Facebook Twitter



Terri Christensen believes she was conned by New York author Steven Naifeh in the same way that Mark W. Hofmann deceived his victims - gaining trust and then betraying.

Naifeh's book "Mormon Murders" is dedicated to the memory of her husband, Steven Christensen, and to Kathleen Sheets, killed by Hofmann's handmade, hand-delivered pipe bombs three years ago.When Naifeh interviewed the victims' families about their murdered loved ones, he promised his book would be "a tribute to Steve and Kathy - something their grandchildren would be proud of."

To gain the confidence of the Sheets and Christensens, Naifeh treated them like royalty - taking them to dinner, showing interest in their hobbies. At Christmas he sent them poinsettias accompanied by a note of warm regard.

Because they trusted Naifeh, they were willing to share their personal and painful thoughts, and they looked forward to reading his book.

But they were horrified when they read the complimentary copy of "Mormon Murders" that Naifeh and his co- author, Gregory White Smith, sent them.

"It was all a con - a way to get information from me and then do whatever he wanted with it. I regret interviewing with him. I trusted him, but the portrayal of Steve is totally inaccurate and misleading," said Terri Christensen.

"Steve would be very unhappy to have this book dedicated to him."

Adds Joan Gorton, Kathy Sheets' sister, "I think Kathy would be appalled by having this sensationalized book dedicated to her."

She describes her sister as a faithful Mormon who knew the gospel and lived her life that way. "Kathy would have been deeply offended by these cheap shots atthe church."

Gary Sheets, Kathy's husband who has remarried and lives in California, said he agrees with Gorton but has been advised by his attorneys not to talk to the media.

In their book, Naifeh and Smith assert that the LDS Church played a bigger role in the Hofmann saga than Hofmann himself.

"The bigger story - the more sinister part of it - is about the Mormon Churchand the role the church played in Mark Hofmann's life, in his crimes, in the police investigation and, finally, in the resolution of the case against him," a press release for the book states.

On the "Larry King Show," the authors said the real story was the Watergate-like cover-up by the Mormon Church.

"We are saying they (the church leaders) bear some responsibility for the murders," said Smith.

That attitude outrages the families of Hofmann's victims.

Christensen said the authors went out of their way to make the church look bad - even to the point of making up information.

Here are some of her examples: Book: "Terri Christensen wasn't the only one who suspected that (U.S.AttorneyBrent) Ward was running interference for the church. 'If you want results from the grand jury,' she told him (Ward) one day, 'go subpoena Gordon Hinckley (firstcounselor in First Presidency of the LDS Church) instead of just going along thesidelines and making a show of it.'"> Terri: "That's absolutely not true. I never suspected Ward was interfering. The entire part about the grand jury isn't true. I did not tell Ward to call President Gordon B. Hinckley to the grand jury."

Book: Elder Hugh W. Pinnock went to Steve Christensen's house the day after the bombings and "told Terri that he had come to collect Steve's confidential papers on the McLellin Collection. After all, the transaction was a 'private matter' and therefore all materials relating to it should be kept under 'church control.'"

Terri: "This is not true. Pinnock came to offer condolences. I voluntarily gave him a journal entry of Steve's regarding the McLellin Collection. But Pinnockdidn't come to get the paper. He didn't know about it. They made that up."

Book: "The problems came to a head on Oct.11 when Terri demanded they 'have atalk.' When he (Steve) balked, however, Terri threatened to walk out the door...When he wouldn't listen, she made good on the threat and walked out the door."

Terri: "This is sensationalized. I was on my way out the door to go shopping anyway. I wasn't threatened to leave. I told him I'd like to see him more often but didn't make a threat."

Book: "Christensen's vast readings in Mormon history had convinced him that the golden plates were not ancient, if in fact they existed at all, and that the Book of Mormon, while it may have been divinely inspired, certainly wasn't what Joseph Smith claimed it was."

Terri: "Steve didn't always go by the book, but he believed in the Book of Mormon, and in gospel principles. In many ways, he was probably on a higher plane spiritually than most Mormons. What qualifies the authors to look inside Steve'smind and heart and decide what he believed or didn't anyway?"

Three years after Mark W. Hofmann killed Steven Christensen and Kathleen Sheets with his handmade pipe bombs, the controversy surrounding the murder-forgery case continues.

Three books have been published on Hofmann: "Salamander" by Linda Sillitoe and Allen Roberts; "Mormon Murders" by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith; and "The Gathering of the Saints," by Robert Lindsey. (Deseret News reporter Jerry Spangler, who covered the Hofmann case, reviews those books in today's Deseret News Arts Section.)

"Salamander" and "Saints" have generally merited high marks for accuracy. But "Mormon Murders" hasn't faired as well.

Many of those associated with the Hofmann case - on both sides - have expressed great disdain for the book, saying that Naifeh and Smith distorted and sensationalized their findings.

Those most closely involved in the Hofmann saga expressed some of their most significant concerns to Deseret News reporter Jan Thompson, who also covered the Hofmann case.