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Mark Hofmann’s Role in Mormon History (Part 4 of 5)

John Larsen of the Sunstone and I discussed some critics of Mormonism. The most notorious is probably Mark Hofmann, who is a murderer and forger of Mormon documents.  We discussed some of Rick’s past interviews and knowledge Rick has learned in talking to people who knew or prosecuted Mark Hofmann.

John:  I mean, Hofmann is a murderer, and a criminal. But geez, that man was brilliant.

Rick:  He was brilliant.  He’s got horrible handwriting, too.

John:  We still don’t know because, you can push back, because the church wanted it to go away. So the church got involved. There’s a lot of people who’ve accused this. I’m not the one making this up. The church got involved. They wanted to cut a deal. They cut a deal with Hofmann, that if he pled guilty, he wouldn’t get the death penalty. He got a blanket pass that he wouldn’t have to talk to anybody else. So he didn’t have to answer…

Rick:  Well, that’s not exactly true. There was a deal cut and if you want to get into all the details, watch my George Throckmorton interview, because we talked about that. Also, Sandra was very angry that a deal was made because she’s like, “I think we could have got the death penalty on him.” I don’t know if people know this, but he tried to put out a hit on the Director of the Board of Pardons.

John:  Oh, I didn’t know that.

Rick:  Yeah, while he was in jail, because he should be out of jail by now. He will never leave jail.

Rick:  But yeah, so Mark was supposed to spill the beans and he never did, due to–anyway. George talks about it. There were some mistakes done in the prosecution, and they should have had him tell the stuff before they’d cut the deal and they didn’t. So then he had no incentive to talk after that. A lot of the stuff that he was supposed to tell he never told.

John:  I would invite everybody go out there and read one of the true crime books. The one I liked was one by Sillitoe.

Rick:  Yeah, that’s the best–that’s one of the best ones.

John:  I think it’s called Salamander.

We will talk about other details of the Hofmann saga, and discuss other Mormon critics.  Check out our conversation….

Mark Hofmann killed 2 people and is serving a life sentence.

Don’t miss our previous conversations!

415:  Learning from Mormon Cousins

414:  LDS Leaders and Historical Issues

413:  Intro to Gospel Tangents

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What Did Brigham Know? When Did He Know It? (Part 4 of 4)

While it seems likely that Brigham Young was initially lied to about the Mountain Meadows Massacre, at what point did he learn that Mormons were involved?

Turley: Well, basically Brigham Young knew that he had received a letter from Isaac Haight. Again, this is a story that you’ll see in our book. He knew he had a letter from Isaac Haight midweek in the massacre, basically saying that the immigrants were under attack at the Mountain Meadows. He sent a letter back saying, “Let them go.” Then he got word that they had been attacked and massacred. So, the natural question he would have on his mind when he gets his first visitor from the south is what happened? What happened here?  The story that he got, which we detail in the book, is a story of an all-Indian massacre.

GT: And that was from John D. Lee, correct?

Turley: It was from John D. Lee.  That’s right.

GT: John blamed it all on the Indians.

Turley  Yep. And he does it in such a way that he attempts to foist a burden of guilt on Brigham Young for his Indian policy, which was: get Indians to align with us in the Utah War, to be enemies against the Mericats,[1] the Americans. So, the way John D. Lee told the story led Brigham Young to believe:  “My policy has contributed to spilling the blood of innocent people on Utah soil.”

GT: So you’re saying that when John D. Lee came up to tell Brigham about the massacre, he’s essentially saying, “Brigham, this is your fault, because you’re trying to align with the Indians?”

Turley: Yeah.

GT: That’s interesting.

Turley: It wouldn’t have been that crass, but that’s essentially what he was trying to do.

[1] Mericats was the word Indians used for Americans.

What did he try to do about it?

Turley: By the middle of 1859, he was very convinced that there was disturbing information about members of the church being involved. He was telling them at the time, “Look, if you had something to do with this, you’re not going to be protected. Get yourselves ready to go to trial.”  I think he was very much in hopes that trials would occur. People said that he wanted to have those trials in probate courts that were operated by local bishops. Ultimately, he comes to the conclusion that the best way to resolve this is have it be done in the territorial courts, the federal courts, if you want to call them that. Unfortunately, for the reasons that we described in the book, it didn’t happen, and those are political reasons.

This is available only to newsletter subscribers, so please sign up for our newsletter to get a secret link.  Go to www.gospeltangents.com/newsletter to sign up!

Richard Turley describes how Brigham Young learned about the massacre.
Richard Turley describes how Brigham Young learned about the massacre.

Don’t miss out other conversations with Richard Turley.

268: Federal Investigation into MMM (Turley)

267: Was John D. Lee Most Guilty? (Turley)

266: Richard Turley on Saints… & Sinners (Turley)

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Federal Investigation into MMM (Part 3 of 4)

When the Fancher-Baker Party did not make it to California, news traveled fast.  Congress asked federal investigators to find out what happened in Mountain Meadows.  Was it an all-Indian attack, or were Mormons involved?

Turley: But the word made it quickly to California and then quickly to the eastern United States. So, people knew that their loved ones were killed or missing in late 1857 and early 1858, so it didn’t take long at all. At that point people in Arkansas, whose relatives were killed began to write to their congressional representatives saying, “We need to do something about this.”  It wasn’t long before officials in Washington were demanding that something occur as well. So, they were sending orders with their people who were headed west with the Utah expedition telling them that they needed to do something about the massacre.

GT:  Okay. So, because, if I remember right, didn’t it take about 10 years before they brought anybody up for trial? Or what was the time frame before they actually brought legal action?

Turley: So the Utah War ended in 1858, and before it ended, there was not anything done. In 1858, when the federal judges arrived, one of the federal judges, John Cradlebaugh, became responsible for that portion of the territory of Utah that included the South.  So in 1859, in March, he convened a court and as part of that court had a grand jury, and he wanted the grand jury at that point to indict those who he felt were responsible for the massacre.

Without spilling a lot of the details of what’s going to be in our second volume, I’ll tell you that that was a complicated event. We explained in there exactly what happens during this trial. By the time you get to the middle of 1859, Church leaders are also concerned about what they’re hearing, and so they want to have some type of judicial proceeding as well. But for reasons, again, that we explain in our book, based on evidence no one’s ever seen before, that doesn’t work out. Then we get to the Civil War. After the Civil War, we get judges back in Utah, who are turning their attention to this crime again. So then in 1874, you finally have your first indictments, and then two trials of John D. Lee: one in 1875, and in 1876.

Check out our conversation….

News of the massacre traveled fast, but the first trial of John D. Lee happened in 1875, following the 1857 massacre.
News of the massacre traveled fast, but the first trial of John D. Lee happened in 1875, following the 1857 massacre.

Don’t forget to see our previous conversations with Richard Turley.

267: Was John D. Lee Most Guilty? (Turley)

266: Richard Turley on Saints… & Sinners (Turley)