Date: June 15, 2022 (Season 4, Episode 13: 1 hour, 11 min. & 50 sec. long). For the entire show notes and additional resources for this episode Click here. Are you interested in other episodes of Speak Your Piece? Click Here. This episode was co-produced by Brad Westwood and Chelsey Zamir, with help (sound engineering and post-production editing) from Jason Powers from the Utah State Library Recording Studio.
This episode is with Brent F. Ashworth, someone who knew Mark W. Hofmann, well, or at least among those collectors and dealers that frequently bought and sold with him. Ashworth met, traded and wrangled with Hofmann, every week or every other week in person, meeting either at Hofmann's home or at a bench outside Walden Books in the Crossroads Plaza Mall in Salt Lake City (replaced in 2012 by the City Creek Center) for over four years.
“Swinging for the fences,” as the old sports analogy goes, Hofmann was not content to forge and fool collectors of just Mormon, Western Americana and literary materials, he sought to deceive the nation's most distinguished and respected historical institutions, subject specialists, and rare book and antiquity dealers. He may very well have completed his diabolical transactions except for what unfolded in Salt Lake City in fall 1985, including the murders of Steven Christensen and Kathy Sheets. For a basic historical context and timeline see: David J. Whittaker, “The Hofmann Maze, the Book Review Essay With Chronology of the Hofmann Case,” BYU Studies, Vol. 29, Issue 1 (Jan 1, 1989).
Ashworth opens the discussion by explaining his first interaction with Hofmann in May 1981. Ashworth had been in the SLC bookstore and head shop, the Cosmic Aeroplane, the day before he met Hofmann. A friend who worked at the store mentioned that Mark Hofmann had come in the day before and sold what he described as samples of Joseph and Hyrum Smith’s hair, which piqued Ashworth’s interest. At the time, Ashworth had been a well-known collector for nearly 20 years, and so he called Hofmann the next day and introduced himself as a collector and had been hoping to track down a letter signed by Joseph Smith. As it turned out Hofmann said he just so happened to have a holographic letter, signed by Joseph Smith to his wife, Emma Smith. Ashworth made a deal to obtain the letter, and the following day he received it in the mail. Ashworth now unintentionally sees that he had “ordered up” this, and many other forgeries he acquired from Hofmann.
What was Hofmann’s motive for his forgeries? According to a statement given by Dorie Hofmann, Mark Hofmann’s wife, "he wanted publicity and money." According to Ashworth, he believes Hofmann was trying to negatively affect Mormon history, and by extension the church he had been born and raised in.
Bio: Brent Ashworth is the owner of B. Ashworth’s Inc., a Provo, Utah rare book, document, and artifact company, which opened in 2006. Ashworth has been a collector of rare historical materials since childhood. Concurrent to a lifetime of collecting, Ashworth has served as general counsel for a series of personal health and supplement corporations.
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