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

This extraordinary work of investigative journalism takes readers inside America’s isolated Mormon Fundamentalist communities, where some 40,000 people still practice polygamy. Defying both civil authorities and the Mormon establishment in Salt Lake City, the renegade leaders of these Taliban-like theocracies are zealots who answer only to God.

At the core of Krakauer’s book are brothers Ron and Dan Lafferty, who insist they received a commandment from God to kill a blameless woman and her baby girl. Beginning with a meticulously researched account of this appalling double murder, Krakauer constructs a multi-layered, bone-chilling narrative of messianic delusion, polygamy, savage violence, 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400032808
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/08/2004
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 59,524
Product dimensions: 5.12(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.90(d)
Lexile: 1350L (what's this?)

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.

Read an Excerpt




For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.

Deuteronomy 14:2


And it shall come to pass that I, the Lord God, will send one mighty and strong, holding the scepter of power in his hand, clothed with light for a covering, whose mouth shall utter words, eternal words; while his bowels shall be a fountain of truth, to set in order the house of God.

The Doctrine and Covenants, Section 85

revealed to Joseph Smith on November 27, 1832




Balanced atop the highest spire of the Salt Lake Temple, gleaming in the Utah sun, a statue of the angel Moroni stands watch over downtown Salt Lake City with his golden trumpet raised. This massive granite edifice is the spiritual and temporal nexus of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), which presents itself as the world’s only true religion. Temple Square is to Mormons what the Vatican is to Catholics, or the Kaaba in Mecca is to Muslims. At last count there were more than eleven million Saints the world over, and Mormonism is the fastest-growing faith in the Western Hemisphere. At present in the United States there are more Mormons than Presbyterians or Episcopalians. On the planet as a whole, there are now more Mormons than Jews. Mormonism is considered in some sober academic circles to be well on its way to becoming a major world religion—the first such faith to emerge since Islam.

Next door to the temple, the 325 voices of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir swell to fill the tabernacle’s vast interior with the robust, haunting chords of “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” the ensemble’s trademark song: “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord . . .”

To much of the world, this choir and its impeccably rendered harmonies are emblematic of the Mormons as a people: chaste, optimistic, outgoing, dutiful. When Dan Lafferty quotes Mormon scripture to justify murder, the juxtaposition is so incongruous as to seem surreal.

The affairs of Mormondom are directed by a cadre of elderly white males in dark suits who carry out their holy duties from a twenty-six-story office tower beside Temple Square.* To a man, the LDS leadership adamantly insists that Lafferty should under no circumstances be considered a Mormon. The faith that moved Lafferty to slay his niece and sister-in-law is a brand of religion known as Mormon Fundamentalism; LDS Church authorities bristle visibly when Mormons and Mormon Fundamentalists are even mentioned in the same breath. As Gordon B. Hinckley, the then-eighty-eight-year-old LDS president and prophet, emphasized during a 1998 television interview on Larry King Live, “They have no connection with us whatever. They don’t belong to the church. There are actually no Mormon Fundamentalists.”

Nevertheless, Mormons and those who call themselves Mormon Fundamentalists (or FLDS) believe in the same holy texts and the same sacred history. Both believe that Joseph Smith, who founded Mormonism in 1830, played a vital role in God’s plan for mankind; both LDS and FLDS consider him to be a prophet comparable in stature to Moses and Isaiah. Mormons and Mormon Fundamentalists are each convinced that God regards them, and them alone, as his favored children: “a peculiar treasure unto me above all people.” But if both proudly refer to themselves as the Lord’s chosen, they diverge on one especially inflammatory point of religious doctrine: unlike their present-day Mormon compatriots, Mormon Fundamentalists passionately believe that Saints have a divine obligation to take multiple wives. Followers of the FLDS faith engage in polygamy, they explain, as a matter of religious duty.

There are more than thirty thousand FLDS polygamists living in Canada, Mexico, and throughout the American West. Some experts estimate there may be as many as one hundred thousand. Even this larger number amounts to less than 1 percent of the membership in the LDS Church worldwide, but all the same, leaders of the mainstream church are extremely discomfited by these legions of polygamous brethren. Mormon authorities treat the fundamentalists as they would a crazy uncle—they try to keep the “polygs” hidden in the attic, safely out of sight, but the fundamentalists always seem to be sneaking out to appear in public at inopportune moments to create unsavory scenes, embarrassing the entire LDS clan.

The LDS Church happens to be exceedingly prickly about its short, uncommonly rich history—and no aspect of that history makes the church more defensive than “plural marriage.” The LDS leadership has worked very hard to persuade both the modern church membership and the American public that polygamy was a quaint, long-abandoned idiosyncrasy practiced by a mere handful of nineteenth-century Mormons. The religious literature handed out by the earnest young missionaries in Temple Square makes no mention of the fact that Joseph Smith—still the religion’s focal personage—married at least thirty-three women, and probably as many as forty-eight. Nor does it mention that the youngest of these wives was just fourteen years old when Joseph explained to her that God had commanded that she marry him or face eternal damnation.

Polygamy was, in fact, one of the most sacred credos of Joseph’s church—a tenet important enough to be canonized for the ages as Section 132 of The Doctrine and Covenants, one of Mormonism’s primary scriptural texts.* The revered prophet described plural marriage as part of “the most holy and important doctrine ever revealed to man on earth” and taught that a man needed at least three wives to attain the “fullness of exaltation” in the afterlife. He warned that God had explicitly commanded that “all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same . . . and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.”

Joseph was murdered in Illinois by a mob of Mormon haters in 1844. Brigham Young assumed leadership of the church and led the Saints to the barren wilds of the Great Basin, where in short order they established a remarkable empire and unabashedly embraced the covenant of “spiritual wifery.” This both titillated and shocked the sensibilities of Victorian-era Americans, who tended to regard polygamy as a brutish practice on a par with slavery.† In 1856, recognizing the strength of the anti-polygamy vote, Republican candidate John C. Frémont ran for president on a platform that pledged to “prohibit in the territories those twin relics of barbarism—Polygamy and Slavery.” Frémont lost the election, but a year later the man who did win, President James Buchanan, sent the U.S. Army to invade Utah, dismantle Brigham Young’s theocracy, and eradicate polygamy.

The so-called Utah War, however, neither removed Brigham from power nor ended the doctrine of plural marriage, to the annoyance and bafflement of a whole series of American presidents. An escalating sequence of judicial and legislative challenges to polygamy ensued, culminating in the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887, which disincorporated the LDS Church and forfeited to the federal government all church property worth more than $50,000. With their feet held fast to the fire, the Saints ultimately had no choice but to renounce polygamy. But even as LDS leaders publicly claimed, in 1890, to have relinquished the practice, they quietly dispatched bands of Mormons to establish polygamous colonies in Mexico and Canada, and some of the highest-ranking LDS authorities secretly continued to take multiple wives and perform plural marriages well into the twentieth century.

Although LDS leaders were initially loath to abandon plural marriage, eventually they adopted a more pragmatic approach to American politics, emphatically rejected the practice, and actually began urging government agencies to prosecute polygamists. It was this single change in ecclesiastical policy, more than anything else, that transformed the LDS Church into its astonishingly successful present-day iteration. Having jettisoned polygamy, Mormons gradually ceased to be regarded as a crackpot sect. The LDS Church acquired the trappings of a conventional faith so successfully that it is now widely considered to be the quintessential American religion.

Mormon Fundamentalists, however, believe that acceptance into the American mainstream came at way too high a price. They contend that the Mormon leaders made an unforgivable compromise by capitulating to the U.S. government on polygamy over a century ago. They insist that the church sold them out—that the LDS leadership abandoned one of the religion’s most crucial theological tenets for the sake of political expediency. These present-day polygamists therefore consider themselves to be the keepers of the flame—the only true and righteous Mormons. In forsaking Section 132—the sacred principle of plural marriage—the LDS Church has gone badly astray, they warn. Fundamentalist prophets bellow from their pulpits that the modern church has become “the wickedest whore of all the earth.”

Mormon Fundamentalists probably cite Section 132 of The Doctrine and Covenants more than any other piece of LDS scripture. Their second-most-popular citation is likely Section 85, in which it was revealed to Joseph that “I, the Lord God, will send one mighty and strong . . . to set in order the house of God.” Many fundamentalists are convinced that the one mighty and strong is already here on earth among them, “holding the scepter of power in his hand,” and that very soon now he will lead the Mormon Church back onto the right path and restore Joseph’s “most holy and important doctrine.”

Reading Group Guide


“Fantastic. . . . Right up there with In Cold Blood and The Executioner’s Song.” —San Francisco Chronicle

The introduction, discussion questions, suggestions for further reading, and author biography that follow are designed to enhance your group’s discussion of Jon Krakauer’s deeply unsettling new book, Under the Banner of Heaven.

1. In his prologue, Jon Krakauer writes that the aim of his book is to “cast some light on Lafferty and his ilk,” which he concedes is a daunting but useful task for what it may tell us “about the roots of brutality, perhaps, but even more for what might be learned about the nature of faith” [p. XXIII]. What does the book reveal about fanatics such as Ron and Dan Lafferty? What does it reveal about brutality and faith and the connections between them?

2. Why does Krakauer move back and forth between Mormon history and contemporary events? What are the connections between the beliefs and practices of Joseph Smith and his followers in the nineteenth century and the behavior of people like Dan and Ron Lafferty, Brian David Mitchell, and others in the twentieth?

3. Prosecutor David Leavitt argued that “People in the state of Utah simply do not understand, and have not understood for fifty years, the devastating effect that the practice of polygamy has on young girls in our society” [p. 24]. How does polygamy affect young girls? Is it, as Leavitt claims, pedophilia plain and simple?

4. Joseph Smith claimed that the doctrine of polygamy was divinely inspired. What earthly reasons might also explain Smith’s attraction to having plural wives?

5. When Krakauer asks Dan Lafferty if he has considered the parallels between himself and Osama bin Laden, Dan asserts that bin Laden is a “child of the Devil” and that the hijackers were “following a false prophet,” whereas he is following a true prophet [p. 321]. No doubt, bin Laden would say much the same of Lafferty. How are Dan Lafferty and Osama bin Laden alike? In what ways are all religious fundamentalists alike?

6. Krakauer asks: “if Ron Lafferty were deemed mentally ill because he obeyed the voice of God, isn’t everyone who believes in God and seeks guidance through prayer mentally ill as well?” [p. 297] Given the nature of, and motive for, the murders of Brenda Lafferty and her child, should Ron Lafferty be considered mentally ill? If so, should all others who “talk to God” or receive revelations—a central tenant of Mormonism—also be considered mentally ill? What would the legal ramifications be of such a shift in thought?

7. Krakauer begins part III with a quote from Bertrand Russell, who asserts that “every single bit of progress in humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step toward the diminution of war, every step toward better treatment of the colored races, or every mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organized churches of the world” [p. 191]. Is this a fair and accurate statement? What historical examples support it? What improvements in humane feeling and social justice has the Mormon church opposed?

8. How are mainstream and fundamentalist Mormons likely to react to Krakauer’s book?

9. Much of Under the Banner of Heaven explores the tensions between freedom of religion and governmental authority. How should these tensions be resolved? How can the state allow religious freedom to those who place obedience to God’s will above obedience to secular laws?

10. Joseph Smith called himself “a second Mohammed,” and Krakauer quotes George Arbaugh who suggests that Mormonism’s “aggressive theocratic claims, political aspirations, and use of force, make it akin to Islam” [p. 102]. What other similarities exist between the Mormon and Islamic faiths?

11. How should Joseph Smith be understood: as a delusional narcissist, a con man, or “an authentic religious genius” [p. 55], as Harold Bloom claims?

12. Krakauer suggests that much of John Wesley Powell’s book, The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons, particularly his account of his dealings with the Shivwit Indians, should be regarded with a “healthy dose of skepticism,” and that it embellishes and omits important facts [p. 245]. Is Krakauer himself a trustworthy guide to the events he describes in Under the Banner of Heaven? Are his writing and his judgments fair and reasonable? What makes them so?

13. What patterns emerge from looking at Mormon history? What do events like the Mountain Meadow massacre and the violence between Mormons and gentiles in Missouri and Illinois suggest about the nature of Mormonism? Have Mormons been more often the perpetrators or the victims of violence?

14. At the very end of the book, former Mormon fundamentalist DeLoy Bateman says that while the Mormon fundamentalists who live within Colorado City may be happier than those who live outside it, he believes that “some things in life are more important than being happy. Like being free to think for yourself” [p. 334]. Why does Krakauer end the book this way? In what ways are Mormons not free to think for themselves? Is such freedom more important than happiness?



“Fantastic. . . . Right up there with In Cold Blood and The Executioner’s Song.” —San Francisco Chronicle

The introduction, discussion questions, suggestions for further reading, and author biography that follow are designed to enhance your group’s discussion of Jon Krakauer’s deeply unsettling new book, Under the Banner of Heaven.

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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.