Cat's Reviews > Prophet of Death: The Mormon Blood-Atonement Killings

Prophet of Death by Pete Earley
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Aug 22, 2007

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bookshelves: truecrime
Read in August, 2003

This book documents the "Mormon Blood Atonement" killing that took place in Kirtland, Ohio during the 80's. Kirtland, of course, is the sight of the original Mormon Temple built by Smith and Sidney Rigdon.
I should say that I read Jon Krakauer's "Under the Banner of Heaven", which deals with the same subject, so I may compare the two during the review.
The MOST interesting part of this book is that it takes you inside the Reorganized Latter Day Saints, a "splinter" faction of Mormonism that stayed behind in the Mid West when the Mormons trekked to Utah with Brigham Young. The RLDS (as it's called) is headquartered in Missouri. It's prophet was(at the time of this book) a lineal descent of Joe Smith. The chruch is also notable because it rejected polygamy (one of the main doctrinal reasons it split from the larger church.
Jeffrey Lundgren is the "prophet" at the heart of this book. He is one sick twist. I'm not going to get into it here, but this book is an NC-17 type of story. Do not read this if you are faint of heart!
Early has a news-papery writing style that fits the subject matter. His sourcing for the tale is outstanding. He managed to interview most, if not all, of the major players.
Unlike Krakauer, Early doesn't cut away from the action to full chapters about the history of Mormonism. His focus is tight on the story. As a result, you do get a fuller picture of Jeffrey Lundgren, but I believe that Early let the RLDS off the hook. Lundgren worked as a tour guide for the RLDS in Kirtland for several years as he assembled together his cult. The back drop to the story is the split in the RLDS between church "liberals", who voted in the '80's to allow women to be ordained in the church, and fundamentalists (like Jeffrey) who wanted to keep things old school.
I believe all of Jeffrey's followers were RLDS members who would describe themselves as "fundamentalist".
I'd have to say this book is just a touch "much" for most people. Fans of true crime or Mormon extremism will be tickled, however, I really can't emphasis enough how dirty this book gets, so you have been warned!
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