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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.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8,010205868 (3.95)290
Jon Krakauer's literary reputation rests on insightful chronicles of lives conducted at the outer limits. In UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN, 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 ₃divinely inspired₄ 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.… (more)
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» See also 290 mentions

English (204)  French (1)  All languages (205)
Showing 1-5 of 204 (next | show all)
Confidently written and attention grabbing. ( )
  Litrvixen | Jun 23, 2022 |
Ostensibly a true crime tale, it's actually a very well written examination of fundamentalism, Mormon and otherwise, and it's tendency towards extremes. You won't find a more detailed and honest history of the Mormons. ( )
  dhaxton | May 19, 2022 |
“I was doing God’s will, which is not a crime.”

This book is part history of the Mormon church and part murder investigation. The first part was interesting, and really revealing about the origins of the LDS church. The second part, the horrible murders committed by Dan Lafferty, a Mormon Fundamentalist, are a terrifying look into the power of religious belief. A woman and her child are murdered because God told a man to do it. And he did.

“Saying that anyone who talks to God is crazy has enormous implications for the whole world of religion. It imposes a secular view of sanity and means that all religions are insane.” My thoughts exactly!

“…If Ron Lafferty were deemed mentally ill because he obeyed the voice of God, isn’t everyone who believes in God and seeks guidance through prayer mentally ill as well?”

And I wonder what the difference between him and the biblical Abraham is? Abraham is a revered 'father' of the Bible for following God's command to kill. Lafferty is in prison for life. One a hero, one a criminal - both believing they were following God's divine will. Was Abraham actually mentally ill, or should Dan and Ron be revered too? Me, I think anyone who kills women and children, or attempts too, are insane. From Abraham on down. ( )
  Stahl-Ricco | May 9, 2022 |
Jon Krakauer is known for writing about true-story adventures and events. In this, he chronicles the story of brothers and Mormon Fundamentalists Ron and Dan Lafferty, accused and convicted of the vicious murder in 1984 of their sister-in-law and niece. He alternates their story with historical background of the development and spread of the Mormon faith in America.

This is the third book of Krakauer's that I've read. I very much enjoyed Into the Wild and I loved Into Thin Air. This one seemed like it had the potential to pull me in as well, but frankly it just didn't. I read an abridged audio version of this book, read by Krakauer, and I suspect that may have had something to do with it. It could've been the abridgment, but I think it probably related more to the reading itself. Krakauer is a capable reader, but he reads mostly in a monotone, and I found my mind drifting while listening. The portions about the Lafferty family kept my interest, but the long sections detailing the history of the Mormon church were very dry and much less engaging, reading almost like a textbook. I just didn't feel like this lived up to the dynamic feeling that his other books created. There's a movie series adaptation due to be released next month. I suspect it will convey a more Hollywood-type interpretation, which in this case may be more appealing to me. ( )
  indygo88 | Mar 18, 2022 |
Although it tries to present itself as a general history of Mormonism, it's really focused on the *violent* parts of the history of Mormonism. The later chapters seem made to prove an agenda that Mormonism, or maybe religion in general, is illogical. I'm not sure that I agree. ( )
  Tikimoof | Feb 17, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 204 (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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Epigraph
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
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
Prologue
Almost everyone in Utah County has heard of the Lafferty boys.
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.
First words
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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Jon Krakauer's literary reputation rests on insightful chronicles of lives conducted at the outer limits. In UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN, 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 ₃divinely inspired₄ 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.

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