Friday, June 20, 2008

Book Review: Under The Banner of Heaven

This is another one of the books my brother recently recommended to me. Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer is an investigative report about the shadowy obscure world of Mormon fundamentalism as practiced in remote areas of the mountain West.

Taking a particularly horrific double murder in one of these communities as the central theme of the book, Krakauer skillfully weaves in a well-researched history of the Mormon church and analysis of the modern-day schismatics who cling to the polygamist practices that the LDS renounced more than a century ago.

The expansion of one of these sects into Texas in the last few years as the Yearning for Zion ranch was established in west Texas resulted in the recent raid on the ranch and the removal of the minor children there after child protection authorities received a phone call allegedly from one of the minor girls saying she was being abused. The caller turned out to be bogus, but the concerns about the treatment of the children remained and the state of Texas is still involved in the case although some of the children have been returned to their parents. As a former prosecutor of child abuse cases, I had followed this story with a lot of interest and had many questions about how these sects developed and why they were allowed to continue their polygamist practices with regard to underage girls.

Under the Banner of Heaven gives a thorough background for those interested in trying to understand the origin and appeal of these fundamentalist Mormon sects and to answer the question of why authorities in the western states tend to leave them alone. I recommend it if you are interested in the subject.

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