Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith

"... and study and learn, and become acquainted with all good books…" - Doctrines and Covenants (D&C) #90 verse 15 revealed to Joseph Smith at Kirtland, Ohio, March 8, 1833.

I would like to say I had this D&C chapter in mind when I set out to read "Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith" by Jon Krakauer but in truth I hadn't read the D&C and still haven't. But I did start reading this book to further my knowledge on the Mormon faith so in the end, I ended up obeying one of Joseph Smith's many prophesies that he had during his short lifetime.

Although the book touts to be about the murder of a woman and her child by some members of a breakaway sect of Mormonism called the Fundamental Church of Later Day Saints it is mostly about the history of the early Mormon church through the modern day history of the Fundamental off shoots of the main church. But as Krakauer said at the end of the book, you do really need to know the past history of this group in order to fully understand why the murders happened.

The book itself was an excellent read and covered a great deal of material. It was so fascinating, that I would like to read another book or two on the subject that goes deeper into some of the topics that this book skimmed over. For one, although there was a lot written about Joseph Smith, I would like to read a book that covers him more in depth.

Two things amazed me about this book that was published in 2003. The first was the writings on the sect now led by Warren Jeffs, who had just became the prophet of that sect when the book was published, had now come to fruition and as we now know, Jeffs is serving time over it. The second thing was how interconnected the members of that faith really are. Krakauer would go off on what you would think was a tangent in the history of the Mormon faith only to come back to someone related to a current prophet of one of the Fundamental sects.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone wanting a basic history of the Mormon faith or the various groups of Fundamental sects or if you like me, just a Jon Krakauer fan. There are two more things that I would like to briefly add to this book review, which really has nothing to do with the book, but I felt this was the place to touch on them.

The first thing was that in writing this blog entry, I wanted to look up the exact verbage of D&C 90 for the quote I published at the beginning. I Googled in Doctrines and Covenants 90 and clicked on the first link which took me to a page that I thought was Wikipedia. Only after reading it a ways did I realized that it was actually a Mormon version of Wikipedia and not the open for editing version that the real Wikipedia is. The more I compared the real Wikipedia to the Mormon version, you could tell that one was heavily edited and much shorter in detail. Here is a link to both versions text on Joseph Smith:

Wikipedia Version
Mormom Wikipedia Version

The second thing is that if you do buy this book, I recommend not buying the first edition but a subsequent addition. After the printing of the first addition, an Elder of the Mormon faith wrote a lengthy letter dismissing various claims of Krakauer as lies, fabrications or due to poor research. Krakauer not only adds that letter at the end of all but the first edition, but also backs up his claims citing his sources, many of which the Mormon Elder used behind in his defense. After looking up some of the information, I must say that Krakauer certainly had the most convincing argument and it seemed as if the Mormon Elder was trying to pull stuff out of context to support his claims. But again, you should be the judge

P.S. Warren Jeffs in the NEWS today.

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