I liked Into the Wild so much that I decided to read another of Jon Krakauer’s books called Under the Banner of Heaven. I’m glad I did. I appreciate his journalistic writing style that brings history to life like you are reading fiction. In addition, I have a vested interest in the topic of Mormonism that this book addresses due to where I live.
The subtitle of the book is called “A Story of Violent Faith,” referring to the Ron and Dan Lafferty murders. So I expected to read about this Mormon family that went a little crazy. But the book is so much more. Not only does Krakauer go into detail about the differences of mainline Mormondom and its fundamentalist sects, but he gives a history of the church starting with Joseph Smith and recounting the “highlights” up to the present day.
I have learned enough to be generally acquainted with Mormonism and it’s history yet this book went into greater detail on the things I was familiar with and put many things into perspective in a way that I never thought of. Not to mention a whole lot of events that I never knew ever took place. Krakauer doesn’t believe in God himself but his father is Mormon and he has a non-biased curiosity that drives the book. The book speaks volumes into the dark side of the doctrine of Mormonism and the effects it has on its followers. Seems an appropriate conversation to have especially when there is now a Mormon trying for the White House.
As he quotes the Salt Lake Tribune from over a century ago,
“The essential principle of Mormonism is not polygamy at all, but the ambition of an ecclesiastical hierarchy to wield sovereignty; to rule the souls and lives of its subjects with absolute authority, unrestrained by any civil power.” – Salt Lake Tribune, February 15, 1885