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on 18 October 2016
TRIGGER WARNING: rape, incest, domestic abuse, child abuse, animal abuse, child murder

I’m speechless. (OK, maybe not). What the heck did I just read? You’re telling me this is non-fiction? ...How? HOW? This isn’t just some freak incident either, people live like what’s described in this book, I’m baffled by it. I mean I’m a little baffled by strict religious following anyway (no offence meant) but Mormonism is just on another level.

The story of Mormonism is so strange because Joseph Smith was a control freak and swindler but also the way society got away with treating him and his followers was awful. You really can’t pick a right and wrong side, they’re both pretty terrible.

This book's main focus is on how people's strong faith in Mormonism makes them believe they're above the laws of the land, so they go and commit crimes they think are justified and right. For example, Dan and Ron Lafferty, who truly believe God has spoken to them and told them they need to kill their brothers wife and young baby. A deed done by them so brutally, the poor baby was basically beheaded. Clearly this book isn’t for the faint hearted.

One of the saddest moments in this book is when Krakauer meets a Mormon family and their young daughter (I think she was between 8 to 12) comes into the room with floor plans of her dream house, where she's drawn out several different rooms for the other wives of the husband she is going to share. How awful is that, to believe that you must share your husband with other women, because for men of the Mormon faith, women are just child bearers, nothing more. Joseph Smith actually declared God said "women shall be man's handmaid". For this young girl to be planning her life with a shared husband and feeling that's normal, even feeling happy about it, is a terrible, terrible thing to think about.

This took me around 3 months to finish, not only because I accidentally left this in my dad’s suitcase when I came back from Spain, but also because this was such heavy non-fiction reading. Not only did it describe, in gruesome detail, the crimes committed by those under the Mormon faith, it was also a long historical timeline of how Mormonism was created and has grown to where it currently sits today. (Did you know, there are currently more Mormons on this planet than Jewish people?) Not to mention the confusion it causes when trying to remind you who everyone is and how everyone is related, because they’re pretty much all related through marriage.

This is certainly an interesting read. I'm sure you’ve heard about Mormon’s and the Book of Mormon and polygamy, etc, but never really looked further into it. Well, for those of you that would like to look further into it, then this is the book for you! It's incredible to read all about how Joseph Smith magicked up Mormon faith and how gruesome and evil polygamy really is.

I really recommend this book for all of you who love learning about religions or just love to have some random shocking facts to dish out around the dinner table. A seriously interesting, if not disturbing read.
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on 3 December 2017
What awful people exist in the world despite seemingly righteous beginnings
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on 15 November 2017
great read, messed up people
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on 7 February 2008
'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.

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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 9 March 2016
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 a particularly brutal fashion by her brother-in-law, Dan Lafferty, after his brother Ron had a 'revelation' from God instructing him to 'remove' them. The Lafferty brothers were both Mormon Fundamentalists ~ that is, Mormons who live by the rules laid down by the originator of the faith, Joseph Smith, which includes polygamy.

The book starts off with details about the crime, then goes back to explain how Mormonism started, the history of the religion, the general population's reaction to the movement, and the changes that have occured through over the years since its inception, mostly the division between the LDS and the Fundamentalists. The purpose of this is to explain the psychology behind fundamentalism in this religion, and to show what led the Lafferty brothers to do what they did.

I loved the clever structure of the book, the way it moved from present to past to build up a complete picture of of this 'violent faith'. I didn't know much about Mormonism before reading this; my knowledge came only from the scarily plastic, smiling faces of the Osmond brothers in the 1970s and the more recent, hilarious (and accurate) take on it by South Park. Jon Krakauer's book gives what I consider to be a balanced view, some of which details frightening scenarios ~ murder (and massacre), paedophilia, narcissistic delusions, mind control, hypocrisy, false representation of facts. I read that he took three years to research the book, not only using a variety of written sources, but also interviewing those currently in the faith, those who have left it, been harmed by it ~ and Dan Lafferty himself.

Under the Banner of Heaven considers the psychology of fundamentalism in all religions, not just Mormonism, and makes for fascinating reading. I love the way Krakauer writes, never using twenty words where ten will do, giving an objective point of view at all times (though so cleverly that you can often feel his opinion whispering through the sentences!). Normally, I would be only mildly interested in reading a book about cults or religions, but this had me gripped.

I loved the observation at the end (I hope this isn't a 'spoiler'!) from ex Mormon DeLoy Bateman who said that although he thought that people within the religion were probably happier than those on the outside, "some things are more important than being happy. Like being free to think for yourself."
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on 15 August 2017
I bought this for two reasons.

1. The author
2. To read some summer true crime

The book far exceeded my expectations and is testament to choosing a book because of the author.

Advertised as the story of an inter-family murder this instead widens its lens to include a history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or Mormons, their spin off religions and their sometimes astonishing beliefs. The history is supported by real life examples of actions taken in the name of religion.

I won't give anything else away. Instead just buy and read this book.
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on 29 September 2012
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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on 31 January 2011
I read this book because I enjoyed Into the Wild, both book and film, and because I read in the February issue of Vogue that Kristen Stewart was reading it. She has good taste in my opinion and so I followed. Anyway, being from the UK and so having never had first hand experience with the Mormon religion I was very interested in finding out what the truth was amongst all the media driven ideas that are fed to us. The book reads like a long newspaper article, wonderfully intertwined stories, mixing politics, history and culture of a people and of a religion. Although parts of the book shock, parts also make you understand what, on the surface, you think impossible to understand. Would more then recommend this book, quick to read and highly addictive, one of the best things I have read in a long time!
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on 18 October 2004
...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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on 30 September 2008
Brilliant account of a religion and how it lead to the murder of innocents by people carrying out what they thought was God's work. Sound familiar?

This is a stunning book. It so incredibly well researched and written that despite the amount of details you don't ever lose your way. It describes everything so richly that you almost feel part of events. A warning though - it makes the retelling of the actual murders all the more harrowing and almost unreadable at one point.

I'd like to think it's for everyone but I think you need more than a casual interest in religion (more so atheists! Anyone whose read God Delusion or Sam Harris MUST read this) to really enjoy a pretty full account of Mormon history but it really rewards. It made me shake my head in disbelief several times and reflect on how a religion (?!) like Mormonism or it's offshoots can gain such a foothold in modern times.

I'd also recommend it for fans of Brian Masters crime writing as it feels similarly well written and the subject matter does cross over.
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