Review: Under The Banner Of Heaven

March 3, 2012 Whitney Review 0 Comments

Review: Under The Banner Of HeavenUnder the Banner of Heaven
Author Jon Krakauer
Publisher Anchor
Publication Date June 8, 2004
Source: Library

Jon Krakauer’s literary reputation rests on insightful chronicles of lives conducted at the outer limits. He now shifts his focus from extremes of physical adventure to extremes of religious belief within our own borders, taking readers inside isolated American communities where some 40,000 Mormon Fundamentalists still practice polygamy. Defying both civil authorities and the Mormon establishment in Salt Lake City, the renegade leaders of these Taliban-like theocracies are zealots who answer only to God.

At the core of Krakauer’s book are brothers Ron and Dan Lafferty, who insist they received a commandment from God to kill a blameless woman and her baby girl. Beginning with a meticulously researched account of this appalling double murder, Krakauer constructs a multi-layered, bone-chilling narrative of messianic delusion, polygamy, savage violence, 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.

To better understand these motives Jon Krakauer, the author flip-flops between the heinous, unbelievable actions of 1984 and the creation of the Mormon religion and its prophet, Joseph Smith. Discovering the golden plates and the start of the religion was very interesting but the disturbing subject of polygamy and how Fundamentalists behave then and now is what really set the story apart. On the first pages Krakauer describes Colorado City, a polygamy commune, he implies that the residents have been brainwashed that, tv is the devil’s work and poo-poo the United States government, yet they collect welfare and see it as a gift from God, in short, sticking it to the man. How do they collect from this government program? Fundamentalists are legally only married to one wife, with the Sister Wives being “married” in a spiritual ceremony and are considered single mothers, and when you’ve married forty wives, with ten kids a piece… well you do the math. I could go on about this strange quality of living but it may be disrespectful. Although, I will say that my dad drove by the town and it was filled with gigantic homes to fit their large families and the town itself was deserted, almost like a ghost town with an eerie feel.

Growing-up, my brother had a friend who is a member of Latter Day Saints and I remember him telling us that he had once gotten stuck in a basketball hoop, and God talked to him and helped him through it. I was probably ten at the time and instead of thinking speaking to a higher being was strange, I thought getting stuck in a basketball hoop was even weirder. Obviously, not all persons in believe in some sort of spiritual being are told to marry a fourteen year or kill innocent people. Should all persons who pray, or speaks to God be considered crazy? No, we all need something to believe in, even atheists.

At the end of the novel, Warren Jeffs is the main topic of conversation with members of the sect even thinking he was too extreme. (Of course all of this was written before the shit hit the fan). I feel that this novel will always be timely after have been writing in 2003, as it is still going on today.


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