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First-Edition Book of Mormon Stolen In Mesa, Arizona

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An 1830 first- edition of Book of Mormon stolen from Mesa bookstore.
An 1830 first- edition of Book of Mormon stolen from Mesa bookstore.

A bookstore in Mesa, Arizona is missing a first-edition copy of the Book of Mormon from 1830.

According to Arizona Central, the 1830 edition was one of 5,000 printed in 1830 after Joseph Smith translated gold plates into the Book of Mormon. Members of the Mormon faith consider this, along with the Bible, to be scripture.

Helen Schlie, an 88 year old Mormon convert who operates a bookstore in Mesa, had owned the book for 45 years. She bought the valuable text from a man who sold his family heirloom in desperate need for money, reports Arizona Central.

Schlie told Deseret News she last saw the book on Friday, May 24 when she locked it away in its usual filing cabinet.

It was stolen sometime over the Memorial Day Weekend, though Schlie only noticed it was missing on Monday when two Mormon ministers requested to take a picture with it.

"It really hurt my heart," Schlie told Azcentral. "I'm hoping someone will bring it back, let it finish its mission."

Schlie had started selling pages of the book to raise funds for Mormon missions. According to AzCentral, while seen by some as controversial, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints leadership had blessed the project.

Many people in the town, as well as Mormon visitors, knew exactly where the book was located as Schlie often invited visitors touch and take pictures with the rare book.

"Certainly, it is someone who had access and knowledge of it," Mesa police Sgt. Tony Landato told Azcentral.

Brent Ashworth, historian and owner of B. Ashworth's Rare Books and Collectibles in Provo, told Deseret News the book is valued at about $100,000.

“Mormonism started with a book, and that’s the book. Everybody wants it,” He said. “The first edition is not quite as good as having the gold plates, but it’s right next to it.”