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Question

 

Gramps,

What do you know about the Salamander Letters? I heard many were killed over them.

Aubre

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Answer

 

Aubre,

On the subject of the Salamander Letters two people were killed. Steven F. Christensen and Kathleen Sheets were killed by bombs placed by Mark Hofmann.  Hofmann himself was injured with a third bomb that went off prematurely.  To better understand why Mark Hofmann would send bombs we need to understand a bit more about Hofmann.

Mark Hofmann was a historical document forger.  He found a way to trick the process used to verify and vet historical documents at the time (1980’s).  He forged the Salamander Letters which states that Joseph Smith was not led to the gold plates by the Angel Moroni but by a white salamander.  Needless to say this document caused some controversy.  Some in the Church were shaken and fell away, others held on faithfully and the critics used it as a new line of attack on the character of Joseph Smith.  For Mark Hofmann this letter brought money (from the sale of the documents) and recognition and a bit of fame.

Had Mark ended his forgery there we might to this day think the Salamander Letters were legit, but he seems to have gotten greedy (that and it seems safe to say based on the content of the forgeries that he was a disaffected member which could easily be a motivating factor as well).  Finding a Historical item (like the Salamander Letters would have been) is a once in a career find for most people.  Mark started ‘finding’ such on a regular basis. The Salamander Letters were neither the first nor the last ones he claimed to find.  This caused several people to start seriously wondering how he was doing so.  The experts began to look deeper and discover ways that their current methods could be tricked. Once they knew that, they learned what to look for if it was a trick.

As people began to question his various claims he got desperate and started sending bombs trying to stop and or distract the questioning.  It did not work and Hofmann became a murderer as well as a document forger.  He got caught and his methods revealed.

For the Church those that held faithful were vindicated, for those that fell away, some probably came back but I’d guess that many did not.  The critics continue to pull out the Salamander Letters to discredit the Church stating that those who claim to be lead by God should have never been deceived.  This position runs contrary to any kind of scriptural history. (See D&C 10:37)  God generally allows everyone to act for good or bad to prove us.  Only once we are proven then we get judged.  Hofmann was stopped, disproven and found to be a murderer.  Various members had their faith tested and were also proven (for good or bad).

Thus when we look at it from God’s testing perspective, it makes a lot of sense for him not to have Hofmann outed until the testing was complete.  If it was not God’s will then how would the leaders of the Church be able to know?  They are not historical document experts, and even they were tricked.

Aubre, this is one of those subjects that has a lot more materials then I can cover here so here are some links with more information if you are interested

Recent Events Involving Church History and Forged Documents   This is Elder Oaks discussing the events

Then we have Fairmormon responding to various criticisms.

And then Rich Turley of the Church Historian’s Office produced a book that you could buy or maybe find in a library titled:  Victims: The LDS  Church and the Mark Hoffman Case.

 

Gramps

 

 

 

 

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