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Short lines to see ‘authentic’ Smith family Bible at Sanders

SHARE Short lines to see ‘authentic’ Smith family Bible at Sanders

SALT LAKE CITY — There was no wait to see what is likely the 1831 family Bible belonging to the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, and wife, Emma Hale Smith.

Among the sparse number of visitors coming out by early Monday afternoon, most only seemed disappointed that they couldn't see more of this one-of-a-kind book.

By 1 p.m. Monday, only about three dozen people had walked in to see the historical tome.

Up for sale and on public display at Ken Sanders Rare Books, 268 S. 200 East, through Wednesday, Aug. 4, during the business hours of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., this unique book is safely tucked away in a sealed glass case in the northeast corner of the book store.

"It's worth seeing," Doug Colby of Salt Lake, said after inspecting the Bible. His 13-year-old son, Stephen, said the book was "pretty cool to see." But the elder Colby doesn't believe it's worth the $1.5 million asking price. "Because there's no line up to see it."

LDS Church Office Building sister missionary Jo Ann Leemaster, of Orem, said seeing the Bible was "kind of like going to the Sacred Grove." She said it was definitely worth seeing, but she wondered how much the Smith family actually had used it. In the bookshop's display, the Bible is turned to a family records page.

"If only you could turn the pages and see the notations in the book," said Sister Marlene Gibson, of South Ogden, who also works in the Church Office Building.

Ken Sanders, owner of the book store, said the number of people coming to see the Bible started out very slowly but picked up later in the day.

He said that it is just not practical to let the public handle the book.

"We're not going to do a show-and-tell," Sanders said. "The book is very fragile."

He said Robert Stott, the lead prosecutor in the Mark Hofmann forgery case, was among those who came to look at the Bible Monday morning, as well as a man who works on the Joseph Smith Papers project and is a Smith descendant.

Sanders said those men came to see the Bible on their own accord. He stressed this book is not an icon or religious relic.

"Instead, this is an historical artifact from another time and place that tells us something about the Prophet Joseph Smith and Emma in their own hands and is a direct link between the founder of Mormonism and the contemporary LDS Church," he said. "This volume represents the only correct manuscript material in regards to the Smith children, and also in many ways represents the birth certificates of the Prophet's children."

An almost identical Bible, which belonged to Hyrum Smith and his family, is in the possession of the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University in Provo, helping substantiate that the Bible at Ken Sanders' store is a genuine Joseph Smith family possession.

In a written statement to John Hollenhorst of KSL-TV, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints did not offer an opinion about the authenticity of the book. "We have known of this Bible's existence but have not been involved with determining its authenticity and have no current plans to attempt to purchase it," the letter stated.

Sanders said the book has been thoroughly examined and authenticated by experts and is well-known to those who specialize in early Mormon documents.

There were 5,000 copies of the 1830 first-edition of the Book of Mormon printed, each of which Sanders said regularly sell for between $45,000 and $100,000. There are also 29 known copies of the "The Book of Commandments," and the last known sale of one was made at $1.7 million dollars.

e-mail: lynn@desnews.com