Thursday, June 16, 2011

"As a means of motivating people to be cruel or inhumane - as a means of inciting evil, to borrow the vocabulary of the devout - there may be no more potent force than religion."

Under the Banner of Heaven:  A Story of Violent Faith – Jon Krakauer

400 pages

Genre:  Non-fiction; Religion; History; Mormonism

Summary:  As the title suggests, Under the Banner of Heaven investigates violent acts of faith perpetrated by radical Mormon Fundamentalists.  In his exploration, Krakauer also provides the reader with a history of the Mormon faith, highlighting significant people and events, while also identifying the places in which extremists began to splinter off from the mainstream Mormon faith.

Review:  Overall, I found this book to be extremely interesting and a thorough examination of Mormon history, especially as it relates to the small sect of individuals who take their faith to the extreme and commit acts of violence.

Going into this book, I only knew the basics about Mormonism, and I had absolutely no idea about all of the violence associated with some of the people in the faith.  It was really interesting to get a glimpse at the history of Mormonism, the important people within the religion, and the ongoing debate with polygamy.  In the same vein, it was also interesting, yet extremely sad, to read about the people on the fringe who took their beliefs to violent extremes in the name of their God.

The stories contained within the book were incredibly compelling, albeit terrifying at times, and the events surrounding the Lafferty brothers were especially poignant.  The way in which they discussed the murders they perpetrated after the fact was incredibly heartrending, indeed, and it was amazing to me that they really felt compelled by a higher power to carry out their atrocious acts.

The writing itself was a bit dry at times, but that tends to happen when one is reading a book presenting historical facts.  The action in the rest of the book more than made up for these few instances, however, and I flipped through the pages eagerly when something in particular sparked my interest.

If you have an interest in radical Mormonism or religious violence, definitely give Under The Banner of Heaven a try. 

Rating:  3/5

Other Books by Jon Krakauer:  Into Thin Air, Into the Wild, Where Men Win Glory 


  1. If you're interested in the crimes perpetrated in the name of religion, you should also definitely check out books on some of the various genocides. I had a quote, which I don't have access to at the moment, from one of the textbooks for a history class I took on a genocide, which says essentially the same thing.

    This book sounds neat, but I really don't think I can ever try Krakauer again, after how much I completely loathed Into the Wild.

  2. Religion has always been a fascination for me, and I think I will definitely read up on more of the genocides. Did you have any specific titles in mind? If not, I'm sure I can find something!

    This book was recommended to me by a friend, and I don't think I would have picked it up otherwise. Into the Wild is a tough one, huh? Maybe I'll skip that... haha

  3. It might have been The Burning Tigris by Balakian. I'm not positive though. That was definitely one of the books from the class.

  4. I just finished reading Lost Boy by Brent Jeffs, the nephew of infamous FLDS leader, Warren Jeffs.
    Hundreds of boys in polygamous communities are kicked out as teenagers, so that the old men can keep all the young wives to themselves. Brent and his brothers ended up on the streets, with no real life skills and turned straight to drugs. Later he took Warren Jeffs to court on sexual abuse charges... it's a fascinating story.

  5. I'll have to add that to my "to be read" list; it sounds really interesting! Thanks!