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Mark Hoffman Forgeries

by W. John Walsh

If Church leaders are true prophets, why didn't the Lord reveal that the Mark Hoffman documents were forgeries?

In the 1980's, a man named Mark Hoffman created a number of forged documents, some of which were purchased by the Church.  One of the most famous was the so-called "Salamander Letter."  Anti-Mormons occasionally attack the validity of the Church because Church leaders did not know all the documents were fraudulent.  John A. Tvedtnes noted:

"[Anti-Mormons] ask why “the Mormon leaders,” as prophets, did not detect the fraud perpetrated on the Church by Mark Hoffman (p. 19). The answer lies in Joseph Smith's declaration that “a prophet was a prophet only when acting as such.”  I presume that President Hinckley need not have been exercising prophetic gifts when he made business purchases for the Church. Moreover, we have, in the Bible, examples of prophets who believed lies (Joshua 9:3–27; 1 Kings 13:14–19). As human beings, even prophets can make mistakes, though when they act as prophet and president we should accept their word and live accordingly." (Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, p.210)

It's important to understand that God, not Church leaders, is omnipotent and omniscient (i.e., all powerful and all knowing).  While Church leaders are true prophets and apostles, they are only blessed with inspiration inasmuch as (1) they ask for it, and (2) the Lord chooses to give it to them.  People who believe that prophets are omniscient have a flawed understanding of the workings of the Lord.  Only God is perfect and free from all error.

(See Are Church leaders Infallible?; Forgeries of Historical Documents; Response to Criticism home page; Accusatory Questions home page)

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