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Mark Hofmann (wikipedia.org)
65 points by lermontov on Oct 10, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 22 comments

Mark Hofmann is my (ex-)uncle (by marriage, not by blood). Needless to say, the whole affair isn't something we really bring up at family gatherings. From a historical/detached standpoint the events are all certainly interesting and scandalous and fascinating, I'm sure. My main reaction to it all is just sadness at the pain he put his wife and kids through because of it, and how they've been able to show strength by moving forward in their own lives. It's times like this I feel extremely blessed that our own extended family is close-knit enough that we can support each other.

So nobody wants to say it ? Ok I will.

Hoffman profited because the entire history and founding of the LDS was and is b.s.

Hoffman got caught and tried for forgery but perhaps the greatest forger and conman of them all in this narrative was Joseph Smith himself. People have known this for a long time: Joseph Smith's criminal record, his sexual proclivities, unverified 'visions' (as if any visions could be verified); the evidence abounds but we act like the church elders in the article - afraid to peek to closely let we find the truth. To be fair, this tendency to swallow up fairytales is not a restricted to mormons, it is probably the foundation of all religions, major and minor.

When grown men and women believe fantastic revelation stories uncritically and build great structures of worship and institutions around such beliefs, once in a while these sorts of events occur that expose the inconsistencies.

No one said it, because it doesn't make any sense.

>Hoffman profited because the entire history and founding of the LDS was and is b.s.

Huh? Sounds like you are just itching for a chance to speak ill of a religion you don't like (or religion in general).

Forgers that are good, profit, regardless. Hoffman fooled many very well respected experts. As do many good forgers in many different fields.

Came to write this. 100% agree.

Hofmann is also believed to be responsible for a “mule” 1959-D Lincoln cent with the wheat reverse[0]. (1959 was the first year of the Lincoln memorial reverse, so no more wheat cents should have been made.) The coin surfaced in 1986 and was authenticated by the secret service, yet no one in the coin business will either condemn or authenticate it. The coin has been sold several times since then for larger and larger sums of money.


[0]: https://www.pcgs.com/news/the-mystery-of-the-1959-d-mule-lin...

Religion is again topping used car salesmanship :


Perhaps the most notorious of Hofmann's Mormon forgeries, the Salamander letter, appeared in 1984. Supposedly written by Harris to W. W. Phelps, the letter presented a version of the recovery of the gold plates that contrasted markedly with the church-sanctioned version of events. Not only did the forgery intimate that Smith had been practicing "money digging" through magical practices, but it also replaced the angel that Smith said had appeared to him with a white salamander.[28]

After the letter had been purchased for the church and become public knowledge, LDS Church apostle Dallin H. Oaks asserted to Mormon educators that the words "white salamander" could be reconciled with Smith's Angel Moroni because, in the 1820s, the word salamander might also refer to a mythical being thought to be able to live in fire, and a "being that is able to live in fire is a good approximation of the description Joseph Smith gave of the Angel Moroni."[29]

Anyone interested in how the events of his forgeries and subsequent murders unfolded should listen to this podcast episode [0] (parts 2 & 3). The tale is told by one of Hofmann's former friends, Brent Metcalfe. Brent's boss, Steve Christensen, was one of Hofmann's victims.

[0]: https://www.mormonstories.org/podcast/brent-metcalfe-mark-ho...

Edit: even as a former Mormon, I find this history fascinating.

There's a collector in Provo that has the original case files (including, I believe, DVD recordings) from his trials. (Source: I've seen the physical media.) There's a lot of answers to the public's common questions in there.

The extent of Hoffman's forgery and its impact on LDS scholarship reminds me of Leopoldo Francioloni, a 19th century Italian antiques dealer who passed off so many fraudulent works that, per Wikipedia, "[t]o this day his work is a barrier to the scholarly study of instruments of the past."


Attended BYU 1980 - 1984. I remember the headlines in the "Daily Universe" (campus newspaper) about Hoffman.

If you believe the Wikipedia article to be inferior you can improve it.

The other article doesn't comply with wikipedia standards and those changes would be reverted

It makes me wonder what other historical artifacts we believe are genuine are actually forgeries.

How was Hoffman able to forge letters that were supposedly 100+ years old? Wouldn't modern materials dating techniques reveal the fraud immediately?

I guess if you know the dating techniques, you know how to fool them. Kinda test-driven development.

He would take pages from old books. The blank pages at the start/end, etc. Not sure how he spoofed the ink

IIRC, you can either recreate the ink from a recipe, find old ink and re-dissolve it, or if you have the patience you can extract it from old pages.

“Hofmann also learned how to manufacture inks using the same components and methods used by contemporary artisans.”


Is this why he collected first edition books? I didn’t realise it but this would make a lot of sense.

"You bend the structure of reality too much... it snaps back at you"

I prefer Erving Goffman.

Could you elaborate?

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