Under the Banner of Heaven Hardcover – 5 Sep 2003
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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
...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
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.
'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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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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Grim, fascinating, staggering in its depth and content, Meticulously researched and brilliantly written and structured. I figure that anything by this author must be worth reading. Read morePublished 1 month ago by D. Peet
I struggled to read this one and I cannot honestly say I enjoyed it. It was more of a chore,as in I've started it so I'll finish it. Come hell or high water! Read morePublished 2 months ago by Rose Highley-Andrews
Jon Krakauer presents the reader with a rich history of the Mormon church, delving into the roots of its beliefs and the many branches of fundamentalist groups that have been born... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Matthew Jones
Krakauer is an excellent story teller with Into the Wild being a personal favorite. With the dangers of religious fundamentalism at the forefront of peoples minds in the 21st... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Es Vedra
If a murderer truly believes that he was instructed by God to kill, does this make him insane?
In 1984, Brenda Lafferty and her little daughter, Erica, were murdered in... Read more
This is what good popular history (okay, RECENT history) should be. It is a fast, interesting read. It has plenty of relevant context - and the best popular history, in my... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Bertolt
Very very insightful. Jon Krakaeur does it again with his objectivity and clear and incisive writing.Published 6 months ago by Gayathri Kadyan