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

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  117,328 Ratings  ·  8,676 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 399 pages
Published 2004 by Pan MacMillan (first published 2003)
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Dec 05, 2007 Len rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't know where to start with this book -- I couldn't put it down. It was enthralling. A quick note about Krakauer: this was the first book I've read by him and I was duly impressed with his story telling ability and his writing style. I will definitely add his other books to my reading list.

Now for the book -- holy shit! Like most people I didn't know much about Mormons beyond the basics. And let it be known right off the bat that I am a devout athiest who thinks all religions are a load of
Jul 23, 2007 Colleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history and religious studies buffs
I read this book for the book club at my local library. Afterwards, I felt indignant, confused, intrigued, and disgusted about all forms of faith. So, I sincerely hoped that a Saint or two would show up at the book club meeting, to nullify my extremely negative view of the church. Alas, no LDS believers showed, so I am left to my own conclusions about the book and faith in general. Here are some of my conclusions and questions after reading this sprawling, fascinating account of the history of p ...more
May 12, 2011 Stephen rated it really liked it

4.0 to 4.5 stars. For non-fiction, this book had me absolutely riveted from the very beginning. This true crime narative has three main themes, all of which I think Krakauer accomplishes extremely well. First, this is a true crime story of the brutal double murder of Brenda Lafferty and her 15 month old baby girl at the hands Ron and Dan Lafferty (the older brothers of Brenda’s husband). Second, is a survey of the origin and early history of Mormonism and the basic doctrines of the Mormon faith
Petra X smoke fish no cigar
This is a hard book for me to review given that I have quite a few Mormon friends and that although my own philosophy leans more towards existentialism than anything else, I feel its differents strokes for different folks, who am I to criticise and all the other cliches to do with tolerance. Hard because this is my review, my feelings and yet I do not seek to be offensive, and don't want to be taken that way. Hard because I am led inescapably by this book to view Mormonism as a cult that has cha ...more
Mar 22, 2015 Mateo rated it really liked it
You know, I probably shouldn't have read this directly after finishing In Cold Blood. I'm not saying the combination brought out the homicidal psychotic in me, but I did have to pay for stabbing the hell out of a turkey in the Albertson's meat section the other day.

Is there a stranger sect out there than the Mormons? I mean, golden plates ... lost tribes ... Nephites battling Lamanites ... Orrin Hatch.... Well, yes, I guess one look at Tom Cruise jumping up and down on Oprah's couch suggests th
Jul 16, 2008 Karen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didn-t-finish
This book makes a lot of big promises, but it suffers from several serious flaws:

1. Lack of focus.
2. Too long.
3. Preposterous claim.
4. Boring

This is a true crime novel--maybe--set against the history of the Mormon Church--but not really--trying to tie in a couple of murders committed by a couple of sickos--all too common--into an historical and political climate of post-terrorist, millennial religious revival--unsuccessfully.

For true crime, it's shockingly dull, and the crime is committed by the
Apr 02, 2008 Cheryl rated it did not like it
Shelves: tried-to-read
Hmmm...where do I start? First of all, I didn't finish reading this book. It was intriguing in the beginning to learn about the Fundamentalist Mormons and the interestingly odd things they believe and practice. It was also interesting to contemplate the power of faith. Faith in something or someone, regardless of what or whom they are, can make people do unbelievable things. This is true.

I can see how Krakauer would have been frustrated when access to historical documents and interviews with pro
Feb 22, 2008 John rated it did not like it
Shelves: religion
I really enjoyed Into Thin Air, but now I wonder if it is poorly done as this book was. As a Mormon I was amazed at Krakauer's complete naivete that he's trying to pass off as expertise and a well-researched book. I'd be scared of Mormonism too if I read this and didn't know better. The logic leaps he makes are simply massive. For a story about the Lafferty's, this is a nicely told yarn. For understanding its extrapolation into a story about Mormonism it is foolishness at its finest.
Oct 11, 2011 Marissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thepast, nonfiction
My father's family is obsessed with Mormons, I think it's fair to say. Well..not Mormons. Most of the Mormons I've known have been perfectly regular people. If you're Mormon, please forgive me if that sounds callous. We are, however, obsessed with Mormonism, and have been since my aunt and uncle took a trip to Salt Lake City many years ago and came back with something we call "The Mormon Movie".

"The Mormon Movie" is like the axis point of a fascination that's gone on for years and is easy to exp
Jonathan Ashleigh
Dec 26, 2015 Jonathan Ashleigh rated it really liked it
This book is great for it's depiction and unbiased view of Mormonism.
Aug 18, 2007 Gwen rated it it was amazing
This book is fantastic. Krakauer looks at the history of violence in the Mormon religion (both against them and perpetrated by them) and how this violence, romanticized by modern fundamentalist Mormon polygamists, led two men to kill their sister-in-law and her baby because they said God told them to. These men felt, and continued to feel, no remorse because of their doctrine that "killing for the Lord" is entirely acceptable if it is necessary to do God's will.

Krakauer's greater point is to loo
Dec 10, 2016 Caroline rated it really liked it
Shelves: miscellaneous
Gosh, I still feel a bit stunned. This book gives you a lot to think about, and it does it with a thwack.

Basically this is story of the Lafferty brothers, born into a deeply fundamentalist Mormon family with a sometimes brutal but sometimes loving father, whom they adored. As they grew older they really went off the rails, and they did so by becoming even more fundamentalist than their father, immersing themselves in old Mormon writings, and living their lives by these tenets, in a way that was
Good grief. At the time of this posting there are almost 70,000 ratings and baskets of reviews. So why another one? Good question.

Predictably, if you are a Mormon you won’t like this book, although it does seem to be well-researched and relatively even-handed. What appears to us skeptics as just silly nonsense is, for some people, inspired holy writ. Go figure. The Mormons themselves can't figure out what's revelation or not and who is or is not a prophet as Joseph Smith discovered to his dismay
Aug 29, 2015 Snotchocheez rated it really liked it
I don't know if I can write an unbiased review ofUnder the Banner of Heaven. I'll say this: Krakauer's well-researched, exceedingly well-written 2003 book, which is 1/3rd a true crime examination of the brutal 1984 murders of Brenda Lafferty and her young daughter Erika by two Fundamentalist (i.e. polygamous) Mormons Dan and Ron Lafferty (her brothers-in-law) and 2/3rds an exhaustive examination of the Mormon religion (particularly its violent foment), is a fascinating read.

What I have some trou
Beth F.
This book was intense. I’m a sucker for religious studies anyway, especially those different from my own, and this book has been on my radar for awhile now because Mormonism (in general) and fundamentalists (of all kinds) have always interested me, so when I found out this book was about Mormon fundamentalists, there was never any doubt that I’d read it eventually. But what I was expecting from this book and what I got were two totally different beasts. My expectation was to walk away thinking, ...more
Dec 04, 2007 Lucy rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people with the ability to understand bias
Somehow, in Krakauer's and every other story of Christian fundamentalism and extremism that is exposed, those involved justification for doing evil and ignoring good is all founded on extreme and polarizing doctrines. Polygamy. Holy Wars. Visions. Revelation. Line of succession. All legitimate things to think and worry about, but they seem to completely ignore the important things that Christ taught while on earth. Say...something like....blessed are the peacemakers. And loving our neighbors. An ...more
Alex Telander
Sep 15, 2010 Alex Telander rated it it was amazing
UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN: A STORY OF VIOLENT FAITH BY JON KRAKAUER: I finished Under the Banner of Heaven two days ago now, and I haven't written the review yet, waiting to see if anything would change in my mind about Mormons, and so far nothing has. I still think it's a horribly misogynistic religion that goes even further than all other religions I know to take away all responsibility, independent thought, and individualism, and literally sacrifice oneself to god and whoever is your preside ...more
Dec 19, 2007 Ellen rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who wonders why people are weirded out by Mitt Romney's religion.
Shelves: non-fiction
Wow. I'm slowly becoming more of a fan of non-fiction, and this book is great for that! Krakauer gives a well-researched (judging from the length of the bibliography) account of the history of the Mormon church, interwoven with an absolutely chilling look at Mormon Fundamentalist communities that practice polygamy in the desert wilds of Utah, Arizona, and Canada. These people are nuts, plain and simple. I can have a limited respect for a watered-down and spiritualist form of religion, but this k ...more
Mar 02, 2008 Justin rated it it was amazing
This book is a wet dream for wiseass, arrogant agnostics like myself. It's ostensibly about (a) the history of Mormonism; and (b) the brutal murder of a mother and her 2-year-old daughter by a couple of Mormon Fundamentalists who strayed way too far from the flock in the early 1980's. However, the deeper subject is the uneasy coexistence of faith and reason, and how the two have trampled each other throughout history. Without reading this book, you're probably aware that Mormonism is one of the ...more
Aug 27, 2008 Jonathan rated it really liked it
Leave it to me to avoid a bandwagon (see: "Arrested Development") and finally opt to read this heralded book about Mormon killers while on vacation. Shew.

And by Mormon killers I do mean both people who kill Mormons and Mormons who kill (kill "Gentiles" [anyone not Mormon, including Jews] and kill their own). The book is timely in that Mormon fundamentalists recently sprang into the news again, though hardly by their own desire, with the Texas polygamist colony fiasco in which lachrymose children
Matt Brady
Isn’t it funny, an amazing coincidence, how the commandments of God so often match the desires, ambitions and bigotries of His self-proclaimed prophets? Feeling horny? That’s cool, God is down with polygamy, bone away to your heart’s content, sin-free! Like drugs? So does God! Smoke up, bro! Hate women? God is so totally over those uppity chicks, dude. Racist? Oh boy this is your lucky day, God is totally racist! Not racist? Wait, God changed his mind, he was just fooling ya. Did that guy just f ...more
Jul 27, 2009 Tom marked it as never-finished
I'm not going to finish this book. So far, he is recounting the history of the Mormon church without listing a single positive thing. He has taken every exaggerated idea, including some of his own making, and used those to support a warped idea of something that I hold pretty close to my heart. It's kind of the same problem I had with Mark Freiden's The World Is Flat. He only told one side of the story, to praise the ideals of capitalism. My analogy would be like sitting a three year old down an ...more
Nov 17, 2008 Jen rated it did not like it
Recommended to Jen by: Betsy H
The low rating isn't because the book is poorly written--it's not. At times the book is fascinating and at times horrifying (my husband just finished it too and found it riveting). The subject matter, however was pretty dark and gruesome for me personally to enjoy. Although well researched and even-handed at times, as he explored the "underbelly" of Mormonism, there was undercurrent of contempt from the author. It showed in the description of a man with a comb-over, liver spots and bad grammar w ...more
Moira Russell
Feb 05, 2009 Moira Russell rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: underwhelmed
Somewhere, there is a story aching to be told about Mormonism, the positive and negative effects of religious faith on thought and psychological development, the painting of an integrated mainstream with the tarred brush of extremist fringes, and the general place of religion in US culture. This book is oh, so totally not it.
Dear Jon,

This is the third book by you that I've read, the first two being Into the Wild and Into Thin Air. I've given all three books five sparkly stars because I absolutely love your journalistic though artful writing style. However, I must admit that while I thoroughly enjoyed both Into the Wild and Into Thin Air, I just could not relate in any shape or form to the adventure/thrill seeking mentality that drove the characters in those two works. Sure, I was fascinated, captivated, and enterta
Mikey B.
From page 324-25 (my book)
And both believed completely in the principle of plural marriage [polygamy] – even though they have not engaged in polygamy themselves. ‘We’ve considered it many times’ Pamela says, ‘There have been many, many women who could have been part of our family... I could live the Principle [fundamentalist Mormonism] more easily now that I’m older’... She says the real basis for her faith ‘is spiritual. It’s all about the spirit that exists in your heart... I tell you when you
Jun 12, 2007 Sammy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: c-the-okay
I wouldn't be surprised if Krakauer's first books were fiction novels, which I don't think they are, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were. Why? This book reads like a novel, a very confusing novel, but a novel nonetheless.

First things first, there should have been some sort of family tree or timeline or some sort of organizational medium provided besides a map. By the end of the book you have so many people and so many families roaming around you no longer really know who's who except for Jo
Sep 12, 2007 Dave rated it really liked it
This is a great, well-researched book on fundamentalist Mormons that will freak you out. Half the book is true-crime drama and the other half is an excellent history of LDS and the many fundamentalist sects that splintered off in order to practice Mormonism Joseph Smith-style (which included polygamy as a key principle).

I learned a lot about Mormonism from this book, however I initially felt that Krakauer was a little unfair to mainstream Mormons. In his discussion of the history of both LDS an
Sep 27, 2016 Zuky rated it really liked it
Also read my review here:

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 le
May 29, 2015 Jill rated it really liked it
I find it difficult to talk about religion because it’s forbidden to call it into question without being labeled “amoral” or quite simply just without hurting other people’s feelings. But this inability to discuss it has led to a lot of crimes committed in the name of God, and I think, like everything, to create positive change, religion needs to be interrogated. But as Jon Krakauer exposes in his exploration of Mormonism Under the Banner of Heaven, religion refuses any attempt at interrogation, ...more
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Jon Krakauer is an American writer and mountaineer, well-known for outdoor and mountain-climbing writing.
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“There is a dark side to religious devotion that is too often ignored or denied. As a means of motivating people to be cruel or inhumane, there may be no more potent force than religion. When the subject of religiously inspired bloodshed comes up, many Americans immediately think of Islamic fundamentalism, which is to be expected in the wake of 911. But men have been committing heinous acts in the name of God ever since mankind began believing in deities, and extremists exist within all religions. Muhammad is not the only prophet whose words have been used to sanction barbarism; history has not lacked for Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, and even Buddhists who have been motivated by scripture to butcher innocents. Plenty of these religious extremist have been homegrown, corn-fed Americans.” 48 likes
“Common sense is no match for the voice of God.” 42 likes
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