On March 3, 2021, Netflix released a three-part documentary miniseries, “Murder Among the Mormons,” telling the story of Mark Hofmann, a Salt Lake City forger-turned-serial killer.
Hofmann killed two people and injured himself in a series of bombings from Oct. 15 to Oct. 16 in 1985. These crimes were in an attempt to cover up his forged religious documents which he sold directly to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and collectors.
“[Hofmann’s] ability to deceive — unparalleled,” said Shannon Flynn, a close colleague of Hofmann. “His material was potentially devastating.”
Hofmann forged documents that proved to be of great interest to the LDS Church. Most notably being the Salamander Letter, a letter written by Martin Harris to W.W. Phelps, which tells an account of the church’s routes that were contradictory to traditional teachings. The controversial letter later proved to be a forgery, had convinced top LDS leaders and historians of its authenticity.
The three-part docuseries is made of up confessionals, or “talking heads” from the individuals who were most involved with Hofmann, the events that lead to the bombings and the calamitous aftermath that transpired. These individuals recall deeply personal, firsthand experiences that offer an honest perspective of the story. These confessionals are juxtaposed with archival footage from newscasts, talk shows and home videos from inside the home of the Hofmann’s. The confessionals in the documentary of Hofmann’s associates, such as Shannon Flynn, Brent Metcalf and George Throckmorton are captivating.
“Mark deceived everyone,” Co-director Jared Hess told Deseret News. “Everybody that ever dealt with Mark Hofmann was a victim of his, and of his deception, and I think it’s just kind of a universal lesson that everyone can learn from.”
Making his true-crime debut, Jared Hess, most commonly known for directing Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre, co-directs the series. Hess adds his personal touch, reminiscent of his Dynamite days by featuring incredibly tacky 80’s-style reenactments of some of the key transpiring events that are, at times, hilarious.
Directors Hess and Tyler Measom do a fine job at pacing the story in a tactful way to keep the viewer engaged. All three episodes, clocking in at 160 minutes total, this docuseries is a tight, quickly-paced story that’s easy to watch in one sitting.
Featuring thought-provoking themes of challenging one’s faith, loss and pursuit of truth, this docuseries is sure to leave you thinking about it for days to come.
This series is a great watch for anyone who is interested in true crime, the LDS church, and the chilling occasion when the two collide.