Hey Mormon Stories Listeners!
I am planning some super-cool interviews for the newly released “Murder Among the Mormons” documentary (released today on Netflix). A few SUPER important requests for you all:
- Please watch it ASAP! It’s fantastic!
- Please share it with all your believing Mormon family members and friends. If they are concerned about the content, consider letting them know that:
- Richard Turley (former assistant LDS Church historian and head of LDS Church Public Affairs) participates in the documentary, and
- The documentary was carefully designed by both Jared and Tyler to be fair/balanced. In my opinion, the doc is TOTALLY TBM worthy, so please watch it AND tell everyone about it!
- I am planning several super cool interviews, including an interview with Directors Jared Hess and Tyler Measom. So stay tuned for that!
Here’s where I need your help. I would REALLY love it if you would post here (as comments below) a) your reactions to the doc, and b) any questions you have for Jared and Tyler. This will help me make the most of time with them (which I see as precious). It will also stand as a cool record of progressive and post-Mormon reactions to the film.
If you want to watch additional coverage of the Mark Hofmann bombings on Mormon Stories Podcast, you can check out the following episodes:
- An interview with Allen D. Roberts and Curt Bench about Mark Hofmann.
- An interview with Brent Metcalfe – personal friend of Mark Hofmann.
- An interview with Sandra Tanner – whose husband Jerald determined that Mark Hofmann was a fraud before any of the LDS Church leaders.
Thank you in advance for your support! And a HUGE thanks to Jared and Tyler for making a documentary that we ALL can be proud of as Mormons/Ex-Mormons.
Anon – Can you ask the directors if they have the plans to release all the interviews uncut? Especially Sandra’s. TIA.
Tyler and Jared would never release the interviews as is. To do so would be an egregious breach of trust and ethics.
A documentary interview isn’t like a podcast interview. My interview lasted almost eight hours (three hours one day and almost five the next). We took regular breaks; we discussed what topics would be up next and how we wanted them framed; occasionally, very personal conversations would break out between me and the producers; retakes were shot mid-recording; and so on. As interviewees we trusted the producers to responsibly select material best suited for their docuseries, and they did.
Brent. This is Jim Sheets, son of Kathy and Gary Sheets. I would love to connect with you if possible. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would love for you to discuss the odd similarities between Hofmann & Joseph Smith. I found it strange that they both were treasure hunters and seeking “truth” at some point. Also the fame and notoriety Hofmann and Joseph Smith both received from their “findings”. That would be an interesting topic to dive into!
Huh? There are NO odd similarities between Mark Hofmann and Joseph Smith. Seeking truth is something almost everyone does; nothing odd about it. Same with seeking treasure. Although they did both have weird ways to go about it at times.
The differences between the two are much starker than the similarities. Hofmann was a forger and murderer. Joseph Smith was a prophet and Christian leader.
Riveting! Seems balanced, fair and complete. Worth the time, for sure. Sad chapter in LDS history. Condolences to all the families involved.
DW – My main takeaway besides the tragic loss of life was how many parallels could be drawn between Hoffman and Joseph Smith. Both obsessed with treasure hunting from an early age. Hoffman even pre-hid an item he later ‘found’ on a treasure hunt to garner a reputation. Both made up stuff others were convinced was genuine, both hid their true intent and actions from their wife etc.
CA – I already watched and loved it. Just wish they would’ve dealt with the LDS side of it more. Otherwise, a great presentation.
I heard the directors on another podcast. I think it was Sunstone. They said that whenever they included too much of that stuff for the non-LDS focus groups, they hated it. Boring! But of course you would love to see that and so would I. But the average Netflix viewer, not so much apparently.
Anon – Did you ever wonder if Shannon Flynn was an accomplice?
What cool stuff did you have to leave out?
Any big conflicts between Jared and Tyler that you can discuss?
I thought it was incredibly fair to all parties. Very well done, congrats to the directors!
Question 1: What new and/or surprising nuggets did you discover that we exmos/mormons would find interesting, but that you had to cut because it was just too “inside baseball” for a wide audience?
Question 2: Are we ever going to see a big budget, multi-season series about the history of Mormonism? Heaven knows it has all the drama anyone could ask for!
Thank you, and congratulations.
Seconding Question 1! Specifically, I was hoping for a breakdown of the events surrounding the forged Joseph Smith III blessing. On the surface, the events surrounding this document seem the most damning to the church. Did Hofmann play the LDS and RLDS churches against each other? Why would the LDS church outbid the RLDS church and then donate the document to them? Sure seems like they intended to buy it and suppress it. Or am I misunderstanding? I was hoping to learn more about this in the documentary.
Fabulous job. I was glad they didn’t do much regarding the church. That will make it so members can feel okay watching it. Any negative conclusions you’d make about the church would have to come from the viewer.
I really liked the way they focused on the victims, both the survivors and the people who lost money due to his forgeries. Brent Metcalfe was heartbreaking. Poor man.
Elder Hugh Pinnock (a General Authority Seventy) purportedly arranged a $185k loan for Mark Hofmann, which Elder Pinnock is said to have paid off out of his own pocket after Hofmann was charged. Did Jared or Tyler learn anything about this loan from a Church authority, or if there were any other such loans?
Did Jared or Tyler learn anything about the methodology by which the Church obtained over 40 similar historical documents from Hofmann? Specifically, it seems that the Church has a way of arranging for private buyers to acquire these documents and immediately thereafter donate the document to the Church. Was Steve Christensen to have purchased the McLellin Collection for $300k and thereafter donate the collection to the Church? It seems that numerous people understood that the Church would pay $300k for it, but President Hinkley publicly denied it. Any insights on this apparent course of dealing (which appears to have been followed again in 2017 when the Church acquired the first printer’s copy of the Book of Mormon manuscript from the Community of Christ for $30M by means of anonymous donors)?
Prior to releasing the film was there any pressure from the church not too breach the topic?
This documentary was very well done! I just binge watched all three episodes back-to-back.
Almost done, with it. CRAY 😳 I want to know what if any push-back or obstacles they experienced in getting interviews and creating the documentary? Also interested to see what the TBM reactions will look like. Did their TBM friends and family give any push-back in the making of the doc? Interested to see the reaction of the church in regard to Jared and Tyler.
trying to listen to the DOC and read this article simultaneously 🤓 https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/tv/a35683846/murder-among-the-mormons-directors-interview-lds-church-response/
I absolutely love the editing in this documentary. It’s seamless and allows for full immersion into the events it’s covering. Also, all of the old news clips, interviews, etc add a punch that cannot be overstated when dealing with people who don’t (as a general rule) place as much weight on fact as they do feelings.
I’m curious to know what the stipulations were (given by the church) in exchange for the information they provided. Did they allow for a free reign on info they would give? Were any non-disclosures required?
Hi John. The show was mesmerizing. And I watched it all at once. So many facets of interesting things. I was a little bit disappointed that they didn’t give more attention to the involvement of the church though. The last episode was interesting to me in that I saw many similarities Between Mark Hoffman and Joseph smith. Definitely worth the watch! Can’t wait to hear any upcoming interviews you may have. Thanks for all you do!
How is/should the church answering for the two glaring issues with old church documents?
– Documents are claimed to be scribed from the plates by Joseph Smith himself, but modern church teachings say this never happened?
– How did they not know forgeries immediately with divine inspiration?
Congratulations! This was very well done especially given the complexity of the story and the interweaving of all the “characters”, and the need to keep the focus on the villain! I’m very happy they didn’t go off into the weeds with the GeneralAuthorities too far. Doing so would have messed with the thread of the doc which is really about a psychopath among the Mormons. If it makes you feel any better –anyone who thinks the church came out smelling a little too good– my ex-cop friend’s “take away” was, “the forger was brilliant at F..king over the Mormons”. Maybe, like the man said, we get what were looking for. We don’t see the things we don’t want to see.
Hugs and tons of appreciation to Brent Metcalfe. Hearing his soothing voice and heartfelt reflections was a balm to the soul.
The link to treasure seeking as the opener was crazy well done!
I just watched it with my TBM mom, I honestly don’t think she grasped the cover up by the Mo’s. If she did she didn’t say anything. She is of few words usually. She just thought Hoffman was a con artist.
1- Why did they not go into how the court proceedings arrived at a plea deal? How the church wouldn’t cooperate, including many key people taking vacations. Ultimately, the church didn’t think it would be “good optics” to have Hinckley on the witness stand.
2- The Board of Pardons murder plot section jumped in contact because they didn’t describe “5-life” being dangled as a carrot for Hofmann’s confession, which he did, and still got life.
3- Why has Hofmann never responded to any interview requests? Do they know if he received their request?
4- Where did the funding for this BBC Studios production come from? It seemed fortunate to be granted such access to Turley/KSL footage. Where were the interviews shot?
5- Did they ask the Christensen/Sheets family if they wanted any involvement?
I enjoyed the series, but it left out a lot of the church’s involvement. Turley has read Oaks:Hinckley’s journals from this time. Did Hess ask for access to them?
I was a bit disappointed by it…because now I’m just left thinking, “this only furthers the narrative of TBMs that ‘atheists are evil’ or ‘exmormons just want to destroy the church.'”
Just another person for them to point at to talk about how evil people who leave the church are 😅🙃
(Obviously not true, but unfortunately how a lot of TBMs think, in my experience)
GGJ – After watching murder among the Mormons, does anyone find the irony in that Mark Hofmann is like a modern day Joseph Smith but just got caught?
J – I did see many parallels between them tbh. The only difference is Mark was trying to convince people his documents were old, whereas Joseph Smith was trying to convince everyone the gold plates were real.
AF – In some ways they both appear to have had a genuine creative acumen. Whereas JS wanted to start a church, I believe Mark Hofmann was mocking church leadership. JS wanted to prove he was a spiritual giant—someone with divine powers. Mark Hofmann, to me, exposed the “divine” for the frauds that they are. In the end, JS and Hofmann both fooled people. And, in the end, they both were exposed for the frauds that they are.
TPM – Murder Among the Mormons tells a story that was very relevant in my life. I was 13 when the white salamander letter was sold to the LDS Church and hidden away. I was 15 when the bombings occurred and 17 when Hoffman confessed to the murders and forgeries.
In context, attacks on church history were being shared in Texas by other faiths and the Godmakers was out. I specifically remember asking my youth leaders and Bishop about church history and being told that all the slander was lies.
For a while, I have been upset that I was lied to as a youth, yet in revisiting this story about the forgeries, I realize that Hoffman actually gave the LDS Church a lot of legitimate cover that they used for the next 20-30 years to keep and suppress any negative investigation into the church’s history. Hoffman and the forgeries were the indisputable cover.
So when I brought up legitimate questions about the seer stones, Joseph’s treasure digging, and Joseph’s polygamy with minors and polyandry – the Hoffman forgeries became the blanket story that everything was false and enemies were attacking the LDS Church.
But one of the reasons the Hoffman forgeries were so successful is because they were so close to the truth that they were never even suspected.
So the LDS Church was able to hide its sorted history for another 20-30 years until the Internet gave up all the secrets once again.
They published a new Gospel Topics Essay on the Hofmann forgeries today!
They published a new Gospel Topics Essay on the Hofmann forgeries today!
Great discussion thread. I looked at the Topics link and there MANY interesting subjects and people discussed. I will spend much more time with it.
Thanks for all your great work.
Also I have watched it three times and will again.
JG – I think Hofman did intend to suicide. It would have been the best possible outcome. His death would have fit neatly into the other murders. His reputation would have remained intact (given there was massive fraud maybe not). The sale of the freedman letter sale would have probably gone through and benefited his family. Any remaining papers in his car could have either quietly disappeared or gone to collectors. As one of his victims said when we want to believe something to be true, we can make it true.
It’s only an opinion but generally when circumstances fit, investigations are not seen as necessary. I also wonder if there are now more stringent procedures to detect fraud.
NP – I did think it was pretty easy on the church. Didn’t really attack it at all. The church should be happy.
DS – It is very benign. Even Mark Hoffman was likable.
CGV – I thought I heard something about a re-personality-ing of Dallin Oaks…does this have anything to do with a distraction from the show?
NW – no mention of the forgeries they purchased from the guy…good gawd. what value is a church history declaration…without the actual history?? deceived by church leaders…what a white wash
My youngest brother and his wife married in the Salt Lake Temple, October 15, 1985. Returning to my parents’ home in Centerville, UT, we notice a large police presence and wondered what was going on. News reports quickly filled us in.
I watched the program. My reaction?
And that doesn’t happen much at all.
DW – My main takeaway besides the tragic loss of life was how many parallels could be drawn between Hofmann and Joseph Smith. Both obsessed with treasure hunting from an early age. Hofmann even pre-hid an item he later ‘found’ on a treasure hunt to garner a reputation. Both made up stuff others were convinced was genuine, both hid their true intent and actions from their wife etc.
JP – both narcissist sociopaths as well
SP – David Wills I had this same thought. I could see JS starting out the same way-just seeing how far the deception could go. Hofmann’s comment about “something becomes genuine because people believe it to be genuine” was triggering.
AL – If something becomes labelled as true, and you believe it to be true, then it is true
This statement encapsulated all the documents, one and all together, authentic and fake, all are believe true
RVT – The Church “owned” the Salamander Letter for weeks before it was revealed that it was a fraud. The “official” doctrine of the Church at that time was that a “white salamander” was merely a symbol for an angel and that angel was Moroni even though Joseph Smith said in his written account that it was Nephi. Confused enough. The purpose of the 15 is to “gas light” you.
EA – I would be interested in knowing what they hoped would be the outcome of this documentary. Did they do it because crime documentaries are popular right now and it is an interesting story or was there more purpose behind the project?
LV – My heart goes out to Brent Metcalf, for feeling responsible for the death of Steve Christensen because he introduced Mark to Steve. Hope he knows that we all have that possible situation, and he’s definitely not responsible. Hugs to him!
I agree completely. It broke my heart when he started talking about feeling responsible for introducing them and wishing he hadn’t been born. Bless his heart. :( I felt bad for Shannon Flynn as well.
I think most of us who love and care about people have been fooled by someone at one time or another. That’s not on us, that’s on them.
Ann Rule defended Ted Bundy in the beginning because she just couldn’t believe the man she thought was her friend could do those things. She believed… Until she couldn’t. It’s when we refuse to see and accept the truth in the face of
damning evidencee that it begins to become about us and not them.
JWU – I think they did a great job. I think that they could of covered when/why Mark lost his faith to kind of layout why he wanted to hurt the corp… IMOHO…
RH – In many ways Hoffman was a victim who turned into a perpetrator. If Mormon Stories had been around at that time, maybe Hofmann would have been able to deal with his faith crisis in a healthier way. Unfortunately, it led to him deceiving and killing two innocent people. I cried at the end of the third episode.
NRB – I was an early morning Seminary teacher in Montana when this was going on and I was troubled. I never bought into the salamander letter but the fact that Hinkley and others were deceived caused me to question. We had been promised that the prophet would never be led astray and Hinkley at the time was the acting prophet. I asked people in my ward and only my Dad and the church librarian were bothered like I was.
JE – It seems like Mark Hofmann has a lot of similarities to Joseph Smith. They talked about when he was a kid he hid a jar of money and that they went out on a treasure hunting expedition and found that jar. Joseph was okay conning people during his early years with his treasure hunting. Mark conned some of the best experts prior to the bombings like the FBI and New York document experts. Joseph Smith conned his followers and wasnt smart enough to con the experts with his reformed Egyptian. They both created document forgeries. I think Joseph originally was looking to sell for monetary gain and same with Mark. Of course, both liked the popularity and gaining trust of their friends. Joseph eventually created a religion from it and Mark to hide his secrets was willing to murder. I think Mark would have continued to con people for monetary gain.
SSJ – It was jarring to be taken back to that place in time. I knew Shannon Flynn in the mid-80’s. I did not recognize him at all in the film. I really appreciated the devotion to detail. I do not think it was neccessary to show Steve Christensen’s deceased body. He had a family. Hearing Mark Hofmann speak about his crimes was chilling. It should be a cautionary tale.
MC – I found it ironic that Alvin Rust, one of Hofmann’s business partners interviewed who was ruined financially by Hofmann, is also the father of Gaylen Rust who pulled off one of the largest Ponzi schemes in Utah history and financially ruined many others. The affinity fraud runs deep in these groups.
SJP – I was disappointed, honestly. Mark Hofmann was revealed as a fraud, but the LDS church was allowed to come away without its fraudulent origins exposed.
WWP – My mother went to court every day for the hearings. She often told me how empty Hofmann’s eyes were. If she could see it, why couldn’t the Seers?
Well done retelling of another sad chronicle from church history.
BP – “People tend to ignore anything that does not fit their own beliefs. They reject the facts because it means giving up their beliefs for which they’ve sacrificed so much.”
– Mark Hofmann
SM – Question for Jared and Tyler, there’s a scene where Mark is watching GC and getting satisfaction from hearing the GA say that the letter validates the BOM. Please expand. What Hoffman documents did the church use to validate the BOM or any truth claim? I LOVED this documentary, it was so good for me as a Mormon to learn about this history.
SB – I thought they did a great job on the documentary. It is mind blowing, all of the small details he thought of to make the documents seem legit. The biggest thing for me was, if the church says that it is ran and guided by prophets, seers and revelators, how did they not catch that all of these documents were forged.
JM – Not only that, but an excommunicated member, Jerald Tanner, figured it out before they did. Maybe the Tanners have a better pipeline to God…? 😝
SL – John… I lived through this. I graduated from BYU in 1984 and lived in Provo throughout the Mark Hofmann debacle. My bishop at the time was Brent Ashworth who was one of Hofmann’s forgery victims. I still remember going to priesthood meeting in the Marriott center and getting a copy of The salamander letter at the door and talks during the meeting about the salamander letter. That picture in the Salt Lake Tribune of the first presidency surrounding Mark Hofmann when he produced the Lucy Mack Smith letter was my first shelf breaking moment.
GC – Really interesting doc. First heard about this story from my family’s home teacher when I was around 8 years old shortly after it happened. Q’s for the directors: Is there any behavior by church officials (specific individuals) they thought was especially sketchy, perhaps that they didn’t have time for in the final edit? Did they find the investigator’s statement that the church was stonewalling reliable? How cooperative was Turley? Was there any acknowledgement or statement (even condolences) by the church after everything came to light? (There was one church press conference in the doc, and a couple General Conference talk bits, but it’s unclear when in the timeline those happened.) Do the directors agree that Christiansen buying the docs for the church is essentially the same thing as the church buying them (despite the church’s protestations to the contrary)? Did any of Hofmann’s associates come off as anything other than totally and completely duped? What happened to Hofmann’s parents?
Roger V. Taylor – I just watched it on Netflix. I lived through it, so that there is little “new information” that is presented. Too bad that the LDS Church is so willing to pay such a high price to “hide” information from members of the Church. It was comforting to learn that Mark Hoffman was wearing his temple garments when he was killing his two victims. Is that what saved his life when the third bomb went off and nearly killed him, or was it the priesthood blessing that he received? Thank God that it was a person that was wearing his temple garments who killed them, so that we can know that the murders were carried out by a temple-recommend carrying Mormon.
Dale Smith – I was at home having lunch in my down town apartment when Hoffman blew himself up. It was on the corner of main street and 2nd north, behind where the conference now is. (desert gym was there at the time) For a few years after you could see where his car was as the street was burnt from the explosion. Interesting times.
Tami Christensen – My question/ observation is this:
The church clearly knew of the documents in the vault and have taken great measures to ensure the information has been carefully hidden and undisclosed to the general membership. They knew the salamander letters would be damaging and potentially cause many to leave. They wanted it to bury it with the rest of the controversial history they were hiding. This, we know. Facts.
Here is my observation: the church didn’t know the Information Age was around the corner and that many truth seekers would look and find this information anyway. At the time, buying and hiding the documents protected their narrative. The church buying the documents from Hoffman supports its behavior of sweeping anything challenging and questionable under the rug.
Here are my questions:
1) with hindsight, why aren’t all the (forgive the slang) boomers not looking back and putting it together. They were around for the events and have also been around as the church has hot swapped the narrative. Why are they NOT loudly becoming vocal in the discrepancies? Are they even noticing the shift? Why aren’t they outraged?
2)the movie had several lines about being able to believe anything they can convince their brain to believe. There was also commentary about confirmation bias among the saints as well as cognitive dissonance. The producers all but lead the viewer to see that the church definitely is NOT what it purports to be. Why aren’t more people HEARING this message right in front of them?
Singularly, any one of the issues over the last two centuries can be explained away. When aggregated, it’s a startling different picture. Is this why we just cycle through the standard works in perpetuity instead of actually empowering people to make informed choices?
Lastly, missionary efforts are largely in underdeveloped areas. Do they not think these people will follow the same trajectory as people in the states, Europe, South America, etc? When will the church realize that honesty and transparency IS THE ONLY WAY?
Jenifer K Hancock Poe – It’s so weird to me. My dad knew and did work for the Sheet’s family. I remember my parents talking about all of this even though I was 11 at the time. It wasn’t until I was 32 and read under the banner of heaven, in 2006 that I was reintroduced to this whole story. And then in 2009 – 2010 that I had found and started listening to Mormonstories podcast.
Also, Fanny Alger is my cousin. Levi Hancock is my 5th times great Uncle, Solomon is my 5th times great grand father. I didn’t know about fanny until 2017. When I listened to the one of the episodes of year of polygamy. Such a small lake city story. Thanks John….for everything!!
Greg Knight – The affair basically proves that the leaders of the church do NOT have the “power of discernment” which they brag so much about. It also proves they are willing to bury the truth in order to protect the church.
Benjamin Pobanz From what I could see, The video demonstrates: (1) the LDS leaders were “tricked” or “duped” by Hoffman, thereby proving they don’t have the power of discernment, (2) they intended to “hide” the documents from the public, and (3) blind LDS members will go to any lengths necessary to justify and defend the actions of their clearly uninspired leaders – no matter what mental gymnastics are required. That was my takeaway, at any rate.
Ann Tastic – Okay I know I’m the outlier here, but based on the title and trailers, I really thought the church was going to be exposed on something major.
At this point, I’d much rather see a documentary on all of the sex abuse that has been covered up, something that matters. Something that would really show people how evil that organization is.
Murder Among the Mormons seemed like it was going to be a smoking gun, and wasn’t. It didn’t do it for me.
I don’t think of it as old news at all. It was quite new to me. My issue with it is that I don’t feel it would have much impact on the believers. I think it’s too easy to justify.
“Gordon B Hinckley says he didn’t know and I believe him.”
“Of course the church was interested in historical documents, there’s nothing shady about that.”
I thought this documentary was going to shake up some faith. I think it’s only string enough to reach those of us who already accept the organization is corrupt. I would like see the true nature of the church exposed in a way that shakes the believer to its core. I would like to see light shined on some of the glaring issues that harm families today.
Amanda Gardner Bingham – My sincere question is how was mark any different than Joseph smith?
Jason Lawson – Shouldn’t it be titled “Murder Among The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.” 😬😂😬
Brian Poelman – I’d be curious to know of those featured in the documentary who were impacted by these events (associates, wife/family, victim families, etc.) and who considered themselves “active/believing” members of the LDS church at that time: Was your belief/faith in the Mormon religion shaken, strengthened, or relatively unchanged as a result of what transpired (why/how)? Are they active members today?
Andree Renée Jacques – Just finished watching. What I learned was that church leaders jeopardized a police investigation into murders of faithful members because they did not want to admit they were trying to buy and possibly conceal documents that might be harmful to the LDS history. I was horrified that Hinkley said he had no records and no calendars recording his
Meetings with Hofmann, and prosecutors did not believe him. Also Dallin Oaks’ statements just showed he was out of his depth as a lawyer on this-
I know because I practice criminal defense law.
Brad S. Christenson – I remember this time very well. Great documentary that captured it very well. it was so crazy those couple of days wondering who else might be killed. I found it interesting when the guy in the war room said it was a pain the church was hindering the investigation. Crazy the top leadership of the church felt the salamander story was viable and they better hide it from us rank and file. I always thought they really believed even after leaving. Makes me wonder
Heidi Glanville Alsup – Hubs and I binged it this afternoon! Super impressed at all of the footage & clips of everything they were able to dig up! We really enjoyed the interviews past and current with those involved. Just fantastic. Also what a flashback to Utah TV it was for both of us….forgot about the reporters/anchors that used to rule the 10 pm news. I have vague memories of it but was barely in high school when it all started to unfold. Hubs was on his mission. It was a very well done documentary! I can’t imagine all the time it took to compile and organize it all. Great job!
From John Dehlin – Who was this doc for? I sense it possibly was primarily for fans of the true crime genre.
Brandon Michael Wilson – Will the full interviews be released?
Darlene Thayne – OMG! It is extremely well done. I remember seeing the news footage they showed. Just wish they had chosen another name for the series, because it sounds too sensational. I worry also that it could make LDS people think that this is what happens to you when you lose your testimony and become an atheist – no moral compass without God telling you right from wrong.😔
Resting Jen Face
Okay so what was this book that caused Brent Metcalfe to lose his job? #murderamongthemormons
John Michael May Sound
It was a book written by Elias Smith(Joseph Smith’s Cousin). The book predates Joseph’s birth, but the writing parallels many of the experiences Joseph had in relation to the founding of the Church of Christ, later called the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
MG – Did anyone catch the name of the chap who “commanded him to live” early in episode 2? That’s one mighty & strong who will be conjuring up planets from his perch on Kolob for infinities and beyond.
I am wondering this too… cause I swear I know the guy… but want to be sure before I approach him. If anyone knows the name for certain… I’d love to know before I make a fool of myself :)
April (@NerdmomApril) – Best part so far of Murder Among the Mormons is this 80s montage in episode 2. #MurderAmongTheMormons #netlfix
This series is incredible. I’ve watched it through twice already. Great job of telling the story in a way that feels generally accessible across Mormons of all kinds. I have few questions I hope you can help answer.
There was a Los Angeles Times article March 1987 that reported that about six months after the Lucy Smith letter came to light, Mark Hoffman went directly to Gordon B Hinkley with another letter that wasn’t faith promoting and had to do with “money digging”. The article states that “It is not known what was said by Hofmann or Hinckley. It is known that Hinckley wrote a check on a church account for $15,000. Hofmann took the check and Hinckley took the letter.” Is there anything more to this?
The same article says that a week before Steve Christensen purchased the Salamander Letter, Hoffman had Lyn Jacobs approach Hinckley directly with an offer to sell and Hinckley wasn’t interested. Is there anything to this? Did anyone talk about this in interviews? Any discussion about Lyn Jacobs?
I thought I had heard in an old interview that the church didn’t release the contents of the Salamander Letter until Hoffman leaked to the press that they had it in their possession. The storytelling in the first episode is a little ambiguous when it comes to the catalyst for the church making statements on the letter. Can you clarify at all?
I’m a little confused by the timeline of these events so just looking for some clarification. Did Steve Christensen immediately turn over the document to the church after he purchased it, or did he wait for it to be authenticated? A newspaper picture is shown of Christensen presenting the letter to Hinckley with a date of April 12, 1985
It is my firm belief Mr. Jacobs was the actual forger. He was brilliant and very artistically talented.
Can you please let me know how you know this info. I am Lyn Jacobs niece and really wish to know more about my uncle, the good, bad and ugly. Thank you very much
From John – Who was Hofmann most likely trying to bomb with the third bomb? Who were the candidates?
Outstanding doc I give it a 10 out of 10! 2 questions first, was that 3rd bomb really a suicide attempt or an accidental detonation? 2nd, the behavior of Hoffman seemed to mimic Joseph Smith in many ways. Perhaps highlighting some of the similarities will help us understand how this thing snowballed and blew up for Josrph and Hoffman. Thanks John I’m a huge fan!
For me, I was particularly struck by Mr. Hofmann’s commentary after receiving verification that an earlier forgery he did had passed through the treasury department’s inspection process and been determined to be “genuine,” or authentic. “It’s not so much what is genuine and what isn’t, as what people believe is genuine.” I think there could be a parallel there for many things, including religious views.
When you compare what he was able to do at such a young age to what church history asserts of Joseph Smith…I often heard when I was a member of the church a narrative from general authorities and apologists that Joseph Smith, as an “uneducated” or “unschooled” teenager could not have been capable of creating a fraudulent document with as much sophistication as they attribute to the Book of Mormon. Prodigious gifts capable of fooling highly schooled and trained experts have probably passed by said experts undetected many times because they originated in humble or unlikely settings throughout the years. The gifts of the genetic lottery are indeed fickle that way. And, sometimes, as was mentioned in the documentary regarding Hoffman’s fraud victims, people don’t want to think they have been fooled, so pride may lead them to ardently defend something for a period of time until the proof can no longer be denied. My point here is that I agree with others that there are some parallels one can draw between what Mr. Hofmann did and what Joseph Smith did.
Also, I personally do not see Mr. Hofmann’s private beliefs in atheism as casting those who have left the church in any more of a negative light than they may already be viewed by current members. He was I believe a practicing member of the church when all of this happened, else he wouldn’t have been wearing the garments described by the young man who anointed and blessed him. Rather, it to me it speaks to how many people, including those who hold leadership from the ward level on up, may be going through the motions publicly whilst privately believing and acting very differently. An outward religious belief is not a guarantee of moral action, character, or genuine internal belief.
Overall, I found this to be an interesting documentary, if a bit tense to watch at times. There is, I think, a great deal of pain and sorrow still for everyone involved. I found the answers about agency as a reason general authorities weren’t able to detect the fraud to be lacking, albeit expected.
I was struck by the pain that Mark Hofmann inflicted; not only with those who were killed and their families and friends, but all those who were associated with him. That is the type pain I felt being deceived by the Mormon Church leaders. They deceived and lied and I was left with a deep wound that took many years to heal.
My question: How do you hold the leadership accountable when they continue to lie as Gordon Hinkley did to the press regarding his dealings with Hofmann?
Why wasn’t more focus put on the embarrassment this was for the church to being duped and it taking anti-Mormons (the tanners) to discern that Mark was a fraud?
Three things that came up for me while watching –
1. I felt a direct line between Hofmann’s actions and my departure from Mormonism in 2012. I wonder if and when I would have left if we didn’t have his deception making clear that leadership couldn’t use prayer and revelation to determine these important things about the origins of Mormonism. That was huge for me when I was processing out, I’m not going to give up my life to an organization that can be fooled so easily by one mortal.
2. The former church historian’s comments lent very interesting insight into the defenses built up to explain how this could have happened. Free will. They (the leadership) don’t bear responsibility for this incident because Hofmann exercised his free will and chose to trick them.
3. Hofmann inviting other teenagers to go treasure hunting with him and then “discovering” things himself sounded so much like a modern-day Joseph Smith that I gasped out loud when they showed it in the recreation.
Had a very fun time watching it all, it’s so good!! First reaction, I was hit with emotion watching the first ten minutes, seeing the old Joseph Smith movie, the angel coming to his cabin, etc bc I used to believe it all. I think it was a mix of nostalgia, betrayal, sick to my stomach over what I’d actually believed, and so I just cried lol! I like that it is definitely balanced (maybe too balanced for my liking lol!) and I can tell my TBM friends and family to watch. And by the end, I was oddly bothered and selfishly dissatisfied that it hadn’t turned into an exposé on all the church really does hide from its members.
I finished watching it last night and woke up thinking about it first thing this morning. I LOVED it!
I found the parallels amazing between Hofmann and Joseph Smith and saw them everywhere, even down to age 14!
If Hofmann could pull this kind of deception off so masterfully for so long —without divine help, then of course so could (did) Joseph.
That will most likely be lost on the true believing members though.
Turley’s explanation of the lack of discernment in the “Brethren” was to pacify and help the the members keep their testimony’s, and literally made me cringe.
Many believers, including my TBM parents, would probably say (if they watch it) that any document that does pop up that’s “against” the church is just a Hofmann forgery and can now safely be dismissed. :(
My favourite line was the last line when Flynn said, “people just don’t want to know,” which summed up everything on EVERY level about EVERYTHING with this church.
Hofmann is a product of this church and learned all his deceptive ways from some thread or another within this church.
Was Hoffman’ story an inspiration for Jared Hess’s previous movie Don Verdean? I’ve always been curious about that.
I was glued to chair for three hours straight.
Wow!! Not because it has anything to do with mormonism, but because it was so well done. I have been recovering from a serious illness over the past two years and been in and out of the hospital and become a documentary viewing expert. I felt like documentaries were a better use of my time rather than just binging something like the walking dead. I felt I was learning something and not just wasting my timing being tethered to a bed and IV pole with random salacious entertainment. Needless to say I’ve watched a lot of documentaries and am so appreciative of one well done. I think they are harder to make/produce than movies. The timing of the story, where to use music without over using it, the randomness of humans, it just must be difficult. I can’t say enough good things about this documentary. I was glued to chair for three hours straight. The topic is of course sensational, and like everyone else have thought someone should really tell this story. A huge shout out and thank you to the producers and directors, you guys nailed it. Nothing super interesting to post, just support and gratitude someone finally did it so well. It would have been tempting and easy to sensationalize the story, but they didn’t!! They knew they didn’t need to – the story itself is almost unbelievable. John I can’t wait for the interviews with the director and producer. I have been a quiet follower of your work for some time and greatly appreciate your way telling the truth and letting the information do the work without sliding into negativity which you are certainly entitled to. Your original TED talk hooked me. Thanks for being so brave and courageous, you have stood for many of us. I don’t understand why people are so offended and afraid of information. If you believe the church is true or not, regardless of where you are on the topic, you can’t fault truth and history and shouldn’t fault the bearer. The church will not stand or fall on the information people like John find and discuss. It either works for you and your family and helps you be a better person or it isn’t for you, but truth is truth and can not be hidden. It will stand the ages because history is etched in the heavens and God himself will shout it. I know you don’t need my little pat on the back, but I couldn’t help but support this documentary and your work. It’s inadequate, but thanks!!
I thought the balance they struck was perfect. Some active members of the church won’t like the doubt cast on it. Many ex-Mormons will think they weren’t hard enough on an organization claiming to be led by a prophet of God.
The burden of judging this is laid on the viewer, which can be the right path for a documentary–and is for this one, in my opinion. However, I’d love to learn more about the vaults of church history. I always picture the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
I’m curious of never Mormon perspectives.
Key reactions for my husband and I were:
—wow, Mark Hofman and Joseph smith shared a surprising number of interests and personality traits (this really stood out to me when Mark said he felt “pretty calm” going into his trial, just like Joseph said he felt “calm as a summer’s morning” on the way to his. I had always wondered how Joseph could say such a thing if he had actually been so guilty, but seeing Mark Hofman’s response forced me to realize that the narcissistic mindset at work was so powerful in self-justifying, that not even knowing he had committed murder phased him).
—how can we learn to trust ourselves again after we discover such deep deception by people we trusted?
—it seems so unfair that moral and innocent people like Brent Metcalfe would suffer for years under the guilt of having introduced Mark to Steve, when the actual cold-blooded murderer felt so detached from his victims that he could say that he thought he should go free again, only weeks after the murders. How do we make sense of this inequity in response?
Excited to see where this interview goes!
—L and M
Anon – Mike George is correct. Gordon Hinkley hindered the investigation. I remember how upset xxxxxx, a TBM, was because of Hinkley not allowing the investigators to check the other documents in their vault. Xxxxxx was Mike’s boss at that time. After work xxxxxx and I went for walks and talked about the investigation. It was an interesting time for me. My opinion, if Hinkley wasn’t so anxious to get the McClellan letters to hide in the vault, there wouldn’t have been bombs. I never liked Hinkley after that and to this day I believe he also has the blood on his hands of those two unfortunate individuals. Why did the church provide a church attorney for the nurse who overheard the discussion in the hospital room between Hofmann and his attorney so she wouldn’t speak to the investigators? This definitely is one of the shelf breakers in my life.
The series was awesome. I would love to know if they could make another docuseries about the church (or anything), what would it be about? What else interests them? I really want to learn more from them!
I’d like to know more about the Hiram Paige seer stone Hofmann and Flynn tried to sell to the church as well as the Henry Wilde/ John Wilde seer stone associated with Hofmann that’s on display at Family Pawn in Hurricane.
Elder Hugh Pinnock asked Hofmann to try to find “two very important items”; the lost 116 pages of the BoM and “something too sensitive to mention that the late Elders Mark E. Peterson and G. Homer Durham were most involved in prior to their deaths”, which was revealed to be a seer stone (and not the gold plates as some had suspected). I would like to know specifically which/whose seer stone Elder Pinnock asked Hofmann to find.
I emailed a copy of the article with the seer stone quotes to the Mormon Stories gmail account.
One of my talk-back-to-my-television moments during the documentary was when Sandra Tanner talked about how Mark had fooled the men who LDS people look to as prophets, seers, revelators. He fooled the men that we assume would have had received divine direction that Mark was committing fraud. They didn’t get that.
Richard E. Turley Jr says that “the theological response to that is that God gives people the agency to choose between right and wrong. And, as an omniscient being who himself knows all this, he doesn’t step in and interfere. The idea being that the universal detection of crimes or sins would revoke the agency God has given to each of his children to make their own decisions.“
This flies in the face of the statement that God won’t let his prophets lead the church astray. What Turley is essentially saying in the response is that God was letting Marc have agency to deceive the general leader ship of the church, the corollary to what he is saying is that the church apostles have the ability to be deceived about something that will affect the entire church membership at the hands of anybody who chooses to defraud them.
I say that if the leadership can’t lead its membership astray then they must receive divine direction or a revelation that they’re being defrauded in matters of church historical records.
I don’t know if you adequately explained my thinking but hopefully so.
—Why was this a story you wanted to tell?
—What has been the church’s reaction?
—Any new film projects about the LDS church in the works?
I thought it was very well done and in a way that was non threatening to TBM. While I know you can’t give him any kind of diagnosis/label, I wonder if he’s psychopath, sociopath, narcissistic… what went wrong in his life that he had to go to such drastic measures for validation and he didn’t seem sorry at all for what he did. I hope his children went on to live productive lives along with the families of the victims. While I did see some similarities between him and Joseph Smith, I don’t think their mentality was the same at all or motive. I’d love for you, John, to point out the similarities and differences.
Part of me wonders what the church would’ve paid for the lost 116 pages. While I am no longer a believing member, I always liked Gordon B. Hinkley and so I was sad to see his involvement. He was the prophet of my teens and beyond.
Lastly, I wonder since this documentary came out, if documents will start come forward that were believed to be American history but can now be tied back to Mark Hofmann. It would be interesting to know the extent of his forgeries.
The irony here compared to what the Book of Mormon identifies as super-powers of a prophet. If we compare Nephi’s prophecy on the murdered Chief Judge killed by his own brother in Helaman 8 and 9, we can see that today’s prophets have no such power.
After Hofmann had committed his first murder and while the pipe bomb was sitting at the Sheets’ home ready to go off, Hofmann was scheduled to meet with some high leadership in the LDS church. The only things that Oaks could do was call the police and let them know that they were scheduled to meet with Christensen and Hofmann after all 3 bombs had gone off.
Where is the super-power of God’s “so called prophets” to identify a murderer?
If the church leadership, or Christensen who was a bishop per Deseret News, had the actual gift of discernment then Hofmann never would have been able to deal in fake documents with the church as a party to those transactions.
Sandra Tanner does a great job explaining this irony and Mr Turley’s best response is that allowing prophets to not be deceived would violate the law of agency. However, Helaman 8-9 and the D&C regarding the gift of discernment paint a picture of priesthood super-powers.
Apparently, the only person who called off a scheduled meeting with Mark Hofmann on that deadly day was a woman, the wife of a collector. Thankfully, she told her husband not to go downtown and they stayed home and ate pizza and watched a movie.
A historically accurate multi-episode documentary on Joseph Smith’s life would be even more compelling. A treasure hunter who spawned an entire religion which became one of the largest repositories of wealth in the world 200 years later. If the Vow is considered noteworthy enough for TV, Joseph Smith’s Kirtland-Nauvoo period would be solid gold cult entertainment. I suspect there would be many people willing to help by donating money to such a project. I know I would.
I just submitted the same question. Would love this.
If you want to read more about how the church was involved and worked with wealthy members to have them purchase documents from Mark, read the below book:
The Mormon Murders: A True Story of Greed, Forgery, Deceit and Death by Steven Naifeh.
To me it appears the Netflix documentary used this book as its outline but I didn’t see that this book and the author were given any credit.
Curious if Elder Oaks’ apologetic response for a salamander being a perfectly reasonable explanation for Moroni was discussed and if so, why was it cut? I’m guessing because it’s more critical and the series was not trying to be controversial or critical of the church.
Have you considered doing a docu-series of Joseph Smith detailing the factual history of the founding of Mormonism? Do you think such a story would draw widespread attention like “Murder Among the Mormons” has?
We just finished watching all three episodes and have 3 questions for the producers.
(1) We would like to hear you expound on the extent to which the Mormon Church hides non-faith promoting documents collected since the time of Joseph Smith. How many of them are there?
(2) We would like to hear a discussion of who has access to these documents, and how it is possible that pictures of them have not leaked out.
(3) The hiding of documents directly ties into the lawsuit against the Church by Kay Burningham. Mormons don’t make voluntary donations to the Church in the same way members of other churches do. Our donations are more like membership dues to a country club. Pay the dues or you don’t get in the temple. Each time a member sits down with a bishop for a recommend, a verbal agreement (contract) is made that the member will pay money for access to the temple. Fraud is committed if relevant know facts (or documents) are being withheld from members intentionally.
two things that really stuck with me
1– I listened to and loved all of the Brett Metcalfe interviews and it is wholly possible that he talked about this (and I forgot) but when it was brought up in the documentary that Mark Hofmann‘s endgame was to find/forge the 116 lost pages of the book of Mormon that blew my mind!!!
2–I brought this documentary up in casual conversation with my 30-year-old, believing sister and………she had never heard of Mark Hofmann!!! Mind blown again.
Great docuseries! I was fascinated from a mental health perspective, being able to analyze Hofmann. I haven’t read all the comments here, so perhaps someone already brought it up, but from what was presented Hofmann definitely manifested the classic signs of anti-social personality disorder. I also wonder if he has asperger’s but more info and observation needed. Overall, was pleased with how well it was done.
I always grew up knowing the story of Hofmann. I knew the key points. However, this documentary exposed so much I did not ever research or know. The personality was a huge reveal. The impact on his spouse and parents was something I previously did not explore. The actual techniques employed. The scope of forgeries beyond Mormonism. The quick succession of promised documents just magically channeled through Hofmann. They lab environment and secrecy in the home.
This is an absolutely devastating and intriguing treatment of the history. Without spoiling the documentary, the details of how he was caught were all new and fascinating to me. There is so much more to say, but I don’t want to spoil any specifics. They way they tell the story is compelling and powerful. For those who know little to nothing, this documentary is an incredible treatment of the topic that will grip you all the way through.