Non-fiction; the Lafferty murders; Mormon religion
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If a murderer truly believes that he was instructed by God to kill, does this make him insane?
In 1984, Brenda Lafferty and her little daughter, Erica, were murdered in a particularly brutal fashion by her brother-in-law, Dan Lafferty, after his brother Ron had a 'revelation' from God instructing him to 'remove' them. The Lafferty brothers were both Mormon Fundamentalists ~ that is, Mormons who live by the rules laid down by the originator of the faith, Joseph Smith, which includes polygamy.
The book starts off with details about the crime, then goes back to explain how Mormonism started, the history of the religion, the general population's reaction to the movement, and the changes that have occured through over the years since its inception, mostly the division between the LDS and the Fundamentalists. The purpose of this is to explain the psychology behind fundamentalism in this religion, and to show what led the Lafferty brothers to do what they did.
I loved the clever structure of the book, the way it moved from present to past to build up a complete picture of of this 'violent faith'. I didn't know much about Mormonism before reading this; my knowledge came only from the scarily plastic, smiling faces of the Osmond brothers in the 1970s and the more recent, hilarious take on it by South Park. Jon Krakauer's book gives what I consider to be a balanced view, some of which details frightening scenarios ~ murder (and massacre), paedophilia, narcissistic delusions, mind control, hypocrisy, false representation of facts. I read that he took three years to research the book, not only using a variety of written sources, but also interviewing those currently in the faith, those who have left it, been harmed by it ~ and Dan Lafferty himself.
|Joseph Smith tells sceptical town dwellers that he is God's chosen prophet|
Under the Banner of Heaven considers the psychology of fundamentalism in all religions, not just Mormonism, and makes for fascinating reading. I love the way Krakauer writes, never using twenty words where ten will do, giving an objective point of view at all times (though so cleverly that you can often feel his opinion whispering through the sentences!). Normally, I would be only mildly interested in reading a book about cults or religions, but this had me gripped.
|Joseph Smith interprets the revelations by putting his 'seer stones' into a hat, and Martin Harris writes them down. Thus, The Book of Mormon|
I loved the observation at the end (I hope this isn't a 'spoiler'!) from ex Mormon DeLoy Bateman who said that although he thought that people within the religion were probably happier than those on the outside, "some things are more important than being happy. Like being free to think for yourself."
|Mormon Fundamentalist chic.... apparently the long plait with the high 'crest' at the front is the accepted hairstyle, and they also wear long underwear under these dresses.|
Since writing this, I've watched the documentary Prophet's Prey, by Jon Krakauer and Sam Brower, about the life and crimes of FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of the Latter Day Saints) leader and child abuser Warren Jeffs, and also Sons of Perdition, about three teenage boys who escaped from an FLDS community. Both fascinating, if you're interested.
INTO THIN AIR by Jon Krakauer reviewed HERE
INTO THE WILD by Jon Krakauer reviewed HERE
MISSOULA by Jon Krakauer reviewed HERE
EIGER DREAMS by Jon Krakauer reviewed HERE