Mormon Church and Prostitution in Salt Lake City 1885-1941
Subject: In 1885 Mormons set up a whore house to trap gentiles
Date: Aug 21 20:08 2004
Author: Stray Mutt

The following is from a report by C. S. Varian, who was Assistant US Attorney in Utah territory during the 1880s. The bulk of his statement covers the US Attorney’s attempts to enforce federal anti-polygamy laws. But he also tells of a scheme hatched by LDS leaders to entrap prominent gentiles in a prostitution ring, with the hopes such a scandal would divert attention away from the polygamy problems. This is long, but you might find it interesting.

The thought seems to have been that if it should be ascertained that others of the non-Mormon population were found to be guilty of offenses against the law, it would be a sufficient answer to the prosecutions which were being brought by the government. In this view, certain prominent and influential Mormon citizens of Salt Lake City conceived the idea of opening houses of ill-fame in certain localities of the municipality for the purpose of enticing prominent government officials and others into the commission of offenses, in order that they might be detected and publicity be given to their crimes. A concise and complete statement of the matter is found in the report of the grand jury for the third judicial district of the Territory, made in December of the year 1885, and I quote therefrom as follows:

"Since the year A. D. 1876 there has been a statute of the Territory prohibiting the keeping of, residing in, or resorting to houses of ill-fame for the purpose of prostitution or lewdness. During a great part, if not all, of the period, ordinances of the municipality of Salt Lake City upon the same subject have been in existence. Under these ordinances a few weeks ago a number of prosecutions were instituted under circumstances which very generally attracted public attention. These proceedings were summarily brought to an end because of a ruling of this court, determining the questions of law immediately involved, adversely to the city. The attention of the grand jury, as well as the public, was, however, directed to certain matters connected with these prosecutions, and in the discharge of our duty, as understood by us, we have investigated the same as thoroughly as the means at our command would permit.

"Officers of the county and city government, together with private citizens, have appeared before us and been sworn and examined, and the present result of our inquiry is embodied in indictments herewith returned. We are not content, however, to pass the matter over without further and emphatic expression condemnatory of the methods and practices hereinafter mentioned. Sometime in April or May last, an officer of the city government not connected with the police, with others unknown at present to the grand jury, entered into a conspiracy to open houses of assignation and ill-fame within the city limits, for the avowed purpose of entrapping weak and vicious people into the commission of offenses against chastity and morality, in order that all such might be exposed and punished in the courts. This scheme involved the renting and fitting up of houses for the purpose, the employment of public and private prostitutes, the conversion of the police bureau into a nest of spotters and spies, and the expenditure of a large sum of money. For years there have been well-known houses of prostitution in Salt Lake which have been under police surveillance, and at stated periods have contributed materially to the revenues of the municipality. Several of these houses are situated on the main and prominent streets of the city, and with their keepers and proprietors have been, and are by reputation, generally known in the community.

"We do not understand that the scheme above mentioned contemplated the investigation of these places, nor the enforcement of the law against those who resided therein or resorted thereto for the purposes of prostitution or lewdness. On the contrary, as appears by the evidence before us, the plan was conceived and carried into effect without reference to the suppression of existing nuisances, but with a design of using the criminal law as a snare for the weak and immoral, and with the object in part, at least, of creating a great public scandal.
[emphasis added] In pursuance of this scheme, houses were rented and furnished on West Temple street, and women placed in possession thereof. These houses were so altered and arranged in their interior that persons could be placed to observe all that transpired within, and every member of the police force of Salt Lake City, with two honorable exceptions, John Y. Smith and William Calder, volunteered his services as a spy and informer in aid of the conspiracy. The women were hired to perform their parts, and their exertions stimulated by the promise of exorbitant sums for their success in entrapping high officials. One of these creatures was promised $1,000 in the event of her being able to draw the governor of the Territory into her toils.

"In the course of their operations, these women conveyed notes of invitation to many prominent officials and citizens, requesting interviews on business at the places designated. The following, leaving the names blank, is a sample of these notes, delivered by messenger boys:

"Salt Lake City, July 23, 1885.

"Dear Sir: "If convenient, I would be pleased to have you call to see me this afternoon or about dusk this evening. I want to see you on particular business. Please send answer by messenger boy when you will call.


"We are informed by persons engaged in this infamous plot, that from their secret posts of observation they from time to time personally witnessed all that took place in apartments in these houses visited by men and women who were weak and depraved enough to respond to the opportunities presented to them. Their names were taken and the evidence noted for future reference and use.

"When the exposure of this conspiracy was at hand the houses were closed. One woman was sent to California upon a ticket furnished her. Another was driven to Francklyn by a police officer, who had previously purchased her a ticket, and then took the train for Denver under an assumed name. One of these women was paid by the city official above referred to, $300 or $400, and the other, $700 for her services. When the women were safe out of the Territory, complaints were filed, warrants issued and arrests made, and the community thrown into a state of excitement and alarm. The money employed in this scheme, we are told by its prime mover, was paid by one of the high officials of Salt Lake City. It is claimed that the money was raised by private subscription. We have been unable to ascertain that any part of it came from the public treasury. Neither the mayor, chief of police, nor other city official, except as herein stated, so far as we can learn, were advised of the proceeding until the plot was ripe. All of the police officers engaged in it, it is claimed, performed the services required when off duty. One of them states that his services were rendered `for the good of the cause.' We have promptly indicted all persons connected with this unlawful and criminal undertaking against whom we could procure evidence, but we are not satisfied to rest here without publicly directing the attention of the municipal and county officers to the fact that a great crime has been perpetrated.

"We do not understand that the criminal law of the Territory was designed to aid scoundrelly spies, sneaks and informers in enticing and encouraging well-disposed persons to commit crime, nor to tempt weak and wicked persons to disobey the law. The law is humane and considerate, and has for its object the prevention of crime and the reformation as well as the punishment of offenders. It does not, we think, contemplate the commission of crimes in order that additional crimes may be committed, and the last offenders exposed and punished."

It is stated in the "history," that a very large number of arrests were made by the police for offenses charged to have been committed within the houses referred to in the grand jury report, and that upon their reaching the district court all of them were dismissed by the prosecuting officer, and a criticism is based thereon. Upon the motion to dismiss, made in the district court, I assumed full responsibility, as I do now, for the action taken by the United States attorney's office. In support of the motion, I made the argument rest upon the fact that there was an unlawful conspiracy to induce, and not to prevent or punish, crime; that the thought underlying this conspiracy was based upon a conception that if Gentiles and strangers to the Mormon people were guilty of offenses against law and morals, that such fact would be evidence of unfairness in prosecution for violation of the laws of the United States against polygamy and unlawful cohabitation. Such a conclusion was, of course, a non sequitur. Conviction for crime upon the evidence of persons engaged in inviting and tempting people to commit crime has always been abhorrent to civilized peoples.

This is particularly interesting to me since one of my g-g-grandfathers was a lawman in SLC just prior to this case. I wish I could find documentation about his dealings -- or non-dealings -- with prostitution.

Subject: From "On This Day in Mormon History"
Date: Aug 21 22:07
Author: Baura

Jan 25, 1886 - Federal court begins hearings concerning effort of two men to bribe U.S. deputy marshal E. A,. Franks to give advance warning of efforts to arrest Mormon polygamists. Both men are sentenced to three years' imprisonment for attempted bribery, but are released in May 1888. Unknown to court, these men had worked with Brigham Y. Hampton in spying on anti-Mormons in the brothel. By 1888 Deputy Franks is on First Presidency’s payroll as bribed informer.

Jan 15,1897 – Apostle Brigham Young, Jr. temporarily resigns as vice-president of Brigham Young Trust Company because first counselor George Q. Cannon allows its property to become "a first class" brothel on Commercial Street (now Regent Street), Salt Lake City. Apostle Heber J. Grant is invited to its opening reception and is stunned to discover himself inside "a regular whore-house." This situation begins in 1891, and for fifty years church controlled real estate companies lease houses of prostitution.

June 14, 1900 - First Presidency and apostles agree to give $3,600 to Brigham Y. Hampton for his prior "detective work" in which he paid prostitute to allow him and nearly thirty LDS "Home Missionaries" and policemen to spy on anti-Mormons engaging in sex acts in Salt Lake City brothels in 1885. Although first counselor denies it at this meeting, in private meetings of First Presidency George Q. Cannon refers to Hampton's brothel work as "services rendered the Church" and "work in behalf of the Church." Hampton has been set apart as a Salt Lake temple worker since 1893, and another coordinator of brothel spying is the temple doorkeeper (1893-1910).

Mar 10,1941 - First Presidency orders Clayton Investment Company to get rid of its "whore-houses," no matter the financial loss, so that church affiliated company can merge with church owned Zion's Securities Corp. Ends fifty years of church's leases to brothels.

Subject: Thanks, Stray, this was very enlightening...
Date: Aug 21 22:24
Author: Susan D.

and I imagine there were more than a few present-day LDS church leaders and some civic leaders come from those illicit unions as well.

The more I learn about the Mormons the more ashamed I am that I ever was one.


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