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When Mark Hofmann Met Sandra Tanner (Part 1)

Sandra Tanner is well-known as being a critic of Mormonism.  (Some would even call her an anti-Mormon.)  So why am I, an active Mormon, talking to her?  Because she and her husband Jerald were the first people to question the authenticity of the Salamander Letter, a letter forged by Mark Hofmann that threatened the founding stories of the LDS Church.  Mark Hofmann met Sandra Tanner with a mind to give greater publicity to his forgeries. Sandra describes her first meetings with Mark.  In this first episode, we’ll get acquainted with her, and learn how she met Mark Hofmann.

Sandra:  My husband and I have been critics of Mormonism since 1959 when we got married and started trying to resolve conflicts in our own minds in Mormonism and we started publishing mimeograph[1] stuff if anyone knows what that is. I find young people don’t even [know.]  When I say mimeograph is like blank [stare.] Anyways, back in 1959, we started mimeographing off little sheets of paper, pointing out historical discrepancies in Mormonism, which evolved into in [19]64, setting up full time publishing and printing on Mormonism.

He comes in and hands me a photo of a paper that is supposed to be a copy of the Second Anointing ceremony, temple ceremony….

this was a big deal to have someone to come in and have a photocopy of a document that purported to be from about the 1912 time period from the Salt Lake Temple about the Second Anointing.

And it was a one sheet thing and it had a rubber stamp across the side that said Salt Lake Temple, which I assume Mark got made at the stamp company here in Salt Lake. And so here’s this document claiming to relate to the Second Anointing thing. And he brings it in to show me. and so this man who, I don’t know, he hasn’t told me his name. No, he can’t tell me his name because he’s from a very prominent family. And when his grandpa died, he was helping his mom clean out the attic and they went through his papers and he found this second anointing paper and realized that, wow, this was something he had never heard about before. And so he didn’t show it to the family and he has this copy and he wanted to give me a copy, but he couldn’t tell me who it was because he was this prominent family and you know, so it’s all on the QT, you know, so, so I’m buying this whole thing.

And I mean not buying in the sense of paying money. We didn’t have it. We had zip money. We never got involved in these documents because we were not in that class of finances. But I realize now he was trying to establish credibility for this piece of paper. And I think by giving me this copy he assumed I would immediately pass it around to people and that would raise the value of it because others were talking about it, knew about it, see? But I didn’t because it had no provenance. I don’t know who this guy was. I don’t know the name of the family.

Check out our conversation…

Sandra Tanner describes her interactions with Mark Hofmann
Sandra Tanner describes her interactions with Mark Hofmann

[1] Mimeograph was a copy technology that has been replaced by copy machines now.

Don’t forget to check out our interviews with Curt Bench, Shannon Flynn, and George Throckmorton on the Hofmann murders.

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Why was the Hofmann Sentence so light? (Part 7)

Given all the mounting evidence against Mark Hofmann, why were prosecutors interested in a plea deal?  It seems evidence was pretty strong to convict him of a 1st Degree murder.  George Throckmorton tells of conversations between prosecutors and Hofmann’s lawyers.  Why was the Hofmann sentence so light?

GT:  I know he’s gotten a big stiff sentence anyway, even with second degree murder. Well, why did we plea bargain to second degree murder on this?

George: Politics.  It has always intrigued me. The amount of politics that takes place in everything, criminal investigations are the same thing.

George:  But because there was instructions made to settle the case period, it was settled before it should have been. And for instance, it’s normal in law enforcement if ever you make a plea bargain. The purpose is you get the confession from the person first and if that person cooperates, then you go in and recommend the plea bargain because if you made the plea bargain first, the suspect has no reason to cooperate and that’s exactly what happened with Mark Hofmann.

George:  But in retrospect, looking back at it, I do not criticize the attorneys that I disagreed with because as we look back, because he did confess, the FBI had to admit that they were forged and other people had to admit that he was a crook instead of an honest guy that we were framing, if you will. So overall it turned out okay.

Check out our conversation….

George Throckmorton tells why the Hofmann sentence was so light for killing 2 people.
George Throckmorton tells why the Hofmann sentence was so light for killing 2 people.

Don’t forget our other episodes with George!

174: Hofmann, LDS Leaders, & the McLellin Collection (Throckmorton)

173: Why Hofmann Killed his Best Friends (Throckmorton)

172: Who was the 3rd Bomb Intended For?  (Throckmorton)

171: More Hofmann Techniques & Forged Sports Memorabilia  (Throckmorton)

170: How Hofmann Fooled Experts with a Toy Chemistry Set (Throckmorton)

169: How George Became a Forensics Expert  (Throckmorton)

You may be interested in Curt Bench and Shannon’s Flynn’s interactions as well!

086: Would Hofmann Kill Again? (Flynn)

085: Should Hofmann Ever Be Released from Prison? (Flynn)

084: Shannon Goes to Jail for Hofmann (Flynn)

083: Hofmann’s Last Bomb Blew the Lid off Mormon History (Flynn)

082: Hoffman’s Best Fake:  Fooling the Lie Detector Test (Flynn)

081: Mark’s Million-Dollar Con (Flynn)

080: “I Cheat People.  That’s What I do for a Living.” (Flynn)

079: Hofmann’s Teenage Forgeries (Flynn)

042: Hofmann Bombings Effects on Mormon History (Bench)

041: Should LDS Leaders have Detected Hofmann’s Fraud? (Bench)

040: Curt Bench’s role in Hofmann Bombings Court Case (Bench)

039: Bomb Day 2:  Other Targets? – Oct 16, 1985 (Bench)

038: Bomb Day 1:  2 Killed – October 15, 1985 (Bench)

037: White Salamander Letter & Other Forgeries (Bench)

036: Bombs in Salt Lake: Introduction to Mark Hofmann (interview with Curt Bench)

 

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Hofmann, Church Leaders, & the McLellin Collection

As you can see from our previous conversations, Mark had a tangled web of interactions.  In this next conversation with forensics expert George Throckmorton, we’ll talk more about Mark’s dealings with church leaders.  What got Mark in hot water with church officials?

GT:  He had an appointment with, I believe it was Elder Oaks, Elder Pinnock. I don’t remember who all.

George: Elder Pinnock was the one that was dealing with him quite a bit.

GT: Yeah. And so, so can you a little bit about what was the relationship between Mark Hofmann and Elder Pinnock?

George: Business. Elder Pinnock had a history. In fact, I’ve known him. He was my wife’s bishop when we got married and so I’ve known him. I knew him for a long time before this and he was, you know, as much a victim as anybody.

It turns out this Mark Hofmann was trying to give more credence to the Spaulding Theory, which states that Sidney Rigdon got a copy of the Spaulding Manuscript, gave it to Joseph Smith, and Joseph plagiarized the Book of Mormon from Solomon Spaulding.  The problem has been, there has never been any connection between Joseph Smith and Solomon Spaulding.  However, Mark tried to solve that problem with a forgery with a new collection known as the McLellin Collection.

George:  There’s an old theory called a Solomon Spaulding theory. Are you aware that?

GT: I am aware of that.

George: Okay. But one of the problems, it’s never been given much credibility. They think that Solomon Spalding wrote it.

GT:  Wrote the Book of Mormon.

George:  And Martin[1] just copied the Book of Mormon, but there was really no relationship between Solomon Spalding and Joseph Smith that could be found. So, it’s not given a whole lot of credit. I mean there’s always people that bring it up, but my opinion is not given credit because they never met until too late, until this land deed showed up. And it’s a land deed that was signed by Solomon Spalding and Martin Harris. So, it showed there was a relationship between Solomon Spalding and Martin Harris and the date was appropriate. And this is the document that Mark Hofmann showed Hugh Pinnock and Al Rust and some others, and he says this is part of the McLellin Collection.

Check out our conversation….and don’t forget our other episodes with George!

Mark Hofmann hoped his forged McLellin Collection would give credence to the Spaulding Theory.
Mark Hofmann hoped his forged McLellin Collection would give credence to the Spaulding Theory.

173: Why Hofmann Killed his Best Friends

172: Who was the 3rd Bomb Intended For?

171: More Hofmann Techniques & Forged Sports Memorabilia

170: How Hofmann Fooled Experts with a Toy Chemistry Set

169: How George Became a Forensics Expert

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[1] George was referring to Martin Harris, but he meant Sidney Rigdon.  In a future interview with Steven Mayfield, you can see the forged land deed with Sidney Rigdon’s forged signature.