Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer

If you, too, are interested in all things true crime I recommend Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith

In the last couple months, a few television series were released that depict the dangers of extreme and fundamental religious faith, most notably Netflix’s docuseries Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey and Hulu’s adaptation of Under the Banner of Heaven. Amidst my viewing of these revealing and disturbing episodes about Fundamental Latter Day Saints, I felt it necessary to read Krakauer’s narrative exposé of the gruesome murders of a mother and her baby at the hands of her brothers-in-law. Ron and Dan Lafferty, the brothers who committed this evil act, rooted their reasoning in their Mormon Fundamentalist faith, and more specifically in some of the incredibly dark and violent origins of the religion. 

Krakauer situates his book somewhere in-between a history lesson about Latter Day Saints and a journalistic account of this double homicide. His reports are researched and informed by several interviews, notably from Dan Lafferty (one of the murderers). What I found to be particularly captivating about the book are the interviews leading up to the murders of Brenda and Erika Lafferty, and how Krakauer weaves them together with the historical narrative of the Mormon Church. So many of the Lafferty friends and family members knew that the brothers were planning to “remove” Brenda and her baby from this world, but no one stopped them. The “why” to this question is what ultimately fuels Krakauer’s book. 

Though I would not use this book for academic research about the modern LDS church–none of the historical information is explicitly his own, nor is he himself Mormon–Krakauer’s examination of how damaging religious faith can be when it is blind and unrelenting is superbly executed. 

Krakauer proves to be an expert non-fiction writer who can illuminate reality without supplementing fact with fabrications. I highly recommend Under the Banner of Heaven if you are in any way interested in true-crime, or if you are falling down the rabbit hole of religious-extremist media coverage like myself. 

 

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