Wednesday 9 March 2016


5 GOLD stars

Non-fiction; the Lafferty murders; Mormon religion

On Amazon UK HERE
On Goodreads HERE

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.
Dan Lafferty

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 FundamentalistsThe 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 factsI 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



  1. Sounds like a very interesting read, Terry. I think this encompasses the trouble with most religious sects, whatever they might be. If you’re a ‘true believer’ non of them actually let you think for yourself or question any of the ‘rules’ you’re meant to live by.

    1. Cathy, I implore you to put one of JK's books on your to-read list! I'm just reading his latest one, 'Missoula' about how football team members in American colleges get away with rape. Horrifying.

      This one about the Mormons was more horrifying still, in many ways... and the way they excuse everything they do, because they believe it is 'God's will', or tell themselves they do, anyway.... On the other hand, JK does acknowledge the sense of community it gives members - but there seems to be a great deal of sacrifice made, particularly for the women, of course.

  2. They’re on my list already, I couldn’t not after your reviews! I don’t know how widespread these things are with American colleges but it’s shocking and completely wrong if football team members get away with rape just because they play football.

    People manipulate the idea of god and religious beliefs to suit their own ends and that’s what causes most of the trouble in the world.

    1. You said it all, C! Precisely.

      I'm only 24% through Missoula but it's already such disturbing reading - I'm just hoping there's a fair outcome for some of the cases he's examined. Most shocking is the way that some women are not supportive about it; in one case, a girl's friend who knew the four animals who gang raped her. I mean, it's not too shocking to read; it just makes me angry and sad but I still can't stop reading it. I expect I shall review very soon! btw, I just added another picture to this review - have a look up and see an example of Mormon Fundamentalist chic!! :)

  3. Oh my goodness! They all have to wear the same hairstyle! It seems more like a cult than a religion to me.

    Look forward to your review of Missoula - I think it would make me angry too. Can’t understand the mindset.

    1. Cathy, I watched a couple of documentaries about it last night (details above, under the pictures), and that was what I thought - certainly the Fundamentalist strand of Mormonism seems to be so. I saw all those strange women in action, but some of them seemed very 'normal', which was so sad.

  4. The crime sounds like an episode of Criminal Minds.

    1. It's an unbelievably fascinating book, Liz! So horrendous ~ and they still consider themselves justified. Nutters, dangerous nutters.