Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith - Jon Krakauer Good grief. At the time of this posting there are almost 70,000 ratings and baskets of reviews. So why another one? Good question.

Predictably, if you are a Mormon you won’t like this book, although it does seem to be well-researched and relatively even-handed. What appears to us skeptics as just silly nonsense is, for some people, inspired holy writ. Go figure. The Mormons themselves can't figure out what's revelation or not and who is or is not a prophet as Joseph Smith discovered to his dismay. His original revelation suggested that any Mormon could receive a revelation but quickly got another message from God that revelations would only go through Joseph Smith or his appointee. Very convenient way of maintaining control. God said so, so do it. What a great line.

It's interesting, but reading about some of the misdeeds of the early Mormon settlers and comments about this book on other sites, I was reminded of similar remarks made on Civil War book reviews by adherents of the "Lost Cause" myth. The same kind of myopic view .

I had no idea that those "other" Mormons, the FLDS, the polygamists, thrive(d) in assorted little places like Colorado City/Hildale, AZ/Utah twin cities that straddle the border. ** The whole town is controlled despotically by the local leader/prophet (it sure is tempting to declare myself a prophet and start pronouncing, what a kick.) The police, the school board, the mayor, everyone in authority is FLDS. The United Effort Plan owns almost all the town property. Many men there have many wives and it has become (or should anyway,) a scandal in the way they manipulate the system. Since the wives are legally single mothers and are unemployed they draw millions in benefits which becomes a major source of income for the hubby in charge. Ironically, if the marriages were declared legal, they would lose millions. The FLDS folks are positive they represent the true adherence to the "principle", celestial marriage without which one cannot go to heaven; the mainstream is equally positive their prophet got a message from God indicating that being admitted tot he union was more important than celestial marriage. So, there you are. I say put it to trial by ordeal. Dump both prophets in a vat of boiling oil. Of course, in the end, it's all about money and power.

The issue of what constitutes valid revelation from God (somebody explain to me why God finds it necessary to speak in 15th century English.) Since all male Mormons become priests (blacks excepted until God changed his mind about their essential evilness in the early sixties) many of them feel God is speaking unto them. Most of us would consider them delusional and in the case of Dan and Ron Lafferty who insisted God had told them to strike down the infidels who happened to be their wives. Raised in an atmosphere of religious fanaticism and paranoia, not to mention hatred of the federal government (I’ve never understood why federal and not state and township,) they saw themselves as the true righteous and holy. Ron’s descent began when his wife refused to go along with his desire to take a polygamous wife. In 1984 he received a “removal revelation” from God which he recorded on a yellow legal tablet. He and Dan then murdered Brenda and Erica. Last I checked, Ron was awaiting execution in Utah. He is now 61 and his brother is serving two life sentences.

The Lafferty’s had been fans of Robert Crossfield, otherwise known as Onias, who claimed to have received several revelations of God making hm the one and true prophet. They helped to distribute the Onias revelations, which, conveniently, also said the Lafferty’s had been the chosen ones even before they were born.

Krakauer interweaves the history of the Mormon church i n this bloodthirsty account of the Lafferty brothers. He finds the seeds of their crimes in the church.

Tidbits: Brigham Young wanted the statet o be called the Beehive state rather than Utah (after the Ute Indians) because of its emphasis on the collective doing what's best for the group rather than emphasizing the individual. Today, given the collective association with communism, the beehive on the state flag is considered to represent "industry."

If you are interested in the whole revelation business, I recommend the LDS website’s transcript of the revelation regarding blacks and the priesthood. It’s available here: http://www.lds-mormon.com/legrand_richards.shtml Hard to believe there are people who take this stuff seriously.

For a recent example, I quote this from the June 3 Washington Post: "

The leaders have come under intense scrutiny. Barely 36 hours after the caustic New Year’s Dayvote, Boehner faced a coup attempt from a clutch of renegade conservatives. Thecabal quickly fell apart when several Republicans, after a night of prayer, saidGod told them to spare the speaker…..

Southerland woke up convinced that Boehner should be spared. Others, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they, too, prayed before siding with Boehner.“ He’s not a God of chaos, he’s a God of order,” Southerland said."

Amazing that God might give a shit about the Speaker of the House.

Oh, and by the way, I have just received a startling revelation. Everyone reading this must get together and purchases for me an around-the-world cruise on the QM2, a suite of course. Chop, chop, if you want to avoid everlasting damnation. Now explain to me how that might be different from a revelation to kill my wife or to add wives. Or start a new religion.