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Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith Paperback – June 8, 2004
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“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.” —The Oregonian
“Jon Krakauer is at his provocative best.” —The New Orleans Times-Picayune
“A fascinating page-turner. . . . Engrossing. . . . Krakauer’s knack for crackling narrative and taut focus . . . drives this thought-provoking story.” —The Columbus Dispatch
“A hair-raising true-crimer.” —Chicago Sun-Times
“Terrifying. . . . Startling. . . . Mov[es] deftly between past and present [and] provides a fascinating glimpse of the church today.” —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“A powerful portrait of how two seemingly ordinary Americans became murderers.” —The Economist
“Illuminating . . . provocative. . . . Krakauer is an adept chronicler of extremists [and] the tour guide of choice for secular quests.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Marvelous. . . . A departure from Into Thin Air and Into the Wild . . . but every bit as engrossing.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Well-researched and evenhanded. . . . Thought-provoking.” —USA Today
“Startling. . . . Timely. . . . Krakauer uncovers a ghastly trail of forced marriage, polygamy, violence and mind control. . . . A chilling look at Mormon fundamentalism.” —The Charlotte Observer
“Horrific, gripping. . . . Soberly written and courageously reported.” —Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
“Engrossing. . . . Incisive. . . . [Krakauer is] a very careful reporter. . . . His clear-headed, unbiased examination of the church—leavened with genuine respect—and his conclusions . . . are hard to argue with.” —Boulder Daily Camera
“One hell of a chilling read.” —Maxim
“Compelling. . . . Provocative. . . . Illuminating. . . . A gripping tale.” —The Christian Science Monitor
“A disturbing picture of Mormon fundamentalists. . . . Krakauer’s straightforward style and excellent storytelling ability make the book interesting.” —Rocky Mountain News
“A terrific read.” —Reader’s Digest
“Riveting. . . . Intriguing. . . . Breezy, smooth and vigorously written, this ambitious book is entertaining and informative. . . . Krakauer reconstructs the Lafferty brothers’ descent into fatal fanaticism magnificently, interweaving their story throughout the book and giving this wide-ranging work narrative coherence and emotional resonance. . . . [He is] a superb storyteller.” —The News & Observer
“A powerful look at how religious belief can cross the line into fanaticism.” —San Jose Mercury News
From the Inside Flap
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.
From the Hardcover edition.
- Lexile measure : 1350L
- Item Weight : 11.4 ounces
- Paperback : 432 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1400032806
- ISBN-13 : 978-0385511513
- Dimensions : 5.14 x 0.89 x 7.97 inches
- Publisher : Anchor (June 8, 2004)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #11,430 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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There are some very interesting historical tidbits about the LDS church & its beginnings that I did not find in other books (I've read about 20). Some of the footnotes are fascinating. It is more about Mormon history & how the violence & control developed than about the one incident of murder in 1984 that is referred to on the cover.
Krakauer has taken the Lafferty murders and examined them, but realized that in order to explain the motives of the murderers, a person needs at least an introductory lesson in Mormon Fundamentalism. Of course, to get to the Fundamentalists, you have to know a little about Mormonism's history and creation and it's gradual changes away from it's original "fundamental" tenants. So the book ends up being less about the murders and their motives and more about the "backstory" of Mormonism. I, personally, was interested to read this because I don't know much about the history of LDS and it's fascinating as a modern American religion. And to be honest, there isn't much to say about the Lafferty murders: the men believed that murder was justified because God instructed them to do it. They were not clinically insane, but rather very fervent in their religious beliefs and thus (at the time of publication in 2003) both were imprisoned. Krakauer does go through a moment-by-moment retelling of the murders which is gruesome and maybe a little unnecessary (also: repetitive; the crimes are already described several times during the book and since the murders themselves only took minutes, there isn't much to add in each retelling). The only relevant information that I could find in the description of the crimes is the method of execution -- again from the brothers' revelations from God and the need for them to be symbolic.
Regardless of whether the history of the LDS church is 100% accurate is not important (sorry, LDS readers). Krakauer doesn't paint anyone as heroes or victims, but rather offers a pretty unbiased view of the proceedings. Obviously, if you have a lot of emotions invested in either side of the stories, you might feel under-represented, but for an outsider I thought it read pretty straight-forward. And really the background was to give you insight as to how the Laffertys arrived at a certain place and time and why they believed that God would order them to murder their sister-in-law and niece. The history of Mormons moving across America and the troubles that they faced and their eventual alignment with the US Government in order to control the Utah Territory (which included ending the practice of Polygamy; a major schism with the Fundamentalists) -- all of these feed into the shared history of almost anyone with LDS heritage (frankly, almost everyone on the West Coast of the US) and directly into the crimes committed by the Lafferty brothers.
I agree with other reviewers that Krakauer's inclusion of the Elizabeth Smart story was a bit odd... it felt jammed in at the last minute. And although some reviewers (LDS members) question Krakauer's theories about Smart's abduction being made easier because of her religious beliefs, again I have to agree. People outside the Mormon church (and its offshoots) don't really have a good grasp on the spirit of obedience that these people have. A young girl like Elizabeth Smart likely WOULD believe an adult man (priestholder) commanded her that she must go with him and follow his orders. The case is very complex and I'm sure psychologists have had a field day trying to puzzle it out, but I agree that Krakauer's assertion is correct: if the girl had been from any other faith (or no religion at all) she most likely would not have willingly kept herself hidden and declined the many opportunities to escape.
All in all, I think this was an interesting backgrounder into Mormon theology and the roots of the church. If it's not 100% accurate, I don't really care -- I'm not looking to be converted either way.
Top reviews from other countries
'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...