Bible Of Mormonism Founder Selling For $1.5 Million

fromKUER

The personal bible of Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, has turned up for sale at a rare bookstore in Salt Lake City. This week, Utahns had a chance to look at the one-of-a-kind historical tome. Whoever buys the $1.5 million bible will also get genealogical notes about the Smith family not found anywhere else.

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The personal Bible of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon faith, has turned up for sale. Asking price - a cool $1.5 million. Before the Bible finds a new home, a Salt Lake City bookstore threw open its doors so the public could sneak a peek.

From member station KUER in Salt Lake City, Jenny Brundin reports.

JENNY BRUNDIN: At Ken Sanders Rare Books, Beat poetry nights and parties celebrating Sanders' friend, the late anarchist and novelist Edward Abbey, are regular happenings. But a special book is bringing in a new set of customers.

(Soundbite of store)

BRUNDIN: Ken Sanders opens a locked glass case for a better look at a Bible from 1831. It belonged to the founder of what's been described as America's most famous homegrown faith: Mormonism, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Collectors knew Joseph Smith, Jr.'s family Bible was out there somewhere. Sanders recalls his reaction when the anonymous owner approached him to take it on consignment.

Mr. KEN SANDERS (Owner, Ken Sanders Rare Books): Raised eyebrows. Hmm, this is interesting. In our business, you know, you always love to see something you've never seen before. And this is like a living historical artifact to the very foundations of the LDS church.

BRUNDIN: Tucked in the Bible are Smith family genealogies featuring Joseph and his first wife Emma's handwriting. They include the only correct birth and death dates for a seventh son who was never named. Experts authenticated the Bible and its origins.

Mr. SANDERS: And I had to ascertain that it didn't have any taint of Mark Hofmann about it.

BRUNDIN: Mark Hofmann was one of the 20th century's most notorious forgers of literature and Mormon documents, turning to bombs and murder to cover up his forgeries. He's now serving a life sentence here.

The real deal, Smith's Bible, is drawing a steady stream of history buffs into Sanders' shop. Most are Mormon and they're quiet as they look reverently at the sacred text of the man they consider a prophet.

Mr. MICHAEL COX(ph): You can't touch it, but to be that close and see the handwriting and it's very awe-inspiring.

BRUNDIN: Michael Cox showed up on a lunch break for a rare glimpse at the tattered and water-stained Bible. Paul Savage(ph), who spent at least an hour milling about, says the book represents more than one family's personal beliefs.

Mr. PAUL SAVAGE: This is of premier importance to everybody. It's an amazingly rare artifact to be put out on the market, and hopefully it goes to a good place.

BRUNDIN: Bookseller Ken Sanders believes the Bible belongs with the Mormon Church, but says the owner isn't in a position to donate it. Curt Bench, a dealer specializing in Mormon books, calls the one-and-a-half-million-dollar price tag stunning.

Mr. CURT BENCH (Book Dealer): It would be an incredible possession for somebody today. And it really will be interesting to see just what someone is willing to pay for that book.

BRUNDIN: Today is the last day to catch a glimpse of the Bible. It will be locked away for safekeeping tonight.

For NPR News, I'm Jenny Brundin in Salt Lake City.

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