William E. McLellin oli yksi alkuperäisistä Kahdentoista
koorumin apostoleista mormonikirkossa. Hän tunsi Joseph Smithin
ja muut kirkon johtajat hyvin, ja oli hyvin perillä varhaisen kirkon
tapahtumista. Hän kääntyi kuitenkin myöhemmin kirkkoa vastaan ja
syytti Joseph Smithiä Opin ja liittojen kirjasta löytyvien ilmoitusten
Mormon Leaders Suppress "Key" Item In
On October 15, 1985, a bomb exploded in Salt Lake
City, Utah, killing Steven F. Christensen, a Mormon bishop. Later
that morning, Kathleen Sheets, the wife of another bishop, was killed
when she picked up a package containing a booby-trapped shrapnel
bomb. The following day, a Mormon document dealer named Mark Hofmann
was seriously injured when a bomb exploded in his car.
After an intensive investigation, it was discovered
that Mark Hofmann was the bomber. Hofmann was transporting a third
bomb he had constructed at the time of the explosion. Although this
bomb was prepared to kill someone else, it accidentally went off
in his own car. Hofmann later confessed to the murders and was sent
to the Utah State Prison.
In October, 1986, before Mr. Hofmann pleaded guilty,
we published the book, Tracking the White Salamander. About
two months after Mr. Hofmann pleaded guilty in 1987, we published
a second book, Confessions of a White Salamander. In these
books we discussed many important details regarding Hofmann's murders
and the forged documents he sold to the Mormon Church and other
collectors. Three other books were published the following year.
The first book to appear was Salamander: The Story of the Mormon
Forgery Murders, by Linda Sillitoe and Allen Roberts, two Mormon
historians. The second book was entitled, Mormon Murders, by
Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith. The last book, A Gathering
of Saints: A True Story of Money, Murder and Deceit, was penned
by Robert Lindsey, a reporter for the New York Times.
The authors of all three of these books interviewed
investigators and all reached the conclusion that some leaders had
not been forthright in their contacts with law enforcement officials.
In addition, they felt that the church had been suppressing important
documents from its members.
The Mormon Church leaders were very disturbed about
the bad publicity and on September 18, 1988, the Los Angeles
Times reported that
"sources within the Mormon media establishment...
said the church already has begun a battle against what it believes
is the most serious attack against the church since the polygamy
controversy... The church has embarked on a massive study of the
books and news articles in an attempt to assemble a master list
of errors, misquotes and exaggerations. 'Our response to all the
allegations made against the church will be made public in about
60 days,' [Richard P.] Lindsay said."
Notwithstanding this public announcement, this
"master list of errors, misquotes and exaggerations" has
never been made public. Some time later, however, it was announced
that Richard E. Turley, Jr., managing director of the LDS Church
Historical Department, was writing a book which would give the church's
side of the issue. Mr. Turley's work has finally appeared under
the title, Victims: The LDS Church and the Mark Hofmann
While Richard Turley seems to have nothing to say
about the two books we have written on the subject, he attacks all
three of the other books. He does, however, make observations concerning
our work on the Salamander letter and other questionable documents.
His comments with regard to our work are generally good and contain
nothing requiring a response.
One strange thing about the Turley book is that
although the index lists thirteen different pages which refer to
our work, it does not have a single reference to the three books
he is attacking. Moreover, the names of the authors (Sillitoe, Roberts,
Naifeh, Smith and Lindsey) never appear in the index. It seems that
everything he has written about these authors is found in the footnotes.
Mr. Turley apparently does not want these authors or their books
to have more publicity than they have already received.
However this may be, in his footnotes Mormon apologist
Richard Turley tries to undermine the authenticity of these books.
He seems to be especially upset with charges that church leaders
were trying to cover up facts during the investigation and does
his best to try to smooth over these accusations. Unfortunately
for the Mormon Church, however, Mr. Turley's laborious work of shoring
up faith in church leaders comes crashing to the ground when a person
reaches page 248 of his book. It is at that point that Turley divulges
one of the most embarrassing secrets that a Mormon historian has
ever revealed. Mr. Turley begins by saying that "March 1986
brought a startling discovery." Turley goes on to explain that
at that time church officials became aware of the fact that they
had an important part of the McLellin collection concealed in the
First Presidency's vault and that it had been there since 1908!
William E. McLellin was one of the original members
of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the Mormon Church. He was
well acquainted with Joseph Smith and other church leaders and knew
a great deal about what was going on in the early church. Later,
however, he turned against the church and accused Joseph Smith of
altering the revelations which are found in the Doctrine and
Covenants. The current edition of the Doctrine and Covenants
still contains an "Explanatory Introduction" which
purports to be the "Testimony of the Twelve Apostles to the
Truth of the Book of Doctrine and Covenants." According to
Daniel Macgregor, William McLellin claimed that this "Testimony"
was "a base forgery." (Changing of the Revelations,
page 32) McLellin was very upset that Joseph Smith would change
revelations given by God. The Salt Lake Tribune for Oct.
6, 1875, printed this statement regarding McLellin:
"His faith was first shaken by the changes
made in the revelations. He had been careful to keep copies of
the originals, presented proof that all the early revelations
were changed three times, and considerably amended before
they appeared in their present form."
In 1838, Oliver Cowdery, one of the Three Witnesses
to the Book of Mormon, claimed that Joseph Smith had "A dirty,
nasty, filthy affair" with a young woman named Fanny Alger.
(see Mormonism - Shadow or Reality? pages 203-204) William
McLellin claimed to have some explosive information on this matter.
He asserted that Joseph Smith's wife, Emma, had told him about this
affair. In his book, Mormon Polygamy: A History, 1986, page
6, Richard S. Van Wagoner wrote:
"McLellin's 1872 letter described Alger's
relationship with Joseph Smith. 'Again I told [your mother],'
the former apostle wrote, that 'I heard that one night she missed
Joseph and Fanny Alger. She went to the barn and saw him and Fanny
in the barn together alone. She looked through a crack and saw
the transaction!!! She told me this story too was verily
true.' McLellin also detailed the Alger incident to a newspaper
reporter for the 6 October 1875 Salt Lake Tribune."
In 1852 Mormon Church leaders acknowledged that
Joseph Smith practiced plural marriage, but they were silent concerning
an incident in the barn.
Those who are familiar with the Hofmann case know
that Mark Hofmann falsely claimed that he had discovered the McLellin
collection and that he was helping the church obtain the collection
so that it would not fall into the hands of the anti-Mormons who
would use it to embarrass the church. Since William McLellin had
made some startling charges like the one regarding the Fanny Alger
affair, church leaders would naturally be nervous concerning what
such a collection might contain. In his confession, Hofmann described
a conversation he allegedly had with Gordon B. Hinckley, a member
of the church's First Presidency, regarding the McLellin collection:
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 his interest wasn't so
much in having the Church obtain it as having it going someplace
where - In 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. (Hofmann's Confession,
Eventually, it was decided that Hugh Pinnock, a
General Authority in the Mormon Church, would help Mark Hofmann
obtain a loan of $185,000 from First Interstate Bank so that he
could go to Texas and obtain the McLellin collection. According
to Richard Turley, Pinnock felt that the collection required special
"Pinnock offered to arrange for secure transportation
of the documents by jet or armored car, but Hofmann said
he would send them back to Utah by registered mail, adequately
insured." (Victims, page 124)
The transaction was to be very confidential. David
E. Sorensen, "who had recently been asked to preside over the
church's Canada Halifax Mission,'' would buy the collection and
hide it away from the enemies of the church. Later, however, he
would donate it to the church. Richard Turley reported that
"Sorensen later recalled that Pinnock 'asked
if I would listen to a matter of concern to the church and
determine if I would be in a position or interested in helping.'...
Sorensen recalled, 'Elder Pinnock was interested in seeing if
I might purchase the collection. If so, would I consider donating
it to the church at a later date.'... Sorensen later remembered
saying that he would be happy to help the church if he could but
wanted to 'investigate the matter in a business-like way.' "
(Ibid., page 136)
Bishop Steven Christensen was supposed to authenticate
the McLellin collection for Sorensen on October 15, 1985. Since
Mr. Hofmann did not have the collection, he killed Steven Christensen
that morning so that the transaction could not take place.
When church leaders later discovered that they
already had the most significant part of the McLellin collection
hidden in the First Presidency's vault and that it had been there
since 1908, they found themselves on the horns of a dilemma. If
they admitted that they had the collection all along, it would prove
the charge made by critics that the church suppressed important
documents from their people. In the Salt Lake City Messenger
for August 1985, we spoke of "the role that Mormon leaders
have taken in suppressing important documents." We noted that
in 1983, Gordon B. Hinckley, a member of the First Presidency of
the Mormon Church, secretly acquired a letter - later found to have
been forged by Mark Hofmann - which purported to be in Joseph Smith's
own hand and linked the prophet to money-digging and magic. President
Hinckley believed the letter was authentic. He paid Mr. Hofmann
$15,000 for the letter and then hid it in the First Presidency's
When researchers learned what happened and said
that it was being suppressed, the church decided to "stonewall."
A spokesman for the church said: " 'The church doesn't have
the letter... It's not in the church archives or the First Presidency's
vault.' " (Salt Lake Tribune, April 29, 1985) Finally,
when it became clear that some Mormon scholars had photocopies of
the letter and were going to turn them over to the news media, the
church backed down, and the same spokesman admitted his earlier
statement 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)
In the issue of our newsletter cited above, we
made this observation: "The First Presidency's archive or vault,
where the 1825 letter was concealed, is undoubtedly the ultimate
'black hole.' Documents which are embarrassing to the Mormon Church
disappear into this bottomless abyss and are seldom heard of again."
The fact that church leaders could lose sight of
the McLellin collection in the First Presidency's vault for almost
eight decades shows just how dark it is inside the "black hole"
which contains the deeper secrets of Mormonism.
The disappearance and rediscovery of the McLellin
collection would almost make one wonder if the right hand knows
what the left hand is doing at church headquarters. While Mormons
might expect this type of thing to happen at some bureaucratic agency,
they will have a difficult time explaining how this could happen
in a church which is supposed to be led by direct revelation from
God. The implications are very serious indeed. For example, how
can one explain the fact that Mormon leaders were helping Mark Hofmann
obtain a collection from Texas which they already had in their own
In view of the circumstances, it would be very
difficult for church leaders to come forth and admit they had made
such a serious mistake. On the other hand, however, they faced a
far more serious problem if they did not reveal the existence of
the McLellin collection. To continue to suppress the existence of
the collection would mean that church leaders would have to deliberately
keep a key piece of evidence hidden from investigators who were
working on the Hofmann case. Unfortunately for the Mormon Church,
Richard Turley makes it very clear that church leaders chose to
keep law enforcement officials completely in the dark concerning
the existence of the McLellin collection.
The importance of this piece of evidence cannot
be overstated. While investigators seemed to have a great deal of
evidence that Mark Hofmann forged documents and defrauded investors
in his schemes, they had a real problem establishing a motive for
the murders. At first some investigators believed that the bombings
might relate in some way to the Salamander letter. (Hofmann had
sold the Salamander letter to Steven Christensen for a great deal
of money.) This theory, however, could not be confirmed by any evidence.
Christensen apparently believed the letter was genuine and seemed
pleased that Hofmann had sold it to him.
The McLellin collection, on the other hand, seemed
to provide an explanation for the murder of Steven Christensen.
Hofmann's reluctance to produce the collection was very upsetting
to Christensen. Since Hofmann did not have the collection, there
was nothing he could do except to continue to give Mr. Christensen
excuses. Consequently, friction continued to mount between the two
men. At Hofmann's preliminary hearing, Curt Bench said that about
three weeks before the murders, Steven Christensen called him and
wanted him to convey a message to Mark Hofmann. Bench testified
that Christensen told him that "a member of the First Quorum
of Seventy and an apostle... were upset because Mark had defaulted
on a loan to a bank and had written a check and the check had bounced...
They were quite upset over this and said some very serious things
could happen as a result of that not being taken care of."
Curt Bench went on to say: "Steve told me
that various things could occur if Mark didn't make good and some
of them were he would certainly lose his credibility and credit
with the Church and with President Hinckley, that criminal action
could be taken, that he could conceivably go to jail, he could also
be sued by the bank or even by the Church if the Church was sued.
He could lose his membership in the Church.... It was very
serious. And Steve wanted me to convey that to Mark..." Bench
also testified that "Steve used the term crook" when referring
to Hofmann. (Tracking the White Salamander, page 24)
Investigators did not believe that Mark Hofmann
had the McLellin collection to turn over to Mr. Christensen and
felt that this was Hofmann's motive for killing Christensen - by
getting rid of Christensen he could buy some time. They could not,
however, actually prove that Hofmann did not have the documents
hidden away some place. There was no way to know for certain. If
Mr. Hofmann should produce the collection at the time of his trial,
it would destroy the motive for murder and could ruin the murder
case. The Mormon Church, of course, had the vital information needed
by prosecutors in the First Presidency's vault. Church leaders knew
that there was no way that Mark Hofmann could produce McLellin's
diaries because they already had them. It is plain, therefore, that
Mormon Church leaders were suppressing some of the most important
evidence in the entire case!
A close examination of Richard Turley's book shows
that Mormon Church leaders were engaged in a conspiracy of silence
with regard to the McLellin collection to save the church's image.
The following quotations from Turley's book make this very clear:
March 1986 brought a startling discovery. Historical
Department personnel seeking information about William McLellin
had contacted Dean Jessee.... Jessee visited the department and
explained to Glenn Rowe that he had found some interesting information
about McLellin in his research files. Jessee's notes referred
to correspondence in the department's uncatalogued Joseph F. Smith
collection. The correspondence mentioned McLellin's diaries and
other belongings.... Rowe and his staff searched the collection
and located letters that amazed church officials.
The first letter had been written by J. L. Traughber
of Doucette, Texas... Dated January 13, 1908, and addressed to
the librarian of the church, the letter explained that Traughber
had an original copy of A Book of Commandments.... what
Traughber offered next was even rarer. He wrote, "I also
have the Journal, in part, of Elder W. E. McLellin for
the years 1831, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6." Traughber said he had tried
to get more of the journal from McLellin's widow, but she had
refused to give them up "as she said she did not want some
things to be known." Traughber said he also had some manuscript
books that McLellin had written.... and offered to sell them for
On January 18, 1908, President Joseph F. Smith
and his counselors wrote to President Samuel O. Bennion of the
Central States Mission. The Presidency... instructed Bennion on
how to handle the offer: "While we have studiously avoided
expressing any particular desire on our part to purchase the things
mentioned by Mr. Traughber, we desire you to know that we would
like very much to possess McClellan's [sic] Journal, if
for no other reason than to prevent the writings of this unfortunate
and erratic man, whose attitude after his apostacy was inimical
to the Prophet Joseph Smith, from falling into unfriendly hands;
and for this reason alone, we feel quite willing to pay the
price asked for these things..." The Presidency also suggested
that Bennion contact McLellin's widow to obtain the rest of the
journals, even if their acquisition were to cost another fifty
The letter to Bennion mentioned an interview Joseph
F. Smith and another church leader had had with McLellin in 1878,
when McLellin had told them he had writings he wished to publish.
The Presidency wrote Bennion that the manuscripts... might be
the same ones McLellin had mentioned in 1878. "We hope they
are," the First Presidency wrote, "as it would be an
act of mercy on our part to purchase them, and thus prevent them
from being published by unfriendly hands to the injury
of innocent people."
Rowe and his staff also found a February 12, 1908,
response from Bennion to the First Presidency. Bennion reported
that he... had acquired the proffered materials from Traughber....
He said he would send all the acquired items to the First Presidency
that day by registered mail.
Rowe had kept his new supervisor, Richard Turley,
informed about Jessee's clue and the letters to which it led.
Turley told Dean Larsen about the letters, and Larsen informed
(apostles] Packer and Oaks, who in turn contacted the First
Presidency. When Gordon Hinckley learned of the letters,
he asked Francis Gibbons if the First Presidency's vault contained
the items the letters mentioned. Gibbons searched the vault. Hinckley
and the other church officials then learned to their astonishment,
that the church had owned McLellin's journals and manuscripts
The journals... revealed a man deeply dedicated
to his religion....
The little manuscript books, on the other hand,
typified the later McLellin, an avowed enemy of the church....
Like the materials the Tribune had discovered,
the McLellin items found in church possession were not the McLellin
collection touted by Hofmann.... Unlike the Tribune's discovery,
however, the church's McLellin materials included a key item
from the collection Hofmann claimed to have bought. That item,
McLellin's early journals, confirmed to church officials that
Hofmann was a fraud.
The discovered documents did not fall within any
of the subpoenas issued to the church, and thus officials were
not legally obligated to mention them to anyone. Still, it was
apparent they were relevant to the case, and those involved
in the discovery felt the documents' existence should be revealed.
Yet disclosing them would not come without a cost. Church
officials had sought to dispel the notion that they were buying
documents to hide them. Disclosure of the newly discovered McLellin
materials, however, would reinforce notions of church suppression
because those documents had in fact been bought at the direction
of the First Presidency and locked away nearly eight decades earlier,
eventually to be forgotten.... Alluding in his journal to
the day's remarkable discovery, [Apostle] Oaks wrote, "Today
[Boyd K. Packer] & I learned that the Church has some documents
that have been unknown until now, but will be of great interest
when they are revealed, as they should be prior to the Hoffmann
trial (in my opinion)."
What church officials did not know was that there
would be no trial. (Victims: The LDS Church and the Mark Hofmann
Case, pages 248-251)
This is a shocking disclosure to be coming from
the pen of Richard Turley, managing director of the LDS Church Historical
Department. As the reader will see from the quotation above, Mr.
Turley acknowledges that he himself became aware of the fact that
the church had the McLellin collection in March 1986. Although Turley
practiced law before becoming a historian, he obvious felt it was
more important to protect the church than to tell investigators
working on the Hofmann case about this important matter. The church
continued to suppress knowledge of the collection for six years
after it was rediscovered.
Why Turley would reveal the matter at this time
is a matter of speculation. It could be that Mr. Turley was bothered
by his role in the matter and felt compelled to bring out the truth.
On the other hand, there could have been concern that too many people
knew what had happened and that the "enemies of the church"
would eventually find out about the cover-up and publish the facts
to the world. When Mormon leaders are convinced that something embarrassing
is about to leak out, they sometimes try to get the information
out first. For example, the Mormon Church at first denied that the
1825 letter existed, but then rushed to print it when it was discovered
that scholars were preparing to release it to the press. In any
case, we are very pleased that Mr. Turley has revealed this information.
After Mormon historian Dean Jessee reported
the existence of the correspondence mentioning the McLellin collection,
a number of people became aware of the fact that the church had
obtained the collection. Church archivist Glenn Rowe received
the information from Jessee. Rowe, in turn, reported the matter
to Richard Turley and Turley relayed the information to Dean Larsen.
Larsen then informed apostles Boyd K. Packer and Dallin
H. Oaks about the matter. These two apostles "contacted
the First Presidency." The First Presidency is composed of
President Ezra Taft Benson (the Prophet, Seer and Revelator of the
church), President Gordon B. Hinckley and President Thomas
S. Monson. Francis Gibbons was the one who finally found the McLellin
collection in the vault. In addition, members of Glenn Rowe's staff
also knew about the matter.
Although at least a dozen people knew about the
McLellin collection, no one seems to have reported the matter to
investigators. Those on the lower levels may have felt that church
leaders would tell police that the McLellin collection had been
found. Instead, the highest leaders of the church chose to remain
silent and put the church in a cover-up situation. Since the church
is supposed to have a "living prophet," one would think
that he would point out that the information must be reported to
Furthermore, Apostle Dallin H. Oaks had enough
legal knowledge that he should have demanded that a full report
be immediately turned over to the police. Richard Turley says that
Apostle Oaks "served as a United States Supreme Court clerk,
University of Chicago law professor, American Bar Foundation executive
director, Brigham Young University president, and Utah Supreme Court
justice." (Victims, page 116) Mr. Turley also states
that "Oaks's experience as a lawyer and judge made him sensitive
to investigators' need for any information that might help
solve a crime..." (Ibid., page 163)
On page 171 of the same book, Turley reports that
after the bombings, Shannon Flynn came to church headquarters and
talked with Apostle Oaks. Flynn wanted to know what to tell investigators.
Oaks responded, " 'As soon as I learned that Mark Hofmann had
been the object of a bomb, I knew that I had some facts that would
help police.... I talked to two F. B. I. agents. I told them everything
I knew about it. The Church is going to cooperate fully and
it has absolutely nothing to hide. Sometimes there are some
confidential transactions but this is a murder investigation. Confidentiality
is set aside. We will cooperate fully. ' "
On page 153, Turley tells of Mark Hofmann coming
to Apostle Oaks' office: "Hofmann said he thought bombing investigators
might want to question him. He worried about what to tell them.
Oaks told him to tell the truth.... Oaks said that as far as he
knew, Hofmann's activities with the McLellin collection, though
confidential... had nothing to do with the bombing investigation.
Police probably would not ask him about the deal. If they did, he
should answer truthfully and completely."
Richard Turley shows that Oaks also gave Alvin
Rust similar advice: "[Martell] Bird recorded, 'He told Brother
Rust that he should tell the truth in every instance, and that he
should not be worried at all about the Church, because when
the facts all come out, the Church will have no need to be embarrassed...'
" (page 175)
On December 11, 1985, Apostle Oaks addressed members
of the Historical Department. According to Turley, Oaks encouraged
employees to be forthright: "Of the bombing investigation,
he said, 'We are like others in that we must cooperate fully in
an investigation and tell the truth on all matters material
to that investigation.' " (page 226)
While at first Apostle Oaks claimed that he told
the F. B. I. "everything I knew" about the Hofmann case
and freely gave advice to others about how they should be completely
honest and provide all relevant information to investigators,
when he realized that the church would be embarrassed by the truth,
he clammed up just like the other church leaders. While Richard
Turley claimed that "Oaks's experience as a lawyer and judge
made him sensitive to investigators' need for any information
that might help solve a crime," when he saw the church
was in danger, he put a bridle on his tongue and joined in the conspiracy
The reader will remember that Turley quoted this
statement from Apostle Oaks' journal on the day that the McLellin
collection was discovered: "Today [Boyd K. Packer] & I
learned that the Church has some documents that have been unknown
until now, but will be of great interest when they are revealed,
as they should be prior to the Hoffmann trial (in my opinion)."
While Turley seems to feel that this entry shows
Oaks' openness, it seems to foreshadow the possibility of a coverup.
The reader will note, for example, that Oaks does not mention
the fact that he is talking about the McLellin collection. He merely
states: "I learned that the Church has some documents..."
Why would he hesitate to identify the documents? If Turley had not
revealed that Oaks was talking about the McLellin collection, a
person reading his diary today would not know what he was talking
about and would assume that whatever the documents were, they had
been made available.
Apostle Oaks' statement that "when they are
revealed, as they should be prior to the Hofmann trial (in my opinion)"
seems to suggest that there was a possibility that they would
not be revealed prior to the trial. (They, of course, would be of
no value to prosecutors after the trial.) The words, "in my
opinion" seem to imply that if the other church leaders did
not want them available, Oaks would support the decision.
If the church had no plans for a cover-up, Apostle
Oaks would have written something like the following: "Today
I learned the Church has had the McLellin collection stored in a
vault since 1908. Since this is very important to the Hofmann case,
we have called the county prosecutor and informed him of this development.
He will pick up the documents in the morning."
Oaks' statement that the documents should be revealed
"prior to the Hofmann trial" certainly raises an important
question. By March 4, 1986, the day Oaks made the entry in his journal,
church leaders were well aware of the fact that prosecutors were
preparing for Mark Hofmann's preliminary hearing. If the prosecution
could not produce sufficient evidence at that hearing, Hofmann
would be set free and there would be no trial. For this reason investigators
were working feverishly to obtain the evidence necessary to be sure
that Hofmann would be bound over for trial. The fact that the Mormon
Church had rediscovered the McLellin collection would have been
extremely important to their case.
Since Apostle Oaks did not mention anything about
revealing the McLellin collection "prior to the Hofmann trial,"
it is obvious that church leaders were planning to keep it suppressed
at least through the preliminary hearing. The preliminary hearing
did not start until April 14, 1986. This gave church leaders almost
a month and a half to turn over the McLellin collection to investigators.
Instead of coming clean, however, they chose to keep the documents
hidden. The General Authorities of the church were already concerned
enough about the bad publicity the church would receive during the
preliminary hearing and must have hoped that no trial would ever
occur. This, of course, is exactly what happened and the church
never had to reveal the truth about the McLellin collection to investigators.
Since Salt Lake County prosecutors did not have
the important piece of evidence that the church could have provided,
their case on the murders was not as strong as it could have been.
They were obviously concerned about the strength of their case.
Robert Lindsey reported the following: "At the end of a week
of testimony, David Biggs [one of the prosecutors] wrote in his
journal: 'I really feel as if we've missed the "glue"
that connects the pieces of this puzzle together. The pieces don't
seem to want to stay together. We have evidence, motive,
murder, but it is all just a degree off. I'm still trying to find
out what the problem is.' " (A Gathering of Saints: A True
Story of Money, Murder and Deceit, page 317)
As we have already shown, Richard Turley has admitted
that the McLellin collection in the church vault "included
a key item" which "confirmed to church officials that
Hofmann was a fraud." Turley also acknowledged that "it
was apparent they (the McLellin documents] were relevant to the
case, and those involved in the discovery felt the documents'
existence should be revealed" A person certainly
does not have to be a lawyer to know that the church should have
immediately made these documents available.
Church leaders had publicly stressed how they were
cooperating with investigators. In the beginning, the church officials
pledged " 'our fullest cooperation with city, county
and federal authorities in the investigation.' " (Victims,
page 165) Hugh Pinnock, the General Authority who helped Hofmann
obtain the loan for $185,000, wrote a letter to Steven Christensen's
widow in which he said: " 'Several of us have talked with law
enforcement people. We want them to know whatever is relevant.'
" (Ibid., page 176)
On October 19, 1985, "the church issued its
news release... 'From the outset of this investigation,' the release
noted, 'the Church has cooperated fully with federal, state, and
local law enforcement officials, responding to every inquiry and
request. The Church will continue to cooperate with law enforcement
officials to bring to light any facts that may contribute to this
investigation. ' " (page 177)
A Very Bad Example
Church leaders obviously broke their pledge to
"bring to light any facts" that would help investigators.
Richard Turley tried to justify the church's suppression of the
records by saying: "The discovered documents did not fall within
any of the subpoenas issued to the church, and thus officials were
not legally obligated to mention them to anyone." (page 250)
This is certainly a very poor excuse. It seems analogous to a person
finding a pistol used to commit a murder and then maintaining there
was no obligation to turn the gun over to police because it had
not been subpoenaed.
Investigators certainly would have subpoenaed the
McLellin collection if they had any idea that the church had it.
On October 19, 1985, the Mormon Church issued a news release which
stressed that the McLellin collection had never been purchased by
the church: " 'So far as we have been able to determine, no
Church officials or personnel have ever seen the "M'Lellin
Collection," nor has it been purchased by the Church, directly
or indirectly.' " (Victims, page 178)
On October 23, 1985, the church held a press conference.
According to Richard Turley, President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
" 'I had never heard of the McLellin collection,' Hinckley
said, and he asked Hofmann what was in it... 'I have never seen
any such collection,' Hinckley continued, 'and know nothing about
it beyond that.' " (Ibid., pages 191-92) Turley quotes
Apostle Dallin Oaks as saying the following at the same press conference:
" 'Moreover,' Oaks explained, 'to have the church involved
in the acquisition of a collection at this time would simply fuel
the then current speculation reported by the press that the church
already had something called the McLellin collection or was trying
to acquire it in order to suppress it.' " (page 193)
Since Mormon leaders had emphatically stressed
that they had never seen the McLellin collection and that the church
had not obtained it, law enforcement officers
had no reason to think otherwise. When the collection came to light,
Mormon officials should have immediately reported the discovery.
Instead, however, they took advantage of the fact that investigators
were in the dark concerning the matter.
That there was, in fact, a conspiracy of silence
is evident from the following: Hugh Pinnock, the General Authority
who arranged the loan of $185,000 for Mark Hofmann, was called upon
to testify at Hofmann's preliminary hearing. The following is taken
from an official tape recording of the hearing:
ROBERT STOTT To your knowledge, did any
authority in the LDS Church ever obtain or possess the
HUGH PINNOCK No.
This would have been a very good time for Mr. Pinnock
to have said, "Yes, the McLellin collection has been in our
vault since 1908." Richard Turley tries to explain away this
testimony by saying: "He [Pinnock] had not been told about
the McLellin materials discovered the previous month." (Victims,
page 274) It may be true that Hugh Pinnock was not told about the
discovery, but if this is the case, it raises a very important question:
why would the other church leaders keep him in the dark about such
an important issue. The answer, of course, must be that they were
doing their best to hide the information from investigators and
feared that if Pinnock knew about the collection he might have to
tell prosecutors about it.
Hinckley Not Called
Even if Hugh Pinnock did not know about the discovery,
President Gordon B. Hinckley, who many believe is really running
the church because of President Ezra Taft Benson's age, knew all
about the matter. He was subpoenaed to testify at the preliminary
hearing about two weeks after he learned that the church had the
McLellin collection in its vault.
Richard Turley gives this interesting information
about a meeting Hinckley had with the prosecutors:
Before the preliminary hearing, Hinckley received
a visit from prosecutors Bob Stott and David Biggs. Church counsel
Wilford Kirton also attended the meeting....
Biggs recalled that they told Hinckley why they
were there, and then Kirton began to do most of the talking. Eventually,
however, the prosecutors explained that they needed to talk to
Hinckley so they could find out what his relationship had been
with Hofmann. Hofmann had claimed a close relationship with the
church leader, telling people that he had Hinckley's private numbers
and could get hold of him day or night, in the country or out.
Prosecutors wanted to know when, where, and how many times Hinckley
had met with Hofmann and with Christensen
Hinckley said he had met about half a dozen times
with Hofmann, but he could not recall any information about those
meetings beyond what he had told investigators earlier. His answers
frustrated both Stott and Biggs. "President Hinckley
was very little help, extremely little help," Stott
later said. "His memory of the occasions was very poor."...
Though he kept a journal, Hinckley had been forced to turn to
Francis Gibbons when trying to reconstruct for investigators the
meetings he had with Hofmann. (Victims, pages 253-255)
Although we may never know what President Hinckley
told the prosecutors concerning the McLellin collection at that
time, one thing is certain: he did not reveal that the church had
the collection in its vault.
All accounts seem to agree that Mr. Hinckley did
not want to testify at the preliminary hearing. Although there were
probably a number of reasons why he did not want to be questioned
under oath, he must have been very concerned that he would be asked
questions which might lead to the disclosure of the rediscovery
of the McLellin collection. Richard Turley gives this information:
Because Hinckley was so busy, [church counsel
Wilford] Kirton suggested to the prosecutors that they postpone
calling him as a witness until the trial itself rather
than using him at the preliminary hearing. Hinckley added that
he would prefer not to testify. Kirton's suggestion riled Stott,
who thought the attorney was being paternalistic. "How old
is he?" Stott later asked, recalling the incident. "Anyway,
the old experienced lawyer going to tell the young lawyer how
to handle the case. I became very incensed
at that... he's saying, 'Why don't we do it this way? Why
don't we save President Hinckley for the trial and don't use him
at the prelim.?' I got a little upset at that, him trying to tell
me how to run my case. And so I just told him, 'I'm in charge.
I need President Hinckley. And he'll testify.' ...
"Kirton let it be known explicitly, 'Is there
some way we could get along without President Hinckley?'
Stott recalled. 'Is there some way that he could have
a deposition or whatever it takes?' "
Stott told Kirton the only way the prosecution
would consent to have Hinckley not testify at the preliminary
hearing would be for the defense to agree to stipulate to what
the prosecution wanted Hinckley to testify about if he were present:
that he bought the Stowell letter from Hofmann on a certain date
for a given price. Kirton and Hinckley asked Stott if he would
broach the subject with the defense, and he agreed to do so."
(Victims, pages 255-56)
President Hinckley finally got his way and did
not have to testify at the preliminary hearing. Robert Lindsey wrote
the following regarding Hinckley's escape from testifying at the
To most members of the prosecution team, it was
plain that Mark Hofmann had blackmailed the church. It was equally
clear that leaders of the church were terrified that Gordon B.
Hinckley would be required to testify against him and would be
forced to testify, under oath, about his dealings with Hofmann.
From the first weeks of the investigation, lawyers
for the church sought to head off this possibility....
Shortly before the preliminary hearing was scheduled
to begin, David Biggs and Bob Stott met with Hinckley...
Hinckley said it was not in the best interests
of the church that he be subpoenaed to testify at the preliminary
hearing... He had far more important things to do as a
member of the First Presidency's Office than to appear in court;
Hofmann's hearing was insignificant compared with the important
challenges that he faced in his job...
Gordon Hinckley was not summoned as a witness
Judge Grant, a devout Mormon, later attributed
his absence to the trial attorneys' concern for Hinckley's health.
But church spokesmen said Hinckley was not ill, and in fact the
reasons were more complex than that. Ron Yengich, Hofmann's lawyer,
was no more eager to have the leader of the church that dominated
the community raise the specter of his having been blackmailed
by his client than the church wanted a man close to its Prophet
to appear to have been blackmailed.
Yengich agreed to accept a statement - a stipulation...
(A Gathering of Saints, pages 311, 318)
The stipulation itself proves to be embarrassing
to the church now that it is known that President Hinckley knew
about the rediscovery of the McLellin collection before the stipulation
was entered into. According to Richard Turley, the "stipulation,
which Biggs noted was 'prepared and signed by Mr. Yengich and Mr.
Stott,' identified Gordon Hinckley and stated that he met with Hofmann
sometime between January 11 and 14, 1983... Finally, it stated that
Hinckley 'has never seen nor possessed nor has any knowledge of
the whereabouts of a document or a group of documents known as the
McLellin Collection.' " (Victims, page 303)
It is clear, then, that notwithstanding the fact
that President Hinckley was fully aware of the rediscovery of the
McLellin collection, both the prosecution and the defence understood
him to say he never knew anything about any "group of documents
known as the McLellin Collection."
Richard Turley tries to minimize the importance
of this by saying that the stipulation was "read into the [court]
record without Hinckley ever seeing it. Had he reviewed it, Hinckley
could have revised the stipulation to reflect the church's discovery
of McLellin materials in its possession." (Ibid.)
The reader will notice that while Turley says that Gordon B. Hinckley
"could have revised the stipulation," he does not go so
far as to say that he "would" have revised it. In any
case, it is clear that President Hinckley not only refused to provide
the important information about the McLellin collection to the prosecution,
but his statements made to those who took part in the stipulation
led them to believe that he had absolutely no knowledge of the location
of any McLellin material.
A Dangerous Gamble
In holding back the McLellin collection from investigators,
the Mormon Church was taking a real risk. As we stressed earlier,
Richard Turley admitted that the collection included "a key
item" which convinced church leaders "Hofmann was a fraud."
Moreover, Turley acknowledged that this "key item" was
"relevant to the case." This raises a very important question:
what if the suppression of the McLellin collection by church leaders
made it impossible for prosecutors to get Hofmann bound over for
trial? If prosecutors had failed to make a strong enough case, we
could have had a cold-blooded murderer walking the streets of Salt
Lake City today. Although there is no way of knowing for certain,
it is reasonable to believe that Hofmann might murder again.
If church leaders were convinced that Hofmann was
a fraud after learning about the McLellin collection, why was Judge
Grant not allowed to see this highly significant part of the evidence?
Richard Turley explains that the church hoped that
the prosecutors had sufficient evidence without the church revealing
the discovery of the McLellin collection: "If the prosecution's
evidence was as strong as some sources had hinted, the preliminary
hearing would almost certainly result in Hofmann's being bound over
for trial." (Victims, page 251) Turley, however, tries
to show that the church did not have an inside track on what was
going on in the Salt Lake County Attorney's Office: "The cautious
distance being kept between church headquarters and investigators
meant church officials remained largely unaware of the direction
the investigation was taking, except to the extent they could piece
together clues from media reports, subpoenas, and other sources."
Turley reports that on February 6, 1986, Apostle
Dallin Oaks expressed doubts regarding the prosecution's ability
to prevail: "Dallin Oaks, who viewed the case with his extensive
legal background, began to wonder about the adequacy of the murder
case against Hofmann and about whether, even at this late date,
the prosecution had filed its charges prematurely. 'I hope the prosecution
has more evidence on the murder charges than the newspaper speculation
has hinted,' he confided in his journal." (Ibid., page
It is certainly deplorable that church leaders
would take such a gamble with regard to a person charged with two
murders just so they could protect the church's image. On page 251,
Turley tries to justify this by making this strange statement: "Because
a preliminary hearing was not a trial to determine ultimate guilt
or innocence, state law would allow prosecutors to try again if
they failed during the first hearing to prove probable cause."
Turley seems to be hinting that if the prosecutors did not succeed
the first time around, the Mormon Church could bring forth the McLellin
collection and a second preliminary hearing could be conducted.
Does Mr. Turley realize the implications of what
he is suggesting? The preliminary hearing extended over five weeks
causing great pain to the relatives of the victims. In addition,
it cost a great deal of money. It seems hard to believe that if
prosecutors were unsuccessful in their first attempt to bind Hofmann
over for trial, that church leaders would have stepped forward with
the McLellin collection. The church was already very upset with
the bad publicity it had received. In the Messenger for September
1987, p. 8, we quoted Apostle Dallin Oaks as saying: "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....
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."
If church leaders had come forth with the McLellin
collection after an unsuccessful preliminary hearing, it would have
caused a far greater outcry than they encountered during the early
investigation of the bombings. The church would have been accused
of covering up and protecting a murderer to save face with the public.
A second preliminary hearing would have probably taken a good deal
of time to schedule and complete. In the meantime a murderer would
have been running loose. Furthermore, investigators and prosecutors
would have been incensed at church leaders who had hidden a "key
item" from them. Many of them were already upset with the church's
lack of cooperation. Fortunately, Judge Grant did find there was
enough evidence to warrant a trial.
Richard Turley makes this peculiar statement regarding
the period after the hearing: "When the curtain closed on the
preliminary hearing, church officials... anticipated a long intermission
before the next acts began in the legal drama. While waiting for
the curtain to rise again, they continued to cooperate with
investigators and prosecutors gathering evidence in the case."
(Victims, page 307) How Turley can convince himself that
the church was cooperating when they were withholding one of the
most important pieces of evidence is very difficult to understand.
That church leaders would continue to hide this vital information
from investigators is almost beyond belief.
The Plea Bargain
The new information about the suppression of the
McLellin collection also raises questions regarding the plea bargain
which finally ended the Hofmann case without a trial. It seems obvious
that church leaders did not want the case to go to trial and were
hoping that some kind of agreement could be reached. Although President
Hinckley managed to maneuver his way out of testifying at the preliminary
hearing, he probably would have been called as a witness at the
trial. Hinckley would have been very uncomfortable testifying concerning
the McLellin collection when he knew that it was being suppressed
in the First Presidency's vault. Furthermore, Glenn Rowe knew about
the rediscovery and it seems likely that he would be called as a
If prosecutors had an airtight case they probably
would have sought the death penalty and would not have agreed to
the type of plea bargain they entered into. Although we may never
know for certain, the fact that the church refused to provide important
evidence it had in its possession may have made the prosecutors
more willing to accept the agreement and cancel the trial.
The suppressive actions of the top leaders of the
Mormon Church have done more damage to the church than the "enemies
of the church" could have done in many years. It is going to
be very difficult to sweep this matter under the rug. Their actions
will undoubtedly haunt the church for many years to come.
As stated earlier, in 1908 Joseph F. Smith, the
sixth prophet of the church, ordered that the McLellin collection
be purchased by the church to keep it "from falling into unfriendly
hands." If President Smith had made the collection available
to researchers instead of suppressing it, its contents would have
been known by researchers and Mark Hofmann never could have claimed
to have the collection because scholars would have known that it
was in the church archives. Consequently, Steven Christensen would
not have become involved in trying to obtain the collection from
Hofmann and Christensen and Kathleen Sheets would probably be alive
In trying to keep Hofmann's purported McLellin
collection from falling into unfriendly hands, Hugh Pinnock followed
in the footsteps of President Smith and opened the way for the tragedy
when he arranged a loan of $185,000 for Hofmann to purchase the
As if this is not bad enough, when church leaders
discovered the real collection, they were so embarrassed that they
kept it hidden from investigators. This conspiracy of silence forced
investigators to spend untold hours trying to pin down the truth
about the collection. If the church had been forthright about the
matter, investigators could have spent this time in pursuing more
profitable areas. The church's silence concerning this matter definitely
hurt prosecutors and left them with a weaker hand in their dealings
with Hofmann's lawyers.
While it is true that the General Authorities of
the Mormon Church have preached openness, honesty and trust in God
from the pulpit, when it came right down to it some of the very
highest leaders of the church were unable to live up to the lofty
teachings they have set forth. They apparently did not believe that
the God they serve was able to handle the embarrassing situation
the church found itself in. Therefore, they proceeded to protect
the church with their own strategy. In their attempt to save the
church, they gave an advantage to a man whom they knew was a desperate
criminal who was charged with murder. Their behavior with regard
to this matter did not match up with their twelfth Article of Faith:
"We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers,
and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law. "
While it is true that they did not receive a subpoena
for the McLellin collection, it was only because they kept its existence
well hidden from the prosecution. Now that this information has
come to light, the actions of these leaders speak louder than their
words. The message seems to be that the church's image
is more important than the truth, even to the point of withholding
key evidence in a murder investigation! We feel that this is a terrible
example to set before the youth of the church.
What's In The Vault?
While Richard Turley stresses the cooperation by
church officials during the investigation, the evidence seems to
provide a different story. Robert Lindsey relates the following:
...Salt Lake City detective Jim Bell spoke at
a meeting that had been called to review what detectives knew...
He said he suspected the church was concealing information about
Hofmann and the murders.
"They're hiding something; the church is
doing everything it can to make this as difficult as possible.
I've never seen anything like this in a homicide investigation."
(A Gathering of Saints, page 236)
Lindsey went on to say that "many of the investigators"
felt "that they were being stonewalled by leaders of the church."
(Ibid.) On pages 268-269 of the same book, we find this
The salamander letter and several other documents
Hofmann had sold to the church were still in Washington at the
FBI laboratory. When Ted Cannon [Salt Lake County Attorney] pressed
the church to let his investigators look at the originals of those
that were still in Salt Lake City, a lawyer for the church said
that would be impossible, because some of the documents
were extremely confidential and the church did not want
to risk having them made public.
Cannon said that if the church declined to provide
the documents voluntarily, he would subpoena them - and indeed,
he subsequently did so, But, to head off a court fight over the
subpoena, Cannon surrendered to a demand by the church's lawyers
to keep the substance of the documents a secret.
"The content and meaning and interpretations
to be placed upon what is iterated within the documents,"
Cannon wrote to Wilford Kirton, the church's lawyer, "is
either immaterial or of secondary concern as far as this investigation
is concerned.... every reasonable measure will be employed to
secure not only the documents themselves, but the contents thereof,
from scrutiny or discussion by anyone outside the authorized investigative
Cannon agreed to let church officials maintain
a sign-in/sign-out log identifying everyone who examined the documents
and agreed with the church's demands that members of his staff
would have to turn over to the church all notes, photocopies,
photographs and negatives made during examination of the
documents. Cannon ended his letter with an expression of thanks
for the church's cooperation, a clause that brought snickers from
many of those in the War Room [i.e., the room where investigators
met to discuss strategy in the Hofmann investigation].
Richard Turley acknowledges that there were some
problems regarding documents the prosecution wanted and goes so
far as to say that at one point Church leaders were preparing to
resist a subpoena:
"The next morning, [Apostle] Dallin Oaks
telephoned Rowe... Rowe described the burden the request imposed
on the Historical Department and the risks it posed to the 261
books and manuscripts involved. Oaks, in turn, wrote to Thomas
Monson of the First Presidency about the request. "It would
be a very large burden and risk for the Church to produce 261
books and manuscripts, or to copy them," Oaks observed. He
also doubted the investigators really needed all they were seeking.
He recommended that the church go to court to resist the subpoena,
even though "our differences with the County Attorney would
then become public." After drafting the letter, Oaks received
a telephone call from his fellow Historical Department adviser,
[Apostle] Boyd Packer... Hinckley and Packer both backed Oak's
recommendation. (Victims, page 248)
As it turned out, the Mormon Church did not go
to court to resist any of the subpoenas, but it did impose very
unusual restrictions on the use of its documents. This quibbling
with investigators over access to documents undoubtedly cost prosecutors
a good deal of time that could have been spent on more important
Michael P. George, of the county attorney's office,
felt that President Hinckley was not telling the truth about his
dealings with Hofmann. On page 224 of his book, Richard Turley provided
In response to other questions, Hinckley said
he knew of no dealings between Hofmann and general authorities
of the church beyond those already mentioned. Mike George later
explained that "what we were talking about at that time was
other dealings involving Hofmann in regards to documents being
sold to members of the First Presidency." When Hinckley said
he knew of no others, George did not believe him.
Hinckley answered based on his recollections,
supplemented by information provided him by Francis Gibbons and
Glenn Rowe. Two pieces of information had eluded church officials,
however, in their attempts to reconstruct Hofmann's dealings
with the church. They recalled that the Grandin printing contract
had been purchased by the Historical Department using funds provided
by the First Presidency. Later research would convince them, however,
that the transaction itself was closed in Hinckley's office.
The other elusive item was the Bullock-Young letter.
Hofmann had given it free to Hinckley for the church... In the
more than four years that had elapsed since the gift, Hinckley
had forgotten about it... Later, Gibbons would rediscover the
Bullock-Young letter and bring it to Hinckley's attention,
but on December 9, 1985, when George and Farnsworth interviewed
him, the document had been forgotten.
The Bullock letter was a very controversial Hofmann
forgery which church leaders assumed was authentic and suppressed
in the First Presidency's vault. Mark Hofmann had previously sold
the Mormon Church a document he had forged in which Joseph Smith
blessed his son, Joseph Smith III. According to former Church Archivist
Donald Schmidt, Hofmann received material from the archives which
was valued "in the neighborhood of $20,000" for the blessing
document. This blessing indicated that Joseph Smith III was the
prophet's true successor, not Brigham Young.
In the letter to President Brigham Young, Thomas
Bullock indicated that he would not turn over the blessing because
he feared Young would destroy it. Bullock told Young that he did
not have "licence to destroy every remnant of the blessing
which he received from his Father... I will not, nay I can not,
surrender that blessing, knowing what its certain fate will be if
returned..." (Victims, page 61)
This letter tended to put Brigham Young in a very
bad light, and therefore Mormon leaders felt it must be suppressed.
Turley relates that Mark Hofmann brought the Bullock-Young letter
directly to President Gordon B. Hinckley:
After Hinckley read the document, Hofmann said
he was a believing, active Latter-day Saint, that he wanted to
give the original document to Hinckley, and that he did not want
to blackmail the church.... Hinckley asked, "Are you
telling me that you wish to give this document to the Church without
Yes, Hofmann answered. He also told Hinckley he
had not kept a copy of the document for himself... Hinckley discussed
the matter with his fellow counselors in the First Presidency,
N. Eldon Tanner and Marion Romney.... The men decided to file
the document in the First Presidency's vault. (Victims,
President Hinckley was obviously fooled by Mark
Hofmann's clever attempt to make him believe he was a faithful Mormon.
Since Hofmann told him that he had not even retained a copy of the
letter for himself, Hinckley apparently thought that he could hide
it in the First Presidency's vault and that it would never be brought
It seems unlikely that Hinckley would have forgotten
such an important transaction with Hofmann. In any case, Richard
Turley gives this information about the matter on pages 232-233
of his book:
Also on January 8, Francis Gibbons transferred
to Dean Larsen the original and a typescript of the Bullock-Young
letter, which Gibbons had rediscovered.... It was overlooked until
Gibbons happened across it.
The rediscovery of the letter put church officials
in an awkward position. Because the letter had been forgotten,
it had not been mentioned in the church's news conference
or in previous interviews with investigators. Undoubtedly,
its discovery would subject church officials to ridicule. Despite
the likelihood of criticism, however, Hinckley directed Gibbons
to turn the letter over to investigators. In his memorandum to
Larsen, Francis Gibbons wrote, "The brethren understand you
will make this letter available to the Salt Lake County Attorney
under a subpoena which has been served on the Church to produce
all documents in its possession received from Mark W. Hofmann...
Michael George, of the county attorney's office,
was rather upset when he learned of the existence to the Thomas
Bullock letter. In A Gathering of Saints, page 274,
Robert Lindsey reports what happened when the "rediscovery"
of the letter became known:
After being issued a subpoena, the church had
released to Throckmorton and Flynn what it said were all of the
documents it had acquired from Hofmann since 1980, including some
that it had previously kept secret.
When the First Presidency's Vault yielded the
letter presented to Gordon Hinckley by Hofmann in which Thomas
Bullock accused Brigham Young of having tried to destroy the Blessing
of Joseph Smith III, it caught the War Room by surprise.
"What else are they hiding?" Michael
George demanded. "None of the church historians I've talked
to - Don Schmidt, Leonard Arrington, Dean Jessee - even knew this
existed. They've never heard of it. What else do they have?
Who knows what's in the First Presidency's Vault?"
Now that we know that the McLellin collection was
also hidden in the First Presidency's vault, Michael George's question
concerning what else is in the vault seems almost prophetic.
Mormon leaders were not only uncooperative with
investigators when it came to providing historical documents, but
they were secretive regarding other matters as well. The book, Mormon
Murders, claimed that a detective by the name of John Foster
wanted to get a copy of a page from "the Church Administration
Building log" which showed Hofmann had come to the church offices
on a certain day. According to Naifeh and Smith, when Foster "went
to pick up the photocopy, every entry except the one relating to
Hofmann had been whited out... giving police no way to determine
if relevant entries had been whited out along with irrelevant ones."
Richard Turley, on the other hand, maintained that
"the log photocopy attached to Foster's police report has no
whited-out entries. Investigative Information Memo #840..."
(Victims, page 439, footnote 1) After making this point,
however, Turley turns right around and says that "there was
one Administrative Building log page on which extraneous entries
were whited out before being given to police. It was
a page for October 15, 1985, that was furnished to investigators
who asked when Hofmann met with [Apostle] Dallin Oaks on that day.
The unmasked entry answered their question, and they did not ask
to see the other entries, which had been whited out because
they were irrelevant to the question and because church officials
felt ethically bound to protect church visitors' privacy unless
required by investigators to do otherwise." (Ibid., pages
That the Mormon Church would find it necessary
to hide such information from the police is certainly strange. We
would expect that type of reaction from the CIA or the FBI, but
to have a church which proclaims that it operates "in full
light" with "no secrecy about its doctrine, aim, or purpose"
behave in such a manner makes one rather curious as to what is really
going on. It also seems strange that there was no attempt to force
the church leaders to produce the original log. While there may
not have been anything else of importance in the log, the fact that
most of the material was deleted would make one wonder if Hofmann
met with Apostle Oaks more than once on the day of the two murders
or if other important figures involved with Hofmann or the McLellin
transaction were in Oaks' office that day. The entire log book should
have been subpoenaed and thoroughly examined for all meetings between
church leaders and Hofmann as well as others who were in any way
associated with Hofmann's document deals. We seriously doubt that
other people in Salt Lake City would have received the preferential
treatment which the LDS leaders received in the Hofmann investigation.
At any rate, on page 247 of his book, Richard Turley
admits that this was not the only time that the church "removed
or masked information" provided to investigators:
When Mike George delivered one [subpoena] the
next day, the county's request had expanded to "any records,
check out slips, logs, cards, or other documentation of visits
to the LDS Church Historical Archives and the documents, books,
catalogs, letters, information, etc" that Hofmann and five
others had used since 1975....
The next day, February 20, a county investigator
delivered a subpoena to the church's Missionary Department asking
for missionary records pertaining to Hofmann and one of his associates....
library circulation records and missionary records dealt with
living individuals and thus raised issues of privacy that were
hot topics among legal scholars, librarians, and archivists across
the United States. Church officials felt a responsibility to comply
with the subpoenas while at the same time fulfilling their legal
and ethical responsibility to safeguard the privacy of living
individuals. Thus in responding to requests for information, officials
sometimes removed or masked information not specifically required
by the investigators. When Kirton received the missionary records,
he reviewed them and eliminated portions not required by
the subpoena.... On February 27, Kirton sent the screened materials
on to the county.
Although the tide of Richard Turley's book begins
with the word Victims, it is basically the story of only
one victim, the Mormon Church. The story of the real victims of
the tragedy seems to be glossed over. While we have to agree that
the church was a victim of Mark Hofmann's devious plans, we feel
that Richard Turley, Apostle Dallin Oaks and other church officials
have painted a role of martyrdom which does not fit with the facts.
When a person carefully examines the evidence,
it becomes evident that church leaders shot themselves in the foot.
The Mormon church hierarchy must accept a great deal of blame for
the tone of the books and articles which have tended to embarrass
the church. The fact that church leaders alienated a significant
number of the investigators who worked on the Hofmann case with
their secrecy and lack of cooperation seems to have made a very
negative impression on the authors who interviewed them.
It seems that the Mormon leaders and the investigators
were on a collision course from the day of the bombings. Church
officials felt that in order to prevent embarrassment to the church
they had to remain as quiet as possible about the McLellin collection
Hofmann had dreamed up and the role Hofmann, Christensen and Sorenson
were playing in its suppression. The investigators, on the other
hand, needed this very information to solve the murder case. Although
the Mormon leaders' main concern seems to have been to protect the
church and themselves from embarrassment, they ended up obstructing
the investigation, wasting the valuable time of investigators and,
consequently, delaying the arrest of the murderer.
Testing The Prophets
If the leaders of the Mormon Church did not make
such extravagant claims concerning their prophetic ability to detect
and fight off evil influences, it might be easier to accept the
idea that they were martyrs in the Hofmann scandal. Joseph Smith,
the first Mormon prophet, maintained that in his youth he had seen
a vision of both God and Christ. In this vision he was told that
all other churches were corrupt. The following statement by Smith
is taken from the Pearl of Great Price, one of the four standard
works of the church:
... I asked the Personages who stood above me
in the light, which of all the sects was right... and which I
should join. I was answered that I must join none of them, for
they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me
said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight;
that those professors were all corrupt; that: "they
draw near to me with their lips, but, their hearts are far from
me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a
form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof." He again
forbade me to join with any of them... (Pearl of Great Price,
Joseph Smith - History 1:18-20)
Mormon leaders teach that all other churches are
in a state of apostasy, More than fifty pages of the Introduction
to the History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
are devoted to proving that all churches except the Mormon Church
are in apostasy. The following is found on page XL: "Nothing
less than a complete apostasy from the Christian religion would
warrant the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints." Church members are taught that only men who hold the
Mormon priesthood have the authority to administer in the ordinances
of the gospel. Consequently, those who perform baptisms in other
churches do not operate with any authority and such baptisms are
invalid in the sight of God.
The Mormons, as we have pointed out, claim to be
led by revelation from God. Apostle Bruce R. McConkie made these
claims regarding Mormon revelation:
Our Lord's true Church is established and founded
upon revelation. Its identity as the true Church continues
as long as revelation is received to direct its affairs... without
revelation there would be no legal administrators to perform the
ordinances of salvation with binding effect on earth and in heaven....
Since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord's
true Church; and since the Lord's Church must be guided by continuous
revelation... we could safely conclude... that the Church today
is guided by revelation.... the Spirit is giving direct and daily
revelation to the presiding Brethren in the administration of
the affairs of the Church.... The presence of revelation in the
Church is positive proof that it is the kingdom of God on earth....
For those who reject these revelations there awaits the damnation
of hell. (Mormon Doctrine, 1979, pages 646, 647, 650)
Apostle McConkie also stated: "Members of
the First Presidency, Council of the Twelve, and the Patriarch to
the Church - because they are appointed and sustained as prophets,
seers, and revelators to the Church - are known as the living oracles."
(Ibid., p. 547)
Unfortunately for church leaders, Mark Hofmann
has put the claim of revelation in the church to the acid test and
found that the "living oracles" are just as fallible as
other men. Because of this, President Hinckley, Apostle Oaks and
other Mormon leaders find themselves in a very embarrassing position.
At a time when revelation was really needed, they seemed to be completely
in the dark as to what was going on.
In his youth Mark Hofmann undoubtedly was taught
that Mormon Church leaders were led by revelation and had the gift
of discernment to detect deceivers. The prophet Joseph Smith, in
fact, claimed he received a revelation from God himself warning
him that his enemies were falsifying an important religious document
(see Doctrine and Covenants, Section 10). Hofmann, however,
finally came to the conclusion that the church was not led by revelation
and that he could even deceive the "living prophets" and
the top Mormon scholars. In his confession, Mr. Hofmann said that
he could "look someone in the eye and lie" and didn't
believe that "someone could be inspired" in a religious
sense as to what "my feelings or thoughts were." He claimed
that he "had lost faith in the Mormon Church" and that
he "wasn't fearful of the Church inspiration detecting the
forgery." (Hofmann's Confession, pages 99, 112)
Not only did church leaders fail to forsee through
revelation the threat Hofmann presented to the church, but they
completely ignored the many warnings about Hofmann's documents which
began appearing in our newsletter about eighteen months before the
bombings. In Victims, page 89, Richard Turley commented about
this matter: "Surprisingly, the article [in the Salt Lake
City Messenger, March 19841 concluded, 'While we would really
like to believe that the [Salamander] letter attributed to Harris
is authentic, we do not feel that we can endorse it until further
evidence comes forth....' " The Los Angeles Times, August
25, 1984, reported that "The Tanners suggestion of forgery
has surprised some Mormons, who note that the parallels in wording
also could be taken as evidence of authenticity." Thirteen
months before the murders, September 1, 1984, the church's own Deseret
News printed the fact that "outspoken Mormon Church critics
Jerald and Sandra Tanner suspect the document is a forgery, they
told the Deseret News." In an article published in the New
York Times after the bombings, Robert Lindsey wrote:
In a newsletter that he publishes with his wife,
Sandra, Mr. Tanner began raising questions about their authenticity,
in some cases comparing the texts with known Mormon writings.
But if senior Mormon officials were aware of his
warnings, they apparently paid little attention. Several of the
church's highest officials have acknowledged negotiating to acquire
documents from Mr. Hofmann until the day of the first two bombings.
(New York Times, Feb. 16, 1986)
Richard Lindsey has a quotation from Hugh Pinnock,
the Mormon General Authority who was working on the McLellin transaction,
which indicates that church leaders still believed in Hofmann two
or three days after the bombings. Writing on April 17, 1986, Pinnock
observed: " 'It seems that Hofmann has left a trail of evidence.
The only effective manner to understand this situation is to realize
that M[ark] H[ofmann] was well considered before 10-17 or 18th even
though he fooled us all. M[ark] H[ofmann] did not internalize
the gospel.' " (Victims, page 271)
Apostle Dallin Oaks met with Mark Hofmann just
hours after he had killed Kathleen Sheets and Steven Christensen.
Oaks never suspected that Hofmann was involved in the bombings and
encouraged him to go on with the McLellin transaction. On page 153
of Victims, Richard Turley wrote: "Oaks asked Hofmann
if he still intended to proceed with the closing on the collection...
Oaks told him he ought to get in touch with David E. West, Sorensen's
attorney, who would doubtless wonder how Christensen's death would
affect the transaction.... Oaks thanked Hofmann for his work in
discovering church documents and for his willingness to sell the
McLellin collection to someone 'friendly' to the church."
Apostle Oaks later made a feeble attempt to explain
why church leaders were unable to detect Hofmann's evil plans (see
Confessions of a White Salamander, page 64). He commented:
"But why, some still ask, were his deceits not detected by
the several Church leaders with whom he met?" Oaks maintained
that Church leaders "cannot be suspicious and questioning"
of the many people they meet with every year and noted that if "they
fail to detect a few deceivers... that is the price they pay to
increase their effectiveness in counseling, comforting, and blessing
the hundreds of honest and sincere people they see."
Apostle Oaks never really answered the question.
Mark Hofmann was not meeting with church leaders for "counseling,
comforting, and blessing." He was meeting with them for the
express purpose of deceiving them so that they would give him large
amounts of money and authentic documents in exchange for his fraudulent
documents. Furthermore, he had many visits with high Mormon officials.
These meetings went on for years, yet church leaders were unable
to discern the wicked plan that Hofmann had in his heart.
While the Mormon leaders claim to have the same
powers as the ancient apostles in the Bible, their performance with
regard to Mark Hofmann certainly did not match up to that of Apostle
Peter when he caught Ananias and Sapphira redhanded in their attempt
to deceive the church with regard to a financial transaction: "But
Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to
the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?"
In a revelation given by Joseph Smith on March
8, 1831, the Lord warned against being "seduced by evil spirits,
or doctrines of devils... beware lest ye are deceived; and
that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts...
it is given by the Holy Ghost to some to know the diversities of
operations... to others the discerning of spirits.... And
to the bishop of the church, and unto such as God shall appoint...
are to have it given unto them to discern all those gifts lest there
shall be any among you professing and yet be not of God." (Doctrine
and Covenants 46:7, 8,16,23,27)
Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie proclaimed that
church leaders did have the gift of discernment: "...the gift
of the discerning of spirits is poured out upon presiding officials
in God's kingdom; they have it given to them to discern all gifts
and all spirits, lest any come among the saints and practice deception....
There is no perfect operation of the power of discernment without
revelation. Thereby even 'the thoughts and intents of the heart'
are made known.... Where the saints are concerned... the Lord expects
them to discern, not only between the righteous and the wicked,
but between false and true philosophies, educational theories, sciences,
political concepts and social schemes." (Mormon Doctrine,
It would seem that if these powers were really
functioning in the church today, the "Prophet, Seer and Revelator"
would have received a revelation warning him concerning Mark Hofmann's
"cunning plan" to defraud and disgrace the church. Furthermore,
a revelation regarding his deception would have prevented two people
Spencer W. Kimball, who was the prophet and president
of the church at the time Hofmann first began deceiving church leaders,
was supposed to be a "seer" and have the power to "translate
all records that are of ancient date" (Book of Mormon, Mosiah
8:13). The Book of Mormon also says that "a seer is greater
than a prophet... a seer is a revelator and a prophet also; and
a gift which is greater can no man have... a seer can know of things
which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them
shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be
made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light..." (Mosiah
When Mark Hofmann brought the forged Anthon transcript,
which was supposed to contain characters Joseph Smith copied from
the gold plates of the Book of Mormon, President Kimball was unable
to translate the characters. Instead of using the "seer stone,"
he examined the characters which appear on the transcript with a
magnifying glass. Not only did he fail to provide a translation,
but he was unable to detect that the church was being set up to
be defrauded of a large amount of money and many historical items
out of its archives. Moreover, he entirely failed to see the devastating
and embarrassing effect this transaction and others which followed
would have on the Mormon Church. If ever revelation from the Lord
was needed, it was on that day in 1980 when Mark Hofmann stood in
the presence of President Kimball.
As President Kimball grew older, he became less
able to function and President Gordon B. Hinckley took over many
of his responsibilities and became to all appearances the acting
president of the church. Hinckley, who posed with Mark Hofmann,
President Kimball and other church leaders in a photograph taken
in 1980, was also deceived on a number of occasions by Mr. Hofmann.
He, together with Apostle Boyd K. Packer (also shown in the picture),
approved many of the deals the church made with Hofmann.
It appears that if the Mormon Church was ever led
by revelation, it has been lacking since Mark Hofmann came into
the church offices with the Anthon transcript. The inability of
Mormon leaders to detect the religious fraud perpetrated upon them
raises a question with regard to their testimony regarding the authenticity
of the Book of Mormon. After all, if they could not determine that
Hofmann's documents which were supposed to be only 150 years old
- were forgeries, how can we trust their judgment with regard to
a record which is supposed to be ten times as old?
The reader will remember that Apostle McConkie
maintained that "the Spirit is giving direct and daily revelation
to the presiding Brethren in the administration of the affairs of
the Church." One would think that if such revelation was in
operation, Mark Hofmann would have been exposed years before the
bombings. With regard to the inability of the Mormon leaders to
detect that the Hofmann documents were fraudulent, a person might
argue that these documents were not really important spiritual writings,
and therefore the Lord did not see fit to intervene when the General
Authorities examined them. The truth of the matter, however, is
that they contained extremely important material directly relating
to spiritual affairs. The Salamander letter, for example, changed
the story of the Angel Moroni appearing to Joseph Smith to that
of a cantankerous and tricky "old spirit" who transformed
himself from a white salamander and struck Joseph Smith. Mormon
Apostle Dallin Oaks tried to reconcile the Salamander letter with
Joseph Smith's account by saying: "One wonders why so many
writers neglected to reveal to their readers that there is another
meaning of 'salamander,' which may even have been the primary meaning...
That meaning... is 'a mythical being thought to be able to live
in fire.'... A being that is able to live in fire is a good approximation
of the description Joseph Smith gave of the Angel Moroni...
the use of the words white salamander and old spirit
seem understandable." ("1985 CES Doctrine and Covenants
Symposium," pages 22-23) After the Salamander letter was proclaimed
a forgery, Apostle Oaks must have been very embarrassed that he
ever made such an outlandish statement.
Significantly, some of the purported Joseph Smith
writings which Hofmann sold to the church contain revelations from
the Lord himself. For instance, the Joseph Smith III Blessing document
gives this message from the Lord: "Verily, thus saith the Lord:
if he abides in me, his days shall be lengthened upon the earth,
but, if he abides not in me, I, the Lord will receive him, in an
instant, unto myself."
Mark Hofmann also forged an 1838 Joseph Smith letter
to his brother, Hyrum, which the Mormon Church purchased in 1983.
This letter was in its entirety a revelation purporting to come
from the Lord. It begins with the words, "Verily thus Saith
the Lord," and ends with the word "Amen." The fact
that Mormon leaders were not able to recognize the spurious nature
of these revelations casts doubt upon their ability to discern the
truthfulness of the other revelations given by Joseph Smith.
The church has always claimed that it is virtually
impossible for a person to write a revelation that would compare
with Joseph Smith's. It now appears, however, that there is someone
who can write revelations comparable to Joseph Smith's and that
it is even possible to get them past the scrutiny of the highest
leadership of the Mormon Church.
As we have noted earlier, another thing that shows
the church's lack of revelation in times of crisis is the way the
rediscovery of the McLellin collection was handled. President Spencer
W. Kimball died about three weeks after the bombings, and Ezra Taft
Benson became the 13th prophet on Nov. 10, 1985. It was only four
months after Benson became president of the church that the McLellin
collection was found in the First Presidency's vault. On page 250
of his book, Richard Turley affirms that this information was reported
to the First Presidency in March 1986.
One would think that at this vital period in the
church's history President Benson, "the living prophet,"
would have had the insight to inform the other members of the First
Presidency that the McLellin collection must be made available to
investigators. Instead of Benson receiving the word of the Lord
to point the church in the proper way, it seems that the heavens
were silent and the Mormon leaders were left to their own devices.
While there are probably some Mormons who would suggest that President
Benson was led by the Lord to suppress the discovery, we believe
that most members of the church would feel that such an idea would
Some may excuse Benson's failure in this matter
by saying that he was too advanced in age to deal with such problems.
While there may be some truth in such an argument (he was 86 years
old at that time and just recently turned 93), this explanation
does not provide much comfort to the faithful. If Benson is not
really capable of leading the church through revelation, who is
in control? Although there were six General Authorities in the Mormon
Church who were informed about this matter, none of them stepped
forward to help investigators!
Although Apostle Dallin Oaks would have us believe
that "Criticism is particularly objectionable when it is directed
toward Church authorities," there seems to be no way to get
around the fact that they must bear a great deal of the responsibility
in the Hofmann affair. If they had been open and forthright about
historical documents, Mr. Hofmann would not have approached them
with his blackmail-like documents with the idea of filling his pockets
with the church's money. Hofmann's knowledge of the fact that church
leaders were anxious to keep anything embarrassing from falling
into the hands of church critics set the stage for the tragic events
We understand that Lynn Packer, the man who brought
to light the story concerning Paul Dunn's deception, was working
on the story concerning the rediscovery of the McLellin even before
we became aware of it. It is reported that his article on the subject
may appear in the November issue of Utah Holiday magazine.
We are looking forward to this article.
Those who wish to know more about the
Mark Hofmann case should obtain our books, Tracking the White
Salamander and Confessions of a White Salamander. Both
books are now available in one volume.