This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
On Sept. 16, 1911, Utah entrepreneur Max Florence offered to sell 68 photos secretly taken of Salt Lake temple interiors to LDS Church President Joseph F. Smith for $100,000.
An outraged Smith reportedly responded, "I will make no bargain with thieves and traffickers in stolen goods."
The Salt Lake Tribune reported the exchange and the story generated so much controversy that it was "for hours almost the sole topic of conversation about the streets," according to an account by Gary James Bergera in the winter 1976 Utah Historical Quarterly.
The LDS Church-owned Deseret News published seven of Florence's photos he had sent to Smith as proof he was not bluffing, under the banner headline: "Max Florence Fails to Scare the Church."
Gilbert Bossard, a German convert to Mormonism who became disenchanted with the faith, was the real photographer. He got help from Gottlieb Wuthrach, assistant temple gardener who hoped to share in the money.
A few days after Florence's attempt to extort money from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Smith tapped Salt Lake educator and later apostle James E. Talmage to write a book about LDS temples with extensive photos of exterior and interior views as well as detailed commentary.
Talmage's book, The House of the Lord: A Study of Holy Sanctuaries, Ancient and Modern , became a monumental work on the topic. It is still in print nearly 100 years later.