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

by Jon Krakauer

Other authors: Randy Alcorn

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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8,603212906 (3.94)303

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Showing 1-5 of 210 (next | show all)
My feelings on this book are all over the place. They do not fall into any particular vein or category.

1.) I learned ever so much more about Mormonism, and Mormon Fundamentalism, than I ever could have imagined. I have lived in "Mormon Country" from 22 years yet there was so much I did not know--like their hierarchy, how the Book of Mormon came to be, etc. I was intrigued by what I read (and then to talk with a friend and her husband who could give so much more insight)

2.) Polygamy is DISGUSTING. Child abuse and rape and incest and all of the things that are bottled up in FLDS...I can hardly believe people have stood by and allowed it to happen. And I have a hard time dealing with the belief that God condones it. Not the God I serve.

3.) I wanted more about the actual murders of Brenda and Erica Lafferty. Let me explain. I felt this book became an expose on religion and how religion brings about evil. Brenda and Erica were lost in the writing. I do not feel that is fair to these two innocent lives. They deserved more.

4.) In the end, while Krakauer's writing was phenomenal and his research well done, I disagreed with the conclusion he came to. It is my personal belief that there are all extremists in religion. It is not always religion that makes them extremist. And even if religion were to cease to exist, there would still be extremism and hate and violence in the name of....something..... ( )
1 vote msgabbythelibrarian | Jun 11, 2023 |
Krakauer can really write. I forgot, somehow (I guess it has been years)--but this book just pulled em right in.

Here, Krakauer looks at the 1984 murders of Brenda and Erica Lafferty. Two of her brothers-in-law were arrested, tried, and found guilty. One timeline within this book gives the history of Mormonism--from NY, to Missouri, to Illinois, to Utah--and examines the violent history of the church (both violence toward church members to violence from church members in defending their church/lifestyle/land). Another timeline gives a modern history of Mormon Fundamentalism in the 20th century. A third looks at the Lafferty family--their upbringing, their introduction to and interest in fundamentalism, and more. The second and third timelines converge. It sounds very confusing writing it down, but it works well in the book.

I studied Western History in grad school, and read several of the books he uses as sources, as well as various books on Arizona history and immigrant routes. This book really pulled a lot of that together for me.

This book was a solid 5 stars until the very end, when he talks with the still-imprisoned Dan Lafferty
about his reasoning and beliefs. I found it less than interesting and rather creepy, as this found-guilty and admittedly guilty man tries to rationalize his past horrific behavior. Yuck. ( )
1 vote Dreesie | Feb 9, 2023 |
Deeply disturbing but very very interesting true story. ( )
  Amzzz | Nov 12, 2022 |
“It is the aim of this book to cast some light on Lafferty and his ilk. If trying to understand such people is a daunting exercise, it also seems a useful one—for what it may tell us about the roots of brutality, perhaps, but even more for what might be learned about the nature of faith.” – Jon Krakauer, Under the Banner of Heaven

Jon Krakauer tells the story of extremist views held by the Fundamentalist LDS (FLDS) movement, which led to the horrific murder of a woman and her fifteen-month-old daughter by her brothers-in-law. He weaves in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), starting with founder Joseph Smith and how they evolved into the mainstream modern Mormon religion of today.

I found the FLDS story extremely disturbing – yet another example of horrible cruelty and murder done in the “name of God” by self-proclaimed prophets. In addition, the FLDS members taking underage girls as plural “wives” is mind-boggling. The book is successful in engendering a sense of outrage.

The Mormon history includes the foundational stories, Brigham Young’s leadership upon the death of Joseph Smith, the Mountain Meadows Massacre, relocations to various states before settling in Utah, and the eventual elimination of polygamy. Krakauer points out that the modern LDS does not condone polygamy or other practices of the FLDS.

My primary issue with the book and reason for not rating it higher is that the stated aim is only partially achieved, and the structure is puzzling. The storyline switches between FLDS and LDS segments, but I could not discern a logical progression. Granted, the FLDS movement wanted to go back to some of the original tenets espoused by Joseph Smith, but the brutal double murder was not a direct outcome. It was based on the extremism of a delusional “prophet” claiming to speak for God.

To me, it illustrates the dangers of cults. It is definitely not for the faint of heart. I have read and enjoyed Krakauer’s Into the Wild and Into Thin Air and recommend either book ahead of this one.

TRIGGER WARNINGS: rape, incest, domestic abuse, child abuse, animal abuse, infant murder
( )
  Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
I have been really fascinated by all the Jon Krakauer books I've read so far and this is no exception. This was also extremely disturbing read on so many levels that I am going to be processing it for some time to come so I'm not sure how to express my thoughts on it just yet. One thing that did stand out to me was not just the extremism of this one faction of the Mormons but the racist, misogynistic origins of the religion as a whole, which is sadly shared by many religions but just not usually so well documented. This book was a disconcerting read and I think I need a light palate/mind cleanser now. ( )
  JediBookLover | Oct 29, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 210 (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.
Krakauer's knowledge of polygamist communities in Canada and on the Arizona-Utah border and how they tie to Utahns and various organized groups is enlightening.
Krakauer's thesis is less convincing when he tries to explain the historical roots of polygamist fundamentalism by a brief and, at times, confused survey of Mormon history. ... Krakauer's thesis has greater authenticity when applied to radical fundamentalism of any form or in any religion. In searching for evidences to document his thesis, the author overlooked sources that explain the LDS church's evolution away from polygamy.
This is a haunting book because it is a reminder of Utah at its worst.
added by richjj | editUtah Historical Quarterly, F. Ross Peterson (pay site) (Apr 1, 2004)
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)

» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jon Krakauerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Alcorn, Randysecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brick, ScottNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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.
Almost everyone in Utah County has heard of the Lafferty boys.
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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