Under the Banner of Heaven

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith

by Jon Krakauer

Nikki’s Rating: 6 out of 10

Summary: In July 1984, a woman and her child were brutally murdered by two brothers who believed they were doing God’s work. Looking into the murders and what led these men to do it, Jon Krakauer discovers the violent history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. With intensive research, Krakauer takes readers through this history and shows the dangers of fundamentalism of America’s fastest growing religion.

6 Utmost Things about Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Bias

Writing about religion is generally controversial as critics will either claim that the author is villainizing the faith or on the other extreme, prothetizing and only showing the positives. In his “Author’s Remarks”, Jon Krakauer not only shares his personal positive experiences with Mormons, he also includes his own theological frame of reference. While of course this does not absolve him of any biases, it does help readers to know where the author is coming from and to keep that in mind. In this readers opinion, in Under the Banner of Heaven, Krakauer did his job of giving the facts without having a personal agenda.

2. Educational

Under the Banner of Heaven was very educational. Krakauer doesn’t just focus on the murders of Brenda and Erica Lafferty but actually looks at the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While I had a basic understanding of Mormonism, Krakauer’s book gave so much more information about their beliefs, rituals, and church hierarchy. And of course, Under the Banner of Heaven includes the darker history of the violence within the Mormon church which I was completely ignorant of.

3. Bibliography

It is apparent that Krakauer did thorough and meticulous research for this novel as the bibliography included in Under the Banner of Heaven is extensive. This provides credence and support to his claims throughout the book.

4. Religion

Throughout Under the Banner of Heaven, Krakauer reminds readers that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not alone with its history of violence but practically every religion is guilty of having followers who use their beliefs to justify harming others. Under the Banner of Heaven was not written specifically to villainize Mormonism but to show the dangers that may occur when individuals turn to fundamentalism and become zealots, Krakauer just uses Mormonism as the example as that is what he was working on at the time. Krakauer brings up solid concerns and questions about the abuse and violence that can be justified in the name of God.

5. Criticism

At the back of the 2004 and onward editions of Under the Banner of Heaven, Krakauer includes an “Appendix” in the Anchor Edition. This includes a “response” to the book by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, authored by the high-ranking church official Richard Turley, as well as Krakauer’s response to this letter. In Krakauer’s response, he gracefully acknowledges mistakes that Turley points out that Krakauer made in the text about the Church but he also rebuttals many things that Turley criticized about Under the Banner of Heaven with sources to support his arguments.

6. Overall

Overall Under the Banner of Heaven was a thoroughly educational novel with an interesting premise. It was well researched and Krakauer included substantial evidence to the facts he presented. In the “Author’s Remarks”, Krakauer includes how he came to write Under the Banner of Heaven. Originally he was working on the interesting phenomenon of a critical, scientific mind coinciding with religious doctrine but his research led him down the road to looking at the Lafferty murders and other violent acts in Mormonism. Again, this was not a personal attack on the Church of Latter-day Saints but rather an intimate look at the dangers of fundamentalism in any religion.


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