Saturday, January 9, 2016

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: 3 of 5 stars

Sum it up in a Sentence (or two): Jon Krakauer writes about Mormonism, starting with the violent murder of a woman and her baby in 1984 and tracing the motivations for that act all the way back to the beginnings of the Latter Day Saint movement in the early 19th century.

First Thoughts: I had a lot of thoughts. Some were more "Oh wow," while others were "Really?!" and yet others were "Hmmm. I didn't know that." I didn't realize the extent of the shadiness of Mormon Fundamentalism - its long history of abuse, racism, and misogyny.

Comparisons: I liked this better than In Cold Blood (which I never finished), perhaps one of the most famous true crime books. Maybe because it's more contemporary, or maybe because I enjoyed Krakauer's narrative style. It read like Serial - each chapter had its own topic or theme, and the story was told mostly chronological, but not at the expense of telling a good story.

Recommendations: I could have done without the footnotes. They took me out of the story, and I was more interested in the near past (1984, and the events surrounding Elizabeth Smart's kidnapping in 2002) than in the long history of Mormonism (which I realize was the point of the book - to tell the story of a violent faith).

Relation to Current Events: The case of Ron Lafferty - deciding that he may not have been in his right mind while murdering his sister-in-law and niece due to his religion - seems to have set a precedence for leniency with religious fanatics facing criminal prosecution.

Favorite Quote: "Some things in life are more important than being happy. Like being free to think for yourself." -p 334, DeLoy Bateman, a former Mormon Fundamentalist

Final Thoughts: A little creepy, very informative, and current, even 12 years later. Religious fundamentalists and acts of religious violence from radical groups of all religions are all over the news. Add in the sideshow-like draw to topics like polygamy (think Sister Wives), and this book isn't dated at all.

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