Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith

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Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith

by Jon Krakauer

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group | June 8, 2004 | Trade Paperback

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith is rated 4.1429 out of 5 by 7.
Jon Krakauer’s literary reputation rests on insightful chronicles of lives conducted at the outer limits. He now shifts his focus from extremes of physical adventure to extremes of religious belief within our own borders, taking readers inside isolated American communities where some 40,000 Mormon Fundamentalists still practice polygamy. Defying both civil authorities and the Mormon establishment in Salt Lake City, the renegade leaders of these Taliban-like theocracies are zealots who answer only to God.

At the core of Krakauer’s book are brothers Ron and Dan Lafferty, who insist they received a commandment from God to kill a blameless woman and her baby girl. Beginning with a meticulously researched account of this appalling double murder, Krakauer constructs a multi-layered, bone-chilling narrative of messianic delusion, polygamy, savage violence, 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.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 432 pages, 7.99 × 5.17 × 0.89 in

Published: June 8, 2004

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1400032806

ISBN - 13: 9781400032808

Found in: Social and Cultural Studies

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Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from A scary history I read this book for a book club that I have been attending. This was their latest book. I was only part way through the book before the meting started. This book was a real eye opener. I knew some of the history of the Mormons as I had read a book about them last year. I have even traveled through Salt Lake City. I had heard something about some extreme fundalmenalists who still practised polymagmy, but not to this degree. There are some pretty gruesome stories in this book. It is hard to believe that people would do this sort things to other people and even members of their own family. This book attempts to a factual look at Mormon fundamentalist. The author uses the history of Mormons to explain where the fundalmentists got there beleifs and what the they did to protect their beliefs. This was a very heavy book. It took me awhile to read it. This book is not for everyone. Some of the subjuect matter may be too intense for some readers. It can even be frieghtening. As a sudent of religous history, I was interested in the book. If it weren't for the book club, I might not have read it. Ifound the book very interesting.
Date published: 2013-10-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very interesting read! With all the contorversies and news surrounding polygamy and the LDS church, Jon Krakauer delievers gripping novel about mormonism. It explores the issues of fundamentalists vs modern LDS, and explores the development of the Church from when it was founded until now. Presented in an unbiased manner, this book is not only informative, but it reads like a good mystery/crime book! Good for anyone looking to understand a bit more about what they see in the news. Note- there is some very disturbing content in this book. Including stories about murder and rape. Read with caution.
Date published: 2009-06-22
Rated 2 out of 5 by from It Would Be Nice If... Authors telling the story of Joseph Smith used sources other than Fawn Brodie's biography "No Man Knows My History". Krakauer tells a fascinating story of the Lafferty Brothers and their many crimes and motivations, however his religious prejudice shows in his descriptions of the founders of Mormonism. He puts as much emphasis and spin as possible on the negative events in Mormon history in order to set up the Lafferty story. While I don't like sanitized versions of Mormon history, Krakauer should be more professional in presenting a view of a religion, even if he has a personal distaste for it.
Date published: 2006-08-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Intriguing read If you are interested in the roots of the Mormon faith, the fundamentalist views (including the support of polygamy and incest) of a small percentage of Saints, then you will likely find this a captivating read. I found the entire book, from the history of the Mormon religion to the modern murder committed by a group of FLDS followers, to be captivating. Krakauer makes the history of the church interesting, bouncing back and forth between the early founding of the church and the modern-day teachings. I would definitely recommend this title!
Date published: 2006-06-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Compelling account of religious extremism John Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven is a compelling and well-written account of Mormon fundamentalism. Krakauer examines the murders of Brenda and Erica Lafferty by Ron and Dan Lafferty in an attempt to understand the history and theology of Mormonism. The author is particularly adept at outlining how and why the Mormon Church moderated its theology to move closer to the mainstream of American life, and how this accommodation moved some Mormons to extremism and bloody violence. The appendix alone is worth the price of the book. Krakauer easily refutes attacks on the first edition of Under the Banner of Heaven by Mormon elders. He then challenges them to open Mormon archives to non-Mormon scholars so that a full critical history of the church can finally be written. We need more books like this one!!!!!
Date published: 2005-03-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating and Disturbing Having been a fan of Krakauer's Outdoor articles, Into Thin Air, and Into the Wild, I was somewhat taken aback when I saw the topic of his latest book. I was skeptical as to whether a book about Mormon fundamentalism would be interesting and what insight an 'eco-writer' would have. Suffice to say I found it very interesting and well written and thoroughly enjoyed every word. His views are informed and well articulated though un-popular with mainstream Mormons. This edition has the LDS critique and author's reply included which demonstrates a commitment to accuracy and fairness by Krakauer. The historical review of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young et al. was fascinating and the treatment they were given was in my view fair. That being said it is probably easier for me to reach that conclusion being an agnostic secularist. Sometimes the truth hurts and the LDS leadership exhibit [within the book and in the aftermath of its publication] a desire to pretend that polygamy was not a central tenet of Joseph Smith's teachings. Their reasoning and the ecclesiastical convenience which is exposed I found to be intriguing. I expect we have not heard the last of Mormon Fundamentalism in the news and that further conflicts are ahead. This book is essential reading for those who are interested in religous fundamentalism of any denomination and the effects it has on our society.
Date published: 2004-07-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely unbelievable!!! This book is so good that I can't put it down! It's an incredible, engrossing and unbelievable story of the Mormon faith and fundamentalist beliefs. Society today talks about terrorism and religious fanatics in Afghanistan yet this book explores the relious fanatics within our own borders. It's an intriguing, thought-provoking look at a growing religion.
Date published: 2004-07-14

– More About This Product –

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith

by Jon Krakauer

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 432 pages, 7.99 × 5.17 × 0.89 in

Published: June 8, 2004

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1400032806

ISBN - 13: 9781400032808

Read from the Book

ONE THE CITY OF THE SAINTS For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth. Deuteronomy 14:2 And it shall come to pass that I, the Lord God, will send one mighty and strong, holding the scepter of power in his hand, clothed with light for a covering, whose mouth shall utter words, eternal words; while his bowels shall be a fountain of truth, to set in order the house of God. The Doctrine and Covenants, Section 85 revealed to Joseph Smith on November 27, 1832 Balanced atop the highest spire of the Salt Lake Temple, gleaming in the Utah sun, a statue of the angel Moroni stands watch over downtown Salt Lake City with his golden trumpet raised. This massive granite edifice is the spiritual and temporal nexus of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), which presents itself as the world''s only true religion. Temple Square is to Mormons what the Vatican is to Catholics, or the Kaaba in Mecca is to Muslims. At last count there were more than eleven million Saints the world over, and Mormonism is the fastest-growing faith in the Western Hemisphere. At present in the United States there are more Mormons than Presbyterians or Episcopalians. On the planet as a whole, there are now more Mormons than Jews. Mormonism is considered in some sober academic circles to be well on its way to becoming a major world religion--the first such faith to emerge since Islam
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From the Publisher

Jon Krakauer’s literary reputation rests on insightful chronicles of lives conducted at the outer limits. He now shifts his focus from extremes of physical adventure to extremes of religious belief within our own borders, taking readers inside isolated American communities where some 40,000 Mormon Fundamentalists still practice polygamy. Defying both civil authorities and the Mormon establishment in Salt Lake City, the renegade leaders of these Taliban-like theocracies are zealots who answer only to God.

At the core of Krakauer’s book are brothers Ron and Dan Lafferty, who insist they received a commandment from God to kill a blameless woman and her baby girl. Beginning with a meticulously researched account of this appalling double murder, Krakauer constructs a multi-layered, bone-chilling narrative of messianic delusion, polygamy, savage violence, 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.

From the Jacket

Jon Krakauer''s literary reputation rests on insightful chronicles of lives conducted at the outer limits. He now shifts his focus from extremes of physical adventure to extremes of religious belief within our own borders, taking readers inside isolated American communities where some 40,000 Mormon Fundamentalists still practice polygamy. Defying both civil authorities and the Mormon establishment in Salt Lake City, the renegade leaders of these Taliban-like theocracies are zealots who answer only to God.
At the core of Krakauer''s book are brothers Ron and Dan Lafferty, who insist they received a commandment from God to kill a blameless woman and her baby girl. Beginning with a meticulously researched account of this appalling double murder, Krakauer constructs a multi-layered, bone-chilling narrative of messianic delusion, polygamy, savage violence, 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.

About the Author

Jon Krakauer is the author of Eiger Dreams, Into the Wild, and Into Thin Air and is editor of the Modern Library Exploration series.

Editorial Reviews

“Fantastic. . . . Right up there with In Cold Blood and The Executioner’s Song . ” — San Francisco Chronicle “Powerfully illuminating. . . . Almost every section of the book is fascinating in its own right, and together the chapters make a rich picture. . . . An arresting portrait of depravity.” — The New York Times Book Review “This year’s most audacious work of nonfiction. . . . A white-knuckle mix of true-crime reporting and provocative history.” — New York Post “Scrupulously reported and written with Krakauer’s usual exacting flair, Under the Banner of Heaven is both illuminating and thrilling. It is also the creepiest book anyone has written in a long time—and that’s meant as the highest possible praise.” — Newsweek “Krakauer writes with almost astonishing narrative force. It is hard to stop reading.” — The Baltimore Sun “Stunningly researched. . . . Elegant reportage. . . . An evenhanded inquiry into the nature of religious belief itself.” — Newsday “Captivating. . . . Fascinating and appalling. . . . [Krakauer] should be applauded—and read.” — The San Diego Union-Tribune “A great book. . . . Krakauer has found a fascinating story in plain sight, right in the heart of the American West, and told it with the narrative drive and unflinching honesty that marked his 1998 best seller, Into Thin Air. ” &#
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Bookclub Guide

US

1. In his prologue, Jon Krakauer writes that the aim of his book is to “cast some light on Lafferty and his ilk,” which he concedes is a daunting but useful task 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” [p. XXIII]. What does the book reveal about fanatics such as Ron and Dan Lafferty? What does it reveal about brutality and faith and the connections between them?

2. Why does Krakauer move back and forth between Mormon history and contemporary events? What are the connections between the beliefs and practices of Joseph Smith and his followers in the nineteenth century and the behavior of people like Dan and Ron Lafferty, Brian David Mitchell, and others in the twentieth?

3. Prosecutor David Leavitt argued that “People in the state of Utah simply do not understand, and have not understood for fifty years, the devastating effect that the practice of polygamy has on young girls in our society” [p. 24]. How does polygamy affect young girls? Is it, as Leavitt claims, pedophilia plain and simple?

4. Joseph Smith claimed that the doctrine of polygamy was divinely inspired. What earthly reasons might also explain Smith’s attraction to having plural wives?

5. When Krakauer asks Dan Lafferty if he has considered the parallels between himself and Osama bin Laden, Dan asserts that bin Laden is a “child of the Devil” and that the hijackers were “following a false prophet,” whereas he is following a true prophet [p. 321]. No doubt, bin Laden would say much the same of Lafferty. How are Dan Lafferty and Osama bin Laden alike? In what ways are all religious fundamentalists alike?

6. Krakauer asks: “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?” [p. 297] Given the nature of, and motive for, the murders of Brenda Lafferty and her child, should Ron Lafferty be considered mentally ill? If so, should all others who “talk to God” or receive revelations—a central tenant of Mormonism—also be considered mentally ill? What would the legal ramifications be of such a shift in thought?

7. Krakauer begins part III with a quote from Bertrand Russell, who asserts that “every single bit of progress
in humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step toward the diminution of war, every step toward better treatment of the colored races, or every mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organized churches of the world” [p. 191]. Is this a fair and accurate statement? What historical examples support it? What improvements in humane feeling and social justice has the Mormon church opposed?

8. How are mainstream and fundamentalist Mormons likely to react to Krakauer’s book?

9. Much of Under the Banner of Heaven explores the tensions between freedom of religion and governmental authority. How should these tensions be resolved? How can the state allow religious freedom to those who place obedience to God’s will above obedience to secular laws?

10. Joseph Smith called himself “a second Mohammed,” and Krakauer quotes George Arbaugh who suggests that Mormonism’s “aggressive theocratic claims, political aspirations, and use of force, make it akin to Islam” [p. 102]. What other similarities exist between the Mormon and Islamic faiths?

11. How should Joseph Smith be understood: as a delusional narcissist, a con man, or “an authentic religious genius” [p. 55], as Harold Bloom claims?

12. Krakauer suggests that much of John Wesley Powell’s book, The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons, particularly his account of his dealings with the Shivwit Indians, should be regarded with a “healthy dose of skepticism,” and that it embellishes and omits important facts [p. 245]. Is Krakauer himself a trustworthy guide to the events he describes in Under the Banner of Heaven? Are his writing and his judgments fair and reasonable? What makes them so?

13. What patterns emerge from looking at Mormon history? What do events like the Mountain Meadow massacre and the violence between Mormons and gentiles in Missouri and Illinois suggest about the nature of Mormonism? Have Mormons been more often the perpetrators or the victims of violence?

14. At the very end of the book, former Mormon fundamentalist DeLoy Bateman says that while the Mormon fundamentalists who live within Colorado City may be happier than those who live outside it, he believes that “some things in life are more important than being happy. Like being free to think for yourself” [p. 334]. Why does Krakauer end the book this way? In what ways are Mormons not free to think for themselves? Is such freedom more important than happiness?