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Bomb Day 2: Other Targets? Oct 16, 1985 (Hofmann Bombings)

Hofmann Bombings Witness Curt Bench

We’ll continue our discussion about the Mark Hofmann bombings.  After a night’s rest, the bombs continued the next day again, but this time Mark himself was the victim.

Curt Bench:  Remember I told you about warning Mark and so the next day which is the 16th of October [1985] I’m driving.  Actually I had been somewhere to try to negotiate a deal that was based on information I had gotten from him, so I’m driving back to my office and on the news said there was a third bomb.  Keep in mind this is surreal for our area.  I mean these bombings are going on.  Nobody knows what’s going on.  Nobody knows why, there’s a lot of fear.  There’s a lot of uncertainty and then when there’s a third bomb and then I find out that it’s Mark Hofmann that’s the victim, I about drove off the road, and I remember hitting my steering wheel and saying aloud to myself, ‘Mark why didn’t you listen to me?’  He didn’t seek safety and he was the third victim.

In preparing for another interview, I was surprised to learn that a young missionary by the name of David Rosenvall actually witnessed and heard the bomb blast that injured Hofmann.  David will describe his reactions to the loud noise he heard as he left the Salt Lake Temple that day.

David Rosenvall:  The day before I was to enter into the MTC [Missionary Training Center], I was at the Salt Lake Temple and coming out from that experience and our car was parked on Main Street just beside the Deseret Gym.  As I got to the car, was putting some things in there, just up the road and just behind the Deseret Gym there, there was an explosion and at the time I had no idea what it was or what was going on.  We quickly ran up there to see it.  There were about 20 people gathered around somebody on the road.  You could see that he was injured and hurt.  I didn’t know who it was at the time.

Was it an accident?  Was it intended for someone else, or did Mark purposely injure himself?  These are some great questions and Curt Bench will talk about the answers to these questions in our conversation.  (Don’t forget to check out Part 1, Part 2, & Part 3!)  What do you remember about the Hofmann bombings?

Check out our conversation…

Bomb Day 2: Other Targets? Oct 16, 1985

 

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Bomb Day 1 – 2 Killed – October 15, 1985

Steve Christensen was killed on October 15, 1985 when he picked up a package outside his office.  It was a pipe bomb and it blew up with a bunch of concrete nails killing him instantly.  It was a horrible scene.  Curt Bench describes how he found out about it driving to work and that he immediately called his friend Mark Hofmann to warn him about a bomber out there.

A few hours later Kathy Sheets also picked up another bomb from Mark Hofmann and she was killed instantly.  Her husband, Gary Sheets had been partners with Steve Christensen.  Many wondered if this was a financial deal.  Was it a mafia plot, or was it something to do with Mormon documents?  Both men had experience with those.  Let’s listen in as Curt Bench tells us about how the news unfolded to him.

Curt:  I talked to Mark on the phone, the day of the bombings.

GT:  Oh really.

Curt:  Several times, probably six or seven times.  I called first to warn him about the bombings, well bombing at that point because there was already a lot on the news.  I was actually driving to work that morning and they said there was a bomb that had gone off in the Judge Building.  It was just a few blocks from where I worked.  They even as I recall gave the office number and it said a businessman had been killed.  I only knew one person in the Judge Building and that was Steve Christensen, so as soon as I got to my office at work I looked up in my directory and pulled up his name and there was that office number at the Judge Building and I was just sick physically.  I mean it was just horrible.

I got the answering machine and I said Mark, this is Curt.  This is an emergency.  Please call me back immediately, as soon as you get this.

A short time later he called, and just kind of light-heartedly said, Curt this is Mark.  You said it was an emergency but then everything’s an emergency with you, just making a joke.  Then I told him what had happened, that Steve Christensen had been killed and there was a sharp intake of breath, “What?” like he was genuinely shocked.  I told him everything I’d heard.  It was as if he’d never heard a thing.  I warned him and told him to get his family out of the house, to get into hiding, whatever because we didn’t know what was going on.

GT:  I know originally it seems like because Steve was a financial thing, there was a lot of people thought it must have had something to do with his finances, but you originally thought it had something to do with…

Curt interrupts:  Well I didn’t know.  Nobody knew.

GT:  Oh ok.

Curt:  And that very day there was speculation about, did it have something to do with Mormon documents, because Steve had been in the news.  I’m trying to remember about the news part.  Certainly it was known he had been involved in trying to get the Salamander Letter.

GT:  So you made the connection that you thought it could have been?

Curt:  Well it could have been.  Yeah there was speculation early on about was this business related, because there were angry investors with the Sheets company, CFS.

What are your reactions to the bombings?  Do you remember them?

Bomb Day 1 – 2 Killed – October 15, 1985

 

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Salamander Letter & Other Forgeries

Curt Bench (owner of Benchmark Books in Salt Lake City) knew Mark Hofmann very well, having purchased many artifacts and documents from him.    Hofmann’s most famous forgery was known as the White Salamander Letter. The letter threatened to re-write Mormon history and fooled many experts in Mormon history.

It was just such a different take on the traditional story as one could imagine, and so he [Mark Hofmann] had claimed to have gotten it back east, a letter that came into his hands through a compatriot of his when actually later we find out that Mark created the document.  It kind of turned Mormon history on its head and then you have people squaring up on each side, the scholars that are trying to make sense of it and others saying there’s no way that could be true.

Mark didn’t just fool Mormon experts.  He actually tried to sell something to the Library of Congress and many of those experts were fooled as well.

Oath of a Free Man which was the first printed item in America that he tried to sell to the Library of Congress for $1 million to $1 million and a half.  He completely created that.  He has the plates made for it.  He printed it and altered letters and kind of rubbed them down so they looked old.  He did all kinds of things and the Library of Congress was doing tests on it, and the American Antiquarian Society was another that looked very closely at buying that, and that was a huge deal when that failed to sell because Mark owed so many people money because of his schemes and a lot of it was over the McLellin Collection which nobody ever saw but there was a lot of talk about and a lot of money that changed hands over it.  Because that failed to sell, The Oath of a Free Man, Mark was in a world of hurt financially and had to come up with money.

It’s amazing the number of experts Hofmann was able to fool.  Don’t forget to check out Part 1 of our conversation.  What do you think?

White Salamander Letter & Other Forgeries