What would Sherlock Holmes say about Mormonism?

Greetings avid readers.  I have taken on a vain ambition in 2015 to apply the simple problem solving skills heard in the “Murder Mystery” genre and to think how the famous detectives and problem solvers would apply that thinking to great moments in Mormon history.

You see I often find myself remembering Columbo asking “one more thing”, or having an Angela lansbury moment while sifting through history; and as such thought it might be fun to let my readers experience the kind of thoughts that come from it.

And to kick it all off, why not start with the very man who created the genre, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Man Himself

And in fact we can start with the very novel that started it all: A Study in Scarlet 

“Beware the Mormons” would have given away the ending

That’s right, the very first Murder Mystery featured the villains to be none other than the Mormons.  Specifically Danites the Mormon secret police (although in the book they are far more like ninjas, magically materializing through walls and such).

The story flashes back to the Salt Lake Valley (in modern Utah) in 1847, where John Ferrier and a little girl named Lucy, the only survivors of a small party ofpioneers, lie down near a boulder to die from dehydration and hunger. They are discovered by a large party of Latter-day Saints led by Brigham Young. The Mormons rescue Ferrier and Lucy on the condition that they adopt and live under their faith…

According to a Salt Lake City newspaper article, when Conan Doyle was asked about his depiction of the Latter-day Saints’ organisation as being steeped in kidnapping, murder and enslavement, he said:

“all I said about the Danite Band and the murders is historical so I cannot withdraw that, though it is likely that in a work of fiction it is stated more luridly than in a work of history. It’s best to let the matter rest”.[4]However, Conan Doyle’s daughter has stated: “You know, father would be the first to admit that his first Sherlock Holmes novel was full of errors about the Mormons.”

Years after Conan Doyle’s death, Levi Edgar Young, a descendant of Brigham Young and a Mormon general authority, claimed that Conan Doyle had privately apologised, saying that

“He [Conan Doyle] said he had been misled by writings of the time about the Church”[4]

and had

“written a scurrilous book about the Mormons.”[5]

However, in a preface to Volume II of The Complete Novels and Stories of Sherlock Holmes, Loren D. Estleman noted the implied criticism of the Mormons. He states that the story was not controversial at the time of the story’s release, probably due to reports of the Mountain Meadows massacre and the small membership of the church.

So I don’t even have to project what Sherlock would have done because the idea of murder mysteries and mormons launched the genre.  I will attempt to update a new entry in this category each week.

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Last edited by Mithryn on January 6, 2015 at 9:30 pm

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