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Hofmann Bombings Effect on Mormon History

The Hofmann bombings and forgeries have had a lasting impact on Church history.  In the 1970s Leonard Arrington was a trained historian and became Church Historian.  He opened the Archives to many researchers and people interested in Mormon History.  However, General Authorities were concerned about some of the controversial aspects that were being uncovered.  Of course Mark Hofmann had a lot to do with some of those controversial documents.  How big of an impact did he play in shutting down access to church records in the Church History Library?

He certainly made the church change its entire approach to security, and protecting its holdings.  It severely restricted access.

I think there was a long period of time when they were trying to determine what they had in their own holdings that were genuine and weren’t genuine.  Yeah he definitely had an impact on how things are done at the Church History Library.  I know it was a lot harder for me to do business with the church after that.  Before things were more—I don’t know what the right word is, but it was easier to do business. It was more informal.  It became very formal.  There were processes you had to go through and committees had to make decisions on acquisitions and things like that rather than just being left to an individual.

Curt Bench will tell us about Mark Hofmann’s impact.  But have things improved?

I really think we are in a new era, and I can only hope that it will get even better.  The Joseph Smith Papers Project is one of the biggest evidences of that whole new attitude and openness.  I mean those scholars are not given a list of restrictions as to what they can research and what they can write about and publish.  Talk about throwing the books open, they’re doing it.  They’re making our history available and accessible.  There’s some very impressive scholarship that’s gone into that project, for example.  That’s had spinoffs.

We see a lot of other research and writing and publishing that’s being done as a result of that whole attitude.  Rick [Turley] is no longer Assistant Church Historian. He’s over Public Affairs now.  I think he’s one of the unsung heroes in my opinion.  He has helped us get to the point we are now, and those others that I mentioned and many that we can’t take the time to name.

Check out our conversation…

(Don’t forget to check out (parts 1, 2, 34, 5 and 6!)

Hofmann Bombings Effect on Mormon History


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Should LDS Leaders Have Detected the Hofmann Fraud?

Let’s talk about the Mark Hofmann bombings & forgeries.  There are some critics of the LDS Church who ask the question, why weren’t church leaders able to discern, using the spirit of prophecy the Hofmann fraud?

Curt Bench:  I’ve heard that countless times.

GT:  How do respond to that?

Curt:  Well, the way I respond is that we’re all in good company, because we all got fooled.  His family got fooled, his own wife and his parents, his friends and neighbors, other family, experts that tested his materials.  He fooled everyone, including General Authorities.  So I guess I’m prone to grant them, or give them a lot of slack because they’re human just like we are.  As Dallin Oaks said later, unless we’re given a reason not to trust, we trust people.

Others note that it seems like Church bought anti-Mormon material, or material unflattering to the church’s narrative in order to hide them from the public and prevent discovery of them.  Is that a fair characterization?

Curt:  I mean that bothered people I think when that came to light.  From President Hinckley’s perspective if I were in his shoes I would understand better the motivation I think but like I said, everything is 20/20 now in our vision.  But I can understand why that would be a difficult thing for people because it does give people the impression of trying to hide things and put things in the best light possible so I can certainly understand that perspective.

Curt Bench goes into further detail on these questions.  We’ll also talk about how Mark’s family reacted, as well as the family of Steve Christensen, (Steve was killed in the first bombing.)  Check out our conversation…  (Don’t forget to check out (parts 1, 2, 34, and 5!)

Should LDS Leaders Have Detected Hofmann?



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Curt Bench’s Role in the Hofmann Bombings Court Case

We’re continuing our conversation about the Hofmann bombings.  This time we’ll talk about the short court case against Mark Hofmann.  It wasn’t much of a case, just a preliminary hearing.  Curt Bench tells us that he was initially skeptical about police reports that Hofmann was the bomber.

Yeah they were convinced but it took a long time to convince me and others that he was guilty.  He was our friend.  He was a guy we had known and done business with for years.  Your friends don’t kill people, and there was no talk then of forgery or nobody knew about the financial schemes or him being a con man or anything like that, so that was all to come.

Curt also tells how he became an unknowing participant in Hofmann’s fraud.

I showed Mark this Book of Common Prayer which was no big deal, but he said, ‘well I’ll give you 50 bucks for it.’  [I thought] I don’t have a customer, I might as well.  Later he said, ‘you know there was some writing in the back of that appears to be Martin Harris’ so I’ll give you a couple thousand dollars for it.’  [This was] after he had already given me $50 for it and that was fine because I didn’t know.  So I thought, ‘gosh that’s really quite fair.’  So what turned out that he’d done…

GT interrupts:  So you didn’t question that Martin Harris was in there.  You just thought you missed that?

Curt:  No, no.  In fact later and during the investigation and in the preliminary hearing I had been asked.  Well let me go back and say, what Mark did, we found out later was he wrote a little poem about returning this book which you’ve borrowed.  I don’t remember the text of it, in ‘Martin Harris’s handwriting.’  Because here you have a known Harris family item, and no examples of Martin Harris’s handwriting extant, and so Mark created Martin Harris’s handwriting which was used to establish the authenticity of the Salamander Letter.

Check out this episode!  You’ll hear Curt Bench will tell us about how he spoke at the Hofmann Bombings preliminary hearing. (Don’t forget to check out (parts 1, 2, 3, and 4!)  Check out our conversation…


Curt Bench’s Role in Hofmann’s Court Case