Rare copy of Book of Mormon reported stolen from Arizona store

Fri Jun 1, 2012 8:24pm EDT
 
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By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Police searched on Friday for clues to the suspected theft of a rare, first-edition copy of the Book of Mormon, valued at $100,000, that was reported stolen from a suburban Phoenix bookstore over the Memorial Day weekend.

The authorities said they were in the early stages of an investigation into the disappearance of the 1830 leather-bound volume, which its owner said has became a must-see artifact for young Mormons worldwide before embarking on church missions.

"At this time we have no specific information of the whereabouts of the book," said Detective Steve Berry, a Mesa, Arizona police spokesman. "I don't think it's a big secret the book was there. But I don't think everyone knows how valuable it is."

The Book of Mormon is a foundational, holy text of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The 588-page book missing since Monday is one of only 5,000 copies ever printed, said its owner, bookstore owner and proprietor Helen Schlie.

The Book of Mormon was published in 1830 by church founder Joseph Smith, who claimed the manuscript came from his translation of an ancient "reformed Egyptian" text engraved on golden plates he found buried, with the guidance of an angel, in a stone box near his home in New York state.

Schlie, who bought the first-edition print in the late 1960s, told Reuters that she discovered the book was missing when she went to retrieve it for two missionaries visiting from Asia. The women wanted to take a picture with it.

Such requests are common. The cramped store, overflowing with books, has a special area set aside for people to take pictures with the famous text. Emotional reactions to touching the book are common, she said.

Schlie, 88, said she was stunned when she went into her office, opened the bottom draw of an unlocked file cabinet where the book was kept in fireproof box, and the volume was nowhere to be found.   Continued...