Danceswithwords's Reviews > Under the Banner of Heaven

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer
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's review
Oct 09, 2008

really liked it

Krakauer is, in my opinion, pretty careful to distinguish mainstream Mormonism from its fundamentalist offshoots, but he does draw a thread through his discussion of the church's history and theology that connects its emphasis on direct communication with god, prophecy, and charismatic leadership with the particular manifestations of those elements in fundamentalist Mormon communities. It is both depressing and unsurprising that many of the men who start on the outside and become attracted to Mormon fundamentalism are feeling dislocated by the pulls of modern like, and that women end up on the bottom rung in those communities. The narrative lynchpin of the book is the story a two brothers who killed another brother's wife and her young daughter, their niece, because, basically, she stood up for herself, and threatened to pull one of the brothers out of their shared fantasy: she threatened them as believers and as men who felt like it was their right and responsibility to control the women in their families. It's hard to doubt the sincere conviction with which many of the fundamentalists Krakauer interviews believe in their own interpretation of divine prophecy, but it's equally hard to ignore the connections he draws between those interpretations and the power structures in those communities, the benefits that accrue to the leaders.
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