Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith

Version: Abridged
Author: Jon Krakauer
Narrator: Jon Krakauer
Genres: True Crime, North America, Christianity
Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
Published In: May 2005
# of Units: 5 CDs
Length: 6 hours
Tell Your Friends:


Jon Krakauer's literary reputation rests on insightful chronicles of lives conducted at the outer limits. In UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN, he shifts his focus from extremes of physical adventure to extremes of religious belief within our own borders. At the core of his book is an appalling double murder committed by two Mormon Fundamentalist brothers, Ron and Dan Lafferty, who insist they received a revelation from God commanding them to kill their blameless victims. Beginning with a meticulously researched account of this "divinely inspired" crime, Krakauer constructs a multilayered, bone-chilling narrative of messianic delusion, savage violence, polygamy, and unyielding faith. Along the way, he uncovers a shadowy offshoot of America's fastest-growing religion, and raises provocative questions about the nature of religious belief.
Krakauer takes readers inside isolated communities in the American West, Canada, and Mexico, where some forty-thousand Mormon Fundamentalists believe the mainstream Mormon Church went unforgivably astray when it renounced polygamy. Defying both civil authorities and the Mormon establishment in Salt Lake City, the leaders of these outlaw sects are zealots who answer only to God. Marrying prodigiously and with virtual impunity (the leader of the largest fundamentalist church took seventy-five "plural wives," several of whom were wed to him when they were fourteen or fifteen and he was in his eighties), fundamentalist prophets exercise absolute control over the lives of their followers, and preach that any day now the world will be swept clean in a hurricane of fire, sparing only their most obedient adherents.
Weaving the story of the Lafferty brothers andtheir fanatical brethren with a clear-eyed look at Mormonism's violent past, Krakauer examines the underbelly of the most successful homegrown faith in the United States, and finds a distinctly American brand of religious extremism. The result is vintage Krakauer, an utterly compelling work of nonfiction that illuminates an otherwise confounding realm of human behavior.

"From the Hardcover edition.

Reviews (24)


Written by Anonymous on August 4th, 2009

  • Book Rating: 5/5

Loved this book. Really makes you wonder about all religions, not just Mormons. Creepy as hell.

Under the Banner of Heaven

Written by Anonymous on November 14th, 2008

  • Book Rating: 5/5

Unfortunately, I could not put this down....I took it from car to house to listen to, and dreamed about it at night as nightmares. Wow what horrible life. I really learned.

Under the Banner of Heaven

Written by Raven Okeefe on February 6th, 2008

  • Book Rating: 1/5

though i do love Jon Krakauer's writing, i just couldn't listen to more than the first two disks of this one. maybe it's because i lived in utah for eight very long years, and this brought back some unhappy memories of my experiences there as a single nonmormon woman. it's just way more than i can listen to about the LDS church without feeling a lot more hostile than i want to. also, though Krakauer has a delightful voice, i found his reading difficult to listen to, monotonous and soporific. sorry, Jon!

Very interesting

Written by William Kurry on February 1st, 2008

  • Book Rating: 4/5

This book is very interesting. The author's emphasis on the extant radical fringe within the Mormon faith may skew the readers perceptions. Nevertheless, the founders certainly seemed have believed in and practiced a kind of anarchistic idealism, based on the subjugation of women, authoritarian leadership, plural marriage, and defiance of non-church jurisdiction.

Religious kooks!!

Written by Cyndie Browning from Tulsa, OK on November 4th, 2007

  • Book Rating: 5/5

I've been a fan of Jon Krakauer's writing since I read "Into the Wild" years ago, and "Under the Banner of Heaven" didn't disappoint... altho' I guess if I were a convert to the Mormon Fundamentalist faith, I probably wouldn't think so. On the other hand, being female, the men in my life wouldn't let me read books or newspapers, let alone use the internet, if I WERE one of their believers, so let me just say: I'm glad I'm not! Krakauer recounts the history of the Mormon church in enough detail to make it interesting, clearly laying it out so that I could follow the progression of events and understand the connection between the basic tenets of the Mormon faith and the rabid fanaticism of Ron and Dan Lafferty, who ruthlessly murdered their sister-in-law and her 15-month-old daughter because the baby's mother insisted on standing up for herself... altho' the brothers insist that God commanded them to do it. Yeah, right! But read the book for yourself and see what YOU think.

Under the Banner of Heaven

Written by Dave Baal from Temecula, CA on August 9th, 2007

  • Book Rating: 4/5

A very informative book. Much more in depth than I had expected. This book provides the back stories behind some of the more shocking headlines from the recent past. You can almost understand what prompted a few fundamentalist LDS believers to commit heinous acts in the name of their religion. The average reader will certainly come away with a much deeper understanding of one of the worlds fastest growing religions.

Under the Banner of Heaven

Written by Sharon English on August 2nd, 2007

  • Book Rating: 4/5

Loved this book, especially the history of the Latter Day Saints and how they tangled with the government(s). This history explained the current philosophy and the creation of the "off-shoot" sects. The HBO series Big Love and the Warren Jeffs case got me thinking about the lifestyle and how on earth they grew and thrived. Now, I get it though it is not a pleasant dose of reality. The author's weaving of the history into the characters and real life story made the whole thing make sense, such as it is.

Under the Banner of Heaven

Written by br67tb on April 28th, 2007

  • Book Rating: 4/5

Interesting insight into a world unlike my own. AND Glad of it.

Fascinating Book

Written by Tom Marchi on April 11th, 2007

  • Book Rating: 4/5

This really was an interesting book. It really gives you an idea of how people can get into a mode of thinking where they truly believe they are being directed by some higher power to commit unthinkable acts. I found it fascinating, albeit very sad, considering the subject matter. One word of caution, the narrative of the murders themselves is very graphic, i.e. downright gruesome. You may want to skip past that once it begins, unless you aren't bothered by things like that.

under the banner of heaven

Written by Anonymous from Taylorsville, UT on November 6th, 2006

  • Book Rating: 4/5

Krakauer writes about religious extremism that has existed all around me for my entire life. I was interested, gripped, saddened & angered but never really surprised. I always anticipated getting back to the book. Very well written!

Author Details

Author Details

Krakauer, Jon

Jon Krakauer is the author of Eiger Dreams, Into the Wild and Into Thin Air and is editor of the Modern Library Exploration series.

Born in 1954, he grew up in Corvallis, Oregon, where his father introduced him to mountaineering as an 8-year-old. After graduating from Hampshire College in 1976, Krakauer divided his time between Colorado, Alaska, and the Pacific Northwest, earning his living primarily as a carpenter and commercial salmon fisherman, spending most of his free moments in the mountains. In 1977 he traveled alone to the remote Stikine Icecap in Southeast Alaska, went three weeks without encountering another person, and climbed a new route on a graceful, intimidating peak called the Devil's Thumb. In 1992 he climbed the West Face of Cerro Torre in the Patagonian Andes (a mile-high spike of granite sheathed in a carapace of frozen rime, Cerro Torre was once considered the most difficult mountain on earth.)

In May 1996 Krakauer reached the top of Mt. Everest, but during the descent a storm engulfed the peak, taking the lives of four of the five teammates who climbed to the summit with him. An analysis of the calamity that he wrote for Outside magazine received a National Magazine Award. The unsparingly honest book he subsequently wrote about Everest, Into Thin Air, became a #1 New York Times bestseller and has been translated into 24 languages. It was also honored as the "Book of the Year" by Time magazine, one of the "Best Books of the Year" by the New York Times Book Review, a finalist for a 1997 National Book Critics Circle Award, and one of three finalists for the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in General Non-Fiction.

For the past two decades Krakauer's writing has been published in the likes of Outside, GEO, Architectural Digest, Rolling Stone, Time, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and National Geographic. An article he wrote for Smithsonian about vulcanology received the 1997 Walter Sullivan Award for Excellence in Science Journalism from the American Geophysical Union. His 1996 book, Into The Wild--about an idealistic young man named Chris McCandless who perished in the Alaskan bush--spent more than two years on the New York Times bestseller list. This followed the publication of two books by Krakauer in 1990: Eiger Dreams, a collection of his mountaineering essays, and Iceland: Land of the Sagas, a book of his photographs.

In 1998 Krakauer established the Everest '96 Memorial Fund at the Boulder Community Foundation, endowing it with royalties from Into Thin Air. Created as a tribute to his companions lost on Everest, the fund provides humanitarian aid to the indigenous peoples of the Himalaya and supports organizations working to preserve the natural environment throughout the world. Krakauer also serves on the boards of the American Himalayan Foundation and the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation.

In 1999 Krakauer received an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters--a prestigious award intended "to honor writers of exceptional accomplishment." According to the Academy's citation, "Krakauer combines the tenacity and courage of the finest tradition of investigative journalism with the stylish subtlety and profound insight of the born writer. His account of an ascent of Mount Everest has led to a general reevaluation of climbing and of the commercialization of what was once a romantic, solitary sport; while his account of the life and death of Christopher McCandless, who died of starvation after challenging the Alaskan wilderness, delves even more deeply and disturbingly into the fascination of nature and the devastating effects of its lure on a young and curious mind."

Krakauer's latest book, which he has spent the last four years researching and writing, is Under The Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, published by Doubleday in July 2003. As a child in Oregon, many of the author's playmates, teachers, and athletic coaches were Latter-day Saints. Although he envied the unfluctuating certainty of the faith professed so enthusiastically by these Mormon friends and acquaintances, he was often baffled by it, and has sought to comprehend the formidable power of such belief ever since. The upshot of this lifelong quest is Under The Banner of Heaven, in which Krakauer examines the nature of religious passion through the lens of Mormon Fundamentalism.