Under the Banner of Heaven short book summary

Date Published: July 2003

Under the Banner of Heaven: Summary

Uncover the dark underbelly of an American faith and witness how fanaticism can descend into madness! Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven is a chilling journey into the heart of religious extremism within the realms of the Mormon faith. This narrative non-fiction exposes the harrowing landscape where faith collides with violence.

Meticulously researched, Krakauer weaves together two riveting stories: one that delves into the historical development of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), and another that chillingly recounts the horrific 1984 murders of Brenda Lafferty and her baby daughter at the hands of her brothers-in-law, Dan and Ron Lafferty, who claimed to act under God’s command.

Krakauer masterfully sets the stage by exploring the genesis of Mormonism through the eyes of its charismatic founder, Joseph Smith, and the early followers who faced vehement persecution for their beliefs. From Smith's prophetic revelations to the Great Migration West led by Brigham Young, he paints an enthralling picture of the birth of a unique American religion.

However, Krakauer doesn’t just stop at history. He fearlessly delves into the fractured factions within Mormonism, particularly the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), which continues to practice polygamy, once a core tenet of early Mormonism. He critically examines the psychological and social factors that can transform faith into a source of unthinkable violence and inhumanity.

Circling back to the modern-day, the shocking Lafferty case serves as the anchor that binds together the disparate threads of the narrative. Krakauer deftly illustrates how the Lafferty brothers’ radical beliefs and subsequent descent into murderous fanaticism stem from the same roots as early Mormon zeal.

This is not just a true crime story, nor merely a history of a religion; it is a haunting exploration of the dark side of faith, and a warning of the cataclysmic consequences when zealotry goes unchecked.

Under the Banner of Heaven short book summary
Buy this book on

Under the Banner of Heaven

Author: Jon Krakauer

Date Published: July 2003

Support Us: By purchasing through our Amazon link, we earn as an Amazon Associate. Thank you for your support!

Under the Banner of Heaven: Genres

True Crime
Social and Cultural Critique

Under the Banner of Heaven: Main Characters

Dan Lafferty: A deeply religious man, whose extreme beliefs in Mormon fundamentalism lead him to commit murder. His commitment to the principles of early Mormonism, such as receiving revelations from God, lead him to believe he was commanded to kill.

Ron Lafferty: Brother of Dan, he shares his radical beliefs. Ron’s downfall begins when his wife leaves him, fueling his fanaticism and involvement in the murder.

Brenda Lafferty: A strong-willed woman and sister-in-law to Dan and Ron, who challenges the brothers’ fundamentalist beliefs. Her murder, along with her daughter’s, is central to the narrative.

Joseph Smith: The founder of the Mormon Church, his character is essential for understanding the origins of the faith.

Brigham Young: Successor to Joseph Smith and a significant figure in establishing the LDS Church as it migrated westward.

Under the Banner of Heaven: Themes

Religious Extremism: The book explores how religious beliefs can be twisted into justifying horrific acts, such as the Lafferty brothers believing God commanded them to kill.

The Dark Side of Faith: Krakauer delves into how religion can sometimes hide dark undercurrents and enable abuse, as seen in the FLDS’ practice of polygamy and the power dynamics it entails.

American Religious History: The book provides an extensive account of the historical development of the Mormon Church, showcasing its American roots and evolution.

Identity and Belonging: Through the lens of Mormonism, the book examines the human need for belonging and identity, and how this can be exploited or corrupted within religious frameworks.

The Thin Line Between Zealotry and Madness: Krakauer illustrates how fervent religious belief can teeter on the brink of insanity, as shown in the case of the Lafferty brothers.

0 0 votes
Overall Rating
Notify of

0 Book Reviews
Inline Feedbacks
View all reviews