Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith” as Want to Read:
Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith

by
3.99  ·  Rating details ·  135,556 Ratings  ·  9,528 Reviews
A multilayered, bone-chilling narrative of messianic delusion, savage violence, polygamy, and unyielding faith. This is vintage Krakauer, an utterly compelling work of nonfiction that illuminates an otherwise confounding realm of human behavior.

Jon Krakauer’s literary reputation rests on insightful chronicles of lives conducted at the outer limits. In Under The Banner of H
...more
Paperback, 369 pages
Published 2004 by Pan MacMillan (first published July 10th 2003)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Under the Banner of Heaven, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Claire Yes, it is nonfiction, and yes, LDS leadership roundly condemns the Lafferty brothers, who were FLDS and excommunicated and considered apostates. That…moreYes, it is nonfiction, and yes, LDS leadership roundly condemns the Lafferty brothers, who were FLDS and excommunicated and considered apostates. That does not change the plains facts that 1. the history of Mormonism contains many other examples of violence by its practitioners, or practitioners of its spin-off sects, and that 2. the Lafferty brothers, and their actions, were informed by their connections to this religion.
This is NOT a condemnation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. All religions have issues with violence in their past, and usually also their presents. The author actually expresses admiration for the Saints he has known in his own life, all the way back to childhood friends.
He probably chose to write a controversial book to examine these important issues, to prompt people to think, and to hope that if enough people read it and learn history, history will not be repeated, because people can choose to think about this problem and choose to figure out why it happens, so that change can be affected so that issues of religion-related violence will become less common.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
|
Filter
Len
Aug 19, 2007 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 atheist who thinks all religions are a load of
...more
Petra X
Dec 17, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. I am led inescapably by this book to view Mormonism as a cult that has changed and adapted as was expedient given the various political currents ebbing and waning.

I've seen, here in the West Indies, how a cult can gain both the practice and the legitimacy of an established rel
...more
Colleen
Jul 06, 2007 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
Stephen
Apr 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
Photobucket

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
Mateo
Oct 20, 2007 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
...more
Karen
Feb 26, 2008 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
...more
Cheryl
Apr 02, 2008 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
...more
John
Feb 22, 2008 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.
Perry
May 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Intriguing and Incisively Iconoclastic


Ron & Dan Lafferty, convicted of vicious 1984 murders of their brother's wife & infant daughter (shown below)



A razor-edged examination of fanaticism in religion, focused primarily on the Mormon Church and its fundamentalist offshoot sects that continue to adhere to the norms the federal government forced the Church to abandon over a century ago: polygamy and the marriage of pubescent females.

Jon Krakauer concentrates on the true story of the 1984 mu
...more
Kelli
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
Thank God that’s over (no pun intended)!

This book may have been confused about what it was or maybe it’s just me thats confused, but by the end of this (or, to be more accurate, well before the middle) I felt saturated with history and facts(?) to the point that I could no longer distinguish what was referring to Mormonism and what was FLDS. The crime discussed on the cover doesn’t feel central to the book, and I didn’t get a true sense of where the author was placing blame...narcissistic perso
...more
Gwen
Aug 14, 2007 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
...more
Clif Hostetler
Aug 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This 2003 book by Jon Krakauer provides a well crafted interweaving of two histories: the origin and evolution of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), and a modern double murder committed in the name of God by brothers Ron and Dan Lafferty, who subscribed to a fundamentalist version of Mormonism. These histories are interrelated because the murder was motivated by endeavors of the Lafferty brothers to follow their understanding of the original manifestation of LDS teachi ...more
Marissa
Mar 30, 2007 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
...more
Ammar
Jun 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An impressive undertaking by Jon Krakauer. A book of history, the tale of a modern religion, an extreme sect and a cold hearted murder.

Those ingredients would attract a vast array of audience: and indeed it did and still do. A nonfiction that narrates a history of the latter day church - the Mormons- their tale, their beginning with Joseph Smith and the story of the Golden plates. Polygamy, and how that tenant in the historical church caused a schism and gave birth to the fundamental LDS, that
...more
Snotchocheez
Aug 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
I don't know if I can write an unbiased review of Under 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 tr
...more
Jonathan Ashleigh
Oct 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is great for it's depiction and unbiased view of Mormonism.
Caroline
Nov 04, 2012 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
...more
Lucy
Nov 23, 2007 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
Eric_W
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
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
Mike
Feb 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Mike by: Kareem
Shelves: 2017

If you, like me, were enlisted in Catholic school as a child, or even if you weren't, you may remember the story of how god commanded Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Issac (the "only", I seem to remember, was always emphasized in the telling). But just as soon as Abraham got little Issac up to the top of the mountain and was standing over him with a dagger or something like that, god said, and I'm paraphrasing here, "LMFAO... you were really going to do it, weren't you?"

While I admittedly can
...more
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
Ellen Gail
Sep 25, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction

"I have to admit, the terrorists were following their prophet. They were willing to do essentially what I did. I see the parallel. But the difference between those guys and me is, they were following a false prophet, and I'm not." - Dan Lafferty

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—as a means of inciting evil, to borrow the vocabulary of the devout—there may be no more potent force than religion.

M
...more
Moira Russell
Feb 05, 2009 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.
Alex Telander
Nov 02, 2007 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
Zuky the BookBum
Sep 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2016, 4-stars
Also read my review here: http://bookbum.weebly.com/book-review...

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
...more
Tom
Jul 17, 2009 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
Ellen
Dec 10, 2007 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
Jen
Nov 17, 2008 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
Trudie
This book was an eyeopener for me, as I came into it knowing next to nothing about Mormonism, perhaps a state to which I wish I could now return. Under the Banner of Heaven is ostensibly an investigation of a religiously motivated double homicide, but that is a much smaller part of the book than you might imagine. This is lucky, as I am squeamish and uncomfortable with the details of real cases and there are several pages here that I wish I could scrub from my mind. This is always a problem for ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • Prophet's Prey: My Seven-Year Investigation Into Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints
  • No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith
  • The Mountain Meadows Massacre
  • An Insider's View of Mormon Origins
  • Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement
  • The Mormon Murders
  • Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People
  • The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion at the Twilight of the American Empire
  • Cult Insanity: A Memoir of Polygamy, Prophets, and Blood Atonement
  • The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power
  • Secret Ceremonies: A Mormon Woman's Intimate Diary of Marriage and Beyond
  • Early Mormonism and the Magic World View
  • American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, September 1857
  • Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows
  • Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief
  • Rapture Ready!: Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture
  • Inside Scientology: The Story of America's Most Secretive Religion
  • Pilgrim's Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier
8,129 followers
Jon Krakauer is an American writer and mountaineer, well-known for outdoor and mountain-climbing writing.

https://www.facebook.com/jonkrakauer
“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.” 54 likes
“Common sense is no match for the voice of God.” 48 likes
More quotes…