Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith

· Sold by Anchor
143 reviews

About this ebook

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • From the author of Into the Wild and Into Thin Air, this extraordinary work of investigative journalism takes readers inside America’s isolated Mormon Fundamentalist communities. • Now an acclaimed FX limited series streaming on HULU.

“Fantastic.... Right up there with In Cold Blood and The Executioner’s Song.” —San Francisco Chronicle

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.

Ratings and reviews

143 reviews
A Google user
November 20, 2011
If you are interested in this book for learning about anything other than the Lafferty brothers' murders (such as about Mormonism in general), this book will not give you anything resembling a balanced account. Krakauer singles out the handful of awful historical events in Mormonism and brands present-day Mormonism as a continuation of the very worst. As far as I can surmise, the main thesis of the book is: Historical Mormonism is at heart a violent faith that promotes sexual philandering, racist indoctrination, superstition on every level, and female suppression. In the style of sensationalistic journalism, Krakauer (who is not a trained historian) certainly tows this line in the most lurid manner he can conjure. After all, stories about murder and sexual practices (whether they are true or not) sell much better than humdrum, balanced narratives of the lives of everyday folk. So what's so bad about Under the Banner of Heaven? Krakauer systematically ignores all sorts of stories and real data that go against his thesis; after reading Krakauer, one would expect to see very high homicide rates in Utah, yet it ranks among the bottom in the US. He's not interested in portraying a balanced historical account and makes some very elementary historical errors that give a false impression of the historical record.
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A Google user
August 23, 2011
I expected more from this book. It is as others have stated, long winded. I also had a hard time with how he went back and forth, from the Lafferty's story to the stories of early LDS church history and then back again, and not much information about the FLDS church or other fundamentalist groups other than that of the Laffertys. It seemed to bounce around alot and a book that does that has always had a hard time keeping my interest. I read it all and it was just ok for me. Not a book I am likely to read again.
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A Google user
May 30, 2008
This is an eye-opening, highly readable, and thoroughly engaging piece of journalism. The bulk of the book – a brief history of Mormonism – gives the impression that it was written principally for a non-Mormon audience; which is a service in itself. The LDS Church has been a part of American life for a long time now, and their message has been ably formed and relentlessly marketed. A popular, comprehensible, and honest appraisal of the sinister bones in the LDS closet is an apropos counterpoint to the official narrative. I read "Under the Banner of Heaven" in only a few days; rarely has a work of contemporary history held my interest so consistently. Of course, I'm an admirer of Jon Krakauer's previous books… so I was predisposed to find myself right at home in his style. For someone who may possess only a cursory knowledge of Mormonism, there's a great deal of material in this book that is worth discovering. Personally, I knew the basics of LDS history, but was still shocked to learn the details of the Mountain Meadow Massacre. I was more surprised, however, to learn the present-day state of polygamy in this country. There's no question that Krakauer draws a very creepy portrait of Mormon Fundamentalism and its mainstream antecedents; and it is a portrait that I judged to be eminently fair.
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About the author

JON KRAKAUER is the author of eight books and has received an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. According to the award citation, "Krakauer combines the tenacity and courage of the finest tradition of investigative journalism with the stylish subtlety and profound insight of the born writer."

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