By Emily Mullen
The new Netflix docuseries tells the backstory behind a series of bombings that shook Salt Lake City in 1985.
What’s the gist: Murder Among the Mormons covers a horrifying and lesser-known moment in Utah history when a series of bombs killed two members of Salt Lake City’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Two devices killed Steven Christensen, a Mormon bishop and document collector, and Kathy Sheets, who was married to Christensen’s former boss, and another bomb, injured book dealer Mark Hofmann. The three-part docuseries steers you past the bombings, into their gripping backstory, the seemingly impossible discovery of a series of historical documents, and perhaps the world’s most talented forger. The events shown in the documentary sent shockwaves through the Mormon church and led many believers to question the religion’s entire authenticity- which was probably the perpetrator’s intention.
Where can you watch it: Netflix
Where and when is it set: While the bombings took place on October 15 1985, the documentary sweeps through the 1970s and 1980s. Many of those connected to the event were also recently interviewed. It’s mostly set in the Mormon stronghold Salt Lake City, Utah, but a church mission to Manchester and a business deal in New York also crop up.
Who worked on it: Randomly enough the docuseries was directed by Indie cult director Jared Hess- of Napoleon Dynamite, Nacho Libre, and Gentlemen Broncos fame. Hess who is a practicing Mormon reportedly spent years researching and collecting materials on the case.
Who’s involved: While in the beginning, it may feel like every nerd within a five-mile radius of Salt Lake City was interviewed for the documentary, as the story kicks into gear it all makes sense. The recent interviews are predominantly made up of a collection of rare book dealers, researchers, and collectors who worked in the same realm, alongside crucial interviews with key figures including intended bomb targets and close associates and friends of the perpetrator. While file footage shows archive family footage, older TV interview snippets, and police interviews of people directly and indirectly involved.
Why should we watch it: It’s an interesting vantage point of a seemingly improbable con job that took place within a strange community. It’s not your typical “Mormons do the darndest things” documentary, you walk away from it with a slight touch of poignancy for their faith and how easily its origin story was manipulated.
Highlights are: Probably hearing the perpetrator’s final confession, recorded from prison. Any true crime fan will tell you that hearing a murderer rationalize their crimes and explain their motivations, is extremely rare.
For more of “I watched” see: I watched the Biggie documentary and you should too