This extraordinary work of investigative journalism takes readers inside America’s isolated Mormon Fundamentalist communities, where some 40,000 people still practice polygamy. Defying both civil authorities and the Mormon establishment in Salt Lake City, the renegade leaders of these Taliban-like theocracies are zealots who answer only to God.
At the core of Krakauer’s book are brothers Ron and Dan Lafferty, who insist they received a commandment from God to kill a blameless woman and her baby girl. Beginning with a meticulously researched account of this appalling double murder, Krakauer constructs a multi-layered, bone-chilling narrative of messianic delusion, polygamy, savage violence, and unyielding faith. Along the way he uncovers a shadowy offshoot of America’s fastest growing religion, and raises provocative questions about the nature of religious belief.
Using as a focal point the chilling story of offshoot Mormon fundamentalist brothers Dan and Ron Lafferty, who in 1984 brutally butchered their sister-in-law and 15-month-old niece in the name of a divine revelation, Krakauer explores what he sees as the nature of radical Mormon sects with Svengali-like leaders. Using mostly secondary historical texts and some contemporary primary sources, Krakauer compellingly details the history of the Mormon church from its early 19th-century creation by Joseph Smith (whom Krakauer describes as a convicted con man) to its violent journey from upstate New York to the Midwest and finally Utah, where, after the 1890 renunciation of the church's holy doctrine sanctioning multiple marriages, it transformed itself into one of the world's fastest-growing religions. Through interviews with family members and an unremorseful Dan Lafferty (who is currently serving a life sentence), Krakauer chronologically tracks what led to the double murder, from the brothers' theological misgivings about the Mormon church to starting their own fundamentalist sect that relies on their direct communications with God to guide their actions. According to Dan's chilling step-by-step account, when their new religion led to Ron's divorce and both men's excommunication from the Mormon church, the brothers followed divine revelations and sought to kill, starting with their sister-in-law, those who stood in the way of their new beliefs. Relying on his strong journalistic and storytelling skills, Krakauer peppers the book with an array of disturbing firsthand accounts and news stories (such as the recent kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart) of physical and sexual brutality, which he sees as an outgrowth of some fundamentalists' belief in polygamy and the notion that every male speaks to God and can do God's bidding. While Krakauer demonstrates that most nonfundamentalist Mormons are community oriented, industrious and law-abiding, he poses some striking questions about the closed-minded, closed-door policies of the religion and many religions in general.
Customer ReviewsSee All
A really good read.
Great insight into a modern American religion and it's terrible offspring.
The Best Book Ever Written About Mormons.
I have lived in Utah for thirty-five years, and I have been a practicing attorney for twenty-seven years. I was married to a BYU-educated woman, the daughter of a Bishop and Stake Relief Society President, for ten years. I currently represent two woman who are seeking relief from abusive Mormon men, including one case pending in American Fork, where the Lafferty saga climaxed. This is by far the best, and most accurate, book ever written about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and it's various schisms. And it is the only book that accurately examines the Mormon church in the wider context of religious experience and motivation. In addition, the book is well written and captivating.
Under the banner of heaven
I was raised in a devout Mormon home. My dad was bishop and on the high council. I hid in shame and darkness, because I could not live what I was taught to be a worthy and holy life. I was excommunicated at 18 years old when I confessed of many sexual relations. I admit I have contempt for this religion. I felt shamed and abandoned by it. The scars it left will be with me the rest of my life.
For me, this book showed the untruthful origins of this religion. It was started by a con-man; and sex addict. He contrived what he called prophecy, to not only excuse, but glorify his compulsiveness with sex, and affairs with multiple women.
I believe this church is cursed with the demon of sexual addition, and runs rampant, although most of the time hidden with-in the church. Both mainline and fundamentalism.
Well researched book, I appreciate Jons work.