Not long after, Ron handed Dan a piece of paper through the bars. Written on it was a revelation that Ron said he’d just received, in which God commanded Dan to let Ron kill him. After praying for guidance, Dan says, “I felt I should submit to what it said, and we discussed how it might be done.”
In 1984, two men, fervent Mormon fundamentalists, murdered their sister-in-law and niece and claimed they had been commanded to do so by God.
Krakauer is one of my favorite authors, but I have only read his adventure writing so far – and so this narrative of murder and the founding of the religion that influenced it was quite a change for me. In it, he investigates three different histories all woven together – the story of the Mormon church, the stories of those belonging to Mormon fundamentalist sects, and the murders of Brenda and Erica Lafferty.Despite the plethora of narratives, the story is easy to follow, though we are often left on tether-hooks when he switches from one strand to another.
I knew a little Mormon history already, but this book goes on an in-depth dive, balancing it with the true crime aspect seamlessly. What is related is often strange, sometimes disturbing, and all meticulously researched. As the beginning of the Mormon church was fairly recent and well-documented, it is easy to follow how the religion came to be in its current incarnation – and why people split off from it. Krakauer also acknowledges in places that much of the strangeness we attach to this religion may merely be because it is so new, not because it is particularly strange than older mainstream ones.
All in all, much more than your standard true crime book.