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Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of…

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith (2003)

by Jon Krakauer

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I can't recall a book that I've read that had got a reaction out of me. Very relevant to today's "religious freedom" issues ... ( )
  beebowallace | Sep 4, 2015 |
The author does a good job of staying somewhat balanced. He inserts himself into the book through his interviews with various people, but he explains where he's coming from in terms of his own religious background. ( )
  Stembie3 | Jun 14, 2015 |
Excellent - well researched and informative. For a new religion it has an already calculated murderous history. Why kill children, women and men who don't even know who you are? Confirmation that people will belive anything despite solid evidence to the contrary. ( )
  Jeanne.Miller | Nov 12, 2014 |
I like Krakauer's other books but found this one tedious and poorly organized. I learned a lot about the history of the Mormons and the polygamist fundamentalist sects that exist today, but the book was heavy going. I finished feeling that I did not know why he felt compelled to write this book. ( )
  kishields | Jul 11, 2014 |
Once in a while, from the pits of human dreck a story oozes to the surface concerning closed communities of fundamentalist Mormons. Usually, it's not because they are doing good Christian things, instead, they are committing polygamy, child rape, and murder in the name of their religion. Jon Krakauer not only digs deep into some high profile stories, but traces the roots of these ideas to the very foundation of this violent sect. The Taliban have nothing on the Mormon Fundies.

Mormonism was born from the demented mind of its violent founder, Joseph Smith. Smith himself was gunned down after being run out of Missouri and wearing out his welcome in Illinois, where he had established the state's second largest city at the time. Another raging tool, Brigham Young, brought them eventually to the territory of Utah, where they could establish their depravity outside the reach of state or federal laws. Polygamy was secretly introduced by Smith when he decided his god wanted to have some sweet young tail...and the rest his pedophile sycophants readily accepted this as canon. When word got out, religious immigrants from Europe were disgusted and abandon plans of joining the settlement. Once established in Salt Lake City, the Mormons set about dressing themselves as local Indian tribes and attacking settlers who were migrating to all parts west, killing all of the adults, stealing the children and whatever items of value they carried. It's shocking that they inflicted so much death and misery and aside from some token sacrifices, never really paid the price for their actions.

The modern cases involving fundamentalists include kidnapping, child rape, and murder. Two brothers convicted of brutal murders of their family members claimed god had told them to execute his death sentence. It seems when Mormons, especially those in power, have some violent or perverted urge to scratch, they simply invoke a communique with god to justify their actions. By and large, they are supported by the congregation.

Krakauer also warns us that Mormonism is the fastest growing religion in the country. At its current rate of growth, it will exceed 300 million by the end of the century. And it's a politically active religion -- should this growth be maintained, they will have huge political sway. The author even suggests that polygamy -- presently prohibited by the mainstream Mormon church, is just biding its time until they have the political strength to overturn laws against it. And that's just the start of the nutjobbery that's coming -- Mormons believe it is ultimately their purpose to eliminate all non-Mormons from the planet to pave the way for the second coming (nevermind there was ostensibly no such paving done he first time around). ( )
  JeffV | Jun 20, 2014 |
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His project is ambitious: With Mormon fundamentalism as his chief illustration, he seeks to understand why religious extremism flourishes in a skeptical, postmodern society. . . . The result is a book that is both insightful and flawed.
SINCE Sept. 11, 2001, Americans have talked a lot about the dark side of religion, but for the most part it isn't religion in America they've had in mind. Jon Krakauer wants to broaden their perspective. In ''Under the Banner of Heaven,'' he enters the obscure world of Mormon fundamentalism to tell a story of, as he puts it, ''faith-based violence.''
added by mikeg2 | editNew York Times, Robert Wright (Aug 3, 2003)
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We believe in honesty, morality and purity; but when they enact tyrannical laws, forbidding us the free exercise of our religion, we cannot submit. God is greater than the United States, and when the Government conflicts with heaven, we will be ranged under the banner of heaven and against the government... Polygamy is a divine institution. it has been handed down direct from God. The United States cannot abolish it. No nation on earth can prevent it, nor all the nations of the earth combined, ... I defy the United States; I will obey God.
No western nation is as religion-soaked as ours, where nine out of ten of us love God and are loved by him in return. That mutual passion centers our society and demands some understanding, if our doom-eager society is to be understood at all.
The schisms that shattered Mormonism time and again, more critical tha inroads from without, only attest its strength. They were signs of the seriousness with which converts and dissenters took their salvation, ready to stake their souls on points of doctrine which a later, less Biblical generation could treat with indifference. WILLIAM MULDER AND A. RUSSELL MORTENSEN, AMONG THE MORMONS
For Linda.
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Almost everyone in Utah County has heard of the Lafferty boys. That's mostly a function of the lurid murders, of course, but the Lafferty surname had a certain prominence in the county even before Brenda and Erica Lafferty were killed.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0330419129, Paperback)

In 1984, Ron and Dan Lafferty murdered the wife and infant daughter of their younger brother Allen. The crimes were noteworthy not merely for their brutality but for the brothers' claim that they were acting on direct orders from God. In Under the Banner of Heaven, Jon Krakauer tells the story of the killers and their crime but also explores the shadowy world of Mormon fundamentalism from which the two emerged. The Mormon Church was founded, in part, on the idea that true believers could speak directly with God. But while the mainstream church attempted to be more palatable to the general public by rejecting the controversial tenet of polygamy, fundamentalist splinter groups saw this as apostasy and took to the hills to live what they believed to be a righteous life. When their beliefs are challenged or their patriarchal, cult-like order defied, these still-active groups, according to Krakauer, are capable of fighting back with tremendous violence. While Krakauer's research into the history of the church is admirably extensive, the real power of the book comes from present-day information, notably jailhouse interviews with Dan Lafferty. Far from being the brooding maniac one might expect, Lafferty is chillingly coherent, still insisting that his motive was merely to obey God's command. Krakauer's accounts of the actual murders are graphic and disturbing, but such detail makes the brothers' claim of divine instruction all the more horrifying. In an age where Westerners have trouble comprehending what drives Islamic fundamentalists to kill, Jon Krakauer advises us to look within America's own borders. --John Moe

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:45 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Jon Krakauer's literary reputation rests on insightful chronicles of lives conducted at the outer limits. He now shifts his focus from extremes of physical adventure to extremes of religious belief within our own borders, taking readers inside isolated American communities where some 40,000 Mormon Fundamentalists still practice polygamy. Defying both civil authorities and the Mormon establishment in Salt Lake City, the renegade leaders of these Taliban-like theocracies are zealots who answer only to God. At the core of Krakauer's book are brothers Ron and Dan Lafferty, who insist they received a commandment from God to kill a blameless woman and her baby girl. Beginning with a meticulously researched account of this appalling double murder, Krakauer constructs a multi-layered, bone-chilling narrative of messianic delusion, polygamy, savage violence, and unyielding faith. Along the way he uncovers a shadowy offshoot of America's fastest growing religion, and raises provocative questions about the nature of religious belief.… (more)

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