Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer - Review

Let me just start by saying that I loved this book. My friend redeemed herself after the last book she recommended ;) Now I introduce you to Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer.

First of all, I loved Jon's writing style. It is very matter-of-fact and while it has a feel of reporting to it, it's not at all news-y if you get what I mean. This national bestseller told the story of Ron and Dan Lafferty, two extremely radical Mormon men who took their faith to an unlikely extreme by murdering their sister-in-law, Brenda Lafferty, and her baby, Erica.

 

What I love most about this book is that he begins by giving an entire history of the Mormon religion. Before reading this book, I had a general idea about Mormonism and where it came from but after reading this I feel much more informed about their beliefs, practices, and history. As a non-denominational Christian it was very difficult to understand the religion's ability to become so widespread, namely because of what their beliefs are but I love a challenging read! What was also important to remind myself during the reading was that Ron & Dan were not considered to be a part of the LDS church by Mormons because of their extremely radical views. These men seceded from the LDS church to live a life of polygamy (which the Mormons of the past did practice but officially banned in later years), gross mistrust of the government and US law, and progressively dogmatic views that would ultimately contribute to the death of Brenda & Erica Lafferty.

 

It was so interesting to read about what Ron & Dan had to say about themselves and each other as well as what others had to say about them. Being a psychology grad, it was also very interesting to read about the forensic pyschologists, psychiatrists, and other minds in the psychology field's descriptions/diagnoses of Ron Lafferty. Many described him as a narcissist which was a conclusion I had come to very early on. In addition, some of them agreed that he was delusional while others disagreed and said that if we called Ron delusional, we might as well label all religious individuals as delusional as well due to the fact that the label was stemming from Ron's belief that God told him to get rid of Brenda and her baby.

 

This book gives a great insider view of Mormonism as he also speaks to women and men who were practicing Mormons as well as those who had chosen to leave the religion. This was another thing I loved about Krakauer. He wasn't out to show just one facet of Mormonism--he did an excellent job of providing the reader with many different perspectives on the religion. However, I will say that the religion looks more and more to be cult-like than I ever thought before.

 

The book also brought up another very similar parallel - Muslims and radical Muslims. While I don't believe the Muslim religion is cult-like as I feel Mormonism is, it is an excellent parallel in that it mirrors the extremism that can be found in the situation of Ron Lafferty. Continuously, many Americans associate radical Muslims and jihadists with regular Muslims and that is just not fair--the same is true of Mormons in the US.

 

In conclusion, I would most definitely recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn more about Mormonism, the human condition, and religion in the US. It is thought provoking and just a generally interesting read. Two thumbs up from this girl!

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