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Publisher's Summary

At the core of this book is an appalling double murder committed by two Mormon fundamentalist brothers, Ron and Dan Lafferty, who insist they received a revelation from God commanding them to kill their blameless victims. Beginning with a meticulously researched account of this "divinely inspired" crime, Krakauer constructs a multilayered, bone-chilling narrative of messianic delusion, savage violence, polygamy, 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.

Krakauer takes readers inside isolated communities in the American West, Canada, and Mexico, where some forty-thousand Mormon fundamentalists believe the mainstream Mormon Church went unforgivably astray when it renounced polygamy. Defying both civil authorities and the Mormon establishment in Salt Lake City, the leaders of these outlaw sects are zealots who answer only to God. Marrying prodigiously and with virtual impunity (the leader of the largest fundamentalist church took seventy-five "plural wives," several of whom were wed to him when they were fourteen or fifteen and he was in his eighties), fundamentalist prophets exercise absolute control over the lives of their followers, and preach that any day now the world will be swept clean in a hurricane of fire, sparing only their most obedient adherents.

Weaving the story of the Lafferty brothers and their fanatical brethren with a clear-eyed look at Mormonism's violent past, Krakauer examines the underbelly of the most successful homegrown faith in the United States, and finds a distinctly American brand of religious extremism. The result is vintage Krakauer, an utterly compelling work of nonfiction that illuminates an otherwise confounding realm of human behavior.

©2003 Jon Krakauer; (P)2003 Books on Tape, Inc., Published by arrangement with Random House Audio Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Krakauer lays the portent on beautifully, building his tales carefully from the ground up until they irresistibly, spookily combust." (Kirkus Reviews)
"Krakauer presents details that indeed sound stranger than fiction." (The New York Times)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.2 out of 5.0
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Performance

  • 4.4 out of 5.0
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Story

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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boring

not as good as the reviews suggested.
long and not very interesting. I would not recommend.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Enjoyed; not for Mormons or Fans of the Church

Thoroughly enjoyed the detailed history of the LDS Church, and it's parallels to the Lafferty Bros murders. Can seem disjointed, the way Kraukauer switched back and forth between the 1800s and the 80's, but makes interesting comparisons between historical events. The book comes off as vicously anti-Mormon though. Would have preferred a more fair and balanced tone.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Absolutely essential reading - and fascinating as well

I have studied religions for years - I'm a passionate Christian apologist. This book taught me more about Mormonism than any other research book - and with Krakauer's enthralling skill. I've listened to it 3 times already. I am so fascinated why people chose "truth" when the deliverer (prophet) has such questionable character. Why did no one see those golden plates? Well, I know faith is faith - but , the ramifications of polygamy have caused horrible suffering and abuse to women, and still do to this day. Any "faith", including Muslim, which degrades and hurts women as a basic tenant should be questioned- even by the most sincere believer. It is shocking how much polygamy still goes on. I think this book is a real eye opener. I hope many Americans read it, and recognize the harm of plural marriage. We have to stop pretending this isn't going on.

Loved the book. Excellent reader.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Learn the truth behind the Mormon church and fundamentalism

I experienced a brief stint as a Mormon when I was a teenager but left because of the extreme criticism and belief that they are the "only true church" around. Some people in my family are still LDS and often try to push their beliefs on me. I am so glad that I read this book and now of the way this religion came to be what it is today. I believe in a higher power but do not feel I need to be religious to have a spiritual connection.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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What the what?!

What made the experience of listening to Under the Banner of Heaven the most enjoyable?

The history behind how the FLDS got to be the way it is today. I've talked to people who have said they didn't enjoy this because they wanted to hear more about the actual murders. I found the interesting part to be the history.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The author. A lot of this book is the author discussing his opinions.

Any additional comments?

I found this story to be pretty shocking.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Chadwick
  • Salt Lake City, UT, United States
  • 03-15-12

Not for new parents or the faint of heart

Jon is a masterful writer. He brings any story he writes to life with his prose. Unfortunately, in this case, the story is terrible. Not "terrible" as in it is just a poor story, terrible as in it makes you sick to your stomach that humans can behave in such a manner. And Jon gives us the most intimate details of this behavior in such a surreal way that I found myself wanting to cry multiple times.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Matt
  • Okotoks, Alberta, Canada
  • 11-23-09

For anyone interested in LDS theology and history

I am a fan of anything by Krakauer, but this one is certainly my favourite. He seamlessly weaves back and forth between the history of Mormonism and the grisly Lafferty murders committed by a modern member of the FLDS faith. Krakauer's excellent research and fluent writing are enhanced wonderfully by narrator Scott Brick. My only hesitation before I gave this book five stars is that the murder scene is very hard to listen to. Fabulous book and a must for anyone with an interest in LDS or FLDS faith and history, modern religion, true crime or even the history and development of the American West.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Margaret
  • Newport, New Caledonia
  • 06-06-09

What a terriffic book!!!

This book is not at all what I had expected - it's much, much better. While the basis of the story is the murder of Brenda Lafferty and her baby, the author also takes us back in time to the founding of the Mormon church. At first, you wonder about the significance of events from the early 19th century - plural marriage, blood atonement, the fire and fervor of Joseph Smith - to two murders in the late 20th century. Krakauer, amazingly, ties everything together, in such a compelling manner that I couldn't put my iPod down until I finished.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Kellee
  • Comer, GA, USA
  • 04-03-09

Fascinating

Excellent writing and narration. Sometimes a littled too detailed. My only reservation is that the author definately has a strong point of view toward the Mormon religion. I'd like to hear an opposing viewpoint. But a definate must-listen.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

true crime & true history!

This is the very best way to learn your history lessons: take it with a fascinating story that spawns no end of twists, characterological and otherwise. An extraordinary tale that leaves you no easy place to stand and, like every important story, forces you to examine your own ideas about all the big things, God included.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful