Question: What are the Hofmann forgeries and the Salamander Letter?

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Question: What are the Hofmann forgeries and the Salamander Letter?

The Church purchased several alleged nineteenth-century documents from Mark Hofmann which were later identified as forgeries

Gordon B. Hinckley, then a member of the First Presidency, purchased several apparently nineteenth-century documents from Mark Hofmann which were later identified as forgeries.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson explains:

Some of you may remember hearing about a man named Mark Hofmann, now serving a prison sentence in Utah for murder. He was an expert forger of historical documents. Some of these were tied to U.S. history, but several related to Church history. One was a purported letter from Martin Harris to W. W. Phelps reporting that Joseph Smith found the gold plates led by a spirit who “transfigured himself from a white salamander in the bottom of the hole” where the plates were. Another was a supposed transcript of a blessing given by the Prophet to his son Joseph Smith III in 1844 declaring his son to be his rightful successor as head of the Church. [20]

Some left the Church when these documents were publicized saying it was clear that Joseph Smith’s testimony concerning his visions was false or that they could no longer consider The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the true Church. Not long afterward these and other documents were shown to be forgeries. I wondered, do those who were so troubled believe again now, and when other questions arise, as they always do, will they leave again? In matters of faith, a spiritual witness is essential if one is to avoid being “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” [21] With a Spirit-derived assurance in place, you can go forward in the Lord’s work and continue deepening your relationship with your Heavenly Father while pursuing or awaiting answers. If you determine to sit still, paralyzed until every question is answered and every whisper of doubt resolved, you will never move because in this life there will always be some issue pending or something yet unexplained.[1]

Hofmann made the decision to lie and cover his lies with murder. As tragic as such choices are, LDS doctrine would not expect God to typically intervene via a prophet, or personally, to prevent a person bent on making wicked choices from carrying out his or her plans.(See DC 10:37 If God did so routinely, unfettered choice would be threatened.

Notes

  1. Elder D. Todd Christofferson, "The Prophet Joseph Smith," Brigham Young University-Idaho Devotional (24 September 2013).