38: Who is Mark Hofmann? The Truth Behind the Salamander Letter Bombings (Part 2)


Troy hosts with Amy and Clay as they discuss Mark Hofmann’s continued forgeries and dealings with the LDS church and church members. Two more controversial documents are discussed in detail, the Josiah Stowell letter, and the infamous Salamander Letter. The depth of Mark Hofmann’s deceitfulness is outlined and his nefarious murders are discussed – the stage is set for his trial.


***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

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

The Salamander Letter

Early Mormonism and the Magic World View — D. Michael Quinn

Mormon Expression — D&C 8 & 9 for dummies – Part 1

Mormon Expression — D&C 8 & 9 for dummies – Part 2

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. jeanikins

    Excellent! I have been waiting very impatiently for part 2 and was not disappointed one bit. It is indeed a very convoluted story and definitely needs part 3 but I kind of wish you had done a MS style and finished it all in one go.
    For your information, I was a seminary teacher during the Salamander Letter being ‘exposed’. In Canada, I don’t think that many ‘faithful’ members had even heard about the letter, but as a seminary teacher I had to run with the story put out by Dallin H. Oaks about the ‘fiery spirit’ being called a salamander, ONLY ‘IF’ the students enquired about it. I still have that letter, so if you wish to see it I can post it to the discussion group.

    I so appreciate the tone of your discussions that I see as fair and balanced. Thank you so much for bringing such highlights to the discussion on Mormon History.

    Reply May 15, 2013 @ 12:50:06
    • Clay

      Jean. We would love to see the Oaks letter. Thanks for the input!

      Reply May 16, 2013 @ 16:58:54
  2. WbShawn

    Great work folks. Excited to hear the conclusion. BTW…Troy, where the hell was I during the saga. It wasn’t until my mission that I really learned anything about this. I don’t ever remember Dad talking about it? He definitely falls into the ‘magic is cool’ camp.

    Reply May 15, 2013 @ 18:11:27
  3. Angiem

    Can’t get enough of this story!

    Reply May 28, 2013 @ 17:47:28
  4. fredwanson

    I going to ask the same question here that I asked back in 2010 on the Answerbag website:
    Why has LdS Apostle Dallin Oaks’ 8/16/85 address “Reading Church History” been removed from both the LdS Church and BYU web sites?

    The link on the LdS Church web site was http://ldsces.org/general%20authority%20talks/dho.reading%20church%20history.1985.pdf and I didn’t capture the URL to this address from the BYU web site before this address was removed (this address was given at BYU which is why it was posted on both web sites)

    This is the address in which the LdS Church General Authorities were just beginning their rewrite and revisioning of LdS Thelogy and Doctrine based on the White Salamander letter (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salamander_letter)

    The fact the GA was doing “damage control” by integrating the White Salamander into the Joseph Smith story and Early Mormon History was evident by comments like these in Oaks address:

    “Another source of differences in the accounts of different witnesses is the different meanings that different persons attach to words. We have a vivid illustration of this in the recent media excitement about the word ‘salamander’ in a letter Martin Harris is supposed to have sent to W.W. Phelps over 150 years ago. All of the scores of media stories on that subject apparently assume that the author of that letter used the word ‘salamander’ in the modern sense of a ‘tailed amphibian.’

    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 in this context in the 1820s…. 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.

    In view of all this, and as a matter of intellectual evaluation, why all the excitement in the media, and why the apparent hand-wringing among those who profess friendship or membership in the Church?”
    (Apostle Dallin H. Oaks, 1985 CES Doctrine and Covenants Symposium,” pages 22-23, Aug. 16, 1985)

    So why now is this historic address now suddenly “Missing In Action” from the set of Official Church records available to the public? After all, objectively and dispassionately speaking, it is a watershed and historically important speech on a number of different levels that should be preserved for both scholarly and public posterity.
    (originally posted at http://www.answerbag.com/q_view/1906788#ixzz2UkE8Ujlc )

    Reply May 29, 2013 @ 21:58:21
    • Clay

      Hi, Fred. Thanks for you comment and question. The question is a good one and the only thing that I can come up with is that if it was purposefully removed, I assume it was to try and hide the fact that Oaks was trying to justify what later turned out to be a forgery… Maybe all addresses that alluded to Hofmann’s stuff has been avoided to try and not give legitimacy to his work…?

      The link I found to Oaks’ talk on LDS.org seemed to be broken, but so did a bunch of other links to talks around that time. Having said that. Oaks’ talk can be found at the following link. Enjoy!


      Reply May 30, 2013 @ 10:32:36
      • fredwanson

        Big thanks Clay! I’ve had the good sense to PDF it this time so I’ll have a copy in my research archives.

        Thanks again.

        Reply May 30, 2013 @ 11:02:57
  5. fredwanson

    BTW, if anyone has a PDF copy of Dallin Oaks’ 8/16/85 address “Reading Church History” or has a link that’s still good please let me know.


    Reply May 29, 2013 @ 22:11:08
  6. Joe Geisner

    I have the talk in two forms. I have the one released to the press and the one that was sent to CES. If Clay can shoot me an email, I am more than happy to send both to him for his posting.

    I am very curious what happened to the letter Jean talks about above, was this ever made available? I would love to get a copy.

    Reply Jul 27, 2013 @ 17:47:30
  7. brian

    I think your podcasts are well done, top, as they show background, without histrionics, diverse, and still entertaining. And educating, and stimulating to research more.

    Reply May 22, 2014 @ 18:51:25

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