Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith

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Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith Crime

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A New York Times Notable Book. Jon Krakauer, author of Into the Wild and Into Thin Air, shifts his focus from extremes of physical adventure to extremes of religious belief. At the core of this book are brothers Ron & Dan Lafferty, who insist they received a commandment from God to kill a blameless woman & her baby girl. Beginning with a meticulously researched account of this appalling double murder, Krakauer constructs a multilayered, bone-chilling narrative of messianic delusion, polygamy, savage violence, and unyielding faith. Uncovering a shadowy offshoot of America's fastest growing religion, Mormonism, the book raises provocative questions about the nature of religious faith.

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  • How Old Is Your Daughter?

    5 out of 5

    Written by , Posted on at 3:09:26 PM

    Mr. Krakauer’s memoir digs deep into the past history and current movements of Mormonism, a faith that splinters every time a new and on-the-rise prophet takes issue with what a current prophet is proselytizing. So there are a mind-boggling number of sects out there. But Mr. Krakauer concentrates his attention on the original LDS and the FLDS. In doing so, he unearths the embarrassing antics of Joseph Smith, a con man indicted for fraud who kept receiving visions that were remarkably convenient for his desired lifestyle. He had an eye for women and found monogamy chafing. So he made a concerted move to instate polygamy as a model for his newly burgeoning religion. It found favor with many people of the faith yet disgusted secular authority and the main body of the church. Mr. Krakauer explores the depths of how Mormonism was attacked, vilified and how those of the faith retaliated. While a few Mormons pleaded for non-violence, often God-inspired “revelations” demanded blood sacrifices and punitive viciousness was certain to follow. However, Mr. Krakauer manages a fair and even-handed look into the faith and history. He admits that the faith provides a great deal of peace and comfort to its adherents, that they practice a fierce loyalty to their past and shelter for Mormon families. He outlines the pros and cons of the faith in fair and balanced terms. But the center of the book lies with the shocking double murder of a woman and her 15-month-old baby by two religious fanatics, a pair of brothers reared in the Mormon faith and sure that they’d been divinely instructed to kill four people. The book goes back and forth in time to outline how these men could come to perform such grisly acts and feel justified in doing so. The murder itself gets little space; it’s the circumstances leading up to it and its aftermath that receive the attention. The book is peppered with observations, quotations, interviews and excerpts from historical documents. Yet it avoids dullness. Instead, it presents a riveting view of a religion that has spread across much of America while remaining firmly rooted in one state. It outlines that startling biographies of the powerful men who created, shaped and molded it. It’s a sobering, riveting glimpse into a world of wily politics and fanatical devotion to God.