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Murder among the Mormons: Reflections on the Docuseries—and on Its Historical and Theological Implications

TitleMurder among the Mormons: Reflections on the Docuseries—and on Its Historical and Theological Implications
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsHaws, J.B.
JournalBYU Studies Quarterly
KeywordsHofmann Forgeries

You know that you’ve hit upon something when a docuseries you have produced soars to number two on Netflix’s weekly list of most-watched shows. That is the place where Jared Hess and Tyler Measom found themselves with their film Murder among the Mormons in mid-March 2021. Their retelling of the tragic deaths of Steven Christensen and Kathleen Sheets at the hands of Mark Hofmann—and the police investigation that exposed Hofmann as a forger and murderer— made for compelling television, and millions of Netflix customers agreed.

With that kind of viewership—and with this sort of subject matter—it likely surprised no one to see reactions and reviews and commentary about the docuseries proliferate across the internet. The Mark Hofmann saga was one of incredible complexity and controversy, and the reviews and reactions to Hess and Measom’s account of that saga have reflected complexity and controversy, too.

Admittedly, with that kind of viewership and that level of reaction, one more review essay like this can feel excessive and unnecessary—I highly doubt that the docuseries escaped the notice of any reader of BYU Studies Quarterly. But perhaps it is a tribute to the filmmakers that I could not help myself. It is hard not to keep thinking about the film after watching the docuseries and reading reactions to it. I’ve been mulling over three broad questions, while reminding myself that one film, even spread over several episodes, cannot do everything: What did the docuseries do remarkably well? What might the documentary have done that it left undone? And why should we even keep talking about this story and its historical and theological implications?