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Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

9 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

WOW!!!! FABULOUS READING! FASCINATING! HIGHLY RECOMMEND!

I have been in a reading slump with not too much interest in books for the last few years, well after reading this I am a total reader again! After my ski trip to Utah this winter I was a bit fascinated with the culture there...so this book was immediately appealing. ...
I have been in a reading slump with not too much interest in books for the last few years, well after reading this I am a total reader again! After my ski trip to Utah this winter I was a bit fascinated with the culture there...so this book was immediately appealing. It reads like an in depth newspaper article or nat. geo. article, but 1000x cooler! The layers are intense and complicated, but the author does an excellent job going back and forth. I was easily able to remember names and relationships combined with the history. To the Mormons who freak out that this book portrays the Church in a bad light- I don't think it does. The Mormon histroy is a more recent history, more memorable because of that. Last time I checked the Catholic Church has just as violent and cultish history! But we forget because it was at least 200 years to 2000 years back. Religion evolves; the Mormons evolved waaay faster than the Catholics did! The uniqueness of this book is the position that Mormonism is a inherently American religion; the philosophies are so uniquely American, that concept is an amazing exploration into what it means to be an American. The stories of the Mormons and the old west are sooo flippin cool! To an agnostic who was raised with no Christian background or belief- All the biblical stuff, book of mormon, old new test., saints, prophets, etc. are all meaningless to my frame of reference. At the end of this book Mormonism was no less legitamate or illegitamate than any other form of religion. It's funny when people say false religion and false prophets, because to someone who knows nothing of real prophets or "faith"...it just plays about as a fascinating invention of man. There is a chap. that decribes the murders, and I couldnt read it; it was extremely sad and gruesome. If youre a history buff with a short attention span this book is awesome!

posted by calichickadee on March 18, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

4 out of 32 people found this review helpful.

Ignorance and bias limit this misleading 'history'

Mr. Krakauer, in this error ridden diatribe against religion, makes so many errors of fact and logic that serious questions are raised regarding his competence and sincerity. As Prof T. Givens noted, 'To blame Judaism for Son of Sam would be anti-Semitic. To blam...
Mr. Krakauer, in this error ridden diatribe against religion, makes so many errors of fact and logic that serious questions are raised regarding his competence and sincerity. As Prof T. Givens noted, 'To blame Judaism for Son of Sam would be anti-Semitic. To blame Mormonism for Dan Lafferty is no less an act of naked bigotry masquerading as journalistic investigation.' As Jane Lampman has noted in the The Christian Science Monitor, Krakauer's book 'delivers a skewed and misleading picture of a faith now practiced by 11 million people worldwide.' Perhaps Naomi Schaefer, in her review for the The Wall Street Journal put it best, when she wrote that Krakauer's book 'is all quite misleading.' Neurophysiologists may note that Mr. Krakauer's best excuse for producing this incompetently researched, deceptive and misleading book is that he spent so many weeks at high altitude with insufficient oxygen. One can only hope he beats a hasty retreat from subjects like history and religion -- subjects apparently far beyond his abilities. R. Chris Barden, Ph.D., J.D. Sun Valley, Idaho

posted by Anonymous on July 27, 2003

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  • Posted March 18, 2009

    WOW!!!! FABULOUS READING! FASCINATING! HIGHLY RECOMMEND!

    I have been in a reading slump with not too much interest in books for the last few years, well after reading this I am a total reader again! After my ski trip to Utah this winter I was a bit fascinated with the culture there...so this book was immediately appealing. It reads like an in depth newspaper article or nat. geo. article, but 1000x cooler! The layers are intense and complicated, but the author does an excellent job going back and forth. I was easily able to remember names and relationships combined with the history. To the Mormons who freak out that this book portrays the Church in a bad light- I don't think it does. The Mormon histroy is a more recent history, more memorable because of that. Last time I checked the Catholic Church has just as violent and cultish history! But we forget because it was at least 200 years to 2000 years back. Religion evolves; the Mormons evolved waaay faster than the Catholics did! The uniqueness of this book is the position that Mormonism is a inherently American religion; the philosophies are so uniquely American, that concept is an amazing exploration into what it means to be an American. The stories of the Mormons and the old west are sooo flippin cool! To an agnostic who was raised with no Christian background or belief- All the biblical stuff, book of mormon, old new test., saints, prophets, etc. are all meaningless to my frame of reference. At the end of this book Mormonism was no less legitamate or illegitamate than any other form of religion. It's funny when people say false religion and false prophets, because to someone who knows nothing of real prophets or "faith"...it just plays about as a fascinating invention of man. There is a chap. that decribes the murders, and I couldnt read it; it was extremely sad and gruesome. If youre a history buff with a short attention span this book is awesome!

    9 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 16, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    "Under The Banner Of Heaven"

    A thought provoking look into the world of the lives of those living within the extreme Mormon sects. The book includes interviews with those who have lived in these sects, some as victims and some who were convicted of crimes. The book goes back and forth from the founding of the Mormon Church and it's history and that of the fanatical sects that left the official church. A powerfully moving book with a wealth of information pertaining to the Mormon Church and of the leaders and lives of those living within the fringe sects. This book will astonish you on many levels. It will be disturbing at times. I feel this book was well written and extremely informative. A book to read if you are interested in a part of our society that most people might not even know of.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2008

    Well written OBJECTIVE book!

    As a native Utahn I am very familiar with the teachings of the LDS faith, have lived among Mormons'with little confrontation' most of my life, and do understand how members of the Mormon faith can easily take this book out of context and be offended by its theory. But one has to understand that the author clearly explains that the FLDS and the LDS are in fact very different, and he simply gives a general 'and well researched' history of how the FLDS church evolved from the mainline Mormon church, to supplement the story of the Lafferty Murders. If one'particularly LDS members' dive into this book with an agenda already in mind, I guarantee you will not like it one bit. But if one is purely interested in history and fact with an OBJECTIVE point of view, this will be an exceptional read.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 27, 2009

    Typical Krakauer - Well researched and spellbinding

    Great book. I have read every Krakauer book to date and am a real fan. I am still not sure why he. an admitted agnostic, wrote a book critical of the Mormom faith rather than his normal on-the-edge adventures. Even though, the book is atypical for Krakauer, it was a great read interweaving the history of the Morman religion with the recent fundamentalist break-off sects. Krakauer's research is impeccable and he presents his information in a very interesting, easily understood and enjoyable fashion. We read the book for our Book Club and had a great discussion of all of the issues. I look forward to reading Krakauer's next book with ledgendary Pat Tillman as the primary subject.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2008

    Latter Day Saints

    Under the Banner of Heaven is a great read and well written. It clears up many conceptions about Latter Day Saints and the ruefulness of the fundamentalist. The writer tells us how the religion got started, by whom, and why. What I enjoyed was learning the history of the LDS without being bogged down with technical-speak and statistics. It¿s written like a fiction novel and is fast paced with twists and turns and mystery. I highly recommend Under the Banner of Heaven not only for the ability of its author to write about a challenging subject but for the ability of keeping me glued to his words page after page after page. Don¿t start this book unless you have time to devote to it because if you enjoy it as much as I did you won¿t want to put it down until you read the words `The End.¿

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2011

    What a great book. Highly recommended.

    This is perhaps one of the best books that I have read in the last few years. Truly informative, appears to have been well researched, and captivating. Dare I say, 'a page turner.'

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2005

    An honest look at Mormonism

    While I enjoyed many of Krakauer's other books, UTBOH was the most researched and well-documented of them all. Wake up Mormons, this is not a battle royal against your religion, rather a look into the beginnings of a religion that has begun to shape an entire region of America. How can you even say that Krakauer is biased against Mormoms? Not once did he come out and say that all Mormons were evil or try to distort facts. Also the conclusion makes one realize that Krakauer realizes he does not have all the answers the the Mormon religion or any other religion. He ends by saying that he does not yet know what he thinks. This book is written by a man who wanted to explore his own beliefs and the beliefs of everyone around when he was growing up in Corvellais, Oregon. Obviously there is some skepticism in the book, and how can there not be from a man who is not sure of what he believes? Also how can there not be when you look at the Mormon faith, a faith that believes God had sex with Mary, a faith that believes we can become God, a faith that originated with a man who coerced a 14 year old to have sex with him, a faith that is run by leaders who receive revelations directly from God. Read you Bibles please Mormons and realize that God says he is unchangeable from beginning to end (Hebrews 13:8). Realize Mormons that it is difficult for a nonbeliever to swallow all these things and not look on with some disbelief. Jon just lays out the incongruencies he saw all around as a child and reports them. He is not the anti-Christ, trying to rip apart your faith. Give such a confused spirit some room to write.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2008

    A reviewer

    Jon Krakauer's most recent offering may be his most ambitious yet. Krakauer examines the grizzly murders committed by Ron and Dan Lafferty, supposedly as the result of a divine revelation. The Lafferty brothers were both members of a splinter sect that broke away from the mainstream Mormon religion, taking a fundamentalist view that the Mormon Church went astray when they relented to pressure from the federal government and abandoned the practice of polygamy. Krakauer bites off a pretty large bit trying to make sense of the bloody history of the Mormon Church (although probably no more bloody than the history of most religions), the nature of fundamentalism, and the fine line separating religious inspiration from insanity. The book is a fascinating read, and to Krakauer's credit he offers more questions than answers. The book does stray at times into areas that seemed to particularly interest Krakauer yet don't serve the narrative, and perhaps he should have presented more of the Mormon point of view (although there is a lengthy appendix in which Krakauer answers criticisms leveled by Mormon officials and scholars), but overall is an interesting examination of the complicated topic of murder in the name of God.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 3, 2011

    Interesting read

    This is a great book. A very interesting story and well written. I couldn't put it down.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2003

    Ignorance and bias limit this misleading 'history'

    Mr. Krakauer, in this error ridden diatribe against religion, makes so many errors of fact and logic that serious questions are raised regarding his competence and sincerity. As Prof T. Givens noted, 'To blame Judaism for Son of Sam would be anti-Semitic. To blame Mormonism for Dan Lafferty is no less an act of naked bigotry masquerading as journalistic investigation.' As Jane Lampman has noted in the The Christian Science Monitor, Krakauer's book 'delivers a skewed and misleading picture of a faith now practiced by 11 million people worldwide.' Perhaps Naomi Schaefer, in her review for the The Wall Street Journal put it best, when she wrote that Krakauer's book 'is all quite misleading.' Neurophysiologists may note that Mr. Krakauer's best excuse for producing this incompetently researched, deceptive and misleading book is that he spent so many weeks at high altitude with insufficient oxygen. One can only hope he beats a hasty retreat from subjects like history and religion -- subjects apparently far beyond his abilities. R. Chris Barden, Ph.D., J.D. Sun Valley, Idaho

    4 out of 32 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2007

    Under the Banner of Heaven Underperforms

    The jacket of Under the Banner of Heaven describes Jon Krakauer's book about Mormon Fundamentalism as, 'vintage Krakauer, an utterly compelling work of nonfiction.' And I agree that it's vintage Krakauer, which is why can't rave about it. Krakauer has never delivered the gripping story I expect from him, despite the fascinating topics he chooses. Under the Banner of Heaven is a fluid, well-researched narrative that isn't captivating. The polygamous family tree of Mormon Fundamentalism is as confusing as the first 100 pages of a science fiction novel. I couldn't keep straight who was who or how they were connected, and I felt dragged through a history book in a jump-around 'let me show you this, then let me show you this' fashion. I didn't enjoy the book because I'm not sure what it was supposed to be. Krakauer confessed that the book as it turned out wasn't the book he set out to write (pg. 334). He intended 'to explore the inner trials of spiritual thinkers,' to analyze how intelligent people reconcile the contradictions between scientific and historical truth with faith in God. That book was to be called History and Belief, which is a rather academic title, and suggests why Under the Banner of Heaven read as stiff as a tradition-bound history department, belying the book's evocative title. I applaud Krakauer's talent and his honesty. In his remarks, he admits, 'I don't know what God is . . . In fact, I don't know if God even exists, although I confess that I sometimes find myself praying in times of great fear, or despair, or astonishment at a display of unexpected beauty . . . And if I remain in the dark about our purpose here, and the meaning of eternity, I have nevertheless arrived at an understanding of a few more modest truths: Most of us fear death. Most of us yearn to comprehend how we got here, and why - which is to say, most of us ache to know the love of our creator. And we will no doubt feel that ache, most of us, for as long as we happen to be alive.' I connect with the ache he mentions and with the questions that underpin his books, which is why I expect I'll read more of his books despite my disappointment with Under the Banner of Heaven.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2006

    Thought-provoking

    I've lived in a densly LDS population near all my life. My friends and neighbors are all LDS and I am dating a mormon boy. I've taken discussions, I've been to a ton of sacrement meetings and two EFYs. My bus drives by the temple each day! Needless to say, I am interested (and quite knowlegable) about the Mainstream LDS chuch and I'm curious about the FLDS) One morning in the library at school, this book just fell off the shelf and onto my head. Upon reading the subject, I was quite interested, so I checked it out and began to read. This is a captivating book and I reccomend it to everyone. The man isn't bashing the mormon church, he's revealing its roots. This book mainly focuses on the FLDS and it's practices, not the LDS. If you're not a member and you're interested in the church, then make Under the Banner of Heaven one of your sources of research. Krakauer spent a good 3 years of his life in the church and lives in Utah, he knows his stuff.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2013

    Eh, Not Bad, But. . .

    I had to read this book for school, and as of right now I'm about halfway through. Because it was assigned reading, there were times I nodded off reading or got distracted, but it wasn't the book's fault; I'm easily distracted xD it has taken me longer to read this book than others, perhaps due to annotations or grasping the concept, but it's still a decent read.

    Going through some other not-so-fabulous reviews here has driven me to address some things. . . First off, reading this book (which does go into great--and sometimes overbearing--detail in the formation and later history of Mormonism) is very educational. Take it from someone who has a good friend who is Mormon. He also read this book with us, and found it accurate and, if not helpful, enlightening.
    Second of all, reading a biased history of something will only increase your chances of not getting the whole truth. In my opinion, the "finding" of the tablets and their convenient disappearance seem ridiculous, but then again, all religions have major holes in their beliefs.
    My point is, this is a book about a murder, and to understand the reasons they murdered the mother and daughter, one must understand from where their reasons came.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 11, 2013

    Under the Banner of Heaven By Jon Krakauer

    4 Stars<

    Under the Banner of Heaven By Jon Krakauer<br />
    <br />
    4 Stars<br />
    <br />
    Let me preface this by saying that this is a difficult review for me. At first I said I wasn't going to review it at all. It's just such intense subject matter. But, if ever I wanted my reviews to have any worth, then there will be tough matter to tackle. That is why I read to be challenged and to have my thoughts, belief and very essense shaken and changed.<br />
    <br />
    This is my third novel by Krakauer and I have devoured them all. Into the Wild was sad, inspiring, intense and made me question myself. Into Thin Air, while not a subject I knew anything about made me appreciate it so much throughout.<br />
    <br />
    Under the Banner of Heaven was no different. I love history, particularly religious history. The Mormon faith was one that I hate to admit I knew next to nothing about. True to form Krakauer intensely researched the subject and passed that knowledge on to me, the reader. <br />
    <br />
    Do I believe this was a absolute as to the foundation of the faith and it's people. No, it's one perspective and I'd have to read much more to have enough knowledge to form an opinion. Which is what I have done with any other aspect of history and religion. I have read numerous accounts of European history and the Catholic faith, one that I do not prescribe to either. Depending on the book the events can vastly change for the same historical occurence.<br />
    <br />
    I have always prided myself on the power of knowledge and open-mindedness. This book challenged that and made me step back and assess myself while reading about practices that are not something I can understand or see how others can live by. But why do I feel that way? Is it any different then events I have read about before. Catholics killing Protestants, witches being burned and the overall power of religious belief and oftentimes fanatacism? Is the story of Jesus on the cross any less vial? No, they're not. The only difference is that these events occurred many hundreds of years ago whereas the Morman faith is relatively new in that respect. My mind can more easily disconnect with something so far in the past.<br />
    <br />
    In the end, I appreciate the Morman faith whether the LDS or funamentalists. I appreciate this book and what it has taught me about religion and humankind. I have a lot more to learn and will continue that. I appreciate Krakauer's devotion to human life and bringing such intensity to us. <br />
    <br />
    I also found it commendable that in the back of my addition he added as an appendix the response to the book from the LDS church. He conceded to falsehoods that were found within and responded in kind to other's he could not agree with. Right or wrong I appreciated that he was willing to do that as an author.<br />

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 4, 2013

    Under the Banner of Heaven begins with a gripping account of a m

    Under the Banner of Heaven begins with a gripping account of a modern-day murder by a group of zealots and expands into the tumultuous past of the Mormon Church. Krakauer’s reporting is as keen as his crisp writing and the book presents a fair analysis of Joseph Smith and the church that spawned from his teachings. He details everything from the birth of the religion, to its persecution and its misdeeds, all the way to its modern incarnation. Many of these facts may be difficult for the church’s members to digest, but Krakauer is neither malicious nor manipulative in his reporting. There are no cheap shots, only a complex story that mirrors the multifaceted history of this new American religion. And what a fascinating tale it is, from its charismatic founder to the sober and dogmatic leaders that came later. A must-read for anyone interested in Mormon history and American fundamentalism.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2012

    Book Review: Under the Banner of Heaven Under the Banner of Hea

    Book Review: Under the Banner of Heaven

    Under the Banner of Heaven by John Krakauer is a fast-paced book that details the murder of a young woman and child by two fundamentalist Mormons, Dan and Ron Lafferty and how their faith affected their actions then and thereafter. The book also details the history of the church, breezing through the childhood of the founder and anachronisms within the books.

    Krakauer manages to place together neat tidbits of information, a reader-friendly syntax and personal stories to really create a fast-growing picture about the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints, a.k.a. the FLDS. The portrayal of the FLDS as a group of bloodthirsty, callous killers (specifically in parts of the book with Native Americans involved) also gives a very visceral feel to the book. Although a more nonbiased observer might disagree, I found the portrayal quite cathartic.

    However, there are major organization problems inherent in the book. One of the most frustrating parts of the book was that it jumps back and forth between the murder in modern times and the history of the church. The murder detailed briefly in the prologue, then focuses on it in Part 2 through to Part 3, where the narrative is brought to a sudden halt and teleported over from the scene of the murder to the death of the founder of the church, Joseph Smith. This ruined a large part of the book for me because I simply could not track where the author would go next - great in a detective thriller; not so much in an informative book on such a controversial topic. On another topic, the usage of the term &lsquo;Indians&rsquo; to describe the Shivwit Native American group does the book no favors, even if it is a historically accurate portrayal of terms used at the time.

    Overall, however, the book was interesting to say the least and I enjoyed it despite its shortcomings. As with any book of its quality, I was pleased to chance upon it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 3, 2012

    fair-maybe borrow it from someone or "share" it from your Nook

    The information is interesting but he tends to wander around a lot in my opinion. It is a lot of information with LOTS of players so it is difficult to keep up with who is who and how they are all related. But-I did learn a lot about the Mormon religion.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2007

    Excellent journalistic effort

    I recently moved to Ogden, Utah and am seeking a better understanding of a culture driven by the LDS church. While this book recounts the events of a brutal double murder in southern Utah, at its heart is a story of the development of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints 'LDS'. Krakauer carefully distinguishes the FLDS 'Fundamentalist' from the mainstream church. At the same time, FLDS does emerge from an LDS tradition and history. Krakauer carefully explores the history of the church from Joseph Smith, through Brigham Young, to contemporary 'prophets' to explain how FLDS grew out of a dimension of the early church, now spurned by contemporary LDS members. At times I found myself agitated by some of the tendencies of the Mormon tradition. I have always been uncomfortable with what I perceive to be an irresponsible attitude favoring prolific reproduction. I am uncomfortable with the secrecy and lack of transparency with the church. I am uncomfortable with the clear patriarchal dimensions of their practices. Still, I respect many things I find here in Utah - among the people, their treatment of others outside the church, and what can be an incredibly generous attitude toward others. Krakauer's book has helped add dimension to my understanding of and even sympathy for what is a tumultuous history.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2005

    Great book

    Although all religions are faith based and there is little actual 'proof' to support any of them, Mormonism is the worst culprit. The 1830's wasn't that long ago and it shouldn't have been too hard to keep the golden plates from Moroni from getting lost if they did in fact exist. If all mormons believe american indians are descedents of the jews and that upstate New York is the holy land, then there are a lot of naive and gullible people in this world. Doesn't mean I think they're bad people,and are crazy murderers like the Lafferty's, just dumb. If the book was wrong about these assertions about the mormon faith, then I digress. All the mormons who criticize the book says he distorts the facts about mormonism. Fine, tell us which ones.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2004

    An excellent, objective view of a complex issue

    Four and a half years ago, my family and I converted to the LDS faith in search of spiritual enrichment and fellowship. We did this through my friendship with a neighbor; our sons were also friends. All my life I had the (mis)perception that Mormons were 'weirdos,' some kind of strange sect founded by a 'kook' named Joseph Smith. After investigating the religion and participating in it for about 3 years, we left the church after discovering many of the inconsistencies related in Krakauer's book. I have been to Salt Lake City and its temple, Provo, other Mormon temples and have witnessed their ceremonies. It would be impossible to write about the horrible and sad murders of the young wife and child of Allen Lafferty without delving into the history of the LDS Church and the offshoots created by so-called fundamentalists. In my view, Krakauer has done an excellent job of doing this in a concise, yet complete manner that tells the story leaving no stone unturned. Of course, the mainstream LDS folks are going to be upset with this book because they want only the 'company line' to be heard. This has been my personal experience. There is a fair amount of brainwashing that is done by the leadership in the church. When you have a problem or an issue, you are directed to speak to your bishop (of the ward). Basically, your answer is commonly something along the lines of 'let's pray about this,' and 'this is Heavenly Father's will for you.' Obedience for women in all matters is fairly heavily endorsed, which is one reason why I had a problem with it. I'm going off the track now, but these comments are only meant to illustrate that, coming from someone who was in the church and then got out, I highly recommend Under the Banner of Heaven for anyone who would like to read good true crime non-fiction combined with an accurate, well-researched history about a little-known or misconceived church.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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