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

by Jon Krakauer

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Showing 1-5 of 156 (next | show all)
This was what I grabbed from the hotel book-swap shelf when I ran out of vacation reading! I would have found it more interesting if I knew absolutely nothing about Mormons before reading it. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
Outstanding ( )
  clarkland | Feb 2, 2016 |
I heard from many people that this was a gripping read and it proved true once again in my case. Some fascinating history; a psychological thriller; and some worthy reflections on, not only the intersection of faith and ethics, but the devastation that occur when they go in opposite directions. ( )
  bibleblaster | Jan 23, 2016 |
Summary:
Brothers Ron and Dan Lafferty insist they were commanded to kill by God. Krakauer's investigation is a meticulously researched, bone-chilling narrative of polygamy, savage violence and unyielding faith: an incisive, gripping work of non-fiction that illuminates an otherwise confounding realm of human behaviour.

My take: 4 stars
I don't usually go for non-fiction. I find it dry and uninteresting; however, I was unable to put this one down. Impeccable research and a warm writing style made this a very engaging book on Mormonism.

For example, Elohim had two sons, Jesus and Lucifer. when Elohim decided to create a new world, Earth, he asked his boys which one wanted to be its savior. They both pitched their ideas, and Jesus won. Satan got mad, along with 1/3 of the spirits and they were cast into Earth's hell. The 1/3 who fought for Jesus were made angels with light skin. The 1/3 who didn't choose a side either way were punished on Earth with dark skin, making the Negros, Hispanics and American Indians. The lighter your skin, the more blessed you are by God. Can you believe that?

Another very disturbing fact in the book is the constant change that Mormonism documents. God makes revelations to his saints in the church, and they are compelled to carry them out, or burn in hell. There are radical revisions to church doctrine, depending on the president at the time. You can imagine the controversy when they started allowing "dark skinned" leaders in the church!

I was distraught at the comparison to my own Christian faith, but came to realize that this is only a thinly veiled attempt to gain a foothold to convert to their faith. If they appeared crazy at the outset, what are the chances of growth?

As I read of the abuse of power, killing apostates to further the faith and the great need to populate like-minded people through plural marriage, I saw my own Old Testament histories enacted over and over again, but this time in modern days.

Mormonism, as presented here, is one of the most intolerant of belief systems, based on the exclusionary ideals of a man who espoused polygamy, murder, and manipulation to a group of uneducated and impoverished people. What is the draw today to this faith, with the possible exception of brainwashing?

Religions inevitably demand a leap of faith at some point, but spiritual growth is about questioning, finding answers, seeking the truth and coming to terms with a personal and living belief in ONE who is greater than I could ever be. God the Father is not offended at my curiosity and certainly not defensive to the point of violence when I move from blind faith to actively seeking my path to Him. I am not the least bit interested in becoming a god or goddess myself, having eternal celestial sex so I can populate the new planet Elohim gives to me when I am deemed worthy. It's too science fiction for me.
( )
  CarmenMilligan | Jan 18, 2016 |
Krakauer explores the polygamist culture of Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints, through the lens of a murder by two brothers of another brother's wife. The murderers claim they were led to their actions by God. Krakauer points out the danger of a religion that recognizes and encourages each individual to develop his (or her) own divine inspirations. He traces the origin of the violence and misogynism of the Fundamentalist to the very roots of Mormonism, and even, less directly, to religion itself.

Krakauer's exploration of the history of the Latter Day Saints takes up so much of the book that for a while you lose sight of the original murder that starts off the book, but it is thorough and fascinating. Somehow the intertwined history of families and settlements begins to make sense, and is actually needed to begin to comprehend the horror of the Lafferty brothers' actions.

I learned a lot about Mormonism, which is one of the fastest-growing religions in the world. It was worth the read for that in itself. ( )
  TerriBooks | Jan 14, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 156 (next | show all)
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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Epigraph
PROLOGUE
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.
JOHN TAYLOR (ON JANUARY 4, 1880), PRESIDENT, PROPHET, SEER, and REVELATOR, CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF THE LATTER-DAY SAINTS
PROLOGUE
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.
HAROLD BLOOM, THE AMERICAN RELIGION
PART 1
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
Dedication
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)

» see all 7 descriptions

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