Book Fortytwo: Under the Banner of Heaven

Under the Banner of Heaven, Jon Krakauer

Jon Krakauer frames the history of Mormonism around of the story of two fundamentalist Mormon brothers, Ron and Dan Lafferty, who murdered a woman and her infant child because, simply, God told them to do it. This book goes in a lot of interesting directions, but the bit that really sums up the meat of the story for me comes at the end of the book, when Krakauer discusses the trial of Ron Lafferty.

If Ron Lafferty were deemed mentally ill because he obeyed the voice of his God, isn't everyone who believes in God and seeks guidance through prayer mentally ill as well? In a democratic republic that aspires to protect religious freedom, who should have the right to declare that one person's irrational beliefs are legitimate and commendable, while another person's are crazy? How can a society actively promote religious faith on one hand and condemn a man for zealously adhering to his faith on the other?

In other words, I don't see this book so much as a critical look at Mormonism (though, when you read about its history, it's hard not to be critical or find Mormons off-the-charts crazy), but rather a critical look at all religions. The only thing that makes Mormonism different from any other religion, Krakauer makes sure to point out, is that Mormonism came about recently and in the time of the printing press, where everything was recorded and we have the luxury of seeing it's roots close up enough to see how utterly preposterous it is to, say, have revelations directly from God (most of which were conveniently timed with Joseph Smith's needs at that moment, FYI).

So, any Mormons out there, I want to make sure you know that I'm not singling you out, it's just that I think that you're just as crazy as anyone else out there who believes in God.


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