The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement Wednesday denouncing a recent spate of forged letters purportedly from or to highly placed representatives of the church which malign and insult those representatives.

"We deplore the current distribution of numerous fictitious letters, which are replete with false and insulting information," said Richard P. Lindsay, managing director of the Church Public Communications/Special Affairs Department.At least three such fabricated letters have been distributed in recent weeks to government, education, business and ethnic groups through Utah and perhaps beyond the state, Lindsay said. His remarks were contained in a press release.

"These three letters are obviously the work of enemies of the church who are attempting to discredit the institution and its leaders," Lindsay said.

The three letters have been examined and identified as forgeries. "We are as disturbed by the meanness and falsity of the letters as are those who received them," he said. "We hope that no one will give credence to these malicious letters or to other similar reports that may be circulated."

One forged letter was purportedly written by Richard T. Bretzing, managing director of the Church Security Department, to Gov. Norm Bangerter. The letter contained insulting references to members of minority groups residing in Utah, the press release said.

Another forged letter appeared to be from a pornographic video store in Nevada to Bretzing, informing him that his request for a lewd videotape had been backordered.

The third forged letter, purportedly from Jeffrey R. Holland, president of Brigham Young University, to the editor of the student newspaper, was an attempt to embarrass Holland, Lindsay said.

"All the letters are false, malicious and totally groundless," Lindsay said. They follow a pattern similar to a months-long campaign of vicious vilification against church general authorities. The allegations of that campaign were independently investigated and found to be wholly false and made with malicious intent to spread rumor and innuendo, he said.

"We have asked legal counsel to determine if the matter should be referred to U.S. Postal authorities because of possible violation of laws against fraudulent use of the mail," Lindsay said.