Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Under the Banner of Heaven

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent FaithUnder the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was really excited to see this book on the shelf at Mac's Fireweed Books here in Whitehorse. I love diving into a good true crime book once in awhile, and the raw, gritty prose of Into the Wild and Into Thin Air convinced me Jon Krakauer was able to take me places I couldn't otherwise go. Add that to my recent fascination with Mormon culture and its short history, and I thought this book would be a home run, out of the ballpark win.
Not so.
The foundational storyline of 1984 murders two brothers committed in the name of God intrigued me. They were Fundamentalist Mormons who had gone off the deep end and were commanded by the voice of God (in their head) to kill their sister-in-law and her baby daughter. In this context, Krakauer uses the plot to ask difficult, thought-provoking questions like, 'when does religious enthusiasm become crazy?' Indeed, many religious foundations have stories of man in conversation with God, following revelations and commandments. That aspect of the book, I enjoyed. It challenged me to remove my judgement and really look at what motivates religious seekers and participants to follow a certain faith.
The majority of the book, however, was a slanted interpretation of Mormonism's historical roots. I admit to having been only slightly read in the foundations of Mormonism, and this book helped fill in some holes for me. That, I appreciated. Then, however, Krakauer takes incidences of violence, sexual abuse, polygamy and links them to the founding of America's fastest-growing religion in disturbingly subjective ways. I like being left to come up with my own conclusions, as a reader, and I felt like I was denied that chance with this book.
I ended up skipping page after page toward the end, wanting to move past historical interpretations
of various events to get to the gritty true-crime stuff about the 1984 murders that drew me into the book.
I was overall disappointed with this book, for its content and for the writing. I do come away after reading it with a more substantial understanding of Mormonism's establishment and history, so it was not what I'd call a waste of time.

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  1. Oh, I hate it when I'm disappointed by a book!

  2. A thought provoking look into the world of the lives of those living within the extreme Mormon sects. The book includes interviews with those who have lived in these sects, some as victims and some who were convicted of crimes. The book goes back and forth from the founding of the Mormon Church and it's history and that of the fanatical sects that left the official church. A powerfully moving book with a wealth of information pertaining to the Mormon Church and of the leaders and lives of those living within the fringe sects. This book will astonish you on many levels. It will be disturbing at times. I feel this book was well written and extremely informative.


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