Alleged thief busted in Arizona Book of Mormon disappearance

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Authorities have arrested a man who is alleged to be responsible for the theft of a first-edition Book of Mormon. The book, which was housed in an Arizona bookstore near a Mormon temple, had become something of a destination for the faithful interested in taking a look at its pages.

The Arizona Republic reports that law enforcement authorities found the book thousands of miles from Arizona, in Washington, D.C.

Agents from the U.S. Marshal’s Service and the FBI served a search warrant at an apartment in the Washington, D.C., metro area and recovered the original 1830 copy of the book.... Authorities arrested Jay Linford, who ‘is known to the victim and was present at her store during the time of the theft,’ according to Sgt. Tony Landato, a Mesa police spokesman.

Some of the details of the book’s trip have been released by Mesa, Arizona police; the Phoenix New Times reports:


On May 28 -- the day the book was stolen -- Linford called a rare book dealer in the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas area, seeing if anyone was interested in purchasing some pages from the first-edition book, which is worth between $30,000 and $40,000 as a whole.Linford ended up selling two pages to the guy for $7,500.

The purchaser, according to New Times, later learned that someone in Mesa had just had their Book of Mormon stolen and phoned authorities.

According to Mormon legend, the church’s founder Joseph Smith discovered engraved gold plates and from them wrote up the Book of Mormon. It was first published in 1830, in an edition of just 5,000 copies.

Bookshop owner Helen Schlie, who is 88, would tell visitors that they were sharing DNA with Joseph Smith when they touched her first edition of his book. She had considered Linford a colleage; she said he first contacted her in 2005, after learning that she owned an original Book of Mormon, and he printed a book of her poetry. I’m happy to have the book back, but I didn’t want it this way,’ Schlie told the Arizona Republic. ‘That’s my publisher.’

‘I’m not angry,’ she continued. ‘I have only compassion and deep sorrow. It hurts. I can’t imagine what he is going through now, what drove him to this point.’


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-- Carolyn Kellogg