33: Who is Mark Hofmann? The Truth Behind the Salamander Letter Bombings (Part 1)


Troy hosts with Amy and Clay as they set the stage for the “Salamander Letter” bombings that occurred in SLC on October 15, 1985. This episode details Mark Hofmann and what may have motivated him to become the most successful forger in modern history and introduces first two forged documents he sold to the LDS Church.


***Correction: Brent Ashworth was the “vice president and corporate attorney for Nature Sunshine Products,” according to Sillitoe and Roberts’ “Salamander.” He was not the owner or founder.

Salamander: The Story of the Mormon Forgery Murders

The Mormon Murders: A True Story of Greed, Forgery, Deceit and Death

Victims: The LDS Church and the Mark Hofmann Case

Register of the Mark Hofmann Case Collection

Blessing to Joseph Smith III

The Tanners’ examination of the documents and the Josiah Stowell letter

The Salamander Letter

Reading Church History–Dallin Oaks

Reading Church History–Dallin Oaks (Version distributed to CES)

Letter to Seminary Teachers on how to deal with the Salamander Letter


  1. Dinosaur

    Great Podcast!

    I’m something of a history nerd and remember when these documents were surfacing. It kind of didn’t make sense that they’d show up like they did but if you’ve ever studied history its never a straight line from the beginning to the end… For instance, what do we actually celebrate on the 4th of July? But Mormon history is all the usual weirdness on steroids. This is really about Utah culture with LDS weirdnesses thrown in for flavoring. The tragedy of the murders didn’t alter my beliefs, it was a crime done by a criminal. Oddly enough I’m even happy that Hoffman is spending the rest of his life in jail.

    Reply Mar 15, 2013 @ 20:21:53
  2. Carrie

    My grandparents went on a mission during the time “the Golden Plates” BofM’s were being distributed and all the grand kids got one for Christmas that year. As a small child, I had thought they were just a weird little “gimmick” version made for children. I didn’t realize that the church actually thought they were printing authentic ancient writings on the cover. This little book was always a little creepy to me and I never liked looking at it. It was way to shinny and I had to shield my eyes from it’s glow.

    Reply Mar 16, 2013 @ 00:16:46
  3. Larry Stubing (@TheMooseWhistle)

    Interesting topic, but I found the wikipedia article much more insightful and switched over to reading that after Amy threw in her “Great and Spacious Building” blast and then kept getting off topic and revealing anti-LDS bias.

    Reply Mar 17, 2013 @ 17:15:57
  4. Dimetradon

    Great episode. Never knew that about the forged symbols actually ending up on the gold-cover BOMs! I remember thinking those things looked pretty cool. Found a good image of one: http://img1.etsystatic.com/000/0/6334559/il_fullxfull.254703961.jpg

    Reply Mar 18, 2013 @ 00:23:44
  5. Angie

    This was by far one of my favorite Expositor podcasts and I can’t wait for the follow up ones! Way to go!

    Reply Mar 18, 2013 @ 13:15:17
  6. Flackerman

    Very interesting conversation. Looking forward to the next one.

    Reply Mar 18, 2013 @ 15:31:42
  7. zo-ma-rah

    The forged symbols are not on the Gold Plates Edition. Those symbol are from the Caractors Manuscript.

    Reply Mar 19, 2013 @ 14:45:05
  8. Saw Skooh

    I think zo-ma-rah is right. But my understanding is that the release and recall of this edition coincided with the appearance of the forged Anthon Transcript and its subsequent debunking, which is interesting…

    Reply Mar 20, 2013 @ 02:19:08
  9. jeanikins

    Great podcast guys and gal. I have read a couple of books on this topic but you raised some things of which I was unaware. Great work!
    BTW, Amy’s ‘anti-LDS bias’ does show, I agree Larry Stubing, but shouldn’t it? Here they are revealing some skullduggery and she is one of the ‘skull dugged’.
    I don’t live in the USA and was a seminary teacher at the time of the Salamander letter. I received a letter from my ‘upline’ that told me what to say IF my students asked any questions about that letter – blah, blah, blah. I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW THE DARN LETTER EXISTED UNTIL THAT TIME. That’s how well the church kept the lid on it. If you want to call our outrage ‘anti-LDS bias’ go right ahead.
    Call me ‘skull dugged’ too.

    Reply Mar 21, 2013 @ 13:41:56
  10. LDSRevelations

    Great topic and discussion. Thanks for doing yer homework. I read salamander a few years ago and found the story fascinating so I’m looking forward to part 2 etc.

    Anyone know if the rights to this story are available to option. This would make a great movie.

    Reply Mar 21, 2013 @ 17:02:10
  11. Erin

    I purged my collection of church books and took a gold covered BoM to the local charity not too long ago. Sorry Amy, I would have gladly sent it to you.

    Reply Mar 25, 2013 @ 22:33:09
  12. Shawn

    Interesting walk down memory lane. Troy, I was given a gold BofM for my baptism – it was pretty torn up last I saw it, but may still be in the basement somewhere at Dad’s?Can’t wait for part 2.

    Reply Mar 26, 2013 @ 00:46:44
  13. Moroni

    Where’s part 2?

    Reply Mar 31, 2013 @ 23:26:12
  14. Clay

    Part 2 has been recorded and it will be posted before too long. Thanks for you interest!

    Reply Apr 10, 2013 @ 12:40:51
  15. 121Upfront

    I am really looking forward to Part 2. Intriguing!

    Reply Apr 15, 2013 @ 18:49:08
  16. Brian

    Yeah, I also can’t wait for part 2!

    Reply May 01, 2013 @ 12:36:01
  17. Shawn -WBM

    Brandt, when will see part 2? Troy tells me it’s recorded? Ready for some mor action.

    Reply May 05, 2013 @ 20:11:55
    • Brandt Malone


      It just posted today. Go check it out!

      Reply May 15, 2013 @ 09:42:43
  18. me

    There is a lot of misinformation available on this topic. The Mormon Murders is particularly bad. Some of the myths are debunked here by Steve Mayfield and George Throckmorton: http://www.fairlds.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/2006-Steve-Mayfield-and-George-Throckmorton.pdf
    (Or you can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSmOoz2C0XU )

    Reply May 20, 2013 @ 13:43:30

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