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Under the Banner of Heaven

--Staff Picks

Under the Banner of Heaven: a story of violent faith

Jon Krakauer
Published: 2003
Genre: Nonfiction, History, True Crime

“Krakauer takes readers inside isolated communities in the American West, Canada, and Mexico, where some forty-thousand Mormon Fundamentalists believe the mainstream Mormon Church went unforgivably astray when it renounced polygamy. Defying both civil authorities and the Mormon establishment in Salt Lake City, the leaders of these outlaw sects are zealots who answer only to God.”
“Weaving the story of the Lafferty brothers and 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 United States, and 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.”

Do not go into this book expecting a traditional true crime novel. Only a small part of the narrative is centered around the central crime. Most of the book delves into the history of the LDS church, including the advent of the religion, their views on polygamy (both those in Mormonism who support it and oppose it), as well as the violence those within the fold commit and the violence aimed towards them. If I could use one word to describe Kraukauer it would be “thorough”. While Kraukauer definitely highlights the extremism that this “home-grown” American religion has imparted on it’s followers, he explains the process that lead to crimes like the Lafferty brothers committed with such dedication to details it becomes a fascinating study of what can happen when a storm of extremism, isolation, and fury can bring to a group of people.