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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

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  188,335 ratings  ·  12,920 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 July 10th 2003 by Anchor Books (first published July 2003)
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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)
Todd Rogers Yes scumbag Dan sits in prison on our dime serving a life sentence. In 2015 he apparently compelled a couple to murder three of their children and the…moreYes scumbag Dan sits in prison on our dime serving a life sentence. In 2015 he apparently compelled a couple to murder three of their children and themselves since he is a "prophet." Utah is a mess.(less)

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Petra is getting into the holiday mood
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 it's 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 re
Jul 06, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this book is quite different from what i thought it would be. i was excepting ‘in cold blood’ true crime vibes, and that is present, but much of the book explores the history of a particular religion and how extreme religious belief can sometimes inspire violent actions.

while the in-depth history sections were not my favourite (ive never been a history person, no matter the topic), i love JKs writing. theres just something about it that makes me feel like he could take any subject and make it a
The Spirit of America

Harold Bloom has called Mormonism the American Religion. Not only was it created in America, Mormonism also articulates the American Dream in both its history and its doctrine: the ultimate deification of its members united in a theocratic independence of civil authority. Mormonism, although a relatively small sect, represents the mainstream of American evangelical, perhaps national, consciousness. What Under the Banner of Heaven demonstrates, if nothing else, is just how st
Apr 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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 fa
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
Oct 20, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Rachel Reads Ravenously
4 stars

Under the Banner of Heaven is a book I was supposed to read many years ago and never did. Back when it came out, I was a part of a high school book club at my local library and this was the book selected for one of the meetings and I just…. never got around to it. Fifteen years later is better than never, right?

This book examines a couple of different things. One is the brutal murder of a woman named Brenda and her small child. The men who murdered her, insisted they received a commandm
Feb 22, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Greta G
Since Donald Trump took office, Iceland responded by protecting its secular culture. The Icelandic government declared that all religions are considered mental disorders and banned all religious practices.
The Icelandic Psychological Defense Act (IPDA) made it illegal for any American televangelist to set foot in the country. The Iceland Heritage Defense Act (IDHA) strictly prohibits Christians from entering several locations and tourist sites, like libraries, women health centers, Starbucks, hot
May 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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 murders of
Nov 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 30, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
The tragic story of extreme and untreated mental illness; a polygamous cult called the "School of Prophets" which was a fundamentalist group of the Mormon Church and the failure of society to stop the killing of two innocent people in 1984. It is also the history of the Mormon Church and its place in American religion and culture. The killers (one who just recently died in 2019) were a pair of brothers who decided that their sister-in-law and her 15 month old baby girl were responsible for the b ...more
Jonathan Ashleigh
Oct 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is great for it's depiction and unbiased view of Mormonism. ...more
Aug 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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

If you, like me, went to Catholic school as a child, you may remember the story of how God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Issac. But just as soon as Abraham got little Issac up to the top of the mountain and was standing over him with a dagger, God said, and I'm paraphrasing here, "LMFAO... you were really going to do it, weren't you?"

While I admittedly can't remember exactly how my teachers framed this story, I don't think they wanted us to take it as a warning about walking off t
Michael Perkins
Nov 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The serial killers bring a sensationalist flavor to this story, but the book is really about what living in a polygamist cult is like, about sex-obsessed men, sick men, besotted men, and the women they brutalize. When a father is "marrying" and raping his own daughters it's genuine sociopathy.

This is what early Mormonism was like under both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, and that's the author's point.

I have no natural interest in cults, but Mormonism was put before me several times over a numb
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
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
Jun 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Dmitri (in Morocco)
In this dated bestseller on Mormon fundamentalism, Jon Krakauer applies a somewhat incohesive journalistic approach to an otherwise fascinating topic. Unfortunately his efforts ended just before the well known Warren Jeffs case of 2006. A search for more recent books on the sect turns up few promising options beyond a number of victim's accounts. An exception may be "Prophet's Prey" written by one of the investigators, which appears to be popular but has garnered little critical notice.

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
Nov 23, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
May 14, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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…. Plenty of these religious extremists have been homegrown, corn-fed Americans.

This was truly one of the most bizarre and weirdest books I have ever read.

At first, picking up this book I thought this was a true crime book about the murders of Erica and Brenda Lafferty. But it was just not that. It was a deep dive into Mormonism and especially
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.
Johann (jobis89)
Aug 16, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really eye-opening!
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
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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.” 61 likes
“Common sense is no match for the voice of God.” 52 likes
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