$100,000 First-Edition Book Of Mormon Stolen For Protection?
A riddle for your Friday afternoon: What do a Fender guitar, your old Honda, and a first-edition copy of The Book Of Mormon have in common? They're all worth more in pieces.
According to Mormons, the sacred book was written on gold plates and lost until an angel revealed the plates to Joseph Smith, who translated it and created just 5,000 copies in 1830. Until this week, Helen Schlie—owner of Mesa, Arizona, bookstore Rare And Out Of Print Books And Art—owned one of the 5,000. Mormons made pilgrimages to the store, weeping and taking photos with the scripture. Schlie, a converted Mormon, told visitors they were "sharing their DNA with Joseph Smith himself."
When the 88-year-old owner returned to her shop on Memorial Day, two young missionaries asked to see the holy text, but when she opened the fire-proof box where she'd left it over the long weekend, it was gone. At first, the motivation for stealing a $100,000 book seems pretty obvious: $100,000. But it might not be that straightforward.
There is speculation that the 182-year-old book was swiped not for the money, but to protect it from its scissor-happy owner, who had been slicing up the relic since 2005 and selling individual pages for $2,500 to $4,000 a piece. Though the Church Of Latter Day Saints had given its official blessing, claiming it would strengthen the faith of those who owned the pages, Schlie was a controversial figure among the community. Many members of the church felt that dicing up their most sacrosanct text for money was sacrilegious. Go figure.
So far, she had sold about 40 of the 588 pages, meaning that if she gets the mutilated volume back and continues parting it out at the same price, she stands to make between $1,370,000 and $2,192,000 off of it. Says Schlie: "It really hurt my heart. I'm hoping someone will bring it back, let it finish its mission." Look, it would hurt my heart to lose $2 million too, and I'm not even Mormon.
So the real question: Is stealing an artifact to save it (if indeed that's what happened) noble or immoral?
Photo via Mormon Chronicle
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