Title: Under the Banner of Heaven
Author: Jon Krakauer
Summary from Goodreads:
Jon Krakauer’s literary reputation rests on insightful chronicles of lives conducted at the outer limits. In UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN, he shifts his focus from extremes of physical adventure to extremes of religious belief within our own borders. At the core of his book is an appalling double murder committed by two Mormon Fundamentalist brothers, Ron & Dan Lafferty, who insist they received a revelation from God commanding them to kill their blameless victims. Beginning with a meticulously researched account of this “divinely inspired” crime, Krakauer constructs a multilayered, bone-chilling narrative of messianic delusion, savage violence, polygamy & unyielding faith. Along the way, he uncovers a shadowy offshoot of America’s fastest-growing religion & raises provocative questions about the nature of religious belief. Krakauer takes readers inside isolated communities in the American West, Canada & Mexico, where some 40,000 Mormon Fundamentalists believe the mainstream Mormon Church went unforgivably astray when it renounced polygamy. Defying both civil authorities & the Mormon establishment in Salt Lake City, the leaders of these outlaw sects are zealots who answer only to God. Marrying prodigiously & with virtual impunity (the leader of the largest fundamentalist church took 75 “plural wives,” several of whom were wed to him when they were 14-15 & he was in his 80s), fundamentalist prophets exercise absolute control over the lives of their followers & preach that any day now the world will be swept clean in a hurricane of fire, sparing only their most obedient adherents. Weaving the story of the Lafferty brothers & their fanatical brethren with a clear-eyed look at Mormonism’s violent past, Krakauer examines the underbelly of the most successful homegrown faith in the USA & finds a distinctly American brand of religious extremism. The result is vintage Krakauer, an utterly compelling work of nonfiction that illuminates an otherwise confounding realm of human behavior.
I have to say that I love reading on the subject of FLDS. It is like watching a five car pile up on the freeway… it is so horrifying that you cannot take your eyes off it. That is how I feel about Under the Banner of Heaven. It is utterly horrifying to hear about all of the violence that has happened surrounding the founding of the Mormon faith and that still happens in the Fundamental Latter-Day Saints. Hearing about the child that was kidnapped out of her own bed and raped and then held captive till she took on the beliefs of her captor and grew to love him. I remember hearing about this in the news, but reading about everything surrounding this event was awful. I cannot imagine being woken up and taken captive and forced to marry someone and then raped by them repeatedly. I cannot imagine being chained to a tree for hours on end. I cannot imagine being fourteen years old, or even sixteen, and married and pregnant and starting a family already. Good gosh, I cannot even imagine sharing a husband with another women.
Under the Banner of Heaven was a powerful look into FLDS. It grabs you from the very first sentence and does not let go until the ride is over. I realized when I was over half-way through that I had grabbed the abridged audio version of this book, but I have loved this book so much that I reserved the unabridged edition of this book and will be reading it again when it comes in. This is one of those books that you really want to believe is not true, but you know that it is. It is one of those books where you sit back after having finished and wonder how anyone can believe in this. How can anyone believe that God gave a prophecy that they should go and kill women and children? That is a God that I am not sure that I can understand.
Anyway, in conclusion, I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in reading about the FLDS. I give it a 5/5 star rating and I cannot wait to get my hands on the unabridged edition so I can find out what I missed with the abridged edition (which is half the length so there has to be a lot missing!)
Have you read Under the Banner of Heaven? Any other books like it? Tell me what you think about it? Have a recommendation? Let me hear it!