Brent Ashworth purchased a faith promoting letter from Mark Hofmann and then toured the state of Utah bearing testimony about this wonderful letter. Problem was, it was a forgery. Brent talks about the letter, and ties up some loose ends on that $435,000 deal.
Brent: Anyway, the point was, is that we had met originally on that deal in his little MR2, which was his new Toyota. And we sat there for several hours talking about this big deal. And he wanted to get the Lucy Mack Smith letter back. He wanted to get the Martin Harris letter back that I had. He wanted to get the page of the Book of Mormon manuscript, which was a phony, which I bought, which was published on the Ensign in December 1983, full page. He wanted to get all these things back, and a couple of real things too, from me. And he offered originally just for the Lucy Mack Smith, he offered $125,000. And when I turned him down, I said, “Mark, I didn’t get that to make money. I got it because I like giving talks and share it.” I didn’t get to go on a regular mission. I had to go in the army. And so now I can kind of perform a little mission by testifying as Joseph Smith as a prophet by using this letter. It was very faith-promoting. And so he came back and he says, “Oh, my guy just told me that he would pay a quarter million for that letter. And then he made this list of these other things he wanted, and it came up with this $435,000
GT: So he was buying his stuff back from you.
Brent: Right. It was kind of like he wanted to get all these things out of circulation because I was the only one. The church was putting them in a safe. I was out there doing dog and pony shows everywhere: firesides. I mentioned on the follow up podcast the other day after the Netflix [documentary], there was one Sunday I started out in Tremonton, Utah with a Relief Society meeting. And I did five meetings that one day and ended up at a stake priesthood meeting in St. George, talking about the Lucy Mack Smith Letter.
GT: Tremonton to St. George! that’s like…
Brent: Five meetings in that one day.
GT: That’s like 500 miles.
Brent: Oh, I know. Yeah.
Can you imagine speaking at 5 meetings in a day? Mark Hofmann was trying to sell the McLellin collection to the LDS Church and Al Rust at the time the bombs exploded in 1985. It turns out they weren’t the only offers. Brent Ashworth tells us that the collection was offered to him as well!
GT: Steve [Christensen] was trying to get the McLellin Collection for the Church. Right?
GT: And so he was saying, “Look. Hugh Pinnock has already given you $185,000. We need the McLellin Collection. We need it now.”
Brent: Mark was also offering the collection to me, and that part’s never really been discussed. But he was offering the collection to me. I know he offered at least parts of it to Curt [Bench] too, like Facsimile One, Facsimile Two. I think we got up to Facsimile Three at one point, that he was willing to [sell.] These were all in the McLellin Collection. See, McLellin, when he left the church, Joseph Smith wrote a couple of things in his history: one of them that is important, I think. One of them is “That old apostate,” I’m paraphrasing Joseph’s history. “That old apostate McLellin, I heard ransacked my office and stole some my papers.” So there you’ve got the McLellin Collection right in the prophet’s own words, basically.
GT: Yeah, we don’t know what’s in it, but McLellin….
Brent: We don’t know what’s in it, but Hofmann will supply that, right? I asked Mark. I said, “What’s in the McLellin Collection?” when he offered it to me. And he says, “Oh, there’s six little journals/diaries that go from this year to this year. There’s a lot of really damaging stuff about the Prophet Joseph Smith, and there were other things.” Obviously, the McLellin Collection started out as the Texas Collection when I first met him. He had already kind of devised this idea that there’s got to be a wastebasket collection where everything comes from I think, before he even met me. Do you know what I mean? And that was 1981 and the Texas Collection, it was talked about by Mark several times with me and I’m sure others. It became the McLellin Collection.
Were you aware of these deals? Since the Church already owned the McLellin Collection, what you do think of the fact they didn’t know they already owned it? What are your thoughts on the Netflix documentary?
This whole issue is reminiscent of the ancient Arabic proverb: “Wa-ma fat fat”, which is translated: “what is done is done”
The interesting part of this story was never about fake documents. This was always about Utah being the fraud capital of the country. The obvious evidence that this was a fraud during this time frame was document prices of all kinds rapidly rising in a typical bubble and the amounts of money being talked about. Instead of typical Utah frauds consisting of financial instruments, gold, silver, unrealistic returns, or leveraged real estate, the items of the day were documents, similar to the tulip mania in the 1600’s and other bubbles and ponzi schemes that were standard fare in Utah for the last 60 years. Those involved, including church leaders, should not be criticized for not knowing the documents were a fraud, but for perpetuating and participating in such an obvious con game as evidenced by the crazy prices that were being offered for documents that were suddenly showing up out of nowhere. As stated in the movie War Games, “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?”
There’s this Santayana quote about history, Bro Spring. Perhaps you’ve heard it?