Under the Banner of Heaven—Jon Krakauer
What is the book Under the Banner of Heaven about?
Under the Banner of Heaven tracks the story of the Lafferty brothers and how they became Mormon fundamentalists. The book details the crimes that these brothers committed and compares this story with the foundations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The book also criticizes religion broadly, specifically on its connection to violence.
What is a Mormon fundamentalist?
Mormon fundamentalists are individuals or groups that break off from the Church because they believe that the Church was wrong to stop the practice of plural marriage. The Church excommunicates those who practice polygamy today.
Does religion lead to violence?
Religious criticism in Under the Banner of Heaven
“Faith is the very antithesis of reason, injudiciousness a crucial component of spiritual devotion.”
"As a means of motivating people to be cruel or inhumane, as a means of inciting evil. . . there may be no more potent force than religion."
"Extremism seems to be especially prevalent among those inclined by temperament or upbringing towards religious pursuits."
Chapter 6 (pg. 70)
“All religious belief is a function of nonrational faith. And faith, by its very definition, tends to be impervious to intellectual argument or academic criticism.”
Besides religious violence, are there any other themes in the book?
Yes, the book also talks about the practice of polygamy. It notes that while the Church stopped practicing polygamy, Mormon fundamentalists continued the practice. The book also conflates these two religious movements that share a common founder and common scripture.
Who wrote Under the Banner of Heaven?
What is the author's connection to Mormonism?
Is the book Under the Banner of Heaven accurate?
What did critics think of the book?
Some critics praised the book, believing that it accurately and articulately showed tensions between faith and violence. Other critics have pointed out the author's inaccuracies and sensationalism.
Sample Reviews of Under the Banner of Heaven
Church Newsroom, June 27, 2003
". . . Krakauer unwittingly puts himself in the same camp as those who believe every German is a Nazi, every Japanese a fanatic, and every Arab a terrorist."
Kirkus Book Reviews, July 15, 2003
"At the moment 'when religious fanaticism supplants ratiocination,' then 'all bets are suddenly off.' Krakauer lays the portent on beautifully, building his tales carefully from the ground up until they irresistibly, spookily combust."
Jane Lampman, Christian Science Monitor, July 17, 2003
". . . while this compelling book raises important issues - some pertinent to today's news - it also delivers a skewed and misleading picture of a faith now practiced by 11 million people worldwide."
Benjamin Park, Juvenile Instructor, February 20, 2012
"What, we wonder, made Krakauer’s caricatured telling of Mormonism’s “violent” past so crucial that to avoid it in a historical survey of the LDS Church is worthy of being charged with negligence? . . . Put simply, it’s a shoddy work of history, and should have been destined to be another flash-in-the-pan sensationalist work that soon fell into insignificance."
Karina Wetherbee, Summit Daily, June 13, 2015
"Respectful, but hard-hitting in his reporting, Krakauer hits another one out of the park with 'Under the Banner of Heaven.'"
Did the Church issue a response to Under the Banner of Heaven?
Other Latter-day Saints have published both positive and negative reviews.
- Convert, Return missionary & Desert Storm Veteran
“Hard to watch. The Author could not get basic beliefs right. He put all LDS in a box. 99% of historical portrayal was way off. I mean, get it right. LDS Women serve Missions, drive tractors, serve in the military, and we have opinions. SMH”
- Wendy B
“Ultimately, what needs to be understood by people, is that these people are a totally different religion. They took a church that doesn't preach or practice violence, nor polygamy, and twisted it to fit their sadistic minds. They are NOT real LDS members.”
“You state that “the church has denounced violence in the past and continues to do so today.” With that in mind, can you speak to the churches practice of blood atonement in the 1800’s? Additionally, why do so many members glorify Porter Rockwell?”