Mysterious Book Report Under the Banner of HeavenUnder the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer

Anchor Books, paperback, $14.95, 375 pages, ISBN 1-4000-3280-6

What’s the scariest thing you can think of?  Financial collapse?  World-wide pandemic?  Street crime?  A giant asteroid hitting the Earth? Nuclear war?  All of those things are frightening as hell, but for me personally, the scariest thing we face in the world today . . . is religious fundamentalism.

Religious fundamentalists are scary for three reasons:  First they want to impose their belief systems on everyone else; Second, they believe that God endorses, and sanctions, any action they undertake, no matter how heinous, savage or unthinkable it might be to the rest of the civilized world; Third, they come from every known religious sect, and they’re in all facets of society.

This weeks’ MBR NO. 44 is non-fiction.  It’s a true-crime book that was on the national best-seller lists in 2003 and 2004.  It’s about the murder of a woman and her infant daughter on July 24, 1984, about ten miles north of Provo, Utah, in the small town of American Fork.  The title is Under the Banner of Heaven, by Jon Krakauer.  The author is best known for his works about human adventurers at the extreme edges of survival: Eiger Dreams, Into the Wild, and Into Thin Air.  In this one however, he turns his focus on true crime. Don and Ron Lafferty are two devout, and ordinary Mormons who gradually descend into fundamentalism . . . and begin speaking directly to God, who gives them “revelations,” which they follow explicitly . . . up to and including murder.  The matter of fact tone in the testimony of Don Lafferty as he explains his role in the murder of his niece, and her eighteen month old baby will make your skin crawl . . . and it’s followed by the no less chilling account of the slaying of her mother.  Lafferty freely admits to the crime, and feels no remorse, because he believes to this day . . .  that he was instructed to do so by God.  The book is filled with fascinating history and background of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, (LDS or Mormons) and will make one think about the nature of religion itself.  Complete with documented footnotes and an extensive bibliography, Under the Banner of Heaven also contains a scathing criticism by a luminary of the LDS Church, followed by an answer from Krakhauer, that’s interesting enough, all by itself, to make you seek out and read the book.  Recommended for all those who, like me, have an interest in the nature of mankind, and an inquiring mind.


John Dwaine McKenna