Now that September Dawn has come and passed us by, there’s another Mormon themed story that I think would be a great movie. I’d call it “Salamander” and it would be about the Mark Hoffman murders. I think it’s got all of the needed elements for a good story.

If you don’t know who Mark Hoffman is, he is probably one of the greatest forgery artist of the 20th Century. He was a Mormon with a greater than normal interest in history. He made his living by selling rare and hard to find documents. He began selling some of his findings to the LDS church. He became so trusted that he was allowed access to the secret First Presidency vault. (It’s existence is not secret, but what’s inside) Unfortunately he was not a trustworthy individual and stole some items out of the vault and sold them back to the church.

At some point he came under the personal suspicion that the LDS church was not true. He decided to put his hypothesis to the test by manufacturing some fake writings. He concocted one version of the first vision in which Joseph Smith encountered a white salamander in the sacred grove. Hoffman felt his suspicions were true when President Hinckley purchased some of his fake documents and then locked them away in his office safe so that no one would see them. Although the LDS church itself never purchased his “Salamander Letters” his documents seemed so authentic FARMS even wrote up an apologetic defense to salamanders appearing as agents of God.

Ironically, well known anti-Mormons Jerald and Sue Tanner opposed all of the Hoffman findings and thought they were all fakes.

The LDS church wasn’t the only group that Hoffman pulled his forgeries on. At some point he was prepaid for a number of “documents” which he had not yet produced. As his debtors started calling, Hoffman got desperate. He bombed and murdered a couple of other document collectors so that he would have an excuse to give himself some more time. On his way to murder a third victim his bomb accidentally went off in his car. He lived, but lost a couple of fingers. He was at first thought to be a victim, and then was discovered to be the culprit and is now serving time in prison.

If it does get made into a movie, I hope it’s well made. I think it could be made in a way that at first makes Hoffman out to be the good guy (and the LDS church as a sort of an antagonist). Then as the bombings start happening, the twist could be introduced that Hoffman is actually forging all of these documents and killing people.


16 thoughts on “Salamander

  1. This would make an interesting movie. The funny thing is the mountain meadows massacre would have too. Unfortunately, from what I hear from Mormons and non-Mormons alike its not worth seeing. It may take a while until Hollywood is ready to take another risk on the Mormons.

  2. The show The FBI Files on Discovery or TLC or one of those type networks did a really nice documentary/reinactment of the story a few years ago.

  3. That the Church “locked away” all the letters in a secret vault is pure bunk.

    Some of the letters actually supported positions held by our competing sister-church, the RLDS Church. Hinckley sent those letters to the RLDS Church for safe keeping.

    Others were included in a publication of the Ensign (the LDS Church’s official magazine) for all Mormons to read about and see. Even Hoffman admits to being surprised about how open the LDS authorities were with the documents.

    Incidentally, scholars of many stripes have repeatedly had access to the “secret vault” and the contents thereof. The Tanners have often complained about being denied access and they keep the story alive and well. After having read their repeatedly dishonest and a-contextual use of original quotations and LDS historical sources, it’s not rocket-science that they’d be denied access. Why allow someone in, if they’re just going to lie about or distort what they found?

  4. Hey Seth,

    I’m not calling into question what you say, but can you cite a reference. That’s not completely the way I heard it, so I’d like to see what you got.


  5. Kullervo,

    Reading statements in context will save you from looking like a fool. Seth, in comment #5, explained that the LDS Church did take some steps in addressing the issues surrounding the forged documents. Among other things, he noted that the Ensign published articles dealing with them.

    Tim responded by asking for sources. I simply supplied one such source. Nowhere did I argue that everything Elder Oaks said, or that the Ensign published, was “a good source for objective information.”

  6. You can start link here

    And then link here

    And yes, I’m aware that some choose to discredit anything FAIR has to say. If you are one of those people, we have nothing further to talk about.

    You owe it to yourself to at least run a few keyword searches on FAIR’s wiki webpage before tackling any of the numerous criticisms of the LDS Church. Getting the other side’s version of the story is simply good reporting. It’s a really user-friendly website with a wealth of information.

  7. Kullervo,

    I never said that Elder Oaks’s talk or the Ensign was a “good source for objective information.” Rather, I was simply replying to previous threads. Seth explained in comment #5 that the Church had, in fact, addressed some of the issues brought about by the forged documents. One example offered was their treatment of the issues in the Ensign.

    Tim asked for sources in comment #6. I simply offered one such source.

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