Friday, August 12, 2016
"Under Then Banner of Heaven..." by Jon Krakauer
I honestly don't know where to start. I guess I should preface this review by saying this was a 5 star read for me. I listened to the audio book version, and I listened every chance I had. I will also start by telling you a little about my religious background. I grew up DEEPLY involved in a branch-off of the Assemblies Of God Church, a non-denominational Christian sect. You know, the crazy TBN network of pastors that beg for money on tv and claim to know what ailments watchers are suffering from? I no longer go to church, mostly due to realizing what a bunch of hypocrite, self-indulgent, backstabbers the leaders of my church were.
I also was born and raised in Mesa, Arizona. Arizona is home to 6 LDS temples. 90% of my classmates in school were of the LDS faith. Once I began listening to this book I realized I barely knew anything about the religion that I grew up around. I had so many questions. Luckily I had a few current LDS friends I trusted and knew I wouldn't offend if I asked questions about their faith.
This book starts out with the murder of Brenda Lafferty and her infant daughter, Erica. A gruesome murder committed "in the name of God" by her husband's brothers. In this nonfiction best seller I listened to the details of the murders and the reasons behind them. The killers were FLDS followers. They planned the murders months prior, claiming it was a revelation from God. That they had to do what God told them. Even to this day they are sticking to their beliefs. It then goes into all of the similarities and differences between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) and the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS).
I honestly loved hearing about the creation and history of Mormonism. Prior to this book I knew just the basics. Though when listening I had quite a few questions, this book does a great job detailing the past. Jon Krakauer, the author, doesn't white-wash the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. At times, the stories were unbelievable and even for me, a non-Mormon, were hard to listen to because of the cruelty and hatred described.
Talking to some of my Mormon and ex-Mormon friends I learned that the LDS church has not always been so forthcoming in embracing and teaching the true history of their religion. I get that the LDS church's past is freckled, but so are other mainstream religions. The reason there are so many FLDS branch-offs is because modern LDS teachings and practices bear little resemblance to its beginning beliefs and practices. FLDS beliefs are radical, theocratic, and full of hatred towards non-believers. This drastic difference between the two needs to be embraced and celebrated instead of vilified and swept under the rug. They should be proud that they have found a way to balance religious beliefs with modern day society.
I have read a lot of reviews stating that this book is an anti-Mormon book. I just don't see their point of view. Denying history doesn't make it go away. It may be a sad, hate-filled, embarrassing past, but the modern LDS church has overcome and adapted. The fact that Krakauer has caused such a stir with LDS leaders makes me believe he speaks the truth. I think he did an excellent job describing the differences between FLDS and Modern LDS beliefs. He cannot change the fact that both sects stemmed from the same belief system and even share ancestors. Denying polygamy was practiced and even preached, denying and omitting facts about The Mountain Meadows Massacre, denying the blatant racism that once existed within the church, and flip flopping between who and who cannot receive revelations from God simply makes the church look bad.
I admit it was a struggle to write this review due to the fact I have so many Mormon friends. In no way do I want to offend them. Who am I to judge or criticize someone's beliefs? I mean, I grew up with teachings of God speaking through burning bushes, a man's superpower strength stemming from his long hair, and even the fact that God gave a mere mortal the ability to part the Red Sea. It is, however, hard for me to look at LDS and FLDS as anything other than a cult. I do, however, see most organized religions with a cult aspect since leaving the church I grew up in. I admire my Mormon friends' faith in their beliefs and love to see all the family and togetherness practiced. I love that they (the LDS church) teach to serve and help others.
Krakauer ends the book with a blurb about his writing process. Krakauer states his intent was to write about the anarchy surrounding the LDS church and it's past. To try and understand why transparency about the religion's past is not taught in the LDS church. Upon researching he stumbled upon all the acts of violence the church's members committed in the name of God. Which then lead him to researching the differences between LDS and FLDS. I think he did an excellent job.