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I read books, I write about books, I would probably marry a book if I could find one who liked me enough. Three words to describe me mature, irresponsible, contradictory, unreliable...oh...that's four...


A slim basis for a wideranging critique

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith - Jon Krakauer

This is the third book by Krakauer I've read, the first two being Into the Wild and Into Thin Air (I'm a bit of a wilderness nerd) so I had him down as an outdoor enthusiast. I was intrigued to find out he had also written a book about a notorious murder - of a young women and her baby by two of her brothers in law.


Banner of Heaven isn't just the story of that killing - the brutal stabbing of Brenda Lafferty by Ron and Dan Lafferty - it's the story of Mormonism, from its beginnings in the 19th century and often violent history thereafter. In particular, Krakauer examines the tradition of polygamy, now outlawed by the mainstream LDS church, but still popular with splinter groups and, Krakauer suggests, the ideology behind the Lafferty's attack on Brenda.


While there's no doubt that a deep vein of sexism (and racism) runs through Mormonism and that the behaviour of some of the LDS sects towards women is appalling (including the rape of minors and incest) I wasn't persuaded that this single murder provided enough of a justification for Krakauer's thesis - that there's something fundamentally rotten about the whole LDS ideology. I almost feel odd writing this, because I'm no supporter of organised religion, but the attitudes he describes aren't confined to Mormonism - they're a symptom of a worldwide problem of violence towards women. The Laffertys were deranged, but Mormonism was just one of many triggers that could have set them off, not a primary cause.


All of that said, Banner of Heaven is an outstanding read, meticulously researched and well written. I recommend it.