Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Under the Banner of Heaven -- Book Review

Jon Krakauer wrote such books as "Into the Wild" and "Into Thin Air," both examples of tragedies that occurred in places where no recourse is available to cover for mistakes made. People died in both instances ... very preventable deaths that were extremely difficult to read about.

Jon was able to channel some pretty raw feelings based on his own exploits in the wild, and since he was actually there in 1996 when the Everest disaster occurred, there is a ring of absolute certainty that it is accurate.

So it is quite a departure when Jon writes about things that happened many years ago ...

In Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, Jon provides a more classic form a research-oriented writing, digging for the reader into the history of the Mormon Faith, and more specifically into the phenomenon of Mormon Fundamentalism.

This book is almost too thoroughly researched and documented ... it is quite long and goes over a lot of detail, flitting back and forth between the founding of the faith by Joseph Smith, the reign of Brigham Young -- who saved the religion in no uncertain terms -- and the murders perpetrated late last century by the Lafferty brothers. By the time you reach the end, you are glad of it.

The Lafferty brothers murder an innocent woman and her baby, all in the name of God. Their brother's wife and child, no less. All based specifically on a revelation received from God. This receipt of revelations is a peculiarity of Mormonism ... anyone can talk to God and in fact people are and were encouraged to communicate directly. And not just the usual prayer, but rather with conversations that are presumed to come directly from the highest authority.

A lot of interesting material here ... significant violence in the name of God ... tenets of the church that preach violence to non-believers and in fact preach that such violence is acceptable in the eyes of God ... plural marriage as a fundamental tenet of the church, something that took many years and enormous pressure from the federal government to squelch from main stream Mormonism ...

Yet for all of the strangeness of the religion's past ... it appears to be rather universal that main stream Mormons are "good people" today ... extremely polite and industrious, really pleasant to work with and to just be around.

Too much to go on about ... if you want to understand something of the world's fastest growing religion -- indeed, within 70 years it is predicted that governing the USA will be impossible without Mormon cooperation -- then you should have a look at this book. Most interesting ...

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