Mark William Hofmann was a 6-generation Mormon whose parents were very religious. He was not very good at school. He had many hobbies, blah magic, electronics, chemistry, and he collected stamps and coins. He forged a coin in adolescence. He and his friends liked to make bombs for fun.
Like many young men in the church, he offered to go out on a mission for two years to England. There he became interested in books that were skeptical of Joseph Smith and the Church, and books whose authors were anti-Mormons. After the mission, he studied at university, got married and had four children.
Hofmann was surrounded by gullible and kind people, and knew what kind of document that would interest them. His method was to learn what sort of document that people were looking for, and then he would "find" documents for them. This was a lucrative market where he could earn a lot of money.
He was bitter at the church when he did not like the Church's admonitions. This earned him a special interest in falsifying documents that the church might be interested. Because of his interest in church history, as Hofmann knew what could be both spectacular and interesting, and in addition would harm the church twice over.
He would sell the paper for good money to the church, and would surely be written in such a way that the enemies of the church had a field day. He started with some harmless little things that the church jumped at. He wanted to see how the leaders of the church responded first.
Then he created the "Salamander letter," where Joseph Smith met a white salamander that turned into an angel, and showed Smith's magical and occult interests. Church leaders were not sure whether the letter was indeed genuine, but wanted to be safe than sorry, so they bought the letter.
Eventually it was proved that the letter and the others were fakes, and no one knows how many counterfeits that Hofmann did, for they were numerous. Because of the Hofmann did think some enemies of the church on a rumor that says that the Prophet Joseph Smith was an occult magician, even though this is not true. Occultism and magic is forbidden in the church.
The Hofmann did affect the Church even today, and it still circulating undetected forgeries among church members and enemies. In his attempt to hide what he did, he became a murderer. He is in prison in Utah for life. Read more