Mormon Media Observer: Latter-day Saints and Sherlock Holmes

Published: Monday, Dec. 19 2011 5:00 a.m. MST

Though he never fully apologized for his portrayal of the Latter-day Saints, Doyle acknowledged that his representation of Latter-day Saints was sensationalized and publicly praised the Latter-day Saints and their pioneer heritage. He expressed surprise he had been allowed to speak in the Tabernacle. He spoke favorably of Latter-day Saints in his memoir. It was a gracious ending to a long story.

Before Doyle's death seven years after visiting Salt Lake City, Homer says, Doyle had come to see himself as a spiritualist prophet — and had felt disappointment when his prophecies failed to come to pass. He had also been duped by two young girls who said they had taken photographs of real fairies when, in fact, the photos were of images cut out of a book. Doyle used the photos as evidence for a new form of life. Homer says Doyle never came to regret his work in spiritualism, however, and believed he had seen rational proof of another world.

It's hard to know exactly what lessons a Latter-day Saint should learn from Arthur Conan Doyle and from Sherlock Holmes. For me, it starts with something more. Even in a world of rationalism, where problems can be solved through deduction and logic and science, the soul hungers for something more. It wants to know if there is something beyond this mortal realm.

But the lesson expands from there. A second part of Doyle's life for me is that deduction will never be enough to get a full handle on that hunger we have for something more. The eyes sometimes deceive us. As Homer wrote, to learn of something more requires genuine faith. It requires spiritual processes too.

Lane Williams teaches journalism and communication at BYU-Idaho. He is a former journalist whose scholarly interests include Mormon portrayals in the media, media and religion and religion and politics.

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