Length: 432 pages
Audiobook Length: 11 hours and 15 minutes
First Published: 2003
In 1984, Ron and Dan Lafferty walked into their younger brother’s house and their sister-in-law Brenda and her 14-month-old daughter in cold blood. For their entire lives, neither expressed guilt for their crime because God had told them to do it. Jon Krakauer takes you into the world of Mormon fundamentalists, radical break-offs of the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In between showcasing various fundamentalist groups, Krakauer explains the early teachings of the church that such people take to the extreme to justify polygamy and violence in the name of God.
I could not put down this fascinating look at the extremist offshoots of Mormonism. Being an agnostic, Krakauer’s skepticism of religion is heavily on display. Yet, I found it fascinating to contemplate his views on the rationality of religion. Is a religious fanatic sane? And if not, can he be tried for his crimes? Any belief taken to an extreme can lead to violence. In Under the Banner of Heaven, Krakauer focuses on fundamentalism in Mormonism, but the same principle could be written about plenty of different beliefs.
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; some 40,000 people still practice polygamy in these communities.
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.
Quotes from Under the Banner of Heaven
Common sense is no match for the voice of God.
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.
One man’s faith is another man’s delusion.
TV Trailer for Title (2022)
About Jon Krakauer
Jon Krakauer is an investiagative journalist and the author of eight books, including Into the Wild, Into Thin Air, Where Men Win Glory, Under the Banner of Heaven, and Missoula. Visit the author’s website →