I’m reading Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven.

The core facts: a Mormon man [Dan Lafferty] converted to radical polygamist female-subservientist fundamentalist Mormonism and converted his five brothers. The oldest brother [Ron Lafferty] was divorced by his wife as a result. The wife [Brenda] of the youngest [Allen] resisted all of them. Ron and Dan killed her and the pair’s baby daughter.

Some particulars:

Although standing up to Allen meant standing up to the entire Lafferty clan, Brenda did not shy away from such confrontations…[S]he possessed an impressive command of LDS scripture that allowed her to more than hold her own when debating fundamentalist doctrine with Ron and Dan. They came to despise her for defying them and for her influence over Allen, whom they considered “pussy-whipped.”

When Ron’s father was dying of diabetes, Ron had called a family meeting…Allen brought Brenda to the meeting, which made Ron furious. He called her a bitch and worse, and berated her with such unrestrained spleen that Brenda finally left in tears. But she did not remain intimidated very long. [p 153]

“A bitch and worse” – well we know what that means.

Ron “received revelations” which he wrote down on a yellow legal pad. One went:

Thus saith the Lord unto My servants the Prophets. It is My will and commandment that ye remove the following individuals in order that My work might go forward. For they have become obstacles in My path and I will not allow My work to be stopped. First thy brother’s wife Brenda and her baby… [p 163]

Dan took it upon himself to inform his youngest brother, Allen, with whom he had always been especially close, that God had commanded the ritual murder of Brenda and their baby girl, Erica, and that Ron and Dan intended to see that the commandment was carried out.

Allen expressed shock, then asked, “Why? Particularly why Erica, being an innocent child? Why would she be involved?”

At which point Ron angrily cut in, “Because she would grow up to be a bitch, just like her mother!” [p 169]

What’s that we keep being told about sexist epithets not being misogynist?

One more. From an accomplice’s testimony at the trial:

According to Carnes, Ron said that

as soon as he went into the house, he punched [Brenda] as hard as he could, and she fell down again on the floor. And he said that he was calling her a bitch, and, you know, telling her what he thought about her. [p 280]

And he kept beating her, and he choked her with an electrical cord, and then he cut her throat.

What’s that we keep being told about sexist epithets not being misogynist?


  1. Strider says

    I love Krakauer’s books; they are well-researched and engaging. I particularly enjoy the chapters on the history of whatever topic his book is about. I couldn’t *believe* what Mormon’s have to swallow while reading “Under the Banner of Heaven”.

  2. says

    Just want to get it out there for any who held the same initial misapprehension as me, the book is not fiction, it describes an actual event.

  3. Davros says

    That book is amazing. One of the first things I read after I learned about the Mountain Meadows Massacre

  4. says

    What’s that we keep being told about sexist epithets not being misogynist?

    In the spirit of one Nigel McCullough, I offer this answer: They’re reserved for the worst of the worse women, like the Phelps women, or for the worst of the worse females in non-canine species (real or imagined), like the Queen Alien or Eve. Therefore, they’re not at all misogynistic, some would say.

    To me, it seems more likely that the use of such words say more about the speaker than the target. Such words betray the feelings of the utterer, which is that the woman being targeted is not living up to the utterer’s personal idea of what a woman should be like, and that by stepping outside the bounds of what ought to be, she gives up her right to be treated as a human and an equal and may be dealt with in the harshest ways imaginable. In other words, such words show that the person speaking them holds women up to inviolable personal ideological standards. In addition, by using such words, the utterer does not have to own up to or even reflect on her or his own feelings, only on how horrible the woman being targeted is being. The words, in effect, are a form of violence against women when used as epithets.

  5. says

    Golly, I hope no one thought this was fiction – I wouldn’t comment on fiction this way! The whole point was that real people (men) did this, and it reveals how the words work in real life.

    The use of epithets is probably the most “normal” and “mainstream” aspect of their behavior. They convert to a deranged religion based on the forcible subordination of women; one loses his wife and children because the wife wants no part of it; he blames the remaining non-compliant wife for this and “receives” a convenient “revelation” that “God” wants him to murder her and her 15-month-old daughter; he calls her a bitch all the time and announces that her daughter will grow up to be a bitch too.

    But, obviously, none of this has anything to do with misogyny. Good heavens no.

  6. says

    Nothing in your posts suggested it was fiction Ophelia. On the contrary, my impression was made before I read this post and it was reading it that made me look it up and correct it.
    Now I also want to read it.

  7. Marta says

    I read that the year it was published. It was months later before I could read or hear the word “Mormon” and not need to yell.

  8. says

    Caffeine – ah! That’s a relief. I changed “story” to “facts” in the meantime.

    Marta, I know – Mormonism is revolting. Incredible that the least batshit-crazy Republican candidate is a Mormon.

  9. godlesspanther says

    It appears that there is a sudden interest in Mormons in the skeptic circles. I think it reasonable to guess that Mitt Romney has something (a lot) to do with this. Ex-Mormons have some of the most interesting before and after tales to tell. One of the reasons for this is that the belief system is very extreme and very secretive.

    Born in Mormons who abandon the faith have to deal with a tremendous amount of emotional turmoil. Abandoning the faith necessitate that they also abandon their family. For those in a city such as Provo, Utah — it means abandoning family, friends, and pretty much everyone they ever knew. It would be impossible for that not to have a sever emotional impact.

    Misogyny is a core element of most religious structures — all the major ones. Particularly strong within Mormonism. Mainstream LDS insist on separating themselves from FLDS. The frightening thin is that the LDSers are really not too far away from the radical polygamist cults.

    and uh,

    Don’t vote for Romney.

  10. Marta says

    “and uh,

    Don’t vote for Romney”

    If Under the Banner of Heaven had been published this year, I think Romney’s chances for election in 2012 would be utterly hopeless.

  11. Beauzeaux says

    You’ve confirmed my decision not to read this book. I just can’t read any more books about murdering assholes. I’m nearly 70 and I’ve been a reader all my life. I consider I’ve done my duty.
    No more. I’m tired of getting nightmares from books like this one.

  12. mirax says

    I am reminded of the time the Guardan Cif section actually had a “mormon feminist” writing on it. About as ridiculous as an islamic feminist but the Guardian has sunk to soft peddling religion, so that’s it really.

  13. says

    Its like you read my thoughts! You appear to grasp a lot about this, such as you wrote the ebook in it or something. I think that you just could do with some % to drive the message house a little bit, but instead of that, that is fantastic blog. A great read. I’ll definitely be back.

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