Under the Banner of Heaven, Jon Krakauer, Doubleday, 2003, 365 pp
The trouble with books about religion, or I should say, writing books about religion, is the available sources of information. In an effort to get at the truth about Mormons and their religion, Jon Krakauer has used as his main sources the testimony of either fundamentalist or disaffected Mormons. In 1984, two brothers murdered a woman and her infant daughter, believing that God told them to kill these people.
The brothers were fundamentalists, sons of a practicing polygamist, and also in my opinion, nut cases. This book is overly sensationalist and puts the mainstream Mormon Church in an unfavorable light. A writer could take any religion, old or new, and accomplish the same result. It makes me wonder what percent of mankind actually practices the philosophy of any religion. I have studied the beliefs and principles underlying all of the world's major religions and they are universally in favor of love, understanding, kindness, respect for one's fellow man and promote a search for truth and one's spiritual nature. Judging by the state of the world in any given historical period or today, I would say that the percentage of true practice of any religion is low.
I did learn about Mormons, Joseph Smith, the history of this religious group. For that, I am somewhat glad I read the book. But it is a degraded look at the whole idea of religion and seems to say that religious belief results in fanaticism and unnatural acts. I don't think that is true though many shameful actions have been done by men in the name of God. Our current President is no exception.
Overall, the book is depressing and disgusting. I was in a bad mood the whole time I was reading it. I ought to read Wallace Stegner's Mormon Country to balance the picture. Someday I will.