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First edition Book of Mormon stolen from Arizona store

Joseph Smith

As Mormon lore has it, Joseph Smith found 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.

One of those copies, on display at a Mesa, Ariz., bookstore, has been the object of Mormon pilgrimages, USA Today reports.

For years, Mormon missionaries would come to Helen Schlie's bookstore to have their pictures taken with a first-edition copy of the Book of Mormon.

Some missionaries would cry as they touched the rare book, one of 5,000 printed in 1830 after Joseph Smith found the gold plates that he translated into the Book of Mormon, which members of the faith consider to be scripture alongside the Bible.

'I tell people they are sharing their DNA with Joseph Smith himself,' said Schlie, 88, a Mormon convert who bought the book in the late 1960s from a man so desperate for money that he was willing to sell a family heirloom.

Someone else was desperate -- or canny. The book was stolen from Rare and Out of Print Books and Art sometime during the Memorial Day weekend.

Since 2005, Schlie has been selling individual pages of her copy of the Book of Mormon for $2,500-$4,000 each. She estimates the book's value at $100,000 -- but it was not insured.

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-- Carolyn Kellogg

Image: Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon Church, in a 19th century portrait by John Hafen. Credit: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints / Associated Press

 
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