Netflix has served up some great true crime docuseries recently – and fans can’t get enough.
If you’ve watched Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel and Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer, and you’re looking for your next obsession, you’ve come to the right place.
On Wednesday, March 3, Netflix is dropping its latest true crime series – Murder Among the Mormons.
Directed by Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite) and Tyler Measom (An Honest Liar), the three-part docuseries looks at the most shocking crimes to have taken place among the Mormon community – and the mastermind behind it all.
More specifically, the series looks at the the trio of bombings that happened in Salt Lake City in 1985.
The series of pipe bomb explosions killed two people and severely injured another, sending shockwaves through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when a trove of early mormon letters and diaries were found destroyed in one of the vehicles.
The vehicle belonged to Mark Hofmann, a renowned collector of rare documents who was injured in the blast – and was the mastermind behind the killings.
As Hofmann fought for his life in hospital – investigators began to unravel his lies and his part in the crime. They eventually found out he was behind the bomb attack, and had been selling forged documents and artefacts to the Mormon Church.
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These included the forgery of the “Anthon transcript”, a piece of “reformed Egyptian writings” that, according to Mormon teachings, Joseph Smith Jr had transcribed from golden tablets – and was used as a basis for the Book of Mormon.
The fake document was sold to the church for $25,000 – and a year later he presented another letter he claimed was written by Smith, naming his son, Joseph Smith III, as the true successor as President for the Church.
This caused a major controversy, as in reality Smith was succeeded by Brigham Young.
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Perhaps the most notorious forgeries was the Salamander letter, which appeared in 1984.
The letter, written by Martin Harris to W W Phelps, claimed that when Joseph Smith discovered the golden plates, an angel appeared to him as a white salamander.
This contrasted heavily with the church’s version of events, and led to some Mormons leaving the church, because it suggested Joseph Smith’s testimony concerning his visions was false.
Hofmann would earn incredible amounts of money from selling forgeries, but would later find himself in severe debt due to a bad spending habit.
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And after brokering the sale of a document he neither owned, nor had time to forge, his buyers began to hunt him down.
Hofmann needed a way to distract them from their pursuit. He went on to construct bombs. The first, which went off on October 15, 1985, killed document collector Steven Christensen, as well as injuring another.
The second bomb went off later the same day, and killed a woman called Kathy Sheets, the wife of Christensen’s former employer.
As Hofmann intended, the bombings served as a distraction, but his lies unravelled when he found himself severely injured when a bomb exploded in his car.
Forgeries were found in his car, as well as in his home.
Following investigations, it was revealed Hofmann had forged a number of historical documents, including a previously unknown Emily Dickinson poem.
Hofmann pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder and theft by deception, and sentenced to life in prison in 1987.
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