The University of Illinois Press is reviewing for publication an LDS Church administrator's book about the "intersection" of the church and forger-turned-killer Mark Hofmann.
The book is the fourth about the 1985 double bombing that exposed Hofmann's lucrative career as a master forger who bilked The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and many other collectors of hundreds of thousands of dollars.Its author is Richard E. Turley Jr., managing director of the Mormon Church's historical department.
Contracts were exchanged in the past few days and the book has been critiqued by two scholars, said Liz Dulany, a Mormon history editor who acquired the manuscript for the publisher of scholarly works.
"In general, there are positive reactions to the general content of the work," she said in a telephone interview Friday from Champaign, Ill. "It's very engrossing."
The university's faculty press board has the final say on publication.
Turley spent 21/2 years researching and writing the book, tentatively titled, "Victims: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Salt Lake City Forgery Bombing Case."
"Basically, it tells the story of the church's intersection with the Hofmann case," Turley said. "What I've attempted to do is to pick an aspect of the story that I wanted to tell, and to tell it completely."
The Hofmann saga began in 1980, when he traded his first forged documents to the church. By 1985, he had forged and sold or traded 48 documents to the church and countless other collectors of Mormon writings and Americana.
By mid-1985, Hofmann was nearly broke and unable to make good on his claim of possessing what turned out to be a non-existent collection of Mormon documents he had promised to several different buyers.
That Oct. 15, Hofmann planted the pipe-bombs that killed collector Steven Christensen and Kathy Sheets, the wife of Christensen's former employer. He admitted in a plea bargain 16 months later that the murders were committed in a desperate attempt to escape detection.
Turley said he studied diaries, memoranda, police and court reports and interviewed key figures in the case. They include President Gordon B. Hinckley of the church's governing First Presidency and Elder Hugh Pinnock, now of the First Quorum of the Seventy. Both had dealings with Hofmann.
"I think my book differs in that it tells the story much more deeply. You have a closer view than you had before," he said.
Turley did not interview Hofmann, who remains in Utah State Prison.
"Since he's currently serving a prison term for forgery, it would be very difficult to assign evidentiary weight to what he says," Turley said.
The 800-page manuscript includes an appendix listing the documents the church acquired from Hofmann and their origins, Turley said.
Beyond that, however, he will not reveal the substance of the book, which is tentatively scheduled for release next spring.
In varying degrees, the first three books cast a negative light on Hofmann's relationship with the church and its leaders.
The first was the locally published "Salamander: The Story of the Mormon Forgery Murders," by Linda Sillitoe and Allen Roberts.
Next came "The Mormon Murders: A True Story of Greed, Forgery, Deceit and Death," by New York lawyers Gregory White Smith and Steven Naifeh, who won a Pulitzer prize this year for their biography of Jackson Pollack.
The third was "A Gathering of Saints," by best-selling author Robert Lindsey, a former New York Times reporter.