Book Summary: Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer Book Cover

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith is a non-fiction book written by Jon Krakauer, published in 2003. The book explores the history and beliefs of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), a polygamous Mormon sect that originated in the late 19th century. Krakauer delves into the origins of the FLDS, its practices, and how it has evolved over time. He also examines the tension between the FLDS and the mainstream Mormon Church, as well as the impact of these beliefs on the lives of its followers.

Chapter Summaries

Chapter 1: The Land of Milk and Honey

In the first chapter, Krakauer sets the stage by providing a brief history of the Mormon Church and its founder, Joseph Smith. He also introduces the reader to the FLDS and its leader, Warren Jeffs. Krakauer describes the lure of polygamy and how it has been used to attract followers to the FLDS. He also touches on the practice of “celestial marriage,” which is believed to be necessary for entry into the highest level of heaven.

Chapter 2: The Kingdom of God

In this chapter, Krakauer delves into the beliefs and practices of the FLDS. He describes how the church is organized, with Jeffs at the head, and how decisions are made. He also discusses the importance of obedience and how it is used to control the followers. Krakauer also explores the impact of these beliefs on the lives of the followers, including the practice of “blood atonement,” where sins are washed away through the shedding of blood.

Chapter 3: The Lineage of the Priesthood

In this chapter, Krakauer examines the history of the FLDS and how it has evolved over time. He traces its roots back to the mainstream Mormon Church and how it split off due to the practice of polygamy. He also discusses the impact of the death of Joseph Smith and how it led to a succession of leaders and the eventual formation of the FLDS.

Chapter 4: The Godmaker

In this chapter, Krakauer introduces the reader to Rulon Jeffs, the father of Warren Jeffs and the leader of the FLDS at the time. He describes how Rulon used his position of power to control the followers and how he was eventually replaced by his son. Krakauer also touches on the impact of the outside world on the FLDS and how it has been able to maintain its isolation.

Chapter 5: The Prophet’s Son

In this chapter, Krakauer delves into the leadership of Warren Jeffs and how he has been able to maintain control over the FLDS. He describes how Jeffs has used his position of power to exert control over the followers and how he has been able to justify his actions through his interpretation of the Bible. Krakauer also discusses the impact of Jeffs’ actions on the lives of the followers, including the practice of arranged marriages and the separation of families.

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Chapter 6: The Devil’s Playground

In this chapter, Krakauer explores the impact of the FLDS on the lives of the followers, particularly the children. He describes how the children are taught to obey without question and how they are indoctrinated into the beliefs of the church. He also discusses the impact of the outside world on the children and how they are shielded from it.

Conclusion

Under the Banner of Heaven is a fascinating look at the beliefs and practices of the FLDS and how it has evolved over time. Krakauer’s thorough research and interviews with followers and leaders provide a detailed picture of the impact of these beliefs on the lives of the followers. The book also sheds light on the tension between the FLDS and the mainstream Mormon Church and how it has been able to maintain its isolation. Overall, Under the Banner of Heaven is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the complexities of polygamous Mormon sects.

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