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Mark Hofmann : biography

December 7, 1954 -

Mark William Hofmann (born December 7, 1954) is an American counterfeiter, forger and convicted murderer. Widely regarded as one of the most accomplished forgers in history, Hofmann is especially noted for his creation of documents related to the history of the Latter Day Saint movement. from The New York Times; from Everything2; from University of Delaware Library When Hofmann's schemes began to unravel, he constructed bombs to murder two people in Salt Lake City, Utah. He has been serving a life sentence at the Utah State Prison in Draper since 1988.

Early life

Hofmann was reared in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) by two devoutly religious parents.Robert Lindsey, A Gathering of Saints: A True Story of Money Murder and Deceit (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988), 41. That his grandmother "was the product of a polygamous Mormon union sixteen years after the 1890 church manifesto abolishing polygamy...was a secret that members of Mark's family seldom discussed." Hofmann was a below-average high school student, but he had many hobbies including magic, electronics, chemistry, and stamp and coin collecting.Lindsey, 55. He and his friends were said to have made bombs for fun on the outskirts of Murray, Utah.Lindsey, 55. Hofmann graduated 573 in a class of 700. According to Hofmann, while still a teenage coin collector, he forged a rare mint mark on a dime and was told by an organization of coin collectors that it was genuine.Lindsey, 370. Hofmann decided that if experts said the coin was genuine, then it was genuine, and he was cheating no one to whom he sold it.

Like many young men in the LDS church, Hofmann volunteered to spend two years as an LDS missionary, and in 1973 the Church sent him to the England Southwest Mission, where he was based in Bristol. Hofmann told his parents that he had baptized several converts; he did not tell them that he had also perused Fawn Brodie's biography of Joseph Smith, No Man Knows My History. While in England Hofmann also enjoyed investigating bookshops and buying early Mormon material as well as books critiquing Mormonism.Lindsey, 56. Hofmann later told prosecutors that he had lost his faith in the LDS Church when he was about fourteen,Richard Turley, "Victims: The LDS Church and the Mark Hofmann Case" (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992), 316. and a former girlfriend believed he performed his mission only because of social pressure and the desire not to disappoint his parents.Lindsey, 243.

After Hofmann returned from his mission, he enrolled as a pre-med major at Utah State University. In 1979, he married Doralee Olds, and the couple eventually had four children.Lindsey, 58. Hofmann was a "hands-on father… who pushed strollers, changed diapers, and attended local ward meetings with a baby on his arm." Worrall, 233. Dorie Olds Hofmann filed for divorce in 1987 and became co-founder of a holistic healing company.

Trial and sentencing

During the bombing investigation, police discovered evidence of the forgeries in Hofmann's basement. They also found the engraving plant where he had had the forged plate for the Oath of a Freeman made. (Hofmann had made two significant errors in his Oath, creating a version impossible to have been set in type.Innes, 134-37.)

Document examiner George Throckmorton analyzed several Hofmann documents that had previously been deemed authentic and determined they were forgeries. Three letters purportedly written from an Illinois prison by Joseph Smith used different ink, paper, and writing instruments. (Because the letters had been authenticated by different experts, the inconsistencies had earlier escaped detection.) Throckmorton also discovered that some documents, supposedly written by different people, had similar writing styles and that they had been written with homemade iron gall ink that looked cracked like alligator skin under a microscope, although authentic period ink did not.Lindsey, 260, 270-71, 274-75. Investigators also found that a poem used to authenticate the handwriting in the Salamander Letter had been forged by Hofmann and inserted in a Book of Common Prayer once owned by Martin Harris.Lindsey, 288-91.

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