In one sense, the Mormon Church hasn’t done very well in the arena of English speaking public opinion.  Critics of the faith, armed with a documented historical record that surpasses any other major world religion, can find ample evidence to cast doubt upon the legitimacy of the Mormon’s belief system and have never failed to do so.  This is a consequence of a religion founded less than two hundred years ago, in an age where functioning courts, newspapers, and literate individuals could and did leave a mountain of paper records that would be impossible to imagine for the more ancient faiths of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and the like.  The Mormon Church is so new that it did not even appear on the planet until about 42 years AFTER the first English settlement of Australia.  Nevertheless, there is evidence to suggest that the Mormon Church is among the fastest growing religions on earth, and has become so mainstream in American culture that one of its adherents is currently a potential candidate for President of the United States.  This alone would argue that the critics have not been particularly effective in their attacks on Mormonism over the last 170 years or so.

Those English speaking critics of the faith include no less a literary light that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whose first Sherlock Holmes tale, A Study in Scarlet, devoted nearly half his narrative to a highly inflammatory fictional account of some Mormon elders’ enforcement of church doctrine.  Now, in the twenty-first century comes Jon Krakauer with a non-fiction examination of Mormonism that is a chilling page-turner.  Using a highly publicized murder of a young wife and her baby in 1984 Utah as point of departure, Krackauer’s work examines the history of the Mormon church with an eye towards questioning the very meaning of religion itself.  The author bolsters his argument by a meticulous research examination of that extensive printed record of the church that I mentioned above.  More than just a crime novel, or an agnostic’s impassioned argument, Under the Banner of Heaven is a thriller that achieves much of its unsettling appeal by frightening the reader as it considers how easily humans can translate religious faith into deadly action.  I highly recommend this book.

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I too have read Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven and thought it was so interesting an expose on the Morman Church(which is quite a small group in Australia) that I put it on the reading list for my book group as I thought there was lots to discuss and indeed there was. It was an eye opener for all who read it, as Krakauer not only delved into the case of the murder of a young woman and her baby by members of her church but also because of his history of the Morman Church and how much of an influence and control it has over its members. Krakauer compares the fundamentalist Mormons to the Taliban - not much difference at all we thought, especially in their treatment of women. How any thinking person could be caught up in this particular faith is beyond me but then again all religions are a matter of faith not reason aren't they?   A very interesting read.



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