But church leaders and historians aren’t nearly as enthusiastic about the dismantling of the church’s sacred writings.
The landmark book, one of the revered writings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has been on the block for up to $4,500 per page for about a year. Schlie, who lives in Gold Canyon, would only say that “quite a few” pages have sold.
The book was on display for 35 years in a now-closed LDS bookstore she owned in Mesa and has been exhibited at gatherings where the public could “read, touch and feel the spirit of it,” she said.
Schlie’s efforts to take apart the book, frame the pages and sell them have generated mixed responses from the Mormon community.
Curt Bench, owner of Benchmark Books in Salt Lake City, said he believes dismantling such a complete, revered book “is ethically indefensible.”
“But I’m not passing judgment on her,” said Bench. “Personally, I wouldn’t take it apart.”
LDS spokeswoman Kim Farrah in Utah said the church doesn’t comment on commercial ventures.
Schlie’s church leader, Keith Webb, bishop of the Gold Canyon LDS First Ward, said, “I don’t want to comment on anything that she’s involved with at this time.”
Schlie said Webb’s reaction “doesn’t bother me.” “It’s perfectly proper” because the church doesn’t endorse private ventures, she said.
There are several copies of the original 1830 Book of Mormon in existence. Mormon-run Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, owns five, said Larry Draper, the university’s special collections curator. First editions have previously sold for $70,000 or more, Draper said.
Schlie said she’s selling the book because the fragile pages make it impractical for study.
“It would probably have to be kept in a safety deposit box or under glass, where you couldn’t feel the spirit of it,” she said.
Schlie said she bought the book in 1960 from someone whose name she can’t remember and doesn’t have paperwork on the purchase.
Alan Parry of Mesa is Schlie’s former LDS bishop and stake president. Parry said he once took the book as collateral for a personal loan to Schlie and later returned it.
“Had I known (about the venture) I’m not sure I would have given it back,” he said. “I regard it as scripture.”
Others support her efforts.
Buddy Youngren, who has owned five Book of Mormon first editions and calls himself a “novice historian,” authenticated Schlie’s book. Youngren said first editions include a witness page, in-depth explanations and spelling errors.
He concedes Schlie is dismantling a historical book and said he “personally wasn’t happy” about it. But he added, “It’s only an old book. What she’s doing is noble. Everything is first-class – the frames, book, everything.”
Schlie’s endeavor could become lucrative if she sells all 294 double-faced, free-standing framed pages. She’s asking $2,500 to $4,500 apiece, and is advertising on eBay and her own Web site. Schlie said she has promoted her work at church firesides and private homes since last year.
Draper, the BYU curator, said selling the Book of Mormon piece by piece isn’t new.
Bench dismantled a, 1830 Book of Mormon in 2002 that he said was missing several pages. He said his company published three, limited-edition leaf books containing an original leaf.
Schlie said she will use the money to finance a pioneer town near Far West, Mo., that would employ prospective LDS missionaries after her death.
Aug. 9, 2005
Dale J. Nelson