Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The intertwining of the story behind the murder of Brenda Lafferty and her daughter with the history of the Mormon church is interesting, as it lends context to the murder. However, the "bone-chilling" atmosphere that others have mentioned is lessened because of this continued flipping between modern and historic reporting.
Krakauer's mission seems to be to explain (and condemn) the so-called fundamental movements, those adhering to Joseph Smith's Principle 132 encouraging polygamy. As a result, mainstream Mormon leaders have taken fault with the book and there's a lengthy response/rebuttal at the end of the edition I read. By merely recounting the more sensational and troubling aspects of the religion, he does a disservice to the reader by not giving us a background on their beliefs, customs and practices. I'm still a little unclear about the wards, stakes and other divisions, while I'm quite clear on the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
This isn't to say that I approve of the breakaway sects like the UEP, but that this isn't a balanced view of the religion as a whole. If you're looking for a book the murders and the thinking that leads to a Warren Jeffs compound (or the compound on "Big Love"), this is a good resource, but if you're looking to understand who and what the Mormons are, not so much.
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