Under the Banner of Heaven

  • by Jon Krakauer
  • Narrated by Jon Krakauer
  • 5 hrs and 23 mins
  • Abridged 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.

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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

Not bad, but a bit biased

Krakauer's UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN is interesting and well researched. His examination of the origins of the Mormon church were eye-opening as was his breakdown on the origin of the fundamentalist sect of the LDS church.

I am not a Mormon but one flaw I found here was a disturbingly anti-religious bias on the part of the author. Although he claims toward the end to be fascinated by the "culture" and "faith" of Mormons and other religious folks, it comes off as a bit disingenuous after many statements throughout the book which belittle people of faith or cast all people of faith in the same light.

Again, I'm not a Mormon and my personal opinion of Mormonism is not entirely favorable from a theological point of view; however, I am a person of faith myself and hate to see any group of people painted with the same broad brush.

Yes, the murders detailed in this book are deeply disturbing and some of the history of the LDS church past and present gives one the impression that it's a bit cultic in nature. But to say all Mormons are exactly alike, that they're all just like the two murderers in this book, is patently unfair to mainstream Mormons. To go further and suggest that ALL people of ANY faith are equally corrupt, as he does suggest in more than one spot, is even less fair-minded and betrays the author's admitted agnostic bias; that bias makes the book as a whole a bit suspect.

That said, there's a lot of good information and a fascinating "read/listen" to be had. Just go in knowing the author's bias and you'll be fine.
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- Craig Hansen

Best book I've downloaded all year

Here are the good things about John Krakauer’s amazing “Under the Banner of Heaven”: It’ll blow your mind about the Mormon church, with a revealing history of the Joseph Smith days and riveting tales of present-day latter-day sait looniness — the Lafferty murders, Elizabeth Smart. The book will get you thinking about how maybe, just maybe, Islamic fundamentalists aren’t all that different from our own homegown Christian fundamentalists. And the author is incredibly talented at weaving history, narrative, and interviews to create a swift weekend read.

Now the bad part: During and after reading the book, you’ll want to talk about it with just about everyone. And on occassion, one of those people will turn out to be a practicing Mormon. And if you’re being really dense, like me, you’ll probably end up making a huge ass of yourself.
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- Theodore Mann

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-18-2003
  • Publisher: Random House Audio