In Review: "Under the Banner of Heaven"
Warren Jeffs

During the holiday season, it’s difficult not to focus on religions and their interpretations of the miracle of the season. With that in mind, I picked up "Under the Banner of Heaven" in the hopes that I would get a more in depth look at the details of the Mormon Church. What I found wasn’t exactly warm and fuzzy.

Jon Krakauer is most well known for his books "Into thin Air" and "Into the Wild," both of which achieved commercial and critical success and were turned into movies. In 2003’s "Under the Banner of Heaven," Krakauer stepped away from outdoor topics and tackled the roots of the fundamentalist Morman culture.

In 1984, Brenda Lafferty and her 18 month old daughter Erica were killed by Dan and Ron Lafferty. The Lafferty brothers are fundamentalist Mormans who believed they were ordered by God to end the lives of Brenda and Erica.

Krakauer’s book tells the story of this gruesome murder through interviews with the brothers and others close to them and tackles the history of the Mormon Church from its roots to the modern day and circles around the most highly disputed doctrine in the church – polygamy.

Krakauer takes on religious extremism with enthusiasm. The story of the Lafferty brothers and the interesting spiral of fundamentalist Mormans away from the Church of Latter Day Saints, headquartered in Salt Lake City, sheds an interesting light on fundamentalism in general.

The book is straightforward and easy to read and in its starkness asks the reader to examine the very nature of religion. If you are a true believer — of any religion — who’s to say that murder is wrong if divinely ordered?

In an age where countries still wage war based on the actions of people practicing on the fundamentalist fringe of ancient religions, Krakauer’s book provides a fascinating commentary on one of the youngest but fastest growing religions.

"Under the Banner of Heaven" is a distinctive blend of history and true crime, and a fascinating read.
Originally published December 29, 2008