The truth is that Mark Hofmann committed brutal crimes which were in part possible because of the sheer numbers of people wanted to believe. He manipulated people’s desire to raise the curtain on the lies they were told about the story, and it led to the murder. There’s a playful tone here that’s probably thanks to one of its unexpected directors, but it ultimately makes little more than a Wikipedia entry.
In 1985, Salt Lake City was rocked by two deadly bombings involving the LDS Church and the potential exchange of documents that would absolutely shake the foundation of the Mormon Church. A third bombing would seriously injure Mark Hofmann, a famous antique dealer who contained documents that were among the oldest in history, as well as documents that had already redefined what people thought of the formation of Mormonism .
‘Murder among the Mormons’ details the investigation into the three bombings and the extent of Hofmann’s crimes – almost everything he ever dealt with, including the documents that shaped his violent crimes, were forgeries . Directors Jared Hess (“Napoleon Dynamite”) and Tyler Measom introduce many major players in the investigation and the world of Hofmann, including those he has called friends and colleagues. The best moments of the show almost have a silent dread of what Hofmann has done, fooling some of the smartest people in the world with his scythes.
And yet, “Murder Among the Mormons” fails when it comes to the big picture. A brief chapter that details Hofmann’s education threatens to dissect why he essentially created forgeries that undermined the authority of a faith he was raised in, but it’s too superficial. People like Mark Hofmann are incredibly rare as his contempt for human life extended not only to his willingness to take it, but to something even greater. He wanted to destroy institutions, not just people.
Hess and Measom are too content with fascinating details to wonder what they think or say about human nature. And while they have a lot of fun with some of the quirky personalities in this story, the biggest issue with the length of these Netflix docuseries is that the runtime has to feel justified. An hour-long Hofmann TV special may just strike the incredible evidence for that story, but a multi-part series should dig deeper, not just longer.
Now available on Netflix.