- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 23, 2005

PHOENIX (AP) — Retired bookstore owner Helen Schlie can see a higher purpose in selling her 1830 first-edition Book of Mormon one page at a time.

Mrs. Schlie said she thinks it will be more of a “missionary tool” because the framed pages — priced at $2,500 to $4,500 apiece — can be handed down from generation to generation.

“This way, it will touch hundreds of lives and span generations of time,” said Mrs. Schlie, who is Mormon.

Her decision, however, has garnered mixed reviews from fellow Mormon book dealers and librarians who think such a rare piece of church history is better left intact.

Some librarians were appalled when they learned of Mrs. Schlie’s intentions, said Haybron Adams, a retired librarian who worked in the special collections division at Brigham Young University and who authenticated Mrs. Schlie’s book.

“But librarians have a different look at books,” he said.

The Book of Mormon is the story of a Hebrew family who migrated from Jerusalem to the New World; their descendants are visited by Jesus Christ after His Resurrection.

It was first published in 1830 by Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He said an angel named Moroni guided him to gold tablets documenting the teachings and lives of ancient tribes.

Mrs. Schlie’s book is one of the first 5,000 printed. Book dealers say hundreds of complete works likely remain, although there is no way to tell for sure.

Mrs. Schlie said she came across her copy while working as a book dealer in suburban Phoenix. Though she can’t remember the name of the man from whom she bought the book or exactly when, she had it authenticated by two collectors.

Mrs. Schlie said she first offered it to the church.

“But they said, ‘No, go ahead and do this project because it will touch more lives over the long run,’” she said from her home in Gold Canyon, east of Phoenix. “And the condition the book was in, it could not be used for study. It was too fragile.”

The church has shied away from criticizing Mrs. Schlie for her plans.

“Issues like these rest on our members’ sense of propriety and conscience,” said Mike Otterson, a church spokesman in Utah.

Mrs. Schlie said she also didn’t want to sell her complete copy to a collector because she didn’t want it hidden under glass or touched only by scholars with white gloves.

“Hundreds of people have touched and felt the spirit of this book already,” she said. “I wanted it to continue its usefulness.”

Mrs. Schlie has framed each page in a double-sided, purple heartwood frame and affixed a 14-karat-gold Moroni angel on each side. The signatures of both authenticators also accompany each page, she said.

If each of Mrs. Schlie’s pages sold for her minimum asking price of $2,500, all 290 pages would bring in $725,000.

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