to anyone who really investigates the matter. The letter was purchased "on or about January 11, 1983" (The State of Utah v. Mark W. Hofmann, page 5), but Church leaders never admitted that they had it until May 7, 1985! In 1984 we obtained a typescript of the letter and published it in The Money Digging Letters. On page 3 we stated that we would "withhold judgment concerning its authenticity until we obtain more information concerning it." One would think that after we printed the contents of the letter, the Mormon Church would admit that it had the letter. Instead, however, the church decided to "stonewall." At about the time we printed the letter, we had a discussion with one of the top historians in the church. He lamented that the church had allowed itself to become involved in a cover-up situation with regard to the 1825 letter.
In chapter 6 of Tracking, under 1825 Smith Letter, I quoted rather extensively from the Salt Lake Tribune concerning the suppression of the 1825 letter. I will briefly summarize the matter here: in 1985 Tribune reporter Dawn Tracy learned that the Mormon Church was hiding the letter and confronted church spokesman Jerry Cahill. Mr. Cahill denied the accusation: " 'The church doesn't have the letter,' said Mr. Cahill. 'It's not in the church archives or the First Presidency's vault.'... He said that none of the confidential documents is the 1825 letter." (Salt Lake Tribune, April 29, 1985) When Dawn Tracy received more information about the letter, she approached Cahill a second time about the matter. Again, Cahill strongly affirmed that the church did not have possession of the letter. On May 6, 1985, the Salt Lake Tribune published a letter George Smith wrote to the editor. In this letter he revealed that "some scholars have reported seeing it at the church offices,... A number of scholars have photocopies of the letter,..." These photocopies may very well have come from the copy which Mark Hofmann admits that he retained when be turned the letter over to Hinckley. When it became apparent to church leaders that the letter was going to be published in a major newspaper without their consent, they decided to back down and admit its existence. Jerry Cahill, Director of Public Affairs for the Mormon Church, admitted in a letter to the editor of the Tribune that his earlier statement was incorrect:
"... staff writer Dawn Tracy correctly quoted my statement to her that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doesn't have a letter purportedly written in 1825 by Joseph Smith... either in the church archives or in the First Presidency's vault.
"My statement, however, was in error.... The purported letter was indeed acquired by the church. For the present it is stored in the First Presidency's archives..." (Salt Lake Tribune, May 7,1985)
It is very obvious from all this that the Mormon leaders were caught in a very embarrassing cover-up with regard to the letter and that they only published it because their own scholars were preparing to release it to the press. Time magazine for May 20, 1985, reported that "The church offered no explanation for withholding news of the earliest extant document written by Smith..." John Dart commented: "As it became clear during this week that photocopies of the letter would soon be circulated by sources outside the official church, Cahill announced that the church would discuss the contents and release a photocopy of the letter." (Los Angeles Times, May 11, 1985) It seems obvious that if the letter had upheld the image of Joseph Smith that church leaders wish to portray to the public, it would have been published immediately in the Deseret News with a large headline announcing its discovery. When Mark Hofmann "discovered" Joseph Smith's mother's 1829 letter, Mormon officials proclaimed it to be "the earliest known dated document" relating to the church, and it was hailed as a vindication of Joseph Smith's work. Since the letter to Stowell was supposed to have been written by the Prophet himself some four years earlier, we would expect it to receive even greater publicity. Instead, the Mormon leaders buried it and engaged in a cover-up. In the Salt Lake Tribune, Oct. 20, 1985, Dawn Tracy revealed that even top Mormon historians, including the Church Archivist, were kept in the dark concerning the purchase of the 1825 letter: "Don Schmidt, retired LDS Church archivist, said members of the First Presidency didn't tell him or church historians about the 1825 letter. Nor did they ask him or anyone in his department to authenticate the letter."
While Apostle Oaks is correct in stating that the letter was released before the bombings, he "conveniently omitted" (to use his own words) the fact that the letter was suppressed for 28 months and was only released after the press had been furnished with a copy! Mark Hofmann, on the other hand, has admitted that he sold the letter to President Hinckley as part of a blackmail-like scheme and that he broke his agreement with Hinckley by talking about it and by circulating a photocopy. Dallin Oaks asks if we are going to believe Mark Hofmann, "who is renown for his record of deceit" or the "General Authorities" of the church. Although I do not feel that we can put unconditional trust in Hofmann's confession, in this particular case all the evidence seems to show that he is being forthright about the matter. It appears, in fact, that Apostle Oaks is trying to cover up what really happened with his smooth talk.
One of the documents which the Mormon Church obtained that has still not been released is the Thomas Bullock letter. I have mentioned before that Mark Hofmann personally delivered this letter to President Gordon B. Hinckley under the pretense that he was concerned about the church and did not want this embarrassing letter to "fall into hands that might use it against the Church." Mark Hofmann also gave this testimony about the letter:
MR. STOTT: I want to go back on that Brigham Young Letter,... apparently its dated January 27, 1865 from supposedly Thomas Bullock to Brigham Young. Are you familiar with that?
A. Yes, I forged it, in fact.
Q. When did you forge it? Do you remember generally?
A. It would have been just after the forgery of the Joseph Smith, 3rd Blessing, probably just days afterwards.
Q. Do you remember where you got the paper?
A. Yes, I believe that it is a piece of paper that was pilfered from the Utah State Archives.
Q. From a book?
A. From a ledger book, yes.
. . . . .
Q. Did you use the same kinds of inks you've talked about, the same process to date, to age it?
A. Yes. I believe it was probably hydrogen peroxide that was used.... looks like I tried to make it look like it was in a flood or some such thing.
Q. Why did you create that document, and what did you do with it?
A. I created it to give validity to the Joseph Smith, 3rd Blessing since it deals with the blessing. What I did with it, I gave it to President Hinckley.
Q. Did you give it to him before or after the transaction with the Joseph Smith, 3rd Blessing?
A. It would have been afterwards, probably, I believe, guess, a week afterwards maybe. Maybe two weeks. I don't know, maybe even less.
Q. What were the circumstances of your giving it to him?
A. I made an appointment with him privately. I went in to his office and layed it on his desk. He expressed an interest in it and I left it there.
(Hofmann's Confession, pages 309-311)
From what we can learn concerning this letter, Thomas Bullock accused Brigham Young of being the type of person who would destroy a document authored by Joseph Smith himself to protect his own position of leadership in the Mormon Church. The church kept this document locked safely away in a vault until prosecutors demanded access to the Hofmann documents. It has been suppressed for six years. Dallin Oaks tries to make it appear that the investigation into the murders and forgeries prevented the Mormon Church from speaking about the Hofmann documents it had obtained: "During this same month of January, 1986, the Church turned all of its Hofmann-acquired documents over to the prosecutors, at their request. As a result the Church could not make its Hofmann documents public to answer those innuendoes of suppression without seeming to try to influence or impede the criminal investigation." ("Recent Events Involving Church History and Forged Documents," pages 3-4)
I seriously doubt that the release of the contents of the documents which were taken by the prosecution could have affected justice in the Hofmann case, and it seems unreasonable to believe that the church would not retain photocopies of the items. Even if this were the case, this does not explain why church leaders suppressed the Thomas Bullock letter to Brigham Young for four and a half years before the bombings. Apostle Oaks boasts that "On April 11, 1986, after months of searching in its records and collections, the Church published a complete list of the 48 documents and the groups of court records then known to have been acquired from Mark Hofmann." (Ibid., page 4) I suspect that the only reason church leaders published a list of documents was that they feared that the facts about these documents were about to be revealed at Hofmann's preliminary hearing. Notice that the date given by Apostle Oaks was "April 11, 1986." This was just a few days before the preliminary hearing began, but six months had elapsed since the bombings. Furthermore, the published description of the documents (see Deseret News, April 12, 1986) was obviously prepared by someone who was trying to prevent the controversial nature of the documents from becoming known. The description of the Bullock letter appears as item no. 48 and merely reveals that it is "concerning Bullock's work in the Historical Department." This innocuous statement concerning the letter veils the fact that Bullock and Young were supposed to have been fighting over the possession of the Joseph Smith III Blessing document and that Bullock did not trust Young's honesty. Apostle Oaks says that the "list spoke for itself." In reality, the descriptions published with the list tend to lull the reader to sleep rather than reveal the true nature of the documents.
In my book, Tracking the White Salamander, I devoted an entire chapter to the McLellin collectiona group of documents Mark Hofmann maintained were embarrassing to the Mormon Church. I stated that, "All the evidence, therefore, points to the inescapable conclusion that the McLellin collection was only a figment of Mark Hofmann's imagination." Mr. Hofmann himself has now admitted that he never had such a collection. When he was specifically asked if he had attempted to find the McLellin collection, Mark Hofmann replied: "No." (Hofmann's Confession, page 521) As early as Oct 25, 1985, the Chicago Tribune referred to the McLellin transaction as an attempt to blackmail the Mormon Church:
"SALT LAKE CITYAfter questioning a leading authority on rare documents, police here are piecing together a theory that the wave of bombings that hit this city last week was part of a daring scheme to conceal an attempted blackmail of the Mormon church itself.
"The scenario revolves around a plan to threaten the church leadership with a collection of artifacts deliberately concocted to appear particularly damaging to the credibility of Mormonism's founder, Joseph Smith."
After the Salamander letter was published in its entirety by the Mormon Church, the news media widely disseminated the story that Joseph Smith was involved in the occult. This publicity disturbed Mormon leaders. Apostle Oaks was very upset about the matter and on August 16,1985, he accused the news media of "having a field day." Since church leaders were very embarrassed by the publicity concerning the Salamander letter, this set up the climate for one of Hofmann's greatest deceptions his claim to have the so-called McLellin collection. Hofmann capitalized on the Mormon officials' fear that the embarrassing documents in the McLellin collection would fall into the hands of the enemies of the church. In his confession, Mark Hofmann testified as follows:
MR. STOTT: Let's go on the McClennin Collection because some of that goes back pretty far, we'll talk a little bit about that, okay?
Q. I would like to do that just part of it, not up to the murders but early on when did you developed an idea concerning the McClellin Collection.
A. When did I develop it?
Q. Yes, the idea.
A. Probably around 1982 or '83-type of thing, I would guess.
. . . . .
Q. Why were you doing this? What was in back of your mind? Was some scheme starting to form?
A. Not at that time. It was just like all the other stories I told people just to make them think I was the great document sleuth or whatever, that I had located some other important documents. Also, the idea would have been in locating some known, lost documents, it would have given credibility to me as a document finder as far as many of these documents were known to have been missing or lost or whatever. But where other forgeries, without any basis in Church history, as far as any in written basis in Church history, no basis.
Q. Did you ever attempt to find a so-called McClellin Collection?
Q. Did you ever go out and do some research or visit anybody?
A. No/ Dawn Tracy did.
Q. For example, were you aware and we are talking about before 1985 of the Hugh Nibley Story with the McClellin Collection, for example?
A. Yes, I heard that. I can't remember exactly when. I heard both that he had discovered its location and there were also rumors to the effect that the second facsimile to the Book of Abraham was in those documents.
Q. When it was all said and done what did you purport the McClellin Collection to contain?
A. I told different people different things. I told people it contained the second facsimile to the Book of Abraham and also some other information. I told them it contained affidavits from a number of Church leaders and other individuals in the Church such as Emma Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Smith himself, I believe. I believe I said it contained an affidavit of some sort from his father, Joseph Smith, Sr. I described it as containing a number of diaries or journals.
. . . . .
Q. Before you approached Al Rust was the story you were giving out, were you emphasizing the controversial nature of the material
A. Yes, with Al Rust I believe.
Q. I know you did with Al, but with other people during that time?
A. Yes. Most historians would feel like any historical Church matter from that early time period would have been controversial in nature. In other words, varied somewhat from the official, or history which has evolved.
Q. So you went to Al Rust in April of '85 and you get $150,000. What did you need that much money for in April of 1985?
A. You tell me from my bank records. Where did the money go?
Q. The money was given to you in a cashier's check and you and Rust got on a plane and it never went in to your account?
A. That's right. It went into various sources, do you want me to name the sources where, as I remember?
Q. Yes if
MR. YENGICH: No.
A. The money went to various sources. That trip we went to a New York book fair. It purchased a number of books. Let's see, that wouldn't have been nearly $150,000, obviously.
. . . . .
Q. So you bought books at a book fair?
A. I remember I owed Lynn Jacobs some money and I remember purchasing some books for him at the fair also.
. . . . .
Q. And when you got home, Mr. Rust was, after a period of time somewhat concerned about his purchase?
Q. And you showed him three receipts?
Q. That you had mailed something from New York?
Q. Did you actually mail something from New York?
A. Yes, I did.
Q. What was that?
A. They would have been the books I purchased in New York.
Q. What did you tell Mr. Rust that you mailed from New York?
A. In fact, I still have those receipts incidentally. I told him it was the McClellin Collection/
. . . . .
Q. There came a time, and we are talking March of '85, and your deal was to bring it back and sell it from his office and yet this went on until October. Why was it you were able to put him off? Was this frustrating to you? Was it your plan to put him off that long or what was going on?
A. No, my plan wasn't to put him off that long but it just worked that way, just kept on going. That it, I believe that initially was the idea that the Oath of a Freeman would provide the funds but then when that didn't happen, I approached the Church, with President Hinkley specifically, with the fact that the McClellin Collection, I wanted the Church to obtain it or at least to prevent some people from obtaining it who might use it in a negative sort of fashion against the Church.
[Q.] Let me ask, you this: You say you approached President Hinkley directly. Is this before you were introduced to Pinock by Christensen?
Q. When would this have
MR. BIGGS: Let's give you some surroundings. You got the money from First Interstate the last week of June of '85 and that was the time President Hinkley was in East Germany.
A. I remember. My intention was, I tried to get Carden to put up the funds for the McClellin Collection but before talking to him I had talked to President Hinkley and gotten his support as far as we need to make the purchase.
MR. STOTT: Do you remember when you first talked to President Hinkley about this?
A. President Hinkley, I told him that a person in Salt Lake had gone in with me on it, had put up the money for it. That I was anticipating being able to come up with the money from another source, which didn't happen. That this other person was getting anxious to get his money out of it and that I might, and I was feeling him out as far as the possibility of getting money from the church to make the purchase. We left it, after the meeting, we just left it at the point that if things got real desperate or if I needed to get some money to let him know.
Q. Was there an idea here conveyed here that the collection would then be sold to the Church or donated to the Church?
A. The idea was to prevent it from falling in to the enemy's hands.
Q. What did you tell him about what it contained and what the enemy was doing?
A. Not too much. How can I put this?
MR.YENGICH: Put it honestly.
A. Well, of course, I basically told him that I could tell him what my fears were concerning its getting in to the enemy's hands, or whatever. And that I would, if he wanted to know, if he asked the questions or whatever, this was a previous technique or thing that we had done. I guess its almost a way of protecting him from knowing something he doesn't want to know. And his interest wasn't so much in having the Church obtain it as having it going someplace whereIn fact, I would almost say he almost didn't want the Church to obtain it, he just wanted to make sure it did not fall in to the enemy's hands which was good since I knew I didn't have it, I knew the Church couldn't obtain it.
Q. Did you tell him what was contained in the letters?
A. I don't believe I gave him any details.
Q. Did you tell him there was controversial items?
. . . . .
Q. So Hinkley had already been told by you there was a Salt Lake investor?
A. Right, and he was anxious to get his money.
Q. That was Rust?
. . . . .
Q. Did he ask you why in the world does Al Rust say we've got the collection?
A. No, he didn't say anything about that.
Q. Did you try to explain that?
A. No. I actually had not seen the letter. I just knew something, Al Rust told me about its contents.
Q. Wasn't that a problem that Al Rust was saying that, you know, I understand the Church has it and, of course, the Church knew they didn't have it?
A. Yes, no, that didn't raise a problem in my mind because I knew that Hinkley knew that I was protecting the collection from Rust and anyone else as far as where it was. He knew I had previously told him that I had the material in a safe deposit box in Salt Lake City and that.
See, Hinkley, his concern was that if this disgruntled investor, he wanted to make sure he didn't reach the point where he would make public or try to obtain the collection. The actual meeting that I had with him was more toThe idea I had when I went to Arizona to talk to Carden was that he would obtain phone confirmation, telephone confirmation from President Hinkley that it would be nice of him to buy out this other investor named Al Rust or whatever. Although I didn't realize that he wouldn't be available, that he would be, that he was out of the country. I've communicated with President Hinkley when he's been out of the state before but hadn't, and found that it was difficult to get any sort of confirmation or communication with him when he was in East Germany.
Q. So your idea was to go to Carden?
A. And explain the situation to him and have Carden receive confirmation from Hinkley that Hinkley was aware of the transaction and that it would be, that he would confirm the transaction, that Hinkley would.
Q. What was the transaction to be?
A. That Carden would, first of all Carden wantedWhat he wanted to do, if he obtained permission or approval from Hinkley he would just donate the money. I told him all I wanted was a loan and I would pay him off. I was still confident at some time the Oath of a Freeman would come by so I represented it as a loan.
Q. So you represented to him that you had the collection and wanted to get your money back?
A. Yes, I believe.
MR. BIGGS: Was it the understanding that Mr. Carden was going to pay off Rust's interest in the collection?
A. That was the understanding which I left Hinkley with.
. . . . .
Q. What was in your mind. Because you didn't have a collection?
A. What was in my mind is President Hinkley would be happy if eventually I could tell him that I had seen to it that the document would not fall in to the wrong hands. My speaking with Hinkley, like I said wasn't so much, See you have to remember that this was after the time of the Salamander and the Church was a little bit concerned as far as its public relations in what they were obtaining, if they were trying to buy up embarrassing documents or whatever. He wasn't so concerned, especially when he found out other people knew about this material, to actually obtain it, as to just see that the right people got it.
In other words, it wasn't until Pinock entered the picture and I needed to add, I didn't go intoWith Pinock I needed to sound more straight as far as the Church would actually end up with it. That's what was that whole idea as far as the Church actually taking possession of it. We didn't discuss the Church would take possession of it when I spoke with President Hinkley.
Q. The last day or so in June, how many times did you meet with President Hinkley about the McClellin Collection?
Q. Prior to meeting with Pinock?
A. Prior to meeting with Pinock?
Q. Yes in the last week of June?
A. I would guess three times.
Q. After meeting with Pinock and up to the bombings, how many times did you meet with President Hinkley about the McClellin Collection?
A. I believe once or twice/
. . . . .
MR. STOTT: Why did you include the Papyrus as part of the McClellin Collection? Did you have information from some sources that he might have it?
A. Just from the rumors that originated with Hugh Nibley, as far as the Papyrus.
Q. Didn't you also add the so-called Canadian Revelation?
A. Yes, that was also supposed to be contained. In fact, I remember specifically when I included that in the list of the material that was in the McClellin Collection was when I was eating lunch one time with Brent Metcalf. I think I mentioned it a couple times before.
(Hofmann's Confession, pages 519-534, and 536)
Back | Next
Home | FAQs | What's New | Topical Index | Testimony | Newsletters | Online Resources | Online Books | Booklist | Order/Contact | Email | Other Websites