Welp, Murder Among the Mormons has arrived on Netflix right in time for your mid-week spiral so let’s settle in. The three-part documentary is about bombings in 1985 that—as Netflix put it—”shocked the Salt Lake City Mormon community and threatened the historical foundations of the church altogether.”
The bombings killed two people and severely injured Mark Hofmann, “a renowned collector of rare documents, including the infamous White Salamander Letter—an artifact whose contents threatened to shake the very foundations of Mormonism.”
Except…plot twist…Mark Hofmann turned out to be the bomber. Let’s get into it:
Mark Hofmann Is One of America’s Most Notorious Forgers
Like, this dude didn’t just stop at faking sick notes from his parents to get out of school. In his time as a rare books and documents dealer, Hofmann forged signatures from presidents, a poem by Emily Dickinson, and a dusty old colonial document called Oath of a Freeman, which he attempted to sell to the Library of Congress for over $1 million. Like…the actual audacity.
He Completely Scammed the Mormon Church
Mark, who grew up Mormon, had a whole side hustle forging “historical Mormon documents” and selling them to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The documents often ~conveniently~ made the church look bad, and at times cast doubt on their entire belief system. Such was the case with the Salamander Letter, forged correspondence purporting to be between early members of the Mormon church. As The New York Times put it in 1985, “the letter attributes the founding of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to occult practices.”
At this point you’re probably wondering why the church believed Hofmann was the real deal. The thing is, he also happened to be an actual rare books and documents dealer, and a lot of his sales were legit! So yeah, it was confusing.
Here’s a video diving into his specific forgeries if you wanna get nerdy:
He Killed Two People and Almost Blew Himself Up
So, why did Hofmann pivot from forgery to murder? Turns out he was in debt, and on top of that, the veracity of the Salamander Letter was being questioned. Apparently, Hofmann’s solution to this problem was making bombs and killing Steven Christensen, who purchased the Salamander Letter for $40,000. That same day (October 15, 1985), he also detonated a bomb that killed Kathy Sheets, the wife of J. Gary Sheets, who worked with Christensen and was the intended recipient of the bomb. The killings were designed to look like they had something to do with Sheets and Christensen’s investment business, but they didn’t go as planned.
Hofmann ended up hospitalized when a bomb exploded in his car, and he immediately became a suspect. The police found his forgery materials, he was charged with first-degree murder (not to mention “theft by deception”), ended up pleading guilty to avoid a trial, and was then given a life-long prison sentence.
At the time of his 1986 hearing, the New York Times explained why Hofmann had specifically targeted Christensen:
In a 1988 letter to the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole, Hofmann himself said “The Steve Christensen bomb was to take the pressure off of two fraud schemes I had involved him in. The Gary Sheets bomb was a pure diversion. I spent the rest of the day driving around town in a daze.”
So, Where Is He Now?
In jail. Hofmann, now 66, was excommunicated by his church and is currently being held at Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison. TBD on whether or not he watches this documentary…but you sure can:
You love all the deets on true crime. So do we! Let’s overanalyze them together.
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