Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith
Narrated by Scott Brick
12 hours, 37 minutes
At the core of this 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 “divinely inspired” 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.
Jon Krakauer could write about rivets and I’d probably read it. My first experience with Krakauer was the movie Into the Wild, which HB and I stumbled upon while channel surfing. We got sucked right into that story…and Alaska isn’t something I’m normally all that interested in (something to do with the fact that I think of cold air and I turn purple).
Then I ended up reading Into Thin Air. Again…cold air. And heights (also not a favorite thing). And extreme adventuring (have I mentioned my aversion to camping?). Except, surprise!, it was a damn good book. Not only did I learn lots of interesting things, but it reinforced my decision that there is no way in HELL that anyone will ever get me near Mt. Everest. Not that I even have the money, should I want to, because I also learned that it’s obscenely expensive (both in terms of money and one’s health (and then there’s the cost to the environment)) to climb it. And obviously, I came away from that book with some strong opinions.
For my third Krakauer experience I opted for audio. And that was a bit of a mistake. Oh sure, I still liked his writing, and his topic (religious fundamentalism…again, something I don’t normally read about). But there was so much information packed into this book and I am so not an auditory learner that I’m pretty sure 80% fell out of my brain immediately after entering. Which is why I can tell you I found it fascinating, but I can’t go into any details about why Mormon fundamentalists scare the crap out of me.
So my next Krakauer will be the Pat Tillman book (aka the one I can never remember the name of, because it doesn’t start with Into or Under). I even have it sitting on my shelf…and you can bet it’s the print version, not audio. Whenever it manages to muscle its way off of the shelf and into my hands will be when I start reading it.