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Under the Banner of Heaven Hardcover – 5 Sep 2003

4.5 out of 5 stars 53 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan; First Edition, First Impression edition (5 Sept. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1405032804
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405032803
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 15.8 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 301,240 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

Under the Banner of Heaven is a riveting read. The Lafferty boys were brought up in a squeaky clean All-American family. So what made two of them follow revelations from God to slit the throat of their ex-beauty queen sister-in-law and her infant daughter? The problem was that they got involved in the fundamentalist, survivalist wing of the Mormon Church.

Author Jon Krakauer expertly jumps from the immediate horror of the Lafferty boys to the context of Mormonism and the wider questions of religious violence. In the process we are taken on a house of horrors ride through the badlands of fundamentalist Mormon religion. Krakauer introduces us to red necks with more than 30 "wives"--many who were "married" in their early teens. It's a story of fraud, child abuse, incest, physical violence and spiritual and emotional rape at a deep level.

The contemporary story is lurid and shocking, but as Krakauer relates the picaresque story of Joseph Smith--the founder of the Mormon religion--you realise that present day fundamentalist Mormons are far closer to their founder in spirit and behaviour than the more squeaky clean manifestations of modern Mormonism. This well researched and tightly written account gives a great potted history of Mormonism and illuminates the psychotic fringes of religious mentality. In doing so it reveals the wild dangers of spiritual free wheeling and the need for caution and restraint in religion. --Dwight Longenecker

Review

...a lucid, judicious, even sympathetic account not just of Mormon Fundamentalism but of the seductive power of fanaticism in general... -- Daily Telegraph, October 2003

A powerful portrait of how two seemingly ordinary Americans became murderers. -- Economist, July 2003

Krakauer writes exceptionally well: as thrilling as Capote in true crime, as devastating as Nietsche on religious fundamentalism. -- Scotland on Sunday, October 2003

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
...although nominally about Mormonism (with a handy picture of a mountain on the cover, just to tempt in Krakauer fans who liked'Into Thin Air'), 'Under the Banner of Heaven' is really about how fundamentalism distorts everyone who touches it.
There's a wonderful scene near the end where he asks Ron Lafferty, who's spent half his adult life in prison for his part in a 'religious' murder of a woman and a baby whether he sees any similiarities between himself and Osama bin Laden... and for just a second, he almost does.
Unusual and utterly engrossing, this book is wonderful reading for almost anyone: it's beautifully written (if often harrowing), and if Krakauer rarely conceals his own prejudices, without his passion, it wouldn't be nearly so intense and fascinating.
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By A Customer on 30 Aug. 2004
Format: Paperback
This book no doubt has its detractors. In typical fashion they will try to defend themselves which of course is completely justified. However, if one reads Jon Krakauer's book with an open mind (I know of no other way to properly read a book) then you will appreciate the sheer enormity of the challenges this book poses in trying to understand the human condition. This book is about way more than religious fundamentalism, it's an inquiry into the extent that we justify our thoughts, rituals, beliefs, actions and even the 'justification of our justifications' in an effort to find our appropriate place in this infinitely complex human 'order'. It's a powerful book dedicated to the ever-elusive pursuit of truth. To come away from this book unchallenged means only one thing, ignorance. Well done Jon. A masterpiece.
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Well, just finished this, and its a riveting read, deconstructing the murder of a woman and her young child by fundamentalist Mormon Ron Lafferty in 1984, because "God told me to".

'Under the Banner of Heaven' tracks the history of Mormonism, and the growth of its fundamentalist wing, from the 19thC to the present day. All those wives! All that need for 'blood atonement'! As Krakauer says, though Mormonism is now accepted as part of the American mainstream, it "usually hugs the right edge of the flow", articulating reactionary - and usually offensive - views on race, gender, and sexuality.

If you were sceptical about the worth of organised religion of any creed, this book will confirm and reinforce your view that, though religion may have some minor social benefits, its tendency to exclude (and 'damn') non-believers (with varying degrees of social exclusion or physical harm) in the name of 'god' tends to negate any intrinsic worth it may bring.

Currently (as at September 2012), Mitt Romney - Mormon - is Republican candidate for US President. I doubt he'll win, but the LDS must be delighted he's got so far, and take it as evidence that the Final Day (second coming) is near...
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By Spider Monkey HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 7 Feb. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
'Under The Banner Of Heaven' is written with Jon Krakauer's usual easily read and digested style and tells the story not only of the Mormon fundamentalist murder of a mother and baby in the early 1980's, but also the history of the Mormon faith. Knowing nothing about Mormons, this historical aspect of the book really added to my overall understanding of the murders (and what may have lead to them) and the two aspects of this book are weaved together perfectly. The parts about the murders are shocking and a touch distressing to read in places and the origins and development of the Mormon faith is hard to believe at times. Jon Krakauer seems to write in a measured way and doesn't seem excessively biased. A great deal of the points he makes are backed up by various Mormon texts and interviews. The extent of Mormon fundamentalism is unnerving to discover and read about and casts their self proclaimed religious superiority in a rather dubious light. This is a clear and readable account of some horrific murders and the history of the Mormon faith and it kept me engrossed the whole way through. It's not Krakauer's usual outdoor adventure type book, but it is a fascinating read never-the-less. Worth a read.

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
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This is quite simply one of the most breathtaking books I have ever laid hands on.

It is extremely revealing educationally, but also contains the power to shock and surprise, as its author John Krakauer deftly and compellingly interweaves Mormon history with the current LDS church situation, and the more fundamentalist modern disciples of Joseph Smith. He received death threats for this work, and considering how it exposes the shameful and disturbing roots and beliefs of Mormonism, it is hardly surprising. Joseph Smith's claims to revelation lack any credibility in their historical, scientific and logical foundations; they make no sense whatsoever and are easily proven false. While they are indeed laughable, the deception that he has brought to millions, is not.

Krakauer has a scintillating writing style and is to be applauded for bravely bringing all this to light. I borrowed this book from a friend, but I have just purchased it from Amazon as it is well worth another read. Get this, and be gripped.
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Really enjoyed this-found it hard to put down. the hstorical sections and jumping back to the (almost) present day kept me alert. It astounds me how so many people can stick to this faith and how they hold so much power. The history of Mormonism (to my atheistic eys) seems like possibly the greatest con trick ever played, to the greatest amount of suckers. But the resulting fanaticism of some believers is truly scary-as is what they did.
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