Under the Banner of Heaven
A multilayered, bone-chilling narrative of messianic delusion, savage violence, polygamy, and unyielding faith. This is vintage Krakauer, an utterly compelling work of nonfiction that illuminates an otherwise confounding realm of human behavior.Jon Krakauer’s literary reputation rests on insightful chronicles of lives conducted at the outer limits. In Under The Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, 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.

Under the Banner of Heaven Details

TitleUnder the Banner of Heaven
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJul 16th, 2018
PublisherPan MacMillan
ISBN-139780330419123
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Religion, History, Crime, True Crime, Mystery

Under the Banner of Heaven Review

  • Len
    January 1, 1970
    I don't know where to start with this book -- I couldn't put it down. It was enthralling. A quick note about Krakauer: this was the first book I've read by him and I was duly impressed with his story telling ability and his writing style. I will definitely add his other books to my reading list.Now for the book -- holy shit! Like most people I didn't know much about Mormons beyond the basics. And let it be known right off the bat that I am a devout atheist who thinks all religions are a load of I don't know where to start with this book -- I couldn't put it down. It was enthralling. A quick note about Krakauer: this was the first book I've read by him and I was duly impressed with his story telling ability and his writing style. I will definitely add his other books to my reading list.Now for the book -- holy shit! Like most people I didn't know much about Mormons beyond the basics. And let it be known right off the bat that I am a devout atheist who thinks all religions are a load of bull. I can certainly understand after reading this book why the church thinks this book was a hatchet job on the religion. All that said, the LDS church is some scary shit. Certainly Krakauer doesn't mean to say that all Mormons are dangerous, pedophiles, rapists and killers -- just the fundamentalist ones (and history proves this point). When he asks one of the main subjects of the book, a man who is serving a life sentence for the brutal slayings of a woman and her 18-month old child, about comparisons to other fundamentalist groups and Osama bin Laden in particular -- the man claims the difference is that he is right. How's that for arrogance?Again, I think all religions are crap, but Mormonism was basically a nutty story pulled out of Joseph Smith's ass less than 200 year's ago. Krakauer does a great job of weaving the story of the beginnings of the LDS church with modern day stories of fundamentalism. It's easy to see why there are fundamentalist LDS sects today when you follow the history of the religion. I think what makes it so scary for me is the devotion to Smith and his ridiculous story told in the Book of Mormon that flies in the face of fact and common sense. Though the Mormon story is not much stranger than other major religious stories, it certainly is a stretch even by the standards of faith.But the book is not really about the mainstream LDS church and I certainly don't mean to ridicule these people (at least not any more than other religious people who deny history and scientific fact) -- the book really shows us about what happens when people follow a religion to its "logical" conclusion in an extreme sense. The fundamentalists differ from the mainstream in that they are so devout they take every word as truth and that means damn everyone else in the world -- literally. What makes the LDS fundamentalists so interesting to me is their devotion to one particular tenent of the religion -- plural marriage. The fundamentalists are so caught up in their "right" to have multiple wives that they are willing to die and kill for it. I personally think if you want more than one wife and you can get several women to agree -- good for you. Enjoy. Have a freakin orgy if you want. And that would be fine if not for one thing -- the men in this community do this by force and do it with underage women and in some cases their own daughters. That's criminal.Living so close to Colorado City means I get plenty of news about what's going on up there, and lately we've read a lot about Warren Jeffs who in my mind is a dangerous criminal. But at least now I have some context for why he and the other fundamentalists are how they are. Frankly, I think it's less about religion than it is about power and greed. Anyway, what an amazing book. Especially given the fact that some experts think the LDS religion will reach upwards of 300 million members by the end of this century and after almost 200 years of fighting the American government they are potentially one election away from assuming the ultimate power of having the U.S. presidency. Don't think Mitt Romney will let his religion influence his decision-making? Just see George W. Bush for precedent. Not much difference in my mind between LDS fundamentalism and Christian fundamentalism. Not to say Mitt is a fundamentalist -- but what do we really know about his devotion to Joseph Smith's crazy story of the coming of the end of times?
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  • Petra X
    January 1, 1970
    This is a hard book for me to review given that I have quite a few Mormon friends and that although my own philosophy leans more towards existentialism than anything else, I feel its differents strokes for different folks. I am led inescapably by this book to view Mormonism as a cult that has changed and adapted as was expedient given the various political currents ebbing and waning.I've seen, here in the West Indies, how a cult can gain both the practice and the legitimacy of an established rel This is a hard book for me to review given that I have quite a few Mormon friends and that although my own philosophy leans more towards existentialism than anything else, I feel its differents strokes for different folks. I am led inescapably by this book to view Mormonism as a cult that has changed and adapted as was expedient given the various political currents ebbing and waning.I've seen, here in the West Indies, how a cult can gain both the practice and the legitimacy of an established religion within a few generations. There are two routes to this. The first is the government is willing to recognise it and allow it tax-exempt status in which case it becomes part of the establishment The second is that it becomes an issue of political-correctness and people and the media must appear to pay the cult at least the lip-service of respect whether or not it deserves it. I'm talking about Rastafarianism of course. And I've read it here in this book as a cult developed into what would become the FLDS (still a cult) and the mainstream Mormons.In the first generation, the founder either seeks influence and power as with Mormonism, or is deified, Haile Selassie in Rastafarianism. In the second generation the founding truths and myths and the legends surrounding the founders or the deified one have coalesced into a body of oral and written literature that will form the holy books. This will become the work of sacred reference that will be consulted when laws are changed or introduced and which will be used when moral laws are decided. (As an aside in all cults and religions it seems to be that men will use the holy books to justify their treatment of women). There are no established religions that have been created by women, the development and administration of religion is a man's game). In the third generation, the grandchildren are in the same situation as the children of people belonging to religions thousands of years old - they do not remember a time, nor do their parents when they and their families were not believers and theirs is a history and established pattern of worship and traditions to draw upon.When the religion is still a cult, the goverment and courts will not allow the teachings of that cult to be a defence for crimes committed. There is much of this, including a truly unholy massacre in this book. But once the cult has the weight of an established religion, then the religion becomes a legitimate defence to crime, the crime has been committed Under the Banner of Heaven.As with all Karakauer books, its very well-written in quite a journalistic style and is well worth a read even if you totally disagree with my interpretation of it.read originally Dec 1, 2008
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  • Colleen
    January 1, 1970
    I read this book for the book club at my local library. Afterwards, I felt indignant, confused, intrigued, and disgusted about all forms of faith. So, I sincerely hoped that a Saint or two would show up at the book club meeting, to nullify my extremely negative view of the church. Alas, no LDS believers showed, so I am left to my own conclusions about the book and faith in general. Here are some of my conclusions and questions after reading this sprawling, fascinating account of the history of p I read this book for the book club at my local library. Afterwards, I felt indignant, confused, intrigued, and disgusted about all forms of faith. So, I sincerely hoped that a Saint or two would show up at the book club meeting, to nullify my extremely negative view of the church. Alas, no LDS believers showed, so I am left to my own conclusions about the book and faith in general. Here are some of my conclusions and questions after reading this sprawling, fascinating account of the history of polygamy and violence within the Church of Later Day Saints:There is a certain appeal to having no choices. Sometimes religion is comforting because obedience to a provided list of rules removes personal responsibility. Strict adherence to a religion removes personal doubt. When you believe so fully in a church, you are no longer forced to question your own actions-- after all, if you carefully follow the directions of your spiritual leaders, you will gain your own paradise, regardless of what your personal conscious says about right or wrong. This leads me into my next point. I will never be a Mormon, for many reasons. First, in the Mormon faith, if you realize the highest echelon of Mormonism, you will get your own planet to run after you die. If you're a man, that is. If you're a woman, you can join your man on his planet... if he invites you. No, no, no. Please. I deserve my own planet. Wives and children are property, at least in the fundamentalists sects of Mormonism. I am a person, an event, not chattel. Second, remind me to never join a religion that condones killing. (See "blood atonement," as typified in the Mountain Meadows Massacre.) Third, I don't want to be a believer in a faith that tells me I have to earn love-- least of all, God's. We are all holy, I think. We all have goodness and grace within us, no matter how many veils of earthly existence have descended. Finally, I will never follow a religion that doesn't encourage me to question everything. Information and education are my life-blood. I must be able to use my brain to get closer to God. Otherwise, why the heck would s/he give it to me?So, now that we have the comments specific to the Mormon faith out of the way, let's move on to the questions about faith in general. I heartily recommend this book to anyone who is going through a personal crisis. It will boil your blood and make you think. (What more could you want?) Here are my questions:1) Why does listening to the divine in each of us produce such different results? It can lead to peace and pacifism, or killing. Who is speaking? God, or ego?2) Is all fundementalism mired in violence, or do certain faiths promote it? 3) Does God always speak in King James' English? (It seems so, according to the Book of Mormon.)4) Would all religions seem this crazy if we were only 200 years out, and had intimate, dirty details of each guru's life?5) Is there anything inherently wrong with polygamy? Do we have a gene for monogomy? (I don't care, as long as no one gets hurt. And marrying 13 year olds, sometimes when they're your own daughter, is inherently hurtful.)6) Is faith the opposite of reason? Is education the cure for religion?7)Is religion a distraction from the humdrum of our everyday lives? (Opposite of Buddhism.)Ok, y'all, sorry about the long review. But seriously, read the book. It's excellently chilling, and will keep you up late at night writing your comments furiously on post-it notes. At least, that's what it did to me.
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  • Stephen
    January 1, 1970
    4.0 to 4.5 stars. For non-fiction, this book had me absolutely riveted from the very beginning. This true crime narative has three main themes, all of which I think Krakauer accomplishes extremely well. First, this is a true crime story of the brutal double murder of Brenda Lafferty and her 15 month old baby girl at the hands Ron and Dan Lafferty (the older brothers of Brenda’s husband). Second, is a survey of the origin and early history of Mormonism and the basic doctrines of the Mormon faith 4.0 to 4.5 stars. For non-fiction, this book had me absolutely riveted from the very beginning. This true crime narative has three main themes, all of which I think Krakauer accomplishes extremely well. First, this is a true crime story of the brutal double murder of Brenda Lafferty and her 15 month old baby girl at the hands Ron and Dan Lafferty (the older brothers of Brenda’s husband). Second, is a survey of the origin and early history of Mormonism and the basic doctrines of the Mormon faith. Third, the book details the deep divide and animosity between the Mormon church and the various fundamentalist Mormon sects, including the one to which the murderers belonged. These three story-lines are not broken down into sections but are interwoven throughout the book. However, for simplicity I will address each separately. THE MURDERSOn July 24, 1984, Brenda and Eric Lafferty, wife and daughter of Allen Lafferty, were brutally murdered by Allen’s older brothers Ronald and Dan Lafferty. The book begins with an account of the murders and several of the newspaper articles that covered it and then layers in the story of Ron and Dan and the events leading up to the killing throughout the rest of the book. One quote from the book that still haunts me occurs in the first few pages when Dan describes the murder of his 15 months old niece: He [describes] how he found his fifteen-month-old niece, Erica, standing in her crib, smiling up at him. ‘I spoke to her for a minute,’ Lafferty recalls. ‘I told her, I’m not sure what this is all about, but apparently it’s God’s will that you leave this world; perhaps we can talk about it later.’ And then he ended her life with a ten-inch boning knife. For me, as a father of two little girls, this is one of the most disturbing passages I have ever read. THE HISTORY OF MORMONISM The second component of the book is a fairly detailed overview of the founding and early history of the Mormon church. I am not joking when I say that before I began reading this book, almost everything I knew about the Mormon faith came from watching South Park. I thought the early history of the church was fascinating, especially the descriptions of the tension and actual armed conflicts between LDS supporters and (1) Missouri residents and militia in 1838 (aka the Missouri Mormon War), (2) the Illinois Militia in 1844 (aka Illinois Mormon War) and (3) the U.S. Government in 1857-58 (aka the Utah War). For those not familiar with these conflicts or this period of American History, I think you will find it very interesting. FUNDAMENTALIST MORMONISMThe most compelling aspect of the book for me was the description of various fundamentalist Mormon sects, including their basic beliefs and the amount of influence and control they maintain over their followers. Krakauer goes on to describe the deep animosity that the fundamentalists have for the mainstream Mormon church (and vice versa). While there are many points of contention between the two, the major theological difference is over polygamy which the fundamentalists believe is a sacred duty required by God. He states in the Prologue of the book: 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 in public at inopportune moment to create unsavory scenes, embarrassing the entire LDS clan. Krakauer also describes how the fundamentalist Mormons view the U.S. Government as Satan and believe that stealing from the government (either in the form of educational grants for cities which they control or in the form of welfare for their numerous wives and children) is their sacred duty. He says, “Fundamentalists call defrauding the government ‘bleeding the beast’ and regard it as a virtuous act.” For example, the largest fundamentalist sect is the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, also known as the United Effort Plan (UEP). At the time the book was written, the UEP was run by Rulon T. Jeffs (aka Uncle Rulon) out of the town of Colorado City, AZ on the border between Arizona and Utah. Colorado City has a population of about 5000 all of which belong to the UEP and the town gets between $4Millon and $6Million a year in public education funding and other grants. The power base of the town stems from Uncle Rulon who had approximately 75 wives (many as young as 13-14) and over 65 children. BTW, no member of the town is able to watch TV, read a newspaper or have any interaction with the outside world. FINAL THOUGHTSI thought this was a compelling read. Krakauer does a great job of layering in a ton of interesting background while keeping the narrative of the events leading up the brutal murders moving forward. I was impressed with how well Krakauer avoided letting the narrative get bogged down although that could just be my fascination with the subject matter. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!.
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  • Mateo
    January 1, 1970
    You know, I probably shouldn't have read this directly after finishing In Cold Blood. I'm not saying the combination brought out the homicidal psychotic in me, but I did have to pay for stabbing the hell out of a turkey in the Albertson's meat section the other day. Is there a stranger sect out there than the Mormons? I mean, golden plates ... lost tribes ... Nephites battling Lamanites ... Orrin Hatch.... Well, yes, I guess one look at Tom Cruise jumping up and down on Oprah's couch suggests th You know, I probably shouldn't have read this directly after finishing In Cold Blood. I'm not saying the combination brought out the homicidal psychotic in me, but I did have to pay for stabbing the hell out of a turkey in the Albertson's meat section the other day. Is there a stranger sect out there than the Mormons? I mean, golden plates ... lost tribes ... Nephites battling Lamanites ... Orrin Hatch.... Well, yes, I guess one look at Tom Cruise jumping up and down on Oprah's couch suggests that Scientology has a lot to answer for, as well. For that matter, I've never understood how a burning bush speaks to someone. Why a burning bush? Why not, say, a burning acacia tree? But if mainstream Mormonism is a little on the far-out side, then fundamentalist Mormonism--sort of like regular Mormonism with more fanaticism, more racism, more welfare cheating, more taking of wives, and more child rape--is like the spastic uncle that mainstream Mormonism keeps in the wine cellar. "Thumping? What thumping? I didn't hear anything. Did you hear anything, honey? I didn't hear anything."Krakauer does a fine job of interweaving Mormon history, profiles of fundamentalist breakaway Mormon sects, and the hideous, gruesome story of the two God-soaked fundamentalist brothers who slashed the throats of a young woman and her infant daughter. He attempts to be as fair-minded as possible about all these subjects while never neglecting to call a spade a spade. Personally, I would have used the word "nutjob" and "charlatan" a lot more often, and not just in connection with the fundamentalists, but Krakauer makes a point of not passing judgment on the validity of firmly held religious beliefs. I guess a book called Is the Entire State of Utah Out of Its Mind? wouldn't sell. In sum, though, Under the Banner of Heaven is as gripping and hard to put down as Krakauer's other fine books, and offers a valuable insight into a strange, deeply American phenomenon. Recommended. One small but not unimportant note: Krakauer includes a final "Author's Remarks" section at the end of the book. These remarks chiefly concern Krakauer's own attitudes toward religion and Mormonism, as well as his intent in writing the book. It's unfortunate that he added this postscript, not because it's unwarranted but because a) it's largely superfluous, and b) it rather ruins the picture-perfect way the rest of the book ends. Jon, you had it in the bag, man; all you had to do was dribble out the clock. Everything in that postscript should be said in interviews.
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  • Karen
    January 1, 1970
    This book makes a lot of big promises, but it suffers from several serious flaws:1. Lack of focus.2. Too long.3. Preposterous claim.4. BoringThis is a true crime novel--maybe--set against the history of the Mormon Church--but not really--trying to tie in a couple of murders committed by a couple of sickos--all too common--into an historical and political climate of post-terrorist, millennial religious revival--unsuccessfully.For true crime, it's shockingly dull, and the crime is committed by the This book makes a lot of big promises, but it suffers from several serious flaws:1. Lack of focus.2. Too long.3. Preposterous claim.4. BoringThis is a true crime novel--maybe--set against the history of the Mormon Church--but not really--trying to tie in a couple of murders committed by a couple of sickos--all too common--into an historical and political climate of post-terrorist, millennial religious revival--unsuccessfully.For true crime, it's shockingly dull, and the crime is committed by the middle of the book, but you already know it's going to happen because it's committed in the prologue, too. The characters aren't interesting, their motivations are the ordinary motivations of religious sickos, and the detail is presented tediously.The Mormon Church is presented as entirely to blame for the murderers' thoughts and the victims, and for Elizabeth Smart's abduction and captivity. It's crammed full of historical detail that might be interesting but it's presented in such a snide, disrespectful tone that it's just a rip on the Church. At one point the author grudgingly admits that Mormonism is no stranger or objectively odd than any other religion (once you get right down to it) but he nonetheless mocks it and its adherents. He continually harps on its sexism, as if every other religion in the Western World were a paragon of equality and political fairness. Odder still is the fact that his murderers and enablers aren't even Mormon. They invented a religion based on Mormonism, but it's taken to such an extreme that the Mormon Church has disassociated itself with them and is cited frequently by the author as denying that what these guys practice is the same religion.I made it to page 175 where the murders happened, and then the book jumped to another overly detailed of the history of Joseph Smith and friends and I was only halfway through the book. I guess the rest of it is how the Mormons got to Utah and the court case, but considering everyone knew who committed the murder--they'd told maybe ten people they were going to do it and they confessed immediately and you knew this already from the book--there was no suspense about that. The psychological profile of a religious killer is known already. I can't imagine what you would need to keep writing about.There are also too many footnotes, on diverse and vaguely interesting tidbits, some of them half a page long. It adds to the lack of focus. It's just a scrambled book about a tragedy. Everything seems to be coming up polygamy of late, down to the HBO series, Big Love. So perhaps this was shocking and provocative and informative a few years ago, but the fundamentalist polygamist sects are very much in the public consciousness now and this book doesn't give any new information. What I found most interesting were the similarities to some of the characters in that television show to some of the fundamentalist profiles in the book. None of them were similar to the point of being "inspired by," I don't think, but things like the Romanian immigrant becoming a plural wife reminded me of Ana, and the daughters of prophets all over the place reminded me of Nikki, and the Mormon wives of Mormon men who adopt polygamy reminded me of Barb. Of course, this is in circumstance only. Bill Paxton's family makes me wish I had a sister wife sometimes. I'd certainly get a lot more done.
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  • Cheryl
    January 1, 1970
    Hmmm...where do I start? First of all, I didn't finish reading this book. It was intriguing in the beginning to learn about the Fundamentalist Mormons and the interestingly odd things they believe and practice. It was also interesting to contemplate the power of faith. Faith in something or someone, regardless of what or whom they are, can make people do unbelievable things. This is true.I can see how Krakauer would have been frustrated when access to historical documents and interviews with pro Hmmm...where do I start? First of all, I didn't finish reading this book. It was intriguing in the beginning to learn about the Fundamentalist Mormons and the interestingly odd things they believe and practice. It was also interesting to contemplate the power of faith. Faith in something or someone, regardless of what or whom they are, can make people do unbelievable things. This is true.I can see how Krakauer would have been frustrated when access to historical documents and interviews with prominent LDS leaders weren't granted to him. In order to tell all sides of a story, you must be able to research all sides. I think in the past 5-10 years, the LDS church has been more forthcoming and open with their history and archives, thanks largely to the prophet Gordon B. Hinckley. So perhaps if Krakauer were to have written this book now, he would not encounter these same road blocks. Some people may feel that if some aspects of the churches history were to be exposed to the general membership of the church, it would cause members to lose faith. This may be true of some. But I believe that those who truly have a testimony of the restoration of the gospel, the prophet Joseph Smith, and especially of the Lord Jesus Christ; these people would not sway from their beliefs. Being a devout member of the LDS (Mormon) faith, I was a bit disturbed to see how the defining line between the FLDS and LDS churches was often blurred and crossed. These religions are completely separate in all but their initial history. Polygamy is not currently being practiced by any member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that is in good standing. If a member were practicing polygamy, they would be excommunicated. That said, I also did not appreciate the tone with which Krakauer referred to Joseph Smith. I have great respect and admiration for this leader of my church. He was a good man who did the things that God and Jesus Christ asked him to do. I'm sure it wasn't always easy, but he did it anyway. There are things in the history of the Mormon church that have and still occasionally do disturb me. For instance: polygamy, the priesthood being withheld from black men, the Mountain Meadows massacre, etc. But I also know that I do not understand everything and will be able to gain a complete understanding when I leave this earth. Most of all, I know that I have a testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that Jesus Christ did restore His church here upon the earth through Joseph Smith. I know that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God. I also know that if I have Faith, that intense faith that is required for people to do extraordinary and even seemingly ordinary things, I will one day stand before my Lord Jesus Christ, sure in the knowledge of my place as a daughter of God.
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  • John
    January 1, 1970
    I really enjoyed Into Thin Air, but now I wonder if it is poorly done as this book was. As a Mormon I was amazed at Krakauer's complete naivete that he's trying to pass off as expertise and a well-researched book. I'd be scared of Mormonism too if I read this and didn't know better. The logic leaps he makes are simply massive. For a story about the Lafferty's, this is a nicely told yarn. For understanding its extrapolation into a story about Mormonism it is foolishness at its finest.
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  • Perry
    January 1, 1970
    Intriguing and Incisively IconoclasticRon & Dan Lafferty, convicted of vicious 1984 murders of their brother's wife & infant daughter (shown below)A razor-edged examination of fanaticism in religion, focused primarily on the Mormon Church and its fundamentalist offshoot sects that continue to adhere to the norms the federal government forced the Church to abandon over a century ago: polygamy and the marriage of pubescent females. Jon Krakauer concentrates on the true story of the 1984 mu Intriguing and Incisively IconoclasticRon & Dan Lafferty, convicted of vicious 1984 murders of their brother's wife & infant daughter (shown below)A razor-edged examination of fanaticism in religion, focused primarily on the Mormon Church and its fundamentalist offshoot sects that continue to adhere to the norms the federal government forced the Church to abandon over a century ago: polygamy and the marriage of pubescent females. Jon Krakauer concentrates on the true story of the 1984 murders of a woman and her infant daughter, immersing the reader in a timeline that shows the violence of some of today's Mormon-offshoot fundamentalists can be traced back, at least in part, to the Church's origins after its leaders were banished by Eastern U.S.' post-Victorian society for polygamy and early marriages. Krakauer's poetic fire seems aimed at: 1) the flimsy nature of the societal line between a man--this seems primarily limited to men--being deemed a lunatic and seen as a religious prophet, when he says, "God told me [to do this] [I must sow my seed] [we must travel West] [I must impregnate your lovely daughter]"; and,2) how shortly after Joseph Smith's death, the Church leaders' ubiquitous practice of prefacing nearly every decision or action with "God spoke to me," may have precipitated today's fundamentalists' justifying criminal conduct by saying God told him to ignore the laws so that he could marry and rape your daughter, and further, may have ultimately contributed to a fringe fanatic, whose black heart overflowed with resentment and revenge, perpetrating homicidal retribution by reading his demoniac thoughts as God's statement of a divine will. A bit overlong, yet overall worthy of a read if you are fascinated by religious sects.
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  • Kelli
    January 1, 1970
    Thank God that’s over (no pun intended)! This book may have been confused about what it was or maybe it’s just me thats confused, but by the end of this (or, to be more accurate, well before the middle) I felt saturated with history and facts(?) to the point that I could no longer distinguish what was referring to Mormonism and what was FLDS. The crime discussed on the cover doesn’t feel central to the book, and I didn’t get a true sense of where the author was placing blame...narcissistic perso Thank God that’s over (no pun intended)! This book may have been confused about what it was or maybe it’s just me thats confused, but by the end of this (or, to be more accurate, well before the middle) I felt saturated with history and facts(?) to the point that I could no longer distinguish what was referring to Mormonism and what was FLDS. The crime discussed on the cover doesn’t feel central to the book, and I didn’t get a true sense of where the author was placing blame...narcissistic personality disorder or FLDS doctrine. I feel a little drained after this. 2 stars
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  • Marissa
    January 1, 1970
    My father's family is obsessed with Mormons, I think it's fair to say. Well..not Mormons. Most of the Mormons I've known have been perfectly regular people. If you're Mormon, please forgive me if that sounds callous. We are, however, obsessed with Mormonism, and have been since my aunt and uncle took a trip to Salt Lake City many years ago and came back with something we call "The Mormon Movie"."The Mormon Movie" is like the axis point of a fascination that's gone on for years and is easy to exp My father's family is obsessed with Mormons, I think it's fair to say. Well..not Mormons. Most of the Mormons I've known have been perfectly regular people. If you're Mormon, please forgive me if that sounds callous. We are, however, obsessed with Mormonism, and have been since my aunt and uncle took a trip to Salt Lake City many years ago and came back with something we call "The Mormon Movie"."The Mormon Movie" is like the axis point of a fascination that's gone on for years and is easy to explain: we're Lutherans. As Lutheran, in fact, as they come. My grandfather co-founded the church my parents grew up in, and my dad and uncle were both pastors as younger men. My mom's family went to that Lutheran church, too, her mother was the choir director. The story goes on. So for us, the stories of rites and rituals, of Jesus visiting the Americas, of holy underwear, of plural marriage, almost seemed too fantastical to be true. Despite the inaccuracies of some of our perceptions of the LDS, this curiousity definitely added to my interest and enjoyment of this book, which is not so much a criticism of the Mormon Church as a look into how its history led to some very gruesome murders. LDS, of course, was not too thrilled with it, but I thought the book does a pretty evenhanded job of presenting facts more than opinions. I read it for my father's book club, and we had a debate about how fair he was being. But we also argued about how valuable participation in a religious institution is in the first place, or how corrupting it can be (I should add that the murderers in this book were part of a few different sects of Mormonism that were NOT part of the LDS). At any rate, it made us think and debate a lot, and it made us angry. That alone, I think, is a good reason to pick this one up.
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  • Gwen
    January 1, 1970
    This book is fantastic. Krakauer looks at the history of violence in the Mormon religion (both against them and perpetrated by them) and how this violence, romanticized by modern fundamentalist Mormon polygamists, led two men to kill their sister-in-law and her baby because they said God told them to. These men felt, and continued to feel, no remorse because of their doctrine that "killing for the Lord" is entirely acceptable if it is necessary to do God's will.Krakauer's greater point is to loo This book is fantastic. Krakauer looks at the history of violence in the Mormon religion (both against them and perpetrated by them) and how this violence, romanticized by modern fundamentalist Mormon polygamists, led two men to kill their sister-in-law and her baby because they said God told them to. These men felt, and continued to feel, no remorse because of their doctrine that "killing for the Lord" is entirely acceptable if it is necessary to do God's will.Krakauer's greater point is to look at American religions and fundamentalist religions and how the leadership of fundamentalist religions that emphasize direct revelations from God is unstable, because followers inevitably believe they are receiving revelations and need to overthrow the current leadership. As a result, these religions tend to split into sub-groups quite regularly. Using this lens he looks at how fundamentalist Mormon groups emerged once the mainstream Mormon church abandoned polygamy and how the polygamist movement has split into different groups over time.Krakauer does not attack religion or the Mormons per se. He provides a balanced look at the history of Mormons, emphasizing violence and prejudice against them as much as violence done by them to others. However, he insists on a historically accurate account based on the best evidence available (legal documents, etc.), rather than accepting the LDS church's official version of events.He also discusses how mainstream culture defines certain groups as "delusional" while allowing other groups to hold equally non-rational ideas without judgment. The trial of the Laffertys provides an excellent case to show how the mental health profession defines "crazy" and "delusional" in a way that could technically be used to diagnose all religious people as crazy; but of course, we define only some groups as crazy for their religious beliefs.Not surprisingly, because Krakauer does not portray Joseph Smith and Brigham Young as angelic saints who never did anything wrong in their entire lives, the LDS leadership attacked the book, instructing members to avoid it. At the end of the book Krakauer includes a long essay written by Elder Turley, a member of the top leadership, criticizing his essay and then responds to it point-by-point.I absolutely loved the book and could barely put it down.
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  • Clif Hostetler
    January 1, 1970
    This 2003 book by Jon Krakauer provides a well crafted interweaving of two histories: the origin and evolution of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), and a modern double murder committed in the name of God by brothers Ron and Dan Lafferty, who subscribed to a fundamentalist version of Mormonism. These histories are interrelated because the murder was motivated by endeavors of the Lafferty brothers to follow their understanding of the original manifestation of LDS teachi This 2003 book by Jon Krakauer provides a well crafted interweaving of two histories: the origin and evolution of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), and a modern double murder committed in the name of God by brothers Ron and Dan Lafferty, who subscribed to a fundamentalist version of Mormonism. These histories are interrelated because the murder was motivated by endeavors of the Lafferty brothers to follow their understanding of the original manifestation of LDS teachings that enabled all believers to receive and interpret messages from God. They believed they were obeying the will of God by committing the murders.I particularly found interesting the portion near the end of the book that excerpted portions of the trial transcript regarding the sanity of the defendant Ron Lafferty. The defense made the case that the crime was motivated by delusional belief, and since the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed. (DSM-IV) states “false beliefs” by definition are delusions it logically follows that the defendant is innocent due to insanity.The prosecution countered the defense insanity argument with testimony stating that the beliefs of the Lafferty brothers were religious faith beliefs no more insane than many other well known orthodox religious beliefs such as consubstantiation, virgin birth, and resurrection of the dead. The jury apparently agreed with the prosecution because they voted to convict.The viciousness of the crime as described in this book took my breath away. Much of the Mormon history and the behavior of the fundamentalists' attempts to follow that early history were also shocking. The LDS is especially handicapped with a tradition that encourages all believers to think they can be prophets capable of receiving commands from God. All religions have some history and beliefs that don't holdup well under the scrutiny of twenty-first century sensibilities. Mormons are particularly burdened because its embarrassing history is less than two hundred years old and occurred during the age of the printing press. Thus it's well documented.
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  • Ammar
    January 1, 1970
    An impressive undertaking by Jon Krakauer. A book of history, the tale of a modern religion, an extreme sect and a cold hearted murder. Those ingredients would attract a vast array of audience: and indeed it did and still do. A nonfiction that narrates a history of the latter day church - the Mormons- their tale, their beginning with Joseph Smith and the story of the Golden plates. Polygamy, and how that tenant in the historical church caused a schism and gave birth to the fundamental LDS, that An impressive undertaking by Jon Krakauer. A book of history, the tale of a modern religion, an extreme sect and a cold hearted murder. Those ingredients would attract a vast array of audience: and indeed it did and still do. A nonfiction that narrates a history of the latter day church - the Mormons- their tale, their beginning with Joseph Smith and the story of the Golden plates. Polygamy, and how that tenant in the historical church caused a schism and gave birth to the fundamental LDS, that believes in polygamy, while the main stream LDS, shunned away from polygamy for various political and religious reasons. The Lafferty brothers... fundamental LDS with a mission.. under a banner of heaven they are fighting for polygamy. Their illegal way of life and how it caused sadness and grief to a community.. and the lost lives of women who wanted to escape this society. This book also praises the women who left the polygamous life which some family trees looked like nuclear power plant blueprints than a normal family tree. A very informative and I believe controversial book for any one who is a Mormon. Eye opening, interesting and shocking.
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  • Jonathan Ashleigh
    January 1, 1970
    This book is great for it's depiction and unbiased view of Mormonism.
  • Caroline
    January 1, 1970
    Gosh, I still feel a bit stunned. This book gives you a lot to think about, and it does it with a thwack. Basically this is story of the Lafferty brothers, born into a deeply fundamentalist Mormon family with a sometimes brutal but sometimes loving father, whom they adored. As they grew older they really went off the rails, and they did so by becoming even more fundamentalist than their father, immersing themselves in old Mormon writings, and living their lives by these tenets, in a way that was Gosh, I still feel a bit stunned. This book gives you a lot to think about, and it does it with a thwack. Basically this is story of the Lafferty brothers, born into a deeply fundamentalist Mormon family with a sometimes brutal but sometimes loving father, whom they adored. As they grew older they really went off the rails, and they did so by becoming even more fundamentalist than their father, immersing themselves in old Mormon writings, and living their lives by these tenets, in a way that was both obsessional and extremely eccentric. Finally, one of them committed two murders, believing this to be God’s will….. a direct revelation in response to the prayers of his oldest brother.I see it in terms of a follie en famillehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folie_%C...At their trial they had several psychiatrists and psychologists on either side of the court room, some arguing for the defence of psychiatric illness, others arguing that they were in fact sane, and it was the writings and beliefs of the Mormon Church that had led them to this impasse. The author steps back in his assessment of the situation, and readers are left to make up their own minds.Points raised include: (view spoiler)[*The regular Mormon Church and its history.*The Fundamentalist Mormon Church (which is quite different to the standard church in several ways).*Mormon missionaries:There are currently more than 60,000 missionaries around the world.Their average conversion rate is 2 – 3 people per year.*The spectacular rise of Mormonism: It’s the fastest-growing church in the Western Hemisphere. At the last count there were eleven million Saints the world over.*The nature of religion:”Religious faith is an answer to the problem of life… The majority of mankind want or need some all-embracing belief system which purports to provide an answer to life’s mysteries, and are not necessarily dismayed by the discovery that their belief system, which they proclaim as “the truth”, is incompatible with the beliefs of other people. One man’s faith is another man’s delusion….Whether a belief is considered to be a delusion or not depends partly upon the intensity with which it is defended, and partly upon the number of people subscribing to it.”Anthony Storr, Feet of Clay (Quoted in the book).*The difference between fanaticism and mental illness.*The effects of socialization, and the cultures we are born into.*The power of charismatic gurus and leaders: Josepth Smith, the founder of the Mormons, was obviously a real hot wire. The author rests a lot of the success of Mormonism purely on the power of his charisma.*The role of outside hostility in shaping communities:There has often been huge animosity (& fighting) between Mormon communities and the people around them, and this seems, if anything, to have cemented their loyalties to the church and one another.* The power of the right message at the right time:Before Joseph Smith there was Calvinism – a harsh religion. Then came Joseph Smith, with the concept of a loving God. It was much more attractive to people, and people converted to Mormonism with enthusiasm.* The origins and culture of polygamy in America:Joseph Smith was obviously a philanderer of the first order, but his religious beliefs meant he had to make these relationships right in the eyes of God, so he married all the women he fell in lust with. As polygamy was banned in American law, I think these ‘marriages’ were probably not legal under American law. Polygamists were not lax in their relationships – they had very strict rules about how they conducted them. There were all sorts of rules.A lot of their relationships seem incestuous, or otherwise questionable. One woman spoke of being married to her uncle, and often these ‘marriages’ were to young girls. Joseph’s youngest wife was fourteen. He married her when he was thirty-eight.In 1890 President Wilford Woodruff announced that he had received a revelation that polygamy had to be relinquished. This became known as the Woodruff Manifesto. At first this just drove it underground, but by 1920, most Saints and their leaders had turned against it. Nowadays it is only found in some of the fundamentalist Mormon sects.*Racism in the Mormon Church:For a long time African-Americans were not allowed to be ordained into the church, then, in 1978, President Spencer W Kimball had a revelation in which the Lord commanded that the Latter day Saint priesthood be open to males of all races. This initiated a slow shift in attitudes.*Fundamentalism and right wing politics:Unsurprisingly, the two go together, (hide spoiler)]It was fascinating to read about the story of the origins of the Mormon Church, and the way that it has changed direction on several occasions via ‘revelations’ to the leaders of the church. I was also astonished to learn more about polygamy in the history of the church. It was not what I expected, and sounded extremely suspect to me in all respects. Most of all I was left with a strong distaste for fundamentalism in all its manifestations. I disliked it before. I dislike it even more now. Also the extraordinary story of Mormon beginnings – which are part of our recent history (it only came into being 183 years ago) - cannot help but light up the degree to which older religions have similarly extraordinary stories. The difference is the latter are part of our culture, and to a great extent part of our psyche.A very interesting book indeed.-------------------------------------------------------An excellent 2 part programme on Mormons (kindly recommended by Catherine). Available until 2016.http://video.pbs.org/video/1460817958/http://video.pbs.org/video/1460862784/
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  • Snotchocheez
    January 1, 1970
    I don't know if I can write an unbiased review of Under the Banner of Heaven. I'll say this: Krakauer's well-researched, exceedingly well-written 2003 book, which is 1/3rd a true crime examination of the brutal 1984 murders of Brenda Lafferty and her young daughter Erika by two Fundamentalist (i.e. polygamous) Mormons Dan and Ron Lafferty (her brothers-in-law) and 2/3rds an exhaustive examination of the Mormon religion (particularly its violent foment), is a fascinating read. What I have some tr I don't know if I can write an unbiased review of Under the Banner of Heaven. I'll say this: Krakauer's well-researched, exceedingly well-written 2003 book, which is 1/3rd a true crime examination of the brutal 1984 murders of Brenda Lafferty and her young daughter Erika by two Fundamentalist (i.e. polygamous) Mormons Dan and Ron Lafferty (her brothers-in-law) and 2/3rds an exhaustive examination of the Mormon religion (particularly its violent foment), is a fascinating read. What I have some trouble with is: I can't get over the idea that Krakauer had a gigantic axe to grind with religion/faith in general, and Mormonism in particular. He's such a talented writer that you don't (or at least I didn't, anyway) realize the spin he's thrown on his account until you've been convinced that all religions are ridiculous, and none more so than the hucksterism opportunely ideated by the likes of Messrs. Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, et al. While I agree with much Krakauer had to say, his message in hindsight feels almost like reverse-proselytizing, which is almost as discomfiting as entertaining the efforts of those men in white shirts, clip-on ties, and black pants trying to meet their two-conversions-per-annum quota here in the middle of the (Baptist) Bible Belt. Still, Krakauer's points are persuasive enough to give anyone pause about the Fundamentalist Mormon faith (if not its still-strong ties to mainstream Mormonism), which is why I give a book four stars that made me so uncomfortable while reading it. 
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  • Eric_W
    January 1, 1970
    Good grief. At the time of this posting there are almost 70,000 ratings and baskets of reviews. So why another one? Good question.Predictably, if you are a Mormon you won’t like this book, although it does seem to be well-researched and relatively even-handed. What appears to us skeptics as just silly nonsense is, for some people, inspired holy writ. Go figure. The Mormons themselves can't figure out what's revelation or not and who is or is not a prophet as Joseph Smith discovered to his dismay Good grief. At the time of this posting there are almost 70,000 ratings and baskets of reviews. So why another one? Good question.Predictably, if you are a Mormon you won’t like this book, although it does seem to be well-researched and relatively even-handed. What appears to us skeptics as just silly nonsense is, for some people, inspired holy writ. Go figure. The Mormons themselves can't figure out what's revelation or not and who is or is not a prophet as Joseph Smith discovered to his dismay. His original revelation suggested that any Mormon could receive a revelation but quickly got another message from God that revelations would only go through Joseph Smith or his appointee. Very convenient way of maintaining control. God said so, so do it. What a great line.It's interesting, but reading about some of the misdeeds of the early Mormon settlers and comments about this book on other sites, I was reminded of similar remarks made on Civil War book reviews by adherents of the "Lost Cause" myth. The same kind of myopic view .I had no idea that those "other" Mormons, the FLDS, the polygamists, thrive(d) in assorted little places like Colorado City/Hildale, AZ/Utah twin cities that straddle the border. ** The whole town is controlled despotically by the local leader/prophet (it sure is tempting to declare myself a prophet and start pronouncing, what a kick.) The police, the school board, the mayor, everyone in authority is FLDS. The United Effort Plan owns almost all the town property. Many men there have many wives and it has become (or should anyway,) a scandal in the way they manipulate the system. Since the wives are legally single mothers and are unemployed they draw millions in benefits which becomes a major source of income for the hubby in charge. Ironically, if the marriages were declared legal, they would lose millions. The FLDS folks are positive they represent the true adherence to the "principle", celestial marriage without which one cannot go to heaven; the mainstream is equally positive their prophet got a message from God indicating that being admitted tot he union was more important than celestial marriage. So, there you are. I say put it to trial by ordeal. Dump both prophets in a vat of boiling oil. Of course, in the end, it's all about money and power. The issue of what constitutes valid revelation from God (somebody explain to me why God finds it necessary to speak in 15th century English.) Since all male Mormons become priests (blacks excepted until God changed his mind about their essential evilness in the early sixties) many of them feel God is speaking unto them. Most of us would consider them delusional and in the case of Dan and Ron Lafferty who insisted God had told them to strike down the infidels who happened to be their wives. Raised in an atmosphere of religious fanaticism and paranoia, not to mention hatred of the federal government (I’ve never understood why federal and not state and township,) they saw themselves as the true righteous and holy. Ron’s descent began when his wife refused to go along with his desire to take a polygamous wife. In 1984 he received a “removal revelation” from God which he recorded on a yellow legal tablet. He and Dan then murdered Brenda and Erica. Last I checked, Ron was awaiting execution in Utah. He is now 61 and his brother is serving two life sentences. The Lafferty’s had been fans of Robert Crossfield, otherwise known as Onias, who claimed to have received several revelations of God making hm the one and true prophet. They helped to distribute the Onias revelations, which, conveniently, also said the Lafferty’s had been the chosen ones even before they were born. Krakauer interweaves the history of the Mormon church i n this bloodthirsty account of the Lafferty brothers. He finds the seeds of their crimes in the church.Tidbits: Brigham Young wanted the state to be called the Beehive state rather than Utah (after the Ute Indians) because of its emphasis on the collective doing what's best for the group rather than emphasizing the individual. Today, given the association of collective with communism, the beehive on the state flag is considered to represent "industry." If you are interested in the whole revelation business, I recommend the LDS website’s transcript of the revelation regarding blacks and the priesthood. It’s available here: http://www.lds-mormon.com/legrand_ric... Hard to believe there are people who take this stuff seriously.For a recent example, I quote this from the June 3 Washington Post: "The leaders have come under intense scrutiny. Barely 36 hours after the caustic New Year’s Day vote, Boehner faced a coup attempt from a clutch of renegade conservatives. The cabal quickly fell apart when several Republicans, after a night of prayer, said God told them to spare the speaker…..Southerland woke up convinced that Boehner should be spared. Others, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they, too, prayed before siding with Boehner.“ He’s not a God of chaos, he’s a God of order,” Southerland said."Amazing that God might give a shit about the Speaker of the House.Oh, and by the way, I have just received a startling revelation. Everyone reading this must get together and purchase for me an around-the-world cruise on the QM2, a suite of course. Chop, chop, if you want to avoid everlasting damnation. Now explain to me how that might be different from a revelation to kill my wife or to add wives. Or start a new religion.**http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hildale,...
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  • Beth F.
    January 1, 1970
    This book was intense. I’m a sucker for religious studies anyway, especially those different from my own, and this book has been on my radar for awhile now because Mormonism (in general) and fundamentalists (of all kinds) have always interested me, so when I found out this book was about Mormon fundamentalists, there was never any doubt that I’d read it eventually. But what I was expecting from this book and what I got were two totally different beasts. My expectation was to walk away thinking, This book was intense. I’m a sucker for religious studies anyway, especially those different from my own, and this book has been on my radar for awhile now because Mormonism (in general) and fundamentalists (of all kinds) have always interested me, so when I found out this book was about Mormon fundamentalists, there was never any doubt that I’d read it eventually. But what I was expecting from this book and what I got were two totally different beasts. My expectation was to walk away thinking, “hm, yes, Mormon fundamentalists are interesting, hm.” But instead, I feel like this book magically sprouted a pair of legs, donned a pair of wicked shitkickers and promptly nailed me in the gut. Thank you Jon Krakauer, your organizational management and storytelling abilities have just earned you another fan.In the prologue of the book, Krakauer makes some important statements about fundamentalists, hoping to impress upon his readers that the bizarre story he is about to share is not characteristic of the entire Mormon faith but that it goes to show that religious fundamentalism can be a very bad thing that can sprout from any religion or school of thought, and I appreciated that he stated that straight off the bat.For most Americans, the thought of polygamy is truly scandalous. We can laugh about Victorians who thought it was shameful for a woman to bare her ankle to a man and crack jokes about the hullabaloo that resulted from the Brady Bunch parents, Mike and Carol, being filmed lying in a bed together wearing pajamas and discussing the antics of their kids at the end of the day. But the thought of one man with more than one woman is outrageously wicked in the eyes of most. The same could likely be said of those who practice open relationships or engage in a swinger lifestyle or polyamorism. Our youth can usually get away with screwing around without too much concern but eventually, the social expectation is that each of us will eventually settle down with one partner at a time and quietly live out the rest of our lives. And then you have many Mormon fundamentalists who strongly believe that God wants them to have plural wives. For those of us who disagree with their claim to live this sort of lifestyle, Krakauer has showcased a number of deeply disturbing stories that confirm for the rest of us (Mormons and non-Mormons alike) why it is illegal and why that should not change. The main story surrounds the ritualistic murder of Brenda and Erica Lafferty, a young Mormon wife and her 15-month-old daughter. Krakauer highlights some details of the murder early-on, but it isn’t until the middle section of the book that the full retelling of the murder takes place. So those hoping for a gutsy true crime story may find themselves disappointed and there was a reason this book is shelved in the “religion” section of the bookstore. Krakauer also highlights a number of other infamous polygamous families, towns and talks about the ramifications of sects closing out the influence of the outside world. He also talks about taxes and welfare and what this means for polygamists and Mormon fundamentalists. Most importantly, he talks about historical events that occurred centuries ago as well as more modern events that have happened in the decades that preceded the crime that may have established a basis for why the Lafferty brothers killed their sister-in-law and baby niece. In the authors remarks at the end of the book, Krakauer admits that when he struck out to write this book, his intent had been to write about the syncretism between the roots of Mormonism and the current practices and beliefs of the Latter Day Saints. But then the book morphed itself into a study of acts of violence at the hands of religious fundamentalists. If he ever writes the book he intended to write, I’d love to read it. And in the meantime, will gladly read some of the other things he’s written because even though I’m not a huge fan of the nonfiction, Krakauer has had some major success in reminding me that truth is stranger than fiction.
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  • Lucy
    January 1, 1970
    Somehow, in Krakauer's and every other story of Christian fundamentalism and extremism that is exposed, those involved justification for doing evil and ignoring good is all founded on extreme and polarizing doctrines. Polygamy. Holy Wars. Visions. Revelation. Line of succession. All legitimate things to think and worry about, but they seem to completely ignore the important things that Christ taught while on earth. Say...something like....blessed are the peacemakers. And loving our neighbors. An Somehow, in Krakauer's and every other story of Christian fundamentalism and extremism that is exposed, those involved justification for doing evil and ignoring good is all founded on extreme and polarizing doctrines. Polygamy. Holy Wars. Visions. Revelation. Line of succession. All legitimate things to think and worry about, but they seem to completely ignore the important things that Christ taught while on earth. Say...something like....blessed are the peacemakers. And loving our neighbors. And repentance, hope, forgiveness, charity and love. I think until we master these, the mysteries and promise of further knowledge is a long ways away.Kraukauer argues that religion, particularly the history of the LDS religion is prone to produce extremists who do more harm than good. Much like that of Islamic fundamentalists, the religion's history is one of violence and secrecy.I can't say he is entirely wrong. I do think there is a propensity for believers to fall into extreme behavior. However, while Krakauer believes it has something to do with the doctrine or leaders, I believe it is entirely due to opposition.Good things - the best things - are perverted the most.Religion, a means to learn about and worship God. And yet, so much evil, so much harm throughout history to His children has been brought about by its name. I don't believe any evil has been done by those truly devoted to God. I really don't. It has all been done by those influenced, knowingly or not, by the great deceiver, Satan. I think those who don't believe, like Krakauer himself, find it awfully easy to find fault with faith, with religion, because they focus and magnify the imperfections of man. He translates it into an imperfect or non-existent God, which is easy for him to do. He has the proof. Look! This man murdered his sister-in-law! That is no God I believe in. Well, Jon, neither do I.In fact, every single one of his sources was a dissenter or apostate...as if they had the inside track to truth. Shading, innuendo, rumors and hearsay are all given as proof and fact of corruption and deception.While I'm not naive enough to think that the LDS church has no black eyes in its history, I can't admire a critic who presents only one side of a story. Krakauer commits a real blunder by limiting the story of faith to people who claim none or have an extremely warped sense of it. And he certainly didn't provide justice to my cousin's story.Brenda Lafferty's story was a story about the LDS faith. Of goodness. Of kindness and strength in helping her neighbor. Of a willingness to stand up to evil and unholiness. Brenda Lafferty's story is the real story of a believer.
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  • Mike
    January 1, 1970
    If you, like me, were enlisted in Catholic school as a child, or even if you weren't, you may remember the story of how god commanded Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Issac (the "only", I seem to remember, was always emphasized in the telling). But just as soon as Abraham got little Issac up to the top of the mountain and was standing over him with a dagger or something like that, god said, and I'm paraphrasing here, "LMFAO... you were really going to do it, weren't you?"While I admittedly can If you, like me, were enlisted in Catholic school as a child, or even if you weren't, you may remember the story of how god commanded Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Issac (the "only", I seem to remember, was always emphasized in the telling). But just as soon as Abraham got little Issac up to the top of the mountain and was standing over him with a dagger or something like that, god said, and I'm paraphrasing here, "LMFAO... you were really going to do it, weren't you?"While I admittedly can't remember exactly how my teachers framed this story, I don't think they wanted us to take it as a warning about walking off to a remote location with your father when he alludes cryptically to a "sacrifice" but strangely neglects to slaughter a goat. Nor should you run like hell, I'm pretty sure my teachers would have said, when you ask "father, why haven't we slaughtered a goat?" and your father just stares off into the distance without responding. I'm certain, rather, that the moral as my teachers saw it had to do with the ostensible virtues of obedience, submission, and unquestioning faith. Nor was there any mention of the fact that anyone who acted as Abraham did would today be considered a goddamned lunatic. This is a strange book for a couple of reasons. One is that the thesis, if there is one, is mostly implicit and never quite stated. I found myself wondering if this is because Krakauer is not entirely clear about the point he's trying to make, because he is squeamish about making it baldly, or because he would like you the reader to come to your own conclusion. If you go by the book's marketing, the main thread is the depressing story of the Lafferty brothers- Ron and Dan- two Mormon fundamentalists who come to believe that god is communicating to them. God eventually commands them (they believe) to kill the woman Ron blames for persuading his wife to divorce him (because he was descending into fundamentalism and basically losing it...or was it the other way around?), as well as her infant child. So how about the insanity defense, which takes up a good section of Krakauer's description of the trial? Yes, it sounds a little loony when you claim that god commanded you to kill, but many people (not just Mormons) believe that they speak to god and vice-versa. Is it only insanity if god asks you to kill? How about if god tells you to break the speed limit, or just to buy a new pack of cigarettes when you'd told yourself you were going to quit? One of the psychologists who testifies for the prosecution suggests that its the recognizably communal nature of the Laffertys' beliefs- i.e., the fact that while their mutual interpretation of Mormon fundamentalism is certainly idiosyncratic, the essential aspects (that god communicates directly with human beings, for example, with no intermediary required) are in line with those taught by the LDS church- that demonstrates their sanity, whereas insanity would be characterized by a complete break with communal reality. Maybe it's just me, but I find this argument strange. Does this mean that large groups of people, as part of religious or national or social movements, can't act in a way that would be described as insane? Does it really alleviate our responsibility if a large enough number of people do it with us? On the other hand, I suppose following that line of thought into Philip K. Dick territory would be, legally speaking, extremely impractical. From this point- that the Laffertys' delusions were in some sense rooted in the teachings of Mormonism- it might seem that Krakauer is going to make a broad indictment of the LDS church. Moreover, the context in which Krakauer places the story of the Lafferty brothers (more on this in a second) makes the implicit suggestion that there is a causal connection between mainstream Mormonism and the murders. I think there is an alternative interpretation, though. It seems that it would be much easier to murder someone you hate, for example, if you could convince yourself that god were ordering you to do it. My opinion is that neither Ron nor Dan could acknowledge to themselves what they wanted to do, and their upbringing offered them the excuse of deifying (and therefore justifying, to themselves) their own murderous impulses. Dan seems to have received the communication from god first, obviating Ron's sense of responsibility (in his mind) for what he wanted to do all along. Later, in prison, when Ron hears that capricious old voice of god commanding him to kill his brother, it seems logical. Dan, after all, seems to have enabled Ron's capacity for violence and landed Ron in jail for life; I might hate Dan too in that case, but better to let god take the responsibly for a desire as repellent as murder. It isn't shocking to me that Dan, years later, doesn't express remorse or doubt about his actions. It makes sense that the more adversity you face, and the worse your situation in life (life in prison or the possibility of execution at some future date, in Dan's case), the more incentive you have to believe in the grandiose fiction you've created for yourself, in which you only served as a divine instrument. Otherwise you'd have to acknowledge that...well... What about Osama's underlings, the holy warriors who sacrificed their lives for Allah by flying jumbo jets into the World Trade Center? Surely their faith and conviction were every bit as powerful as Dan's. Does he think the sincerity of their belief justified the act? And if not, how can Dan know that what he did isn't every bit as misguided as what bin Laden's followers did on September 11, despite the obvious sincerity of his own faith?As he pauses to consider this possibility, there comes a moment when a shadow of doubt...and then it's gone. "I have to admit, the terrorists were following their prophet", Dan says. "They were willing to do essentially what I did. I see the parallel. But the difference between those guys and me is, they were following a false prophet, and I'm not."----------------The other strange and possibly misleading thing about this book (as well as the first part of my review, I guess) is that it's not primarily about these murders- most of it is about the violent history of Mormonism and the violent settlement of Utah. I can understand a Mormon reading this and feeling a little annoyed- not at the historical facts, but at the implication. I'm not sure what I think about it. If the point is that bringing children up "in" any particular religion tends to close off critical thought, I agree; and it's only lately that I think I've started to understand how dangerous that really is. But is Mormonism, as Krakauer sometimes seems to be suggesting, any more dangerous than most other faiths? I doubt it. Yes, Joseph Smith was a charlatan and it sounds like probably a pedophile, and of course The Book of Mormon is complete BS, but I assume most Mormons experience Mormonism as a cultural identity, and don't spend a lot of time picking apart the falsities of its origins. Having just read Eric Hoffer's The True Believer, I'm reminded of his suggestion that most mass movements are about cohesion, unity, tribalism. The validity (or lack thereof) of the movement's beliefs, Hoffer says, are often secondary to the movement's members. What matters is the sense of community and purpose. I dislike tribalism strongly, but I don't see how Mormonism is different in this respect than many other religions and/or mass movements. Furthermore, it's not a surprise to read that a religion was birthed in violence. It's a religion- of course there were schisms and crises of succession and repellent fundamentalist branches and bizarre practices and ostensibly divine visitations and orgies of bloodletting. Additionally, this was the American west in the 19th century. How else would we have expected it to go, really? More than any other state perhaps, at least within the contiguous 48, Utah has a claim to being a country within a country. Almost half the population of Salt Lake City, Krakauer tells us, is Gentile (in the Mormon sense of the word), and it is apparently thought of by most serious Mormons the way most Louisianans think of New Orleans- as a sinful place. Nearby Utah County, on the other hand, which includes Provo and Brigham Young University (BYU), is "the most Republican county in the most Republican state in the union." It's interesting to read about how Utah was settled, and how its origins- fierce opposition to the federal government, almost a de facto kingdom until Washington clamped down- still resonate strongly with its modern-day politics; Lyndon Johnson was the last Democrat to win Utah's electoral votes. Near the end of the book, Krakauer quotes a sociologist who claims that by the year 2080, given the Mormons' tendency to proselytize, we can estimate that there will be 265 million of them on the planet. Krakauer then quotes Harold Bloom (a Mormon enthusiast, apparently- not a Mormon himself it seems, but just appreciates them on some obscure aesthetic level that most likely has no connection to reality), who believes that within sixty or so years, governing the United States will become "impossible without Mormon cooperation", and that perhaps polygamy, supposedly abolished in the modern LDS church, will become the law of the land. At this point I worried that Krakauer was about to veer into the territory of my conservative Christian cousins, who have spent the last eight years in mortal terror that Obama was going to declare Sharia law at any moment; to his credit, Krakauer writes that "if Bloom's forecast is alarming, it also seems far-fetched." How far away are we really though, you may find yourself wondering while lying awake at night, from that dystopian future? I would say we'll cross that bridge when we come to it, assuming human civilization lasts that long. First we have to worry about governing the US without Russian cooperation. Then again, Bloom's prediction could conceivably have come true in 2012, when Mitt Romney ran for president. Another Mormon candidate ran in 2016, with slightly less attention paid to him; this was Evan McMullin, a graduate of BYU and former CIA officer. McMullin ran as an Independent, and was said in the months leading up to the election to be mounting a serious challenge to the Beast in solid red Utah. Mormons, I remember reading, apparently did not appreciate the Beast's brand of uncouth New York straight-talk, and it was suggested that McMullin could win the state's 6 electoral votes (conceivably crucial) or siphon enough support from the Beast to hand the state to Clinton, or even to nutjob Gary Johnson. It turns out, of course, that there was no chance- the Beast won Utah decisively, but it also wouldn't have mattered in the larger picture if he'd lost it. The Beast prevailed, and Bloom's chilling prophecy remains unfulfilled...for now. Considering the rise of emboldened neo-nazi and alt-right groups across the country since Nov 8, however, it's hard for me to work up much hysteria at the thought of emboldened Mormons, who, as far as I can tell, would do nothing more than aggressively pick up our cigarette butts from the ground behind us and smile even more fiercely while proselytizing at our doors.
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  • Matt Brady
    January 1, 1970
    Isn’t it funny, an amazing coincidence, how the commandments of God so often match the desires, ambitions and bigotries of His self-proclaimed prophets? Feeling horny? That’s cool, God is down with polygamy, bone away to your heart’s content, sin-free! Like drugs? So does God! Smoke up, bro! Hate women? God is so totally over those uppity chicks, dude. Racist? Oh boy this is your lucky day, God is totally racist! Not racist? Wait, God changed his mind, he was just fooling ya. Did that guy just f Isn’t it funny, an amazing coincidence, how the commandments of God so often match the desires, ambitions and bigotries of His self-proclaimed prophets? Feeling horny? That’s cool, God is down with polygamy, bone away to your heart’s content, sin-free! Like drugs? So does God! Smoke up, bro! Hate women? God is so totally over those uppity chicks, dude. Racist? Oh boy this is your lucky day, God is totally racist! Not racist? Wait, God changed his mind, he was just fooling ya. Did that guy just flip you off? The nerve of him. Wait a sec, what’s that God, oh, that guy that just pissed me off is Your enemy and it’s ok to kill him? Nice.Though I am an atheist, I’ve never had a problem with the idea of religion and faith. I think that people have a right to believe whatever they want, as long as it doesn’t harm others. A tepid position maybe, since it can be very difficult to determine exactly what constitutes ‘harming others’, but I just can’t get behind the rabid condemnation of all religion. Faith, to me, should be an entirely personal thing. I’ve always been suspicious of anyone claiming to have special access to the Truth. I have a really, really hard time understanding the mindset of a true zealot, because there is not a single area of life in which I don’t have some doubts. I simply cannot fathom the mind of a person who claims to KNOW, without a shadow of a doubt, that God has spoken to them. And for that reason, this book was a difficult read for me.That isn’t a criticism. Krakaeur is an engaging and informative writer, and he lays out the general history of the Mormon Church and many of it’s fundamentalist offshoots, as well as the gruesome double-murder of a mother and her infant daughter by fundamentalist Mormon brothers, with clarity and precision. Though I’m sure, from a Mormon point-of-view, there are many things to criticise (I’m vaguely aware of some controversy surrounding this book and it’s reception by the LDS community), and it isn’t terribly difficult to determine what Krakauer’s opinion is, I think he made an effort to present things as fairly as possible. He uses officially sanctioned LDS accounts as well as other independent sources in his recounting of the history of the cult, from it’s inception through to it’s formal abandonment of polygamy. He interviews a wide range of people, letting them speak for themselves, in their own words, interjecting only for clarification, or when their claims are contradicted by other accounts, or basic facts. He very methodically and convincingly lays out exactly how and why a pair of brothers might come to believe that God has commanded them to commit murder, and his account of the murders themselves are raw, brutal and powerful.My difficulty instead came from simply having to spend time with these people. I’m not a good debater. I lose my temper quickly, which makes it difficult to articulate my points coherently, which then further frustrates and angers me, but at least I can sometimes have the satisfaction of venting my ire. But reading the thoughts and opinions of people I strenuously, venomously disagree with robs me of even that. I want to throw the book across the room. I want to rant and rage at these smug, self satisfied assholes, and shatter their ludicrous, harmful beliefs. I want all this knowing that it won’t help, that for you simply cannot reach people like this, and that only compounds my anger and frustration. The inability to admit to mistakes is a common part of the human condition, and isn’t limited to religious people, but the sheer depth of delusion portrayed in this book, and the amount of suffering and harm it has caused and continues to cause, was infuriating to me. And that made the book difficult to read at times, particularly when Krakauer, meticulous to a fault, goes perhaps a little overboard with the details.Thankfully, Krakauer ends things only a slightly satisfying note. Does the enlightenment and hard-won intellectual freedom of a single person outweigh the heinous cycle of violence, misogyny, indoctrination and abuse repeated throughout the book? No, of course not, but it’s at least a reminder that, no matter how fervent the faith, there will always be some who question it.
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  • Ellen Gail
    January 1, 1970
    "I have to admit, the terrorists were following their prophet. They were willing to do essentially what I did. I see the parallel. But the difference between those guys and me is, they were following a false prophet, and I'm not." - Dan Lafferty There is a dark side to religious devotion that is too often ignored or denied. As a means of motivating people to be cruel or inhumane—as a means of inciting evil, to borrow the vocabulary of the devout—there may be no more potent force than religion. M "I have to admit, the terrorists were following their prophet. They were willing to do essentially what I did. I see the parallel. But the difference between those guys and me is, they were following a false prophet, and I'm not." - Dan Lafferty There is a dark side to religious devotion that is too often ignored or denied. As a means of motivating people to be cruel or inhumane—as a means of inciting evil, to borrow the vocabulary of the devout—there may be no more potent force than religion. More like 3.5 stars - The stuff involving the Lafferty murders was compelling but a lot of the historical side was hard to follow. Which isn't entirely Krakauer's fault. He's writing about a subject where family tends to get a little twisted. Just try to make sense of this: And because he happened to be the father of Debbie’s own stepmother, Mem, she unwittingly became a stepmother to her stepmother, and thus a stepgrandmother to herself. So. Yeah. If you didn't get lost at any point in this, you're a superhero.That said, the parts dealing with the horrific murders committed by the Lafferty brothers and their "removal revelation" were 100% engaging. At times hard to read, but compelling all the same.I mean there's so much more about Mormon Fundamentalists, Joseph Smith, black people being "literally created by Satan" , and polygamy, (to name a few), that I'm not even going into here, because I am tired and this was a dense read. But rest assured, this shit is thorough. You'll know more about extreme religious fundamentalism than you ever wanted to know. Faith is the very antithesis of reason, injudiciousness a crucial component of spiritual devotion. And when religious fanaticism supplants ratiocination, all bets are suddenly off. So overall, Under the Banner of Heaven could be confusing, but mostly due to the intensely complex history and family lineage; the writing handled it well. It's a powerful story of fanaticism and delusion, and of those who lost their lives because of it.
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  • Moira Russell
    January 1, 1970
    Somewhere, there is a story aching to be told about Mormonism, the positive and negative effects of religious faith on thought and psychological development, the painting of an integrated mainstream with the tarred brush of extremist fringes, and the general place of religion in US culture. This book is oh, so totally not it.
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  • Alex Telander
    January 1, 1970
    UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN: A STORY OF VIOLENT FAITH BY JON KRAKAUER: I finished Under the Banner of Heaven two days ago now, and I haven't written the review yet, waiting to see if anything would change in my mind about Mormons, and so far nothing has. I still think it's a horribly misogynistic religion that goes even further than all other religions I know to take away all responsibility, independent thought, and individualism, and literally sacrifice oneself to god and whoever is your preside UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN: A STORY OF VIOLENT FAITH BY JON KRAKAUER: I finished Under the Banner of Heaven two days ago now, and I haven't written the review yet, waiting to see if anything would change in my mind about Mormons, and so far nothing has. I still think it's a horribly misogynistic religion that goes even further than all other religions I know to take away all responsibility, independent thought, and individualism, and literally sacrifice oneself to god and whoever is your president and high lord protector (the title isn't exactly this, but is just as preposterous), whether you be regular Mormon or fundamentalist -- of course, he is a man, without a doubt.The crux of the book is the deaths of Eric and her eight or so year-old daughter at the hands of the Lafferty brothers who still can't decide who officially slit the girls throats.While the book managed to enrage me throughout, it did serve to educate and enlighten me on the religion in general, and on the important differences between the fundamentalists and the Latter Day Saints (LDS). The book also presents the history of Mormonism with Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and what led to the creation of the religion, its development through the decades and centuries, with the Mormons being ostracized wherever they went, until they settled in the deserts of Utah and set about completely ignoring the US government and living their lives as they saw fit. The Church of Latter Day Saints continues to do this to some degree today, and the fundamentalists especially, thriving on it.So let's clear up the main thing first: polygamy. The Church of Latter Day Saints condones and doesn't allow polygamy, after changing this steadfast rule from the D&C (Doctrine and Covenants -- the rulebook which Mormons go by as put down by Joseph Smith, with additions made by Brigham Young and successive "prophets") in the nineteenth century when the government essentially pressured them into doing this, since polygamy was (AND STILL IS!) illegal in every state. But in a religion where everyone from the president to the lowly devout woman has the ability to talk with god and receive his instruction; splitting, and the formation of break-off sects and groups is as inevitable as night come sunset. And it it's these break-off groups that form their own churches and communes (Colorado City in Utah is one of these), and they are the fundamentalists groups who believe that the LDS have fallen from the true ruling of god and take it upon themselves to adhere to the D&C as they see fit. The result is a town like Colorado City, in the middle of the desert, isolated, as they like it. There polygamy is a way of life; if you don't subscribe to this way, you are pressured and then ostracized. It is also in this town where anywhere from thirteen to sixteen year-old girls are ordered, yes, ordered by the president to marry whatever man the president decrees, without any choice in the matter. Ordered to marry that man, live with him, and whose sole duty is to bear as many children as possible, no questions asked . . . or you're going to hell! This is the truth. This is life in Colorado City. It is also here that instances of rape and pedophilia are becoming common place, as fathers take a liking to their eleven year-old daughters (whether they be biologically or adopted through marriage), rape them, and them force them to marry their fathers.And it seems pretty pathetic when our president makes it his duty to prevent homosexual marriage from ever being considered, even though homosexuality is a genetic predisposition and is what you simply are, while in Utah there are groups doing what I said above and millions of people worry that it is the homosexuals who risk destroying the sanctity of marriage. Fuck that, is my response.Read the rest of the review at BookBanter.For more reviews, and author interviews, go to BookBanter.
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  • Zuky the BookBum
    January 1, 1970
    Also read my review here: http://bookbum.weebly.com/book-review...TRIGGER WARNING: rape, incest, domestic abuse, child abuse, animal abuse, child murderI’m speechless. (OK, maybe not). What the heck did I just read? You’re telling me this is non-fiction? ...How? HOW? This isn’t just some freak incident either, people live like what’s described in this book, I’m baffled by it. I mean I’m a little baffled by strict religious following anyway (no offence meant) but Mormonism is just on another le Also read my review here: http://bookbum.weebly.com/book-review...TRIGGER WARNING: rape, incest, domestic abuse, child abuse, animal abuse, child murderI’m speechless. (OK, maybe not). What the heck did I just read? You’re telling me this is non-fiction? ...How? HOW? This isn’t just some freak incident either, people live like what’s described in this book, I’m baffled by it. I mean I’m a little baffled by strict religious following anyway (no offence meant) but Mormonism is just on another level.The story of Mormonism is so strange because Joseph Smith was a fucking control freak and swindler but also the way society got away with treating him and his followers was awful. You really can’t pick a right and wrong side, they’re both pretty terrible.This book's main focus is on how people's strong faith in Mormonism makes them believe they're above the laws of the land, so they go and commit crimes they think are justified and right. For example, Dan and Ron Lafferty, who truly believe God has spoken to them and told them they need to kill their brothers wife and young baby. A deed done by them so brutally, the poor baby was basically beheaded. Clearly this book isn’t for the faint hearted.One of the saddest moments in this book is when Krakauer meets a Mormon family and their young daughter (I think she was between 8 to 12) comes into the room with floor plans of her dream house, where she's drawn out several different rooms for the other wives of the husband she is going to share. How awful is that, to believe that you must share your husband with other women, because for men of the Mormon faith, women are just child bearers, nothing more. Joseph Smith actually declared God said "women shall be man's handmaid". For this young girl to be planning her life with a shared husband and feeling that's normal, even feeling happy about it, is a terrible, terrible thing to think about.This took me around 3 months to finish, not only because I accidentally left this in my dad’s suitcase when I came back from Spain, but also because this was such heavy non-fiction reading. Not only did it describe, in gruesome detail, the crimes committed by those under the Mormon faith, it was also a long historical timeline of how Mormonism was created and has grown to where it currently sits today. (Did you know, there are currently more Mormons on this planet than Jewish people?) Not to mention the confusion it causes when trying to remind you who everyone is and how everyone is related, because they’re pretty much all related through marriage.This is certainly an interesting read. I'm sure you’ve heard about Mormon’s and the Book of Mormon and polygamy, etc, but never really looked further into it. Well, for those of you that would like to look further into it, then this is the book for you! It's incredible to read all about how Joseph Smith magicked up Mormon faith and how gruesome and evil polygamy really is. I really recommend this book for all of you who love learning about religions or just love to have some random shocking facts to dish out around the dinner table. A seriously interesting, if not disturbing read.
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  • Tom
    January 1, 1970
    I'm not going to finish this book. So far, he is recounting the history of the Mormon church without listing a single positive thing. He has taken every exaggerated idea, including some of his own making, and used those to support a warped idea of something that I hold pretty close to my heart. It's kind of the same problem I had with Mark Freiden's The World Is Flat. He only told one side of the story, to praise the ideals of capitalism. My analogy would be like sitting a three year old down an I'm not going to finish this book. So far, he is recounting the history of the Mormon church without listing a single positive thing. He has taken every exaggerated idea, including some of his own making, and used those to support a warped idea of something that I hold pretty close to my heart. It's kind of the same problem I had with Mark Freiden's The World Is Flat. He only told one side of the story, to praise the ideals of capitalism. My analogy would be like sitting a three year old down and telling them about every terrible thing you have ever done in your life to explain how you got to be their parent. It would hurt them a great deal and it would weaken their ideals about you while accomplishing absolutely nothing as far as helping them understand you as their parent. I understand that is the perspective of both books, to tell the one side to build their argument, however, this one is just not for me.Krakauer has done a very good job, though, of taking an awful lot of information and trying to weave a pretty concise history out of a lot of convoluted material.(See what I did right there, Jon. I gave a kind of negative review, but also found something good in it.)
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  • Ellen
    January 1, 1970
    Wow. I'm slowly becoming more of a fan of non-fiction, and this book is great for that! Krakauer gives a well-researched (judging from the length of the bibliography) account of the history of the Mormon church, interwoven with an absolutely chilling look at Mormon Fundamentalist communities that practice polygamy in the desert wilds of Utah, Arizona, and Canada. These people are nuts, plain and simple. I can have a limited respect for a watered-down and spiritualist form of religion, but this k Wow. I'm slowly becoming more of a fan of non-fiction, and this book is great for that! Krakauer gives a well-researched (judging from the length of the bibliography) account of the history of the Mormon church, interwoven with an absolutely chilling look at Mormon Fundamentalist communities that practice polygamy in the desert wilds of Utah, Arizona, and Canada. These people are nuts, plain and simple. I can have a limited respect for a watered-down and spiritualist form of religion, but this kind of extremism is just insane. It's a completely irrational justification for the worst kinds of human behavior, including domestic violence, rape, sexual abuse, and, what is central to Krakauer's story, murder. Krakauer has been accused by some of not presenting an even-handed account, and I think it's true that it's easy to see that he thinks Mormon fundamentalism is absurd. On the other hand, it's a rare person who doesn't. And Krakauer refrains (for the most part) from actively condemning or poking fun at his subjects, although it would be very easy to do so. He lets the absurdities of Mormon history and belief speak for themselves. No direct criticism could be so damning.Particularly interesting is the part of the book where Krakauer talks about religion and insanity. He focuses on the story of Ron Lafferty, a Mormon fundamentalist who participates in the brutal murder of a young woman and her 18 month old daughter. During Ron's trial, the prosecution works hard to make the case that Ron, despite his history of hearing voices and his belief that an evil spirit is trying to enter his body through his anus, is mentally competent to stand trial. And part of that argument is arguing that these totally absurd and violent beliefs are really just as rational as any other religious person's beliefs. And since they are, we cannot judge Ron to be insane, because that would be saying that all religious people are insane. In the absence of any rational reason for believing in one version of the supernatural as opposed to another, it is indeed difficult to argue that one belief system is insane, while another deserves to be endorsed by nearly every candidate for the president of the United States. Food for thought, for sure.
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  • Jen
    January 1, 1970
    The low rating isn't because the book is poorly written--it's not. At times the book is fascinating and at times horrifying (my husband just finished it too and found it riveting). The subject matter, however was pretty dark and gruesome for me personally to enjoy. Although well researched and even-handed at times, as he explored the "underbelly" of Mormonism, there was undercurrent of contempt from the author. It showed in the description of a man with a comb-over, liver spots and bad grammar w The low rating isn't because the book is poorly written--it's not. At times the book is fascinating and at times horrifying (my husband just finished it too and found it riveting). The subject matter, however was pretty dark and gruesome for me personally to enjoy. Although well researched and even-handed at times, as he explored the "underbelly" of Mormonism, there was undercurrent of contempt from the author. It showed in the description of a man with a comb-over, liver spots and bad grammar who Krakauer chose to represent contemporary LDS people, it showed in the comment of an extreme fundamentalist defector who believed that only a Mormon girl would be caught in Elizabeth Smart's situation (how would she know? she lived in a completely different culture), it showed in the obvious omissions in the teachings of Joseph Smith (like basic articles of faith that promote tolerance of other religions). I'd be interested in reading the authors' response to criticism in the second edition. Thanks to my friend for the recommendation--it certainly has given me a lot of food for thought.
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  • Will Byrnes
    January 1, 1970
    This is a very interesting look at Mormon extremists, a very worthwhile read by an outstanding journalist.
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