Skip to comments.'The Mormon Murders' -- the Mini-Series the Latter Day Saints Shut Down
Posted on 09/30/2011 12:05:32 PM PDT by Colofornian
The enormous success on Broadway of "Book of Mormon" brings to mind the longest and most difficult mini-series development in the then-William Morris Agency's history.
Feature agent and former New York colleague Fred Milstein called me one morning and spoke about a series of forgeries and murders by a 28-year-old elder of ths Mormon church against fellow Mormons.
I could try to explain the convolutions of this story, but the most incisive and coherent analysis comes from a former LDS elder who calls himself "Stray Mutt." It is herein paraphrased.
Mark Hofmann [pictured left] was a gifted and masterful forger. Like any good con man, he knew part of his success manufacturing and selling fake historical documents depended on willing victims people who wanted to believe. Growing up Mormon, Hofmann realized he was surrounded by the devout who were trained to trust authority. He also saw they were true believers about their sacred history and legends. This was a situation ripe for exploitation.
From his years of collecting, buying and selling old documents and studying church history, Mark Hofmann knew there were skeletons in the Mormon closet. He also knew the church was interested in acquiring potentially embarrassing documents so they could suppress them.
So Hofmann created the Salamander Letter [at right], a document by church founder Joseph Smith encountering a talking salamander that turned into an angel. The sale of this "document" to his brethren, created, penned and aged by Hoffmann, netted the son of the Mormons $40,000. Hofmann was on his way.
There were dozens of other "documents" only Hofmann could "discover." Over a period of four years, Hofmann's transactions with the leaders of the LDS netted him nearly a million dollars. In cash.
In the meantime, he regularly flew to New York where he sold other (non-Mormon) historical documents to collectors, stores and museums. One of his repeated "touches" was the respected Argosy Books on East 59th Street. Indeed, he was also conning the experts.
A knowledgeable member of the church, however, began to suspect Hofmann was a forger. Hofmann realized he might be exposed, so he blew the guy up with a letter bomb. To throw the investigation away from himself, he tried to blow up the first guys business associate, but unintentionally killed the associates wife instead. He was trying to deliver a third bomb, but it blew up on him.
Milstein sent me both the book proposal for "The Mormon Murders," followed by the first draft of its manuscript by two New York writers Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith. Harvard Law grads, they had created and edited a series of annual reference volumes, "The Best Lawyers in the U,.S." and the "Best Doctors."
On the side, they wrote commercial non-fiction. "The Mormon Murders" was their latest. I read their just completed manuscript and told them I believed this was a four-hour miniseries.
We had to move quickly as two other books, Robert Daley's "A Gathering of Saints" and "The Salamander Letters" by Sillitoe and Roberts were to be published and would attract media interest. We didn't want another network or even HBO to beat us to the air.
I had sent the book proposal to a number of clients and Zev Braun (right), working with Philip Krupp, were among the first to respond. They set about to option the book, chose CBS as our first target and prepared writer lists.
Derek Marlowe, fresh from "Two Mrs. Grenvilles," turned in a confusing morass of talking heads. Dale Wasserman, of "One Flew Over the Cukoos Nest" and "Man of La Mancha," was brought in by the producers to do a page one rewrite.
But first the network asked if we also had the rights of those depicted in Naifeh and Smith's book -- dozens of Mormons and non-Mormons, antique collectors and forensics specialists in Utah and New York, members the Church willing to talk, Hofmann's family and friends, the families of the victims, the hierarchy of the Church, Sat Lake City and FBI investigators and the lawyers and prosecutors.
We were back in the territory of "Kent State" and "Murder Ordained," with the immediate responsibilty of locking in everyone we needed to depict. A multitude of deals, on paper would have to be structured before the network would be comfortable.
Computers only existed within the agency walls in the payroll and music departments. They would come into all areas within the following year. In the meantime, all documents had to be drawn up by me and individually typed for 28 participants in the proposed television miniseries. Then we had to get them signed and returned and, in most cases, paid. Still, we persevered.
Wasserman's rewrite was good, but not great. We believed the underlying material deserved better as we wanted to attract a major director and star talent who would elevate this beyond the ordinary television movie. In order to accomplish that we needed a four-hour teleplay that approached brilliance.
After several drafts, Wasserman delivered and CBS ordered what had now become Murder Among the Saints to production. A license fee was negotiated and it came in around nine million dollars.
When word hit Salt Lake that CBS was committed to tell the Mormon urders story as a four-hour mini-series, it is said that LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley called CBS founder and chief William S. Paley and asked, "How would you like some outsiders doing a vicious four hour attack on your Jews?"
Paley, who hadn't been Jewish for more than half a century, was taken aback enough to call Bill Self, running CBS programming, and suggest, "Would it bother you too much to kill this Mormon show?"
The "Mormon show," which had been ordered to production and funded, was now dead at CBS.
A few months afteer the axe fell, another CBS executive, not familiar with the first attempt, heard about the case and ordered a two-hour version by feature writer Steve Shagan.
Shagan's approach was to ignore the actual role played by each of the true life characters and to invent scenes and motives, damn the truth.
Heroes became bystanders or, worse, villains, and villains became heroes. It was a travesty to anyone who read "Mormon Murders" and knew the case. CBS didn't hesitate to pass.
Still later. Braun and producing partner Philip Krupp, hired Joel Oliansky to write a new version of "Murder Among the Saints" and were able to set it up at HBO. However, with a change in management, HBO ultimately passed. It was and is a brilliant script, the most concise and coherent of all, and one day, perhaps, will be produced.
Hofmann is serving a life sentence at the Utah State Prison in Draper.
Authors Naifeh and Smith went on to write the definitive Jackson Pollack biography An American Saga which won them the Pulitzer Prize. It was the basis for the Ed Harris Oscar-winning theatrical motion picture.
Their latest work for Random House is a biography of Van Gogh.
At least he didn’t forge something along the lines of Heaven Levels 1-3, polygamy in heaven, spirit babies, or that “No man can come to Christ except through Joseph Smith”!
That certainly would have been immediately recognized as forgery.
Investigation Discovery channel’s show “Who the Bleep Did I Marry?” has an episode about Mark Hofmann. (I saw it a couple of months ago on Comcast On Demand - don’t know if it’s still available there.)
I was surprised that “September Dawn” managed to get made and released. On the other hand, what do you bet that if Romney gets the GOP nomination, this project gets resurrected?
A knowledgeable member of the church, however, began to suspect Hofmann was a forger.
- - - - - -
Actually, Jerald Tanner, known “anti-Mormon” figured out that Hoffman was a forger long before the LDS did including the victims.
I remember sitting next to a woman on a very long flight in the mid-80s who was reading that book. She gave me the long and the short of it. How much I wanted to read it! But before I could, 60 Minutes pretty much covered it.
(But that's why it's so "Joseph Smithish"...Below you can see what other "revelations" Mormons bought into as "revelations" from a god...to see how easy it was to "gullible-ize" them):
* "Let my servant Newel K. Whitney retain his store, or in other words, the store, yet for a little season." (Lds Doctrine & Covenants 63:42)
* "Wherefore, children shall grow up until they become old;" (Lds Doctrine & Covenants 63:51)
* "And there are many kingdoms; for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom; and there is no kingdom in which there is no space, either a greater or a lesser kingdom." (Lds Doctrine & Covenants 88:37)
* "And, again, strong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies. And again, tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man, but is an herb for bruises and all sick cattle, to be used with judgment and skill." (Lds Doctrine & Covenants 89:7-8)
It is currently storming the air waves and internet with "I'm a Christian just like you" propaganda, and in order to attempt to defeat the truth being found on the internet the church and members are daily opening new mormon-friendly websites by the hundreds looking to overwhelm by sheer numbers sites that are bringing the truth to investigators.
I read the book. It was a lot more complicated than that. Hoffman was getting advances to cover payment promises to others, and this "kiting" scheme was collapsing around him by the hour when he resorted to the bombing murders, which he conceived as a way out. A gripping true crime tale.
His forgeries, BTW, were very clever. He made ink using genuine, but less valuable documents by dissolving the "old ink" from them, and in this way the ink on the forgery passed scientific age tests.
People who 'believe' that MORE will be coming from the Lord...
Not the Living Prophet® hisself?
Not a LEADER in the Quorum of 12?
Some mere rank and file MEMBER??????
1. The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.
2. The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.
3. The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.
4. The prophet will never lead the church astray.
5. The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.
6. The prophet does not have to say Thus Saith the Lord, to give us scripture.
7. The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.
8. The prophet is not limited by mens reasoning.
9. The prophet can receive revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual.
10. The prophet may advise on civic matters.
11. The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.
12. The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.
13. The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidencythe highest quorum in the Church.
14. The prophet and the presidencythe living prophet and the First Presidencyfollow them and be blessedreject them and suffer.
I testify that these fourteen fundamentals in following the living prophet are true. If we want to know how well we stand with the Lord then let us ask ourselves how well we stand with His mortal captainhow close do our lives harmonize with the Lords anointedthe living ProphetPresident of the Church, and with the Quorum of the First Presidency.
Ezra Taft Benson
(Address given Tuesday, February 26, 1980 at Brigham Young University)
Did SOMEone say MEAT?
Hey out there MORMONs! Good Temple MORMONs!!
It'll soon be COLD weather so you can then eat MEAT again!!!
|The Official Scriptures of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
© 2006 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Salamander Letters is really a fascinating story.
It makes me think that the leadership of the Mormon church do not receive the direct messages from God as they claim.