LDS exhibit to feature Hofmann forgeries

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    By Elizabeth McIff

    Forged documents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be on display this weekend in Salt Lake City.

    The work of two-time murderer and expert forger Mark Hofmann will be open to the public nearly 20 years after he was sentenced to life in jail.

    “We have been planning this exhibit and symposium for many years,” said Melissa Sanders of Ken Sanders Rare Books. “It is only now that the people who were defrauded by Hofmann are ready to talk about it.”

    The exhibit will display more than four-dozen forged documents by Hofmann. Many will have side-by-side signatures, those of the original author and those forged by Hofmann, said Sanders.

    Hofmann first began selling his forged documents in 1979 with the Anthon Transcript, said Jennifer Larson, antiquarian bookseller and noted Hofmann expert.

    “The transcript was a document with hieroglyphic-type characters that were related to the characters Joseph Smith wrote about in the Book of Mormon,” said Larson.

    The transcript was sold that year to the Church of Jesus Christ for $20,000.

    Larson said it is estimated Hofmann made $1 million dollars a year with his forgeries and other fraudulent activities.

    Hofmann not only forged church documents, but his works included many literary and historical documents.

    On the surface, Hofmann was a highly esteemed member of his community and a trusted book and document dealer.

    In 1985, his fraudulent activities surfaced after a series of bombings.

    Hofmann had received $200,000 from a man by the name of Steve Christiansen as a payment for the McClellan Collection, said Larson. The documents Hofmann promised became so complicated he could not finish the deal.

    “As an escape, he bombed and killed Steve Christiansen,” said Larson. “He then proceeded to bomb and kill Kathleen Sheets, wife of Steve Christiansen”s former business partner in an attempt make the police believe the deaths were in relation to investors.”

    The third bomb was supposedly intended for another customer of Hofmann”s, Brent Ashworth. Instead, the bomb blew up in his car, leading him to be investigated for and convicted of the other two bombings.

    “We don”t know what was in his mind when he began forging and selling his work,” said Larson, “but we do know his motives were so bad it lead him to murder.”

    It took the work of two forensic document examiners to discover Hofmann”s forgeries; unfortunately the system does not work consistently on all of Hofmann”s works.

    “Every year new forgeries are being discovered and linked to Mark Hofmann,” said Sanders. “Our motive with this exhibit and symposium is to educate people about forgery and inform them of the difficulty in discovery it.”

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