It was enthralling. I will definitely add his other books to my reading list. Now for the book -- holy shit! And let it be known right off the bat that I am a devout atheist who thinks all religions are a load of bull. I can certainly understand after reading this book why the church thinks this book was a hatchet job on the religion.
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Almost every section of the book is fascinating in its own right, and together the chapters make a rich picture. An arresting portrait of depravity. A white-knuckle mix of true-crime reporting and provocative history.
It is hard to stop reading. Elegant reportage. An evenhanded inquiry into the nature of religious belief itself. Fascinating and appalling. Krakauer has found a fascinating story in plain sight, right in the heart of the American West, and told it with the narrative drive and unflinching honesty that marked his best seller, Into Thin Air.
Mov[es] deftly between past and present [and] provides a fascinating glimpse of the church today. Krakauer is an adept chronicler of extremists [and] the tour guide of choice for secular quests. Krakauer uncovers a ghastly trail of forced marriage, polygamy, violence and mind control.
A chilling look at Mormon fundamentalism. Soberly written and courageously reported. His clear-headed, unbiased examination of the church—leavened with genuine respect—and his conclusions. A gripping tale. Breezy, smooth and vigorously written, this ambitious book is entertaining and informative. Deuteronomy And it shall come to pass that I, the Lord God, will send one mighty and strong, holding the scepter of power in his hand, clothed with light for a covering, whose mouth shall utter words, eternal words; while his bowels shall be a fountain of truth, to set in order the house of God.
The Doctrine and Covenants, Section 85 revealed to Joseph Smith on November 27, Balanced atop the highest spire of the Salt Lake Temple, gleaming in the Utah sun, a statue of the angel Moroni stands watch over downtown Salt Lake City with his golden trumpet raised.
At last count there were more than eleven million Saints the world over, and Mormonism is the fastest-growing faith in the Western Hemisphere. On the planet as a whole, there are now more Mormons than Jews. Mormonism is considered in some sober academic circles to be well on its way to becoming a major world religion--the first such faith to emerge since Islam.
When Dan Lafferty quotes Mormon scripture to justify murder, the juxtaposition is so incongruous as to seem surreal. The affairs of Mormondom are directed by a cadre of elderly white males in dark suits who carry out their holy duties from a twenty-six-story office tower beside Temple Square. The faith that moved Lafferty to slay his niece and sister-in-law is a brand of religion known as Mormon Fundamentalism; LDS Church authorities bristle visibly when Mormons and Mormon Fundamentalists are even mentioned in the same breath.
As Gordon B. Hinckley, the then-eighty-eight-year-old LDS president and prophet, emphasized during a television interview on Larry King Live, "They have no connection with us whatever. There are actually no Mormon Fundamentalists. Mormons and Mormon Fundamentalists are each convinced that God regards them, and them alone, as his favored children: "a peculiar treasure unto me above all people.
Followers of the FLDS faith engage in polygamy, they explain, as a matter of religious duty. Some experts estimate there may be as many as one hundred thousand. Even this larger number amounts to less than 1 percent of the membership in the LDS Church worldwide, but all the same, leaders of the mainstream church are extremely discomfited by these legions of polygamous brethren. Mormon authorities treat the fundamentalists as they would a crazy uncle--they try to keep the "polygs" hidden in the attic, safely out of sight, but the fundamentalists always seem to be sneaking out to appear in public at inopportune moments to create unsavory scenes, embarrassing the entire LDS clan.
The LDS Church happens to be exceedingly prickly about its short, uncommonly rich history--and no aspect of that history makes the church more defensive than "plural marriage. Nor does it mention that the youngest of these wives was just fourteen years old when Joseph explained to her that God had commanded that she marry him or face eternal damnation. He warned that God had explicitly commanded that "all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.
Brigham Young assumed leadership of the church and led the Saints to the barren wilds of the Great Basin, where in short order they established a remarkable empire and unabashedly embraced the covenant of "spiritual wifery. In , recognizing the strength of the anti-polygamy vote, Republican candidate John C.
The so-called Utah War, however, neither removed Brigham from power nor ended the doctrine of plural marriage, to the annoyance and bafflement of a whole series of American presidents. With their feet held fast to the fire, the Saints ultimately had no choice but to renounce polygamy. But even as LDS leaders publicly claimed, in , to have relinquished the practice, they quietly dispatched bands of Mormons to establish polygamous colonies in Mexico and Canada, and some of the highest-ranking LDS authorities secretly continued to take multiple wives and perform plural marriages well into the twentieth century.
Although LDS leaders were initially loath to abandon plural marriage, eventually they adopted a more pragmatic approach to American politics, emphatically rejected the practice, and actually began urging government agencies to prosecute polygamists.
It was this single change in ecclesiastical policy, more than anything else, that transformed the LDS Church into its astonishingly successful present-day iteration. Having jettisoned polygamy, Mormons gradually ceased to be regarded as a crackpot sect. The LDS Church acquired the trappings of a conventional faith so successfully that it is now widely considered to be the quintessential American religion. Mormon Fundamentalists, however, believe that acceptance into the American mainstream came at way too high a price.
They contend that the Mormon leaders made an unforgivable compromise by capitulating to the U. These present-day polygamists therefore consider themselves to be the keepers of the flame--the only true and righteous Mormons. In forsaking Section the sacred principle of plural marriage--the LDS Church has gone badly astray, they warn.
Fundamentalist prophets bellow from their pulpits that the modern church has become "the wickedest whore of all the earth. Their second-most-popular citation is likely Section 85, in which it was revealed to Joseph that "I, the Lord God, will send one mighty and strong. To speak of a fringe implies a mainstream, but in terms of numbers, perhaps the largest component of the religious spectrum in contemporary America remains what it has been since colonial times: a fundamentalist evangelicalism with powerful millenarian strands.
The doomsday theme has never been far from the center of American religious thought. The nation has always had believers who responded to this threat by a determination to flee from the wrath to come, to separate themselves from the City of Destruction, even if that meant putting themselves at odds with the law and with their communities or families. We can throughout American history find select and separatist groups who looked to a prophetic individual claiming divine revelation, in a setting that repudiated conventional assumptions about property, family life, and sexuality.
They were marginal groups, peculiar people, people set apart from the world: the Shakers and the Ephrata community, the communes of Oneida and Amana, the followers of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. This isolated wedge of backcountry--almost as big as New Jersey, yet traversed by a single paved highway--is known as the Arizona Strip, and it has one of the lowest population densities in the forty-eight conterminous states.
There is, however, one relatively large municipality here. Colorado City, home to some nine thousand souls, is more than five times as populous as any other town in the district. Motorists driving west on Highway across the parched barrens of the Uinkaret Plateau are apt to be surprised when, twenty-eight miles past Fredonia population 1,, the second-largest town on the Strip , Colorado City suddenly materializes in the middle of nowhere: a sprawl of small businesses and unusually large homes squatting beneath a towering escarpment of vermilion sandstone called Canaan Mountain.
They live in this patch of desert in the hope of being left alone to follow the sacred principle of plural marriage without interference from government authorities or the LDS Church. More commonly known as the United Effort Plan, or UEP, it requires its members live in strict accordance with the commandments of a frail, ninety-two-year-old tax accountant-turned-prophet named Rulon T. Although his feeble bearing would seem to make him poorly cast for the role, the residents of Colorado City believe that Uncle Rulon is the "one mighty and strong" whose coming was prophesied by Joseph in At the moment, DeLoy is driving his thirdhand Chevy van on a dirt road on the outskirts of town.
One of his two wives and eight of his seventeen children are riding in the back. Suddenly he hits the brakes, and the van lurches to a stop on the shoulder. Hauled it out of town and dumped it. The temptations of the outside world loom large, however, and some members of the faith inevitably succumb. People will sneak into St. Then one Sunday Uncle Rulon will give one of his sermons about the evils of television.
The mayor and every other city employee answers to him, as do the entire police force and the superintendent of public schools. Even animals are subject to his whim. Two years ago a Rottweiler killed a child in town.
An edict went out that dogs would no longer be allowed within the city limits. A posse of young men was dispatched to round up all the canines, after which the unsuspecting pets were taken into a dry wash and shot.
What does the book reveal about fanatics such as Ron and Dan Lafferty? What does it reveal about brutality and faith and the connections between them? Why does Krakauer move back and forth between Mormon history and contemporary events? What are the connections between the beliefs and practices of Joseph Smith and his followers in the nineteenth century and the behavior of people like Dan and Ron Lafferty, Brian David Mitchell, and others in the twentieth?
How does polygamy affect young girls? Is it, as Leavitt claims, pedophilia plain and simple? Joseph Smith claimed that the doctrine of polygamy was divinely inspired. No doubt, bin Laden would say much the same of Lafferty. How are Dan Lafferty and Osama bin Laden alike? In what ways are all religious fundamentalists alike? What would the legal ramifications be of such a shift in thought?
Is this a fair and accurate statement? What historical examples support it? What improvements in humane feeling and social justice has the Mormon church opposed? Much of Under the Banner of Heaven explores the tensions between freedom of religion and governmental authority. How should these tensions be resolved? What other similarities exist between the Mormon and Islamic faiths? Is Krakauer himself a trustworthy guide to the events he describes in Under the Banner of Heaven?
Are his writing and his judgments fair and reasonable? What makes them so? What patterns emerge from looking at Mormon history?
What do events like the Mountain Meadow massacre and the violence between Mormons and gentiles in Missouri and Illinois suggest about the nature of Mormonism? Have Mormons been more often the perpetrators or the victims of violence? Why does Krakauer end the book this way? In what ways are Mormons not free to think for themselves?
Church Response to Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven
Almost every section of the book is fascinating in its own right, and together the chapters make a rich picture. An arresting portrait of depravity. A white-knuckle mix of true-crime reporting and provocative history. It is hard to stop reading. Elegant reportage.
Under the Banner of Heaven
Three responses from the Church are given below. The second is a summary by Richard E. Turley, managing director of the Family and Church History Department and an authority on Church history and doctrine. The third is a review by Robert L.