13 November 2010

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith

There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. Every minority, be it Baptist / Unitarian, Irish / Italian / Octogenarian / Zen Buddhist, Zionist/Seventh-day Adventist, Women's Lib/Republican, Mattachine/FourSquareGospel feel it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse. Every dimwit editor who sees himself as the source of all dreary blanc-mange plain porridge unleavened literature, licks his guillotine and eyes the neck of any author who dares to speak above a whisper or write above a nursery rhyme. -Ray Bradbury

There is probably no single thing that you could do that would guarantee I read a book, but to ban it. I believe very strongly that the right to read, the right to think, is ours alone--no state, no RELIGION, no person, has the right to tell me what to think.  That is mine.  I have a brain, and I will use it.  That does not mean that you are incapable of sharing what you think as well.  However, if you have the right to think and share than so do I, and just because you believe your ideas are better than mine, it does not allow you to suppress or censor mine.  In fact the church has claimed that "although the book may appeal to gullible persons who rise to such bait like trout to a fly hook, serious readers who want to understand Latter-day Saints and their history need not waste their time on it".  I find this statement so personally insulting, that if I could I would punch the sayer in the mouth.  You're entitled to your own opinion and me to mine, and thanks to the extensive list of sources in the book, it really wouldn't take long to find out if what is written in fact, fact.

I was raised LDS.  All my life I spent trying to please others.  Within my little realm of books, I found a space of peace.  No one judged me there, I was free to think, to act, to become anything I wanted to be.  All through teenagehood and adulthood I have struggled with depression.  I had to flip into my 30s before I was truly willing to say, "Ruth, why are you so unhappy?"  The answer was so very simple, but it has changed my whole world.  I was hiding in my books, but I was living everyone else's expectations of me.  I was not true to me.  There was nothing wrong with being me!!  I no longer ascribe to any religion.  I find them all to restrict reason; they tell the masses if you are not happy it is because there is something wrong with you.  Sometimes, I think that is true.  However, if you are truly being true to yourself, you can find peace.

When my husband told me about this book and told me that the LDS church had told it's members not to read it.  I had to.  It was that simple.  No one tells me what I can't read.  Plus, I had to know--what was the church so afraid of?  If it is an incorrect telling of history, that is easily researched.  If it is based on fact, why do you not want your history known?  No matter how bad it is, history is there.  Our dealing with it shows are true character.

Now all that said, I will say that Krakauer's presentation is threaded with highly emotionally language, that could be taken the wrong way.  However, his facts, I find minimal to no fault with.  Those that I questioned are simply ones that I had never heard of so I asked around.  The fact is when it comes to LDS history, most members to receive a honeyed version, and if too much fact is revealed, you can count on the fact that you won't be teaching very long (this happen to both my father and brother).  Quinn (a former BYU professor, excommunicated for publishing a book on Joseph Smith) argues "A so-called 'faith-promoting' Church history which conceals controversies and difficulties of the Mormon past actually undermined the faith of Latter-day Saints who eventually learn about the problems from other sources."  I truly believe that is true.  Deal with your past, wrestle with it, accept it.  Your past does not necessarily define who you are today.

Krakauer's book deals with issues of faith, primarily that of Mormonism and it's fundamentalist off shoots.  The primary example of fundamentalism and it's dangers is seen through the story of Dan and Ron Lafferty.  The history of Mormonism is dealt with, it's very beginnings up until about John Taylor's passing.  Polygamy is discussed mainly as the dividing factor, at least the primary dividing factor. 

I will say that if you are "very" Mormon, you will probably hate this book.  If you hate Mormon's you'll probably think "ha ha, I KNEW it!!"  So this is a book, I would actually have to recommend, to NEITHER of those groups.  This is for someone who can truly think objectively, not just about Mormonism but about organized Religion as a whole.  These histories and spin offs are not owned solely by Mormons. 

Genre:  Non-Fiction
Age Group:  Adult
Pages: 399

"Both revelation and delusion are attempts at the solution of problems.  Artists and scientists realize that no solution is ever final, but that each new creative step points the way to the next artistic or scientific problem.  In contrast, those who embrace religious revelations and delusional systems tend to see them as unshakable and permanent. . .
Religious faith is an answer to the problem of life. . . . The majority of mankind want or need some all-embracing belief system which purports to provide an answer to life's mysteries, and are not necessarily dismayed by the discovery that their belief system, which they proclaim as "the truth," is incompatible with the beliefs of other people.  One man's faith is another man's delusion. . . .
Whether a belief is considered to be a delusion or not depends partly upon the intensity with which it is defended, and partly upon the numbers of people subscribing to it."
Anthony Storr--"Feet of Clay"

I do ask with this particular book that if you desire to comment, you do so without hate or anger.  If you do not agree with me or with Krakauer, that is totally your right, and expressing that is your right as well.  However, I believe that even when people do not agree, they can be capable of doing so amicably.  Thank you.

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