The latest Netflix documentary inspired me to find out even more about the Hofmann case. As you probably know, in October 1985, 3 pipe bombs exploded in Salt Lake City, Utah, killing 2 and injuring the bomber, Mark Hofmann. Mark was a master forger and tried to kill to prevent his forging secret from becoming known. He sold not only significant Mormon documents, but American memorabilia as well. Brent Ashworth may have bought more of Mark’s documents than anyone except the LDS Church. Brent tells of his dealings with Mark, as well as meeting a second serial killer!
Brent: I went to the University of Utah. And the ironic thing is, is that it was there that I took a criminal law class because I was going out to be a prosecutor, which I was down in Price, [Utah] after I left law school, but I took criminal law. And we were sat alphabetically in seats by Professor Lionel Frankel, who was number two a Yale a real bright guy. I enjoyed his class. He started the class out by saying, “This class will be different than any other class you ever take in law school, because criminal law does not work.” And I’m sure that the guy sitting next to me because we sat alphabetically, and I was Ashworth and Ted Bundy sat right next to me.
GT: No way!
Brent: Yeah. And he missed a few classes. He was arrested during that semester. So we learned more about him as time went on. But I’ve always blamed Ted for stealing my criminal law textbook, because it’s the only one I ever lost. And you didn’t want to lose them, because they were 50 bucks apiece back in the early ’70s. And that was when tuition at the [University of Utah] law school was $250. So, I lost one and I had to buy it again. And I always blame Ted, because I figure he had bigger problems.
Brent: Then I went out into criminal law after that, and so it’s ironic I met Mark.
GT: My goodness, I don’t know many people that have met two notorious serial killers.
Brent: Just by happenstance, I guess.
We’ll go deep into Brent and Mark’s lucrative dealings and learn more about how Brent met Mark. What was it like to go into hiding when those pipe bombs went off in Salt Lake City in 1985? Brent Ashworth will tell us that his wife asked him not to meet with Mark Hofmann and saved his life! We’ll go into that crazy week in October 1985 and find out Brent’s reactions to the bombing and taking his family out of town to protect them. At the time, Brent didn’t even know who he was hiding from!
Brent: Our family had taken off because we were told by four people when they announced Hofmann had been blown up to get out of town. Three were attorney friends. Two [were] in the Keybank Tower, Brent Christensen and Steve Woodland. And then Rich Hill from Provo heard that on the radio, and he called me and I appreciate that. But none of those calls got us moving. It wasn’t until I heard from Jay Todd at the Church, the Ensign editor who called me up and said, “The brethern wanted me to call you and tell you to get your family out of town.” That’s the call that got us moving. And we went down to St. George for a couple of days. And it was while we were down on the Coral Reef Inn on the main drag there, [St. George] Boulevard that a lady comes to the swimming pool. We’ve got a bunch of kids in the pool. And she said, “Is there somebody named Brent Ashworth here?”
I said, “Yeah, that’s me.”
“There is a guy on the phone that says he’s the chief of police in Salt Lake wants to talk to you.”
And I thought, “Oh, brother,” and so I got on the phone.
One thing missed in the recent Netflix documentary, “Murder Among the Mormons,” as well as nearly every other treatment of the Hofmann dealings is an unknown, nearly half-million-dollar deal between Brent Ashworth and Mark Hofmann. We’ll talk more about this deal that ended up partially burned in the back of Mark’s Toyota MR2.
Brent: I was worried about the about the half million dollars worth of stuff I bought from him. And I don’t know anybody else that got as much stuff from him as maybe the church, as I got. I mean they talk about Al Rust $185,000. Al was hurt financially, very badly, and I don’t mean to put that down. But my last deal with him was for $400,000. I told the cops $450,000. It turned out that Mark had written our deal down and in his papers that I eventually got it had our deal twice with what he wanted. And it was $435,000.
They amazing thing is that Mark wanted to buy back the forgeries that he had previously sold Brent. Find out what was in the collection, and why Mark wanted it back. What are your thoughts of the documentary? Do you remember the bombings? What are your thoughts on the sordid affair?
There is an orchestrated attack by modern Hollywood on religion right now. This attack tends to sensationalize events.
The so-called documentary was little more than an outright attack on religion. Hofmann was portrayed as a mental giant who was able to fool people precisely because they were religious. He was portrayed as intelligent because he was an atheist. Both of these propositions are false.
The truth is that no one is perfect, and this life is about learning to identify truth. All will make missteps at times when it comes to evaluating things like ancient documents.
I think you should change your middle name from “Charity” to “Defensive”. None of your comments here have been charitable. You view everything through a defensive and conspiratorial view. The world is not out to get you, and your takes on every post I’ve read, are defensive and hostile.
I agree with you that no one is perfect and this life is about learning to identify truth. All of us make missteps at times. I encourage you to quit being so defensive and acknowledge your mistakes and quit blaming the bogeyman of hollywood.
JCS: Come clean. You said on another post that you would not watch this show. If you haven’t watched it, why do you have such strong opinions about it?
I was just a kid at the time–with no real idea about the larger context–but I do remember the bombings, and hearing about them on KSL radio. At school we were told not to pick up boxes or trash because you never knew what might be a bomb in disguises.
I didn’t pay much attention to it. I was back on the East Coast after one semester at BYU trying to figure out how or if, as a returned missionary, I was going to navigate the church as a gay man. I was honestly ambivalent that he was duping the leaders and blowing up things. But in my defense, I was dealing with a religion that was very anti-gay at the time and so my focus was elsewhere. I did watch the documentary and it was sad (now) to see the deceit and murders.
The documentary was not remotely anti-religion. The Church could have come across looking WAY worse if it had been the focus. This was just a true crime story pure and simple, and yes part of Hoffman’s motivations were based in his religious experiences, but it was very much focused on him and his personality – not the LDS church.