Is the Salamander Letter real? Let’s explore Netflix’s Murder Among the Mormons documentary and consider this essential detail.
Netflix has been celebrated for its diverse array of content over the years and documentary enthusiasts have had plenty to dive into.
From the insanity of lockdown hit Tiger King to the recent Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel, the streaming service has invited audiences to learn of a wide range of real-life curiosities.
One of the latest to attract discussion is Murder Among the Mormons.
This three-part limited series began streaming on Wednesday, March 3rd 2021 and considers the life of Mark Hofmann, an American counterfeiter who created forgeries regarding the Latter Day Saint movement.
Working through the documentary, you may be particularly eager to note a very significant detail. So, is the Salamander Letter real? Let’s get it explained…
Is the Salamander Letter real?
- No, the Salamander Letter was a forgery created by Mark Hofmann.
As highlighted by Decider, Hofmann faked a number of documents about Mormonism and sold them to the church, with the Salamander Letter proving to be the most controversial.
Essentially, the reason it caused such a stir is this…
The religion’s founder – Joseph Smith – claimed that he experienced a number of visions from God, with the most notable he described happening in 1823. He claimed to be greeted by Moroni, an angel who led him to buried of golden plates. Unable to remove them, he instead wrote down the texts they contained, which became the Book of Mormon.
However, the Salamander Letter contradicted this and was passed off as a letter from Smith’s scribe, Martin Harris. Smith’s discovery was basically revised, with Moroni replaced by a white salamander that morphed into a spirit.
The Church of Latter-day Saints reportedly paid $40,000 for the letter and it was released to the public. Although, due to the jump from traditional Christian imagery to, well, salamanders, it compelled some to question Joseph Smith’s account of 1823 and beyond.
It was eventually revealed that the letter was a fake, but the controversy which surrounded it played a crucial role in Hofmann manufacturing bombs later down the line, in hopes that the escalating events would force those who doubted the letter to confront their uncertainty in him and the letter.
Tyler Measom and Jared Hess talk Mark Hofmann
In conversation with Esquire, directors Tyler Measom and Jared Hess were asked about what they’d like to ask Hofmann if they had the chance.
Tyler explained: “We’ve reached out to Mark [Hofmann] dozens of times. I’ve sent him so many letters and he’s yet to speak to anyone since he’s been in prison other than visits from family.” He added:
“I’m curious because Mark was such a genius at what he did, he was so good at crafting these documents. I want to know where he may have gone off from using these ‘powers for good,’ to becoming the criminal that he became. Where was that turn? Did he ever want to go straight, if you will?”
Jared echoed this: “I’m curious what was going through his head leading up to the decision to kill people. Truthfully, what did he plan to accomplish if he had gotten away with it? What would have been his next steps? What was his long-term game plan?”
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