Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Under the Banner of Heaven

By Jon Krakauer

In 1984, two brothers, Ron and Dan Lafferty murdered their other brother Allen's wife, Brenda, and their baby daughter, Erica. According to the Laffertys, Brenda was a bad person and her baby was a bad person too because she would grow up to be just like her mother.
Ron Lafferty hated Brenda because his wife turned to Brenda for advice and eventually left her husband. He blamed Brenda for this and claimed he had a revelation from God that Brenda, Erica and some other people needed to be killed. The other people were also people that Ron was angry with.
Ron and Dan belonged to the Mormon religion and were fundamentalists. One of the tenets of their religion, as I understand it, is that individual men can have valid revelations directly from God. In fact, I think the head of the Mormon church is regarded as a prophet. So when Ron became angry, he claimed he had a revelation from God saying his particular enemies must be killed. So he and his brother, who, from what I have read about him, is a bit of a lunatic, along with two other men, drove over to Allen & Brenda's place, and burst in on Brenda at a time when Allen was not home. Ron beat Brenda to a bloody pulp and Dan cut Brenda and Erica's throats, nearly decapitating the two victims. All this because one hate-filled, resentful man mistook his anger for divine revelation and talked his gullible brother into joining him in a terrible crime.
Ron and Dan were raised Mormon and the author makes the case for the Mormon religion as a co-conspirator in the murders. Apparently, Mormonism has a bloody and violent history and a persecution complex that, along with any man can have a divine revelation teaching, encourages the kind of extremism practiced by the Lafferty brothers and others of their ilk like Brian David Mitchell, the man who kidnapped Elizabeth Smart and forced her to become his second wife.

This was a very interesting story. Although the actions of the Lafferty brothers is the framework of the story, it is really about Mormonism and delves into the beginnings of it and of the schisms within it. After reading this book, I can't help but feel that Mormonism has many things in common with Islam and the potential to become as dangerous as Islam, given the right circumstances.

A review by The New York Times

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