Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith

by Jon Krakauer
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Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer

Jon Krakauer’s literary reputation rests on insightful chronicles of lives conducted at the outer limits. In Under the Banner of Heaven, he shifts his focus from extremes of physical adventure to extremes of religious belief within our own borders. At the core of his book is an appalling double murder committed by two Mormon Fundamentalist brothers, Ron and Dan Lafferty, who insist they received a revelation from God commanding them to kill their blameless victims. Beginning with a meticulously researched account of this “divinely inspired” crime, Krakauer constructs a multilayered, bone-chilling narrative of messianic delusion, savage violence, polygamy, and unyielding faith. Along the way, he uncovers a shadowy offshoot of America’s fastest-growing religion, and raises provocative questions about the nature of religious belief.
Krakauer takes readers inside isolated communities in the American West, Canada, and Mexico, where some forty-thousand Mormon Fundamentalists believe the mainstream Mormon Church went unforgivably astray when it renounced polygamy. Defying both civil authorities and the Mormon establishment in Salt Lake City, the leaders of these outlaw sects are zealots who answer only to God. Marrying prodigiously and with virtual impunity (the leader of the largest fundamentalist church took seventy-five “plural wives,” several of whom were wed to him when they were fourteen or fifteen and he was in his eighties), fundamentalist prophets exercise absolute control over the lives of their followers, and preach that any day now the world will be swept clean in a hurricane of fire, sparing only their most obedient adherents.
Weaving the story of the Lafferty brothers and their fanatical brethren with a clear-eyed look at Mormonism’s violent past, Krakauer examines the underbelly of the most successful homegrown faith in the United States, and finds a distinctly American brand of religious extremism. The result is vintage Krakauer, an utterly compelling work of nonfiction that illuminates an otherwise confounding realm of human behavior.
From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780739306567
Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/15/2003
Edition description: Abridged, 5 CDs, 6 hrs.
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 4.98(h) x 1.01(d)

About the Author

Jon Krakauer is the author of Eiger Dreams, Into the Wild, and Into Thin Air and is editor of the Modern Library Exploration series.

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Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 399 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
PatsyAnn More than 1 year ago
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.
CoppellBookLady More than 1 year ago
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.
calichickadee More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.¿
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.'
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Amy Russell More than 1 year ago
This is a great book. A very interesting story and well written. I couldn't put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
mgoodrich718 More than 1 year ago
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 />
drakevaughn More than 1 year ago
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&rsquo;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&rsquo;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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
kat5900 More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jon K has written 3 excellent bestsellers... I find the defensiveness of the Mormon reviewers on this site surprising considering JK's tone is so professionally detached...He openly praises his Mormon friends at the end of the book...the end of a great book, I might add
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jon Krakauer has written another outstanding book! I find it strange that any person would refer to this book as untrue and fictional when it is based on public documented history, Mormon teachings taken directly from The Book of Mormon, The Doctrines and Covenants and other popular mormon handbooks. I recommend this read to everyone...including all of the Mormons. History does not lie. Open your eyes!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was absolutely incredible. Unfortunately, those who do not want to see the truth, often ignore it. Krakauer does collect data from all sides and viewpoints of his research; his book was written totally unbiased with amazing skill and captivity. This book is both haunting and yet irresistable. A great work of non-fiction, Krakauer delivers a truthful, self-imploring and accurate account of something rarely ever questioned: your faith.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Krakauer is an excellent writer and is able to make any subject readable and interesting. He is good at exploring the human spirit, pondering what motivates people to do things like climb to the top of the earth, spend time alone in the wilderness. This book is not about sports, it is about the extremes of human behavior with religion as the subject. The book tells about the Mormon faith, how it started, changes that have come about and how groups that have split off have differed. Krakauer concentrates on fundamentalist groups, and this book is really about abuses of religious beliefs, a timely topic. What causes people to take on these extremist views and to believe that God wants them to harm other people? That is the question I found myself asking as I read the book. And Krakauer answers remarkably well for a layperson, neither a theologian nor psychologist. He includes many excerpts from related materials (listed in the Bibliography,) and some of that material is as interesting as the story he relates about the Latter-day Saints. A very readable book written from the viewpoint of a cruious person, it is immensely informative and interesting.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The best book about the Morman religion being looked at from the outside looking in. My wife is an EX-Morman and says the book is very accurate at the portrayal of the Morman. Its not everyday that you can take a look into cult and come out releavied that you are not a Morman.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Truth be told, aside from the details of the Lafferty crimes (which are described with chilling detail), a lot of the information in Krakauer's new book was familiar to me (I had previously read Will Bagley's 'Blood of the Prophets,' another excellent text concerning the violent and extremist early days of the LDS faith). But, having said that, Krakauer's narrative flow, as usual, makes this a very compelling read. Further, the manner in which he clarifies the inherent dangers of some of Joseph Smith's pillar doctrines, by relating them to modern Mormon-fundamentalist practices (and the Lafferty's crimes) is truly frightening and thought provoking. This text should be required reading for any truly open-minded LDS church member. Krakauer almost completely avoids the usual inflammatory rhetoric of these skeptical examinations of religion, and the resulting portrait is even-handed, yet harrowing.
CinCT More than 1 year ago
I live in Utah part of the year. Many of the places referred to by Krakauer are in my backyard. This is a compelling book about the FLDS, the history of the Mormon Church and the dark side of the religion. Krakauer did it again!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was good on several levels. It gives a nice historical overview of the Mormon church while being for the most part fair to them. It delves into the disturbing areas of Mormon fundamentalism which most people don't even realize exist as well. I do have to warn the reader that the murders which the author uses to tie this book together with are incredibly disturbing.