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Mormon Mafia?

  1. Jun 26, 2013 #1
    I just got done reading, "A Study in Scarlet," the very first Sherlock Holmes story (novella).

    In it, Doyle characterizes the Mormons under Brigham Young as a dangerous, cult-like organization that dealt with dissenters by dragging them away in the darkness of night and killing them. So many were "disappeared" in this way, according to Doyle, that the members of the flock lived in terror of the leadership, and no one dared disobey or voice dissatisfaction.

    Does anyone know where Doyle got these ideas? The wiki doesn't mention any such rumors about the Mormons.
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  3. Jun 26, 2013 #2

    Simon Bridge

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  4. Jun 26, 2013 #3
    Actually, that article links to one about the Danites:


    which explains what Doyle, or his unreliable sources, was exaggerating and twisting. I see there was a lot of anti-mormon activity at the time and those anti-mormons were probably painting anything they did with the blackest of brushes.
  5. Jun 26, 2013 #4

    jim mcnamara

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    In 'The Speckled Band' Doyle has Holmes and the bad guy enticing some kind of tropical viper (the eponymous band) with a bowl of milk. Not. Vipers "vipe" (if there is such a verb) to kill warm-blooded prey. Mainly rodents. Not to subdue a saucer of milk.

    There is a lot of "science" on Doyle's stories (I loved them as a kid) that even back then I knew was a lot of hooey.

    There is also a lot of social strata reinforcement description that would never fly today. Although it possibly did reflect how Doyle felt. It is in almost every story about some important person requiring ultimate discretion on Holmes part.

    You cannot take a lot of stuff in those stories as factual. IMO. The American characters are often akin to Martin Chuzzlewit lookalikes (Red headed League), or bands of murderous thugs and cultists - The Dancing Men is an example.

    Doyle was later a huge proponent and supporter of what turned out to be a hoax - photographs of fairies - like tinkerbell sized human figures. He also was deeply interested in seances. So he got is information from who knows where. The fairies gave Mormon information to him during a seance probably.
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2013
  6. Jun 26, 2013 #5
    Agreed. Doyle's story, "The Valley of Fear," has everything ***-backward. It was based on rumors of a dangerous secret society working behind the scenes in American Coal Fields, rumors that came out of a famous case in Pennsylvania. These rumors were actually started by the mine owner, Franklin B. Gowen, who used them to quash attempts by the miners to organize. He managed to get a few of the miners hanged.

    Doyle bought the Gowen version, lock, stock, and barrel, and turned people who were trying to get decent wages and safe conditions into terrorist subversives.
  7. Jun 27, 2013 #6


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  8. Jun 28, 2013 #7


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    I blame the Amish mafia.
  9. Jun 29, 2013 #8


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  10. Jun 29, 2013 #9
  11. Jul 8, 2013 #10
    There are two problems with using Wikipedia as your source about the Mormon history.

    One of these is that Wikipedia entries can be edited by anyone.

    The other you can gain more insight into if you check a book called "One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church" by Richard Abanes (you can browse through this book on Amazon). The picture you gain from this book makes Doyle's portrayal very accurate.

    Abanes' book is very well researched (e.g. footnote section is 150+ pages) and that is important because, as the book also shows, Mormons engage in historical revisionism. In the case of Mormons the amount of historical revisionism is not even small (Joseph Stalin comes to mind).

    Thus what you can read about Mormons on publicly editable sites, or what you may hear even from Mormons themselves, does not much correspond to what happened about 150 years or so ago. In fact it does not even correspond much to what happened 100 or just 50 years ago (when it comes to e.g. the behavior promoted by that church). This is all rather well detailed by Abanes.

    Note that Abanes' book is not the only providing a picture that matches with Doyle's but it is the most comprehensive book on Mormon history that I have read so far.
  12. Jul 8, 2013 #11
    You're right about the wiki, of course, and I'm glad you brought this book up.

    When I read the Doyle story I was a bit shocked by the picture he painted of them, and I simply wondered if he was outright inventing this dark side for literary purposes, or if he had some basis for it. I feel satisfied now that he didn't just make this up out of thin air. I probably won't look into the book, but now I have the assertion that there is a book that completely supports his picture, which I can check out if I ever feel so ambitious.
  13. Jul 9, 2013 #12

    Simon Bridge

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    Yep - the wikipedia entry should be treated as the most favorable (or, at least, diplomatic) to the special interest groups concerned - given the harder data that is available. Considering the various interests, it is plausible that the historical situation is starker than Wiki describes.

    Wikipedia does, however, answer the question as posed.

    Note: the size of the footnotes section is no indicator of the accuracy of a work ... nor is the quantity of references. It's a pain but you have to check the references somehow.

    All works (purporting to be) of scolarship should be read with your skeptics hat on.
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