Under the Banner of Heaven

  • by Jon Krakauer
  • Narrated by Scott Brick
  • 12 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

At the core of this book is an appalling double murder committed by two Mormon fundamentalist brothers, Ron and 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, 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.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. Marrying prodigiously and with virtual impunity (the leader of the largest fundamentalist church took seventy-five "plural wives," several of whom were wed to him when they were fourteen or fifteen and he was in his eighties), fundamentalist prophets exercise absolute control over the lives of their followers, and 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 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.


What the Critics Say

"Krakauer lays the portent on beautifully, building his tales carefully from the ground up until they irresistibly, spookily combust." (Kirkus Reviews)
"Krakauer presents details that indeed sound stranger than fiction." (The New York Times)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Powerful story and well read by the author

I tend to like audiobooks that are read by the author. You get the emotion in the places that the book meant to relay them. This story has a very powerful message. Although the book most certainly focuses on the Mormon religion, the author makes it clear that his intent is to discuss "Faith" in general. But, with so many different religions in the world and all having their own set of rules which require unabashed faith in order to be truly religious, the author had to pick one religion to get his point across. So he picked the one that he was most familiar with as well as one that was news worthy. The tale he tells of the murder of a mother and her 15 month old daughter, by her brother-in-laws no less, is at times gruesome, but always interesting. As far as I can tell, I'm not of the Mormon religion, the history of the Mormon church is detailed very nicely in this book. From it's founding in the 1800's by Joseph Smith, to the state it is in today, he details the trials and tribulations that have transpired in order for this, 2nd fastest growing religion in the world, to survive. I listened to this book from begining to end in one sitting. If you like murder mysteries based on fact, this book is for you. If you like books on spirituality, this book is for you. If you like history, this book might be a good listen for you. Give it a shot, you may be surprised at what you learn!
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- Tom

Interesting @ arm's length

As an outsider, it's often easy to make assumptions about a religion's morality and values. But looking beyond the inflamatory language that the author resorts to in certain areas of the book (indicating his biases), I found this book to be quite insightful and informative about the history behind the LDS and FLDS faiths, as well as the geographical and logistical aspects of their beliefs/practices. It is very evident that the author has done extensive research for this book, and does a good job providing historical background information to shed light on present practices/situations. From my own protestant christian upbringing, I had a very limited perspective/understanding of the LDS faith, and I think this book helped to clarify many points. I found other areas of the book quite disturbing and struggled to keep in mind that the actions of individuals within a religion do not necessarily reflect the morals of the whole. Written as a scholarly approach toward something like religion (which is ultimately "irrationally" based), I think the author does a pretty good job trying to be informative rather than judgemental. The one downfall of the audiobook is that it does not include the bibliography, footnotes, and appendecis that are contained in the hard-copy. Included in these was a letter from the head of the LDS with their assessment of the book, and a then a counter response from the author with clarifications/corrections and closing arguments.
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- pixychild

Book Details

  • Release Date: 12-11-2003
  • Publisher: Random House Audio