This post originated on another journal and is being added to HDJM’s canon.
I won’t post any real spoilers for this past week’s Big Love, but I will say that my jaw DROPPED when the C-story line with the “papers” that the Good Mormon Brother In Law wanted to collect from the Juniper Creek folks started. Guys, that stuff really happened. It was a HUGE black eye for the LDS church. Now, they just threw that info in the background to get the B-plot moving, but if they keep it up, that’s the Mark Hoffman Salamander Papers story.
In a nutshell, Mark Hoffman was a con artist and a master forger, even though he was raised devoutly Mormon by an old-school pilgrim family. Through a series of letters, shady contacts, etc., he let the church leaders at the time know that he was in possession of Actual Historical Documents – and that Joseph Smith didn’t have an angel come before him in his bedroom, but a glowing white salamander. And the church panicked and tried to buy them, because it was JUST CRAZY ENOUGH TO BE TRUE.
There was a “reformed Egyptian document” (the secret language the Golden Plates were written in, the same ones that a noted historian told Joseph Smith was bullshit and made up when Joe was first trying to peddle his Divine Document) that was dated prior to Smith. This would prove to the masses that Joe Smith copied this and tried to pass it off as his own. (Keep in mind that THIS is fake, too. Hey, Mark was raised in the religion of a master forger and con-man too, amirite?) The church bought anything this guy sold them, trying to bury everything. Aww, how thoughtful to the sheep, er, flock. Hiding documents that well, they were fake, but the church thought they were real.
Now, the thing that drives me nuts about all of this is how the Church claimed that this was FURTHER PROOF of their truthfulness, etc., in an effort to save face. Hugh Nibley was the Church’s water-carrier at the time and a well educated man. Note that having a lot of time in chairs and degrees after your name doesn’t make you smart. He went public and said that the “reformed Egyptian” doc was further proof, sent by god to them, reinforcing the One True Church and blah blah blah. And it was written by a 20 something so he could get some bucks. So divine, suuuuure. (And before you jump in with “but the ____ church also-!” I’m talking about the LDS church. Obviously EVERY major religion has their forgeries, lies, etc.)
Remember that South Park episode where Martin Harris’ wife Lucy (smart smart smart!) took the first 116 pages of the “translated Golden Plates” and hid them to try and get Joseph Smith to prove he was making it up as he went? That was ultimately Mark Hoffman’s goal – to recreate that. So Mark Hoffman was well schooled in the myths of his church, had lost his faith, and wanted to rub the leaders’ noses in it. (And people say I’M mean!)
He tricked the leaders into claiming that all that made up crap was real, and they spent weeks trying to reword things to make it fit into their established dogma. (For those that have been following along, remember how I keep telling you that the Church constantly tweaks their dogma? This is one of those times. “Yes, the white salamander was the Angel Moroni, but you see, Joseph wasn’t tested yet, so God sent him in a more pleasing form to not frighten him. Er… Or a “salamander” at that time in history was the best approximation for a mythical being that, um, you see, in pre-Victorian times, people didn’t… Damn.” And that person was Dallin H. Oaks, the biggest jackass in the church. [glee] BTW, he’s the one that says the biggest threat to the church is “intellectuals, feminists, and homosexuals.” UH, BECAUSE THEY KNOW YOU’RE A LIAR?
DAMN! one thing I forgot to talk about is the Three Witnesses. [cracks knuckles] In the Book of Mormon, Jesus comes to the Americas. This is about 3/4 of the way through the book, by the way. At any rate, three men (the Jewish Indians) are so overcome with Christ’s message that they ask for immortality so they can walk among men until the Second Coming and stand as witnesses for Jesus and testify. Long-term missionaries, in other words, with a Highlander twist. (Except no head loping – There can only be one! Except for how there are three.)
Hoffman claimed to have written documents from two of these immortal beings. He got money for all of these in the tens of THOUSANDS of dollars each, then leaked to the press that they were being bought by the church instead of letting the church just buy them and shove them in a lock box, never to see the light of day. That way, the church would have to scramble to talk about what they had, what it meant, etc. He started up bidding wars between splinter groups of the church (the RLDS, tiny little group that claimed Joe Smith’s son should have been prophet, and the main church in particular.)
Ultimately the jig was up, and he sent letter bombs to try and cover his ass, killing two people, and almost blowing himself up, too. He’s serving life in prison.
So yeah. If they go through with some of these story lines on Big Love, and they’ve been really good about all this obscure insider stuff, now you’re in the know, too. Oh! So my dad was on the “intellectual Mormon lecture circuit” during all of this, and they were having the time of their lives with all of this “fact” coming to light, further explaining things they had long believed, and so on. There was major egg on every Mormon’s face during the 80s, let me tell you.