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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 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, 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

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  • Overall

Very Entertaining....I'll Be Objective!

The author has an obvious disdain for religion in general, but gives an effort to sound objective. The book jumps back and forth between the 1984 murders of a woman and child and the History of the founding leaders of the Mormon church. Much of this is very detailed and obviously heavily researched; however, he inserts conjecture where the trail of facts end to paint a picture that goes along with his theme. This occurs throughout, but he does acknowledge this with phrases like, "there is evidence to suggest" and "it would seem that..."
The author sprinkles in some sarcasm after horrific stories with little phrases like, "thus sayeth the Lord, Amen" after explaining a murder or some such crime.
The author reads this story in first person much of the time, recounting some murders and setting the scene to put you back at the crime scene in 1984, or in Missouri in the 1830's, and it is very effective at entertaining. WARNING: some of the descriptions are pretty graphic and explicit, told in the murderer's first person.
This was one of the most entertaining non-fictions I have heard or read. He keeps it well paced and it is as fun as a crime story work of fiction. Is it a hit-piece on the Mormon church? I'd say so. Is it a good book? Definitely.
Obviously, this book is as much editorial as a research work. He even manages to take a jab or two at George W. Bush and the Invasion of Iraq, but, unless you are Mormon, this should easily entertain.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Interesting read.

I thought that Mr. Krakauer did a much better job on this book than on his others. In his other books he always finds a way to stick himself in the book. He reserved that part until the very end. The book is an interesting read and much like any investigative book leans one way or the other, however I thought that Mr. Krakauer did a relatively good job in portraying the lives of the Mormon Fundamentalists. Definately worth the time to read.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Compelling true crime story murder sex religion

I found this account much more interesting that Krakauer's story about climbing Mt. Everest (Into Thin Air). I could hardly put it down, and plan to listen to it again very soon.

Krakauer takes a murder from 1984, along with the recent abduction of Elizabeth Smart, and weaves within it, an historical account of the Morman movement. I disagree with anyone who says he blames religion for the violence. Rather, he explains how the texts of religion can be used to justify violence; how anything can be justified so long as one earnestly believes that the actions are the will of the almighty.

The discussion of polygamy (plural marriage) was eye opening. I had not understood how the practice is used to enslave women; or that girl children between 14 and 16 are so often "married" to relatives and then impregnated to ensure their bondage. Krakauer notes that plural marriage has been rejected by the Morman church, and that those who practice it are mostly ex-communicated.

The parallels between fundamental religions (whether Morman - based, Christian based, or based on Islam) is truly amazing. I found it to be fascinating.

6 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Lisa
  • Whiting, IN, United States
  • 08-30-03

Mesmerizing

This book has a high "Oh my God" count. That is, I kept finding myself saying "Oh my God!" over and over as I listened. The historical portions are just as interesting as the reporting on the murder case at the center of this story. And don't underestimate John Krakaur as a narrator. Most authors don't have the ability to read their own work, but this one does a very creditable job. I would have truly appreciated an unabridged version of this incredibly compelling work, but the abridged version kept me spellbound for all 5 1/2 hours.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Crystal
  • Greenville, NC, USA
  • 08-06-03

Very Thought Provoking!

I found the book to be very well rounded and though provoking. I thought Kraukaer did an excellent job of looking at how religion is used to justify violence in people who are already predisposed to follow violent means to an end. I did not think that he tried to make the point that religion causes violence. I have read many other books on violent events that were justified by religious belief and this book was well rounded and documented. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Very Informative

As a pastor, I meet people from various backgrounds. If you understand where someone comes from, it is easier to help them. Jon does a great job of unvailing the background of mormonism. Some of the criminal's descriptions of the crimes are graphic, but overall, if you wish to gain a better understanding of mormonism, this is the book to read.

4 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Liz
  • Warren, OR, United States
  • 08-10-03

Riveting

I have read and enjoyed all of this author's books, but find this one to be my favorite so far. Although not without bias, I thought his investigation of the history of Mormon fundamentalism both interesting and insightful. For those outside the faith, the Mormons inherent secrecy and exclusion of gentiles perpetrates an almost insatiable curiosity. Krakauers look at past and present events is riveting reading. I listened to the book nearly without interruption. My only complaint is that an unabridged copy was not available.

9 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Pamela
  • Sonoma, CA, United States
  • 06-10-04

I thought I'd like it more

This is a book about the history and development of Mormonism in the United States that happens to discuss a murder committed by one of the flock. If you are looking for a "true crime" book, this is not it. The story of the murder of a young woman and her daughter by a brutally deranged fanatic takes so long to tell that there is no climax. The author makes a connection and big deal out of something that turns out to be only mildly interesting. God told the murderer to kill these people -- heard that before and in way less than 5 hours. I enjoyed Krakauer's other books -- "Into Thin Air," about disaster striking a Mt. Everest climbing group, and especially "Into the Woods," a fascinating story of survival off the land with an amazing climax. This book, however, read like, "Into the Church," which, frankly, isn't a place I'd like to go.

5 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Disturbing yet Informative and intriguing

Although the basis of the story was the murder of innocent people including but not limited to a little girl, I wanted to read this in order to become informed about Mormonism. Krakauer read with a flat delivery, but I suppose the subject matter warranted that. I believe coming from an LDS background helped Krakauer inform the reader more so than if reading a purely nonfiction book. At times the story jumped from decade to decade which was confusing, but overall I was able to keep straight the transition and growth of LDS, both fanatical and mainstream. Given the fact that I discovered this book because of my like of his previous two books, Into the Wild, and Into Thin Air, I believe he should've called this one "Into Salt Lake City." Overall a solid read if you're into reading/learning about Mormon fundamentalism.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

worthwhile read

well researched and interestingly presented, connecting historical events and contemporary viewpoints. author's personal perspective presented at the end excluded objective biblical research, which might encourage him in his expressed desire to know his Creator...