Friday, November 21, 2008

Under the Banner of Heaven: Final Synopsis

I was finally able to finish this book. It took me much longer than it usually takes me to read a book simply because the subject matter had a way of making me slam the book shut in disgust, anger, and frustration. But I have now finished the book and would like to offer my thoughts on the final half of this book.

And I would like to state, for the record, that I didn't read this book with the intention of slamming the LDS and FLDS folk. Truth be told, people who were or are in the LDS religion are very close in my life. My father was raised LDS, as was my husband. I am related to countless LDS members here in Idaho, Utah, Missouri, and who knows how many other states. My husband has members of his family who are still LDS members. I have a good understanding of this religion based on what has been shared with me throughout my life - so I would like to think that my opinions are fair. And they are MY opinions. And this is my blog. If you don't like it, don't read it.

Polygamy is the next subject tackled in the book. Joseph Smith committed to the D&C that polygamy (plural marriage to those who want to sugar coat it) was the new up and coming trend in the Mormon religion. However, trickles of the concept were not well-received, much to Smith's shock. He thought the idea would go over well with his followers. A select few were in full support of the idea. But the majority of people were repulsed. So the issue was swept under the rug - or so the general population thought. Smith secretly practiced plural marriage, much to his original wife's dismay, and a few select followers also partook in the trend. It seems, later on in the book, that Smith was conspiring with another follower to make up revelations, wherein god was speaking directly to Smith's wife, telling her that plural marriage was ok. At that point, even though I already felt that all of these "revelations" were just made up, it was a done deal for me. And Smith's wife didn't buy a word of it either.

Plural marriage continued on in the religion - long after Smith's death. Another LDS leader, Brigham Young, was also a supporter of plural marriage - justifying it by saying it was actually an antidote to immorality, because men with a multitude of wives wouldn't be tempted to engage in adulterous liaisons or visit prostitutes.

Um - how about just keep it in your pants and have some self control?!?

But whatever - they lied through their teeth in order to seek justification. And lying was something they were/are clearly proud of. "Lying for the Lord" as they call it. Young himself even bragged "We have the greatest and smoothest liars in the world." Gee, what a nice trait to brag about.

It seems throughout the entire history, to date, that the Mormons are somehow trying to take over the country, and the world. In 1857, the Saints announced that they would ignore any and all federal statutes they determined to be unjust and would expel from their midst any federal officers who didn't meet the rigorous moral standards of the Mormon Church. So now they feel they are above the law of the United States, as they were back then.

The book jumps to modern days - 1996 to be exact - and a devout FLDS follower named Kenyon Blackmore, who dragged his many young wives and children all over Central America, and claimed to be the last prophet before the return of Jesus. The author was able to interview the eldest of Kenyon's daughters, Evangeline, who was forced to marry Kenyon (yes, her FATHER) at the age of 12, at which time, he began raping her. The age of twelve, according to Kenyon, was the age when Mary was impregnated with Jesus. Kenyon was attempting to carry on this "tradition" with his own daughter. When Evangeline tried to fight off her father, he told her that she would forever be damned to hell for not being submissive. Evangeline's father finally succeeded in getting her pregnant after almost a year of trying. Evangeline lost the baby, however, and was cast out by her father into the wild.

The book later turns back to the story of the Lafferty brothers, who were the men who killed their own sister-in-law and baby niece by brutally stabbing then with a ten inch boning knife. All under guidance from god, who revealed to them that the woman and her child must be eliminated. God told them. They better do it. Because god commands that people be slaughtered, right? Who knows - I stay out of religion. The Lafferty brothers were eventually caught after trying to stay on the run. When they were finally caught and had guns held to their head, they laughed and smiled and said "it was kind of fun." They had received revelations from god instructing them to go on this killing spree to rid the world of evil people. This is what FLDS people believe.

Later, we jump back to modern day Colorado City. To a little girl who wants to show the author what she has come up with for her life. The little girl pulls out a child's version of blueprints for her future house. The house is sort of like a small community - with a common area for all the children, a master bedroom for the husband, and individual rooms for each wife. A CHILD thought of this. It makes me sick to think that the FLDS people are brainwashing their children to believe that this is ok. That taking multiple wives is ok. Marrying family members - whether it's nieces, step-daughters, daughters, sisters - is OK to them. And forcing them to have sex at the age of 12 or 14 is ok. Making them mothers at that age is ok. And you know what, they DO think it's ok. Those little girls think it's ok because that is what their own mothers have TAUGHT them. They are taught to be submissive and obedient to their husbands. They are taught that their sole purpose on this earth is to pop out as many kids as physically possible, and then teach those kids the same beliefs that were pounded into their brains.

The author then interviews several people that were raised in the FLDS religion, but who have decided to leave because they "saw the light". They challenged what has been taught. And they admit that the leaders, when asked about the contradictions between what the religion taught and scientific truth, advised that "the way to handle that was to just avoid asking certain kinds of questions." They were to just believe whatever was told to them by the leaders and never ask questions. Never think for themselves. They were trained to ignore contradictions. One former member said "it staggers me to look back on the things I used to believe. For example, ever since I was a child, we were taught that negroes were terrible, that they weren't even human." And since negroes weren't allowed to live in their towns or be members of their church, they never learned any different until they left the religion.

"It's amazing how gullible people are. But you have to remember what a huge comfort the religion is. It providers all the answers. It makes life simple. Nothing makes you feel better than doing what the prophet commands you to do. ... You can refuse to pay the guy, or even kill somebody, or whatever, and feel completely good about it" Because the prophet tells them it's ok. "And that's a real big part of what holds this religion together: it's not having to make those critical decisions that many of us have to make, and be responsible for your decisions."

"If you want to know the truth, I think people within the religion - people who live here in Colorado City - are probably happier, on a whole, than people on the outside. But some things in life are more important than being happy. Like being free to think for yourself."


♥Jacqueline♥ said...

I have a strong feeling that you have an idea of how I feel about this book. Mutual. The thing I don't get is, if there's a guy on the street killing people because "God" told him to, we'd think him to be a loon and lock him up, throwing away the key. These people are getting away with that very same scenario, but are protected under their church and the loop holes they find in our constitution, amendments, and laws.

It makes me sick.

Lo said...

wow didn't even know this book existed and i'm glad you did a synopsis so i won't have to read it!! i feel the same as you. obviously.

also? left you an award on my blog :)

ScissorBella said...

Hm, sounds like an interesting book. I love reading non fiction. That is very sickening and sad that people would do those things especially claiming that "God told them to do it". There's a lot of crazy things out there happening. As a believer myself(not mormon), it is very sad what people make "religion", because that's not at all what it's about. Those kinds of things are wrong and just... heartbreaking.