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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

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  89,725 ratings  ·  7,347 reviews
Brothers Ron and Dan Lafferty insist they were commanded to kill by God. Krakauer's investigation is a meticulously researched, bone-chilling narrative of polygamy, savage violence and unyielding faith: an incisive, gripping work of non-fiction that illuminates an otherwise confounding realm of human behaviour.
Paperback, 399 pages
Published 2004 by Pan MacMillan (first published January 1st 2003)
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Community Reviews

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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...more
Jul 23, 2007 Colleen rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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

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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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.
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...more
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
Petra Xtra Crunchy
Because Google Books are using all my reviews to sell books when I have denied permission, and since they only quote the first few lines, this entire review is in spoilers.


(view spoiler)...more
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 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...more
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...more
Dec 04, 2007 Lucy rated it 2 of 5 stars
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
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...more
Alex Telander
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 5 of 5 stars
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
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
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...more
Nov 17, 2008 Jen rated it 1 of 5 stars
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
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
The book is really divided in two parts--Krakauer does a brilliant job retelling the story of the Lafferty's. I was in elementary school when all of that unfolded so my memories of that were fairly weak; and I didn't know all of the details. I just remember the murder of the baby and the wife.

The story of the fundamentalists and the chapters on the polygamist sect are really well written. I know he didn't embellish that stuff. The fundamentalists are really a piece of work.

However, the third p...more
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...more
This is really 3.5 stars, and it is really 3.5 stars for one reason.

First, I have to say that Krakauer's writing is fantastic. He sweeps up the reader. He tells stories wonderfully. He never talks down to either his reader or his subject. For instance, in this book it would have been quite easy for Krakauer to protray every polygamist as evil. This he does not do; in fact, he seems to like DeLoy Johnson. Overall, his protrayal of people seems to be fair.

The problem I had, and it wasn't until I f...more
"Men of god and men of war have strange affinities." -Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West

The history of the Mormon religion cries out to be adapted into an action movie starring Nicholas Cage. Mormonism was born when Joseph Smith, the son of a poor farmer, allegedly discovered a buried cache of gold plates with ancient Egyptian characters spelling out a sacred text, the cornerstone of a new religion. He gathered a quorum of eleven men to attest to the existence of...more
Moira Russell
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.
I wrote this in January 2007:

In the appendix to the anchor addition of Jon Krakauer's fascinating
"Under the Banner of Heaven," the author warns against the dangers
inherent in the decision of the Mormon leadership to deliberately
control "how the Mormon past is interpreted and presented." Krakauer
loudly advocates for "a vigorous, unfettered examination of
Mormondom's rich and fascinating past." Such a call could be more
widely applied to the discipline of American History in general. His
is a counter...more
This is a book that needs to be read very carefully. When I first picked it up in the bookstore and even read the prologue, I believed it to be a history of Mormon politics and theology. While Krakauer does tell the events of the development of this American religion, he focuses more on the extremist Fundamentalist Mormons, a distinction that can be easy to miss or misstate if one is not careful. Being religious but not Mormon, I found Krakauer's tone to be one of continued scorn for all religio...more
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 yo...more
Wow. I had only heard bits and pieces of the history of Mormonism until this thoroughly researched book. He switches between history and the particularly gruesome recent double murder by fundamentalist brothers. A very odd history...but 'mainstream' Mormons are described as decent, hardworking, cleancut, etc. The fundamentalists are another story! Yikes. Strange that such divergent groups came out of the same source. It's the power of selective belief, and the power of the mind to make someone a...more
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Jon Krakauer is an American writer and mountaineer, well-known for outdoor and mountain-climbing writing.

More about Jon Krakauer...
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“Common sense is no match for the voice of God.” 32 likes
“As a means of motivating people to be cruel or inhumane-as a means of inciting evil, to borrow the vocabulary of the devout-there may be no more potent force than religion.” 17 likes
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