Jon Krakauer is like my mother-in-law. Both are engaging storytellers with a gift for keeping the listener riveted on the subject, even if we are already familiar with it. But like my mother-in-law, Krakauer is not above coloring the facts to make them fit the story he wants to tell.
I'm a practicing Mormon with an interest in the history of the Church. I am aware that the Church is imperfect and that current Church leadership tends to gloss over less desirable points of its history.
Krakauer has a fascinating story to tell in the Lafferty murders. But he tries too hard to reconcile the Laffertys, modern Mormon fundamentalism and religious extremism generally with early Church history and the mainstream Mormon church. To make the story fit, he uses exaggeration (such as the "unconditional obedience" supposedly demanded of modern latter-day Saints), patently untrue generalizations (e.g., the statement that "most Mormons" will eventually travel to New York for the Hill Cumorah Pageant), and silly anecdotes apparently fabricated from whole cloth (like the bizzare allegation that "Mormons the world over" have committed 5:16 p.m., the time of Joseph Smith's death, to memory). Similarly amusing is his claim that Mormons refer to non-Mormons as "gentiles," a word that passed out of favor among mainstream Mormons 40 years ago and that is literally never heard in the modern church.
Most disturbing is Krakauer's willingness to present his hypotheses about historical controversies as truth. He even attributes feelings and motivations manufactured by him to figures such as Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, apparently to help the story flow.
The narration is bad. ApPROXimately EVery THIRD SYLLable is EMPHasized.
The book is enjoyable despite its faults. I don't recommend against it, but do take it with a grain of salt. This is not a history, but a historical miniseries in print. The story is great, but the truth remains firmly in second place.
like a breathless tabloid TV show. At one relatively unimportant point he says, "A MILLION dollars" and all I could think of was Dr. Evil in Austin Powers. I could not finish the book. Maybe I'll read it in print but my impressions is that Krakauer too amps everything up unecessarily - the story and the history of the Church and these offshoots is interesting (and bizarre and ugly) without selective information, hyperbole or reader-dragging.
I tend to like audiobooks that are read by the author. You get the emotion in the places that the book meant to relay them. This story has a very powerful message. Although the book most certainly focuses on the Mormon religion, the author makes it clear that his intent is to discuss "Faith" in general. But, with so many different religions in the world and all having their own set of rules which require unabashed faith in order to be truly religious, the author had to pick one religion to get his point across. So he picked the one that he was most familiar with as well as one that was news worthy. The tale he tells of the murder of a mother and her 15 month old daughter, by her brother-in-laws no less, is at times gruesome, but always interesting. As far as I can tell, I'm not of the Mormon religion, the history of the Mormon church is detailed very nicely in this book. From it's founding in the 1800's by Joseph Smith, to the state it is in today, he details the trials and tribulations that have transpired in order for this, 2nd fastest growing religion in the world, to survive. I listened to this book from begining to end in one sitting. If you like murder mysteries based on fact, this book is for you. If you like books on spirituality, this book is for you. If you like history, this book might be a good listen for you. Give it a shot, you may be surprised at what you learn!
I am brutally honest. Popular, love everything they read, reviewers are scared to go neg. and risk their ranking. It's your money!!!
I first read this in 2003 after it first came out. I talked about it so much, that my wife asked to listen to it. Writing about religion has got to be one of the hardest things to do without upsetting someone. Krakauer does occasionally call the Mormon religion, strange or something similar. You would think a good editor would have omitted that. I also had to keep in mind that most religions can be easily made to look strange. I remember teaching a middle school class at my Methodist Church and talking about the Resurrection, when one of the kids, said "Yuck,Jesus was a Zombie". Than of course the sacrament, where we supposedly eat of Jesus's body and drink his blood.
That Being Said
I have always been one to let people do as they want as long as they don't hurt others. That is were the break apart Fundamentalist's of this religion become a problem. Here in America, girls as young as twelve are being raped and made pregnant. Women are beaten and abused. Freedom of religion is one thing, freedom to rape and abuse children must be stopped. Sam Brower has written a follow up book called Prophet's Prey, which is even more revealing and discusses the abandoning of little boys, so as to have more girls to rape.
I love John Krakauer. I got much more than anticipated in this book. It was a true crime thriller interwoven with Mormon culture and history. I loved it and would listen to it again.
While I am a big fan of Krakauer's earlier works, Under the Banner of Heaven leaves a lot to be desired. I don't think that his weaving of two genres ("true crime" and history)works well here. Taken separately, a history of the Church of LDS and its offshoots, and the true crime story are both very interesting, but the constant weaving back and forth makes it just confusing, at least in audio format.
There were many times that I got lost in the narrative, particularly in the parts about about other Mormon fundamenalists (who have no relevance to the story of the Lafferty brothers). And there were other parts of the Lafferty story that he didn't explore at all -- for example, what happened to Allen after the murders? How did he react, does he still speak with his brothers, etc., etc.? There is much about Ron's ongoing trials, but very little about Dan's trial. I couldn't for the life of me remember why Dan did not get the death penalty, until after I was done listening, I went online and found an excerpt of the book's prologue, where it mentions one or two lines about Dan's trial.
The narration was fine, and the content had the potential to make an excellent book, but sadly this one falls short.
I have listened to a lot of audio books and this is one of the very best -- fascinating start to finish.
The story of the grisly muders is very well told without being macabre and totally holds your interest.
Woven through this is the intriguing history of the Morman Church and details of some of the bizarre sects that have spun off it. The book gives an in depth insight to what is becoming one of the world's major religions.
I thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook.
Regardless of your politics or your religious persuasion, carefully listening to this book can't help but make a thoughtful, introspective person question their beliefs. Being raised strictly Catholic, now a confirmed athiest, and a registered Republican who doesn't much care for George W. Bush, I found it informative and provacatory. I could see how this book could be downright blasmephous for some people, and not indignant enough for others. The author does a great job of illuminating a subculture that isn't easy to penetrate, and expanding on its ideas as they apply to all organized relgions around the world. It makes some moral value judgements, but one has to if their work is to have any impact. I think the world would be a better place right now if more people read (and most importantly, thought about) the author's theses.
I love Krakauer's writing but find the narration of this book so irritating that I have to stop listening (and ask for a refund). Scott Brick's unnecessarily animated/actorish/dramatic reading really distracts one from the quality of the writing and story. I've heard Krakauer interviewed and think he'd be a great reader of his own books. I won't get another book narrated by Scott Brick - he is completely lacking in subtlety. Too bad, I was so looking forward to listening to this.
This book reveals history and concealed truths about the Mormon faith (LDS). All this history can be researched by anyone through archived newsprint and published material since 1870. Krakauer has compiled a lot of it in this book. He reveals a lot about the fundamentalists of the LDS church (FLDS). How they have branched off from Mormonism and why they have such astonishing beliefs. He gives insights as to why there are so many of these fundamentalist groups that still practice plural marriage. He discusses and quotes from the Lafferty brothers who committed murder according to their faith. The author gives accounts of the many controversies surrounding the early LDS church and the Utah pioneers and settlers. How historically proven truths that have been revealed have been hidden and concealed from church members by LDS church leaders. Not a book for the faint hearted for it is very descriptive about the Lafferty murders and the Mountain Meadows Massacre. The author does point out that Mormonism has gained popularity among over 10,000 religious sects in the world despite all the controversy. Quote from Krakauer "All humans ache to feel love from our creator"