IVP - Andy Unedited - Under the Banner of Heaven

September 15, 2014

Under the Banner of Heaven

Jon Krakauer (Into Thin Air, Into the Wild) in his typically understated yet gripping style, interweaves two stories in his book Under the Banner of Heaven: the 1984 murders of Brenda Lafferty and her infant daughter by Mormon fundamentalists, and the origins and early history of Mormonism itself. It is a chilling and fascinating book that has stuck with me for several reasons. First, it opens up a lot of helpful background about Joseph Smith and the reality behind the polygamous communities popularized in the TV show Big Love.Second, it made me, as a person of faith, think seriously about the dynamics of any kind of fundamentalism.

As I under banner.jpegread the book, I was forced to ask, "What went wrong? Why did these people go off the rails? What were the mistakes they made in their thinking that put them on such a disastrous and violent path?" And, of course, "How can I spot signs of these errors in myself or others?" My preliminary conclusions are that behind their errors were a deep subjectivism, inadequate interaction with a broader community of believers (and non-believers) and the flawed origins of the religion itself.

The Wesleyan Quadrilateral (Scripture, tradition, experience, reason) commends itself as one viable alternative for theological reflection and decision making. (There are other helpful systems as well.) When we rely on only one of these four to the exclusion of the others, we are potentially headed for trouble. The robust combination of all of them is essential.

The Mormon church, understandably, responded negatively to the book, saying it gave the impression that every seemingly friendly, generous, community-minded Mormon is actually a murderous maniac. And that would be wrong to think that way. That is not the book's intent. Rather, on the one hand, it highlights a history that we must acknowledge and deal with honestly, and on the other, it challenges us all to understand our faith at a deeper, more wholistic level.

Posted by Andy Le Peau at September 15, 2014 9:07 AM Bookmark and Share


Judy and I celebrated our first anniversary in Salt Lake. We were house-parents for a group of university students doing evangelism. It was a great opportunity to sharpen our witnessing skills and view Mormonism up close. They have multiplied world-wide and have impressive meeting places in Lima, Peru, where we lived. You ask good questions. Another would be, why do they put us to shame in their zealous mission efforts around the world?

Comment by: Wayne Paney at October 2, 2014 10:57 AM

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book cover"Some publishers tell you what to believe. Other publishers tell you what you already believe. But InterVarsity Press helps you believe," says J. I. Packer. Andy Le Peau and Linda Doll describe how this came to be a hallmark of InterVarsity Press in Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength, an anecdotal history spanning the sixty years from the founding of IVP in 1947 to the present day.