Doing Violence to Journalistic Integrity
Doing Violence to Journalistic Integrity
Reviewed by Craig L. Foster
The noted author Paul Fussell once commented, “If I didn’t have
writing, I’d be running down the street hurling grenades in people’s
faces.”1 Perhaps the same could be said about Jon Krakauer. Both he and
his works are complex, introspective, and, without doubt, “in your face”
and controversial. Krakauer is fascinated by people who are on the edge physically
and emotionally, those who push the limits to the extreme. His writing reflects
this fascination as he tries to define for his reading audience what it is like
to go to extremes. Krakauer has succeeded where many others have failed because
he is, without argument, a gifted writer. His text flows seamlessly, creating
a literary picture that touches a reader to the very core.
Krakauer has used his writing talents to look at the fringes of the Latter-day
Saint community in his book Under the Banner of Heaven, in which he
examines the double murders committed in 1984 by the ex-Mormon brothers Ron
and Dan Lafferty and explores the fundamentalist communities of Colorado City-Hildale
on the Utah-Arizona border and Bountiful in British Columbia.2 His accounts
of murder and seduction are mixed with events and teachings in Latter-day Saint
history in an attempt to portray these fringe elements as murderous and libidinous
offspring of a religion steeped in its own history of violence and quirkiness.
As a means to understanding Jon Krakauer’s approach to this topic, an understanding
of his background is necessary. A former carpenter and fisherman turned freelance
writer, Krakauer’s accumulation of literary accomplishments was slow but steady.
His workhorse approach to writing initially gained him a respectable reputation
among readers and publishers of outdoor magazines. However, he could not make
a living writing about mountain climbing and other outdoor-related activities.
Krakauer soon branched out and began to write on other subjects. For example,
since he had been a carpenter, he decided to write an article about architecture,
feeling he could bluff his way to being published in Architectural Digest.3
He also wrote about a commercial fishery for Smithsonian and published other
articles in Rolling Stone, Playboy, Time, the Washington
Post, the New York Times, and National Geographic.4 He
gave these magazines “whatever they wanted” because, as he related, “I wanted
to pay the rent, I didn’t have any grandiose ambitions of being an artiste;
I wanted to pay the . . . bills, so I worked really hard.”5
Krakauer’s hard-scrabble career beginnings seem to belie his upper-middle-class
childhood and youth. He was born in 1954 in Brookline, Massachusetts, where
his father, Lewis, was finishing his medical studies.6 Lewis Krakauer was born
in Brooklyn in 1927 to first-generation Russian-Polish Jewish emigrants.7 His
parents were Jay T. and Ruth A. Krakauer. The senior Krakauer had emigrated
from Czestochowa, Poland, in 1904. He arrived on the Aurania, which
sailed from Liverpool, England, and arrived at Ellis Island in that same year.
At the time of his arrival, he was listed as a Russian Hebrew and gave Jakob
Krakauer as his name.8
Jakob Krakauer, whose family name means “a person from Krakow, Poland,”
later anglicized his name to Jay Krakauer.9 He worked as a civil engineer with
the New York City subway system.10 Lewis became a medical doctor and moved with
his wife, Carol, and family to Corvallis, Oregon, where he practiced medicine.11
Although Jon Krakauer’s relationship with his father was often strained and
volatile, he picked up several things from him. First, he gained a love for
mountain climbing. Second, he gained a great love of the outdoors.12 And third,
he inherited a gift for writing from his father, who edited The Year Book
of Sports Medicine on several occasions.13 It was because of mountain climbing
that he wrote his first article. In 1974 he went to Alaska for the first time
and climbed in the Brooks Range. He wrote about his experiences in the American
Alpine Journal. Three years later he described his experiences climbing
the Devil’s Thumb for Mountain.14 And, as a final legacy from his parents,
Krakauer learned to view the divine through agnostic, if not atheistic, eyes.15
Krakauer’s writing career has included stints as a contributing editor for
Outside and Men’s Journal, as well as authorship of several
books. During his early career, Krakauer was viewed as a “nature writer.” However,
he has more recently been described by one reviewer as more of “an adventure
writer” on a par with Jack London.16 Krakauer’s first well-received book was
Into the Wild,17 which recounted the fateful journey of Christopher
McCandless. In an attempt to understand himself and find inner peace, McCandless
gave up his successful upper-middle-class life and journeyed to Alaska’s wilderness,
where he ultimately died from hunger and exposure. Krakauer placed McCandless’s
experience within the context of other “spiritual daredevils and sons of dominating,
successful fathers.”18 His discussion of McCandless’s painful relationship included
revelations of his own unhappy relationship with his father. Krakauer, who readily
admits to relating to the subject of his work, gave a sympathetic portrayal
of McCandless. Indeed, one reviewer wrote, “Mr. Krakauer has taken the tale
of a kook who went into the woods, and made of it a heart-rending drama of human
Jon Krakauer’s best-known book is Into Thin Air20—his cathartic
look at the 1996 climbing disaster on Mount Everest. As a part of the climbing
team, Krakauer offered personal insight into what was, without doubt, a horrific
experience of hunger, fatigue, poor decisions, a terrible snowstorm, and freezing
temperatures. Eight climbers, including four of his team members, died, while
others suffered debilitating injuries from frostbite and exposure. Krakauer
blamed “his own actions, or failure to act” as a factor in the deaths of two
of his team members. He had been paid by Outside magazine to climb
Mount Everest and then write his experiences; he did, in fact, write a riveting
article. He then went on to write his best-selling Into Thin Air in
a three-month “sprint of writing and emotional purging.”21
The book “was a sensation, riding best-seller lists for two years, translated
into 24 languages, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Critics
Circle award. There are now more than 3.6 million copies in print.”22 Into
Thin Air was, without doubt, a literary tour de force. It was Krakauer
at his finest, as he looked at what drives men to go to the edge of life itself
and take incredible chances. So traumatizing an experience was the Everest debacle
for Krakauer that he “established the Everest ’96 Memorial Fund at the Boulder
Community Foundation, endowing it with royalties from his book.”23
However, the book has not been without its critics. The climbing world has been
rocked by a heated debate over the accuracy and even veracity of Krakauer’s
account. Describing this controversy, one writer clarifies:
What is surprising is how bitter, how defensive and how wounded Jon Krakauer
sounds these days. Much of this bitterness stems from this fact: Since “Into
Thin Air” was published nearly two years ago, the book has been under
almost constant sniper fire from a small and close-knit group of climbers, a
few of whom were on Everest in 1996, who dispute some of his book’s facts
and interpretations. In their view, Krakauer didn’t merely get things
wrong—he got things intentionally, maliciously wrong.24
Accusations of shoddy research and even plagiarism found their way into the
debate. Some people in the mountain-climbing community have suggested that Krakauer
borrowed heavily, without proper attribution, from Jim Curran’s K2: The
Story of the Savage Mountain.25 In 1998 journalist Steve Weinberg looked
at the controversy about Into Thin Air, including accusations of bias
and shoddy research.26 While the article only touched on his book and the controversy,
Krakauer was, nonetheless, extremely offended. He responded, “‘I take my reputation
as a reporter more seriously than I take my reputation as a writer. . . . I
didn’t rely on fact-checkers to catch my errors.'” He had been determined to
“‘get it right the first time.'”27
Krakauer also takes seriously his effort to understand the psyche and motivation
of people on the edge, those who go to the extreme. Perhaps this is why his
works contain not only riveting action and thoughtful analyses of human nature,
but also reveal what makes Krakauer himself tick. He has acknowledged this.
“‘People think of me as this outdoor writer. But I’m really
a seeker, a doubter. I’m interested in those people who take things too
far, because I see something of myself in them.'”28
Krakauer’s search involves an uneasy relationship with religion. He was
raised in an agnostic household.29 In fact, in an interview with Tom Brokaw,
Krakauer explained that his family members were, “‘for all intents
and purposes, atheists.'”30 In regard to religion, he has demonstrated
a certain skepticism as well as cynicism. While he admitted to “trying
to figure out religion,” he also readily confessed that he does not believe
in Jesus Christ.31 Furthermore, while he claims to ache for a belief in God,32
he also acknowledges that he does not “know what God is, or what God had
in mind when the universe was set in motion,” or “if God even exists”
(p. 338).33 Even so, he admits to “praying in times of great fear,
or despair, or astonishment at a display of unexpected beauty” (p. 338).
However, Krakauer’s doubts run deeper than the simple questioning of the
reality of Deity. Indeed, his doubts also exhibit a very real animosity to faith.
When asked in a 1996 interview what made him angry, he answered: “self-righteous
religious fanatics.”34 He has also confessed to being “troubled
by this sheeplike acceptance that faith is always good.”35 When asked
in an interview if Dan Lafferty was crazy, Krakauer answered:
I don’t think Dan’s crazy at all. He’s no crazier than John
Ashcroft. The difference between Dan Lafferty and John Ashcroft is not very
great. I mean, John Ashcroft hasn’t killed anybody. And that’s a
very important distinction. John Ashcroft isn’t a Mormon, but he’s
a fundamentalist. Their belief systems are remarkably similar. That really scares
me. That you have people in high positions of government making decisions that
affect the survival of the world who are consulting their God.36
In Under the Banner of Heaven, Krakauer elaborates on this theme,
“There is a dark side to religious devotion that is too often ignored or denied.
As a means of motivating people to be cruel or inhumane—as a means of inciting
evil, to borrow the vocabulary of the devout—there may be no more potent force
than religion” (p. xxi).
In spite of, or perhaps because of, the author’s open disdain for religion,
he inexplicably chose for his latest work a look at what he considers the violent
history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Under the Banner
of Heaven is, according to Krakauer’s publicists, the result of questions
arising during his childhood, at which time he knew a number of Latter-day Saints.
“Although he envied the unfluctuating certainty of the faith professed so enthusiastically
by these Mormon friends and acquaintances, he was often baffled by it, and has
sought to comprehend the formidable power of such belief ever since.”37
While a study of Mormonism’s supposed violent past became the final product
of Krakauer’s endeavors, his original goals were different. Eric Johnson of
the Mormonism Research Ministry, an evangelical Christian ministry that has
been challenging the Church of Jesus Christ since the ministry’s founding in
1979, explained that Krakauer “originally wanted to write a book titled History
and Belief that would focus ‘on the uneasy, highly charged relationship
between the LDS Church and its past.'”38 According to D. Michael Quinn, Krakauer
first approached him and other Mormon intellectuals about writing a book concerning
the problems intellectuals face in a church known for its conservative and authoritarian
approach to its history and doctrine.39 The premise of Krakauer’s original project,
and certainly that of the final product, reflect his continued uncomfortable
relationship with faith and religion in the face of what he views to be rational
Both Krakauer and his book have gained significant publicity in recent months,
and reviews have come down on both sides. Indeed, the book gained some media
attention two weeks prior to its release with “Church Response to Jon Krakauer’s
Under the Banner of Heaven,” by Richard E. Turley, managing director
of the Family and Church History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints.40 This hard-hitting response, according to Krakauer, was
considered a “god-send” by the marketers at Doubleday—they believed it helped
propel the book onto the best-seller lists.41
Adding to this preemptive strike was Michael Otterson of the Public Affairs
Department. During a press conference, he made comments that were reprinted
in the Salt Lake Tribune. His remarks make it very clear what he and
other representatives of the church thought of Krakauer and his book. “This
book is not history, and Krakauer is no historian. He is a storyteller who cuts
corners to make the story sound good.” He then goes on to explain:
The exceptions are the rule by his standards. One could be forgiven for concluding
that every Latter-day Saint, including your friendly Mormon neighbor, has a
tendency to violence. And so Krakauer unwittingly puts himself in the same camp
as those who believe every German is a Nazi, every Japanese a fanatic, and every
Arab a terrorist.42
Accusations of bias notwithstanding, Krakauer does have his defenders—for
example, Holly Mullen of the Salt Lake Tribune, who accused the Church
of Jesus Christ of sending its “public relations machine . . . into damage-control
overdrive.”43 Even so, some of the comments made by reviewers make one wonder
if the ardent support of Under the Banner of Heaven stems from more
than just an admiration of Krakauer’s remarkable writing skills and fascinating
storytelling style. For example, Martin Naparsteck of the Salt Lake Tribune
illogically claims that “because truth trumps accuracy and courage is more important
than pleasing readers, Under the Banner should be read by anyone hoping
to understand if there is a causal connection between Mormon history and the
violence associated with oddball polygamist cults.”44 The reviewer for the Arkansas
Democrat-Gazette says it was “difficult to find fault with Krakauer’s findings
that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints tries to clean up its history,”45
while the reviewer in BooksMags.com advises readers that if they “prefer to
wallow in ignorant bliss, leave [the book] on the shelf.”46
Perhaps one of the most favorable and revealing reviews was written by Clay
Evans of Scripps Howard News Service and appeared in the KnoxNews. He begins:
“That The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, would
object to this book is hardly a surprise.” He then mentions the “sometimes
violent past and selective history of the mainstream church,” giving as
examples Joseph Smith, plural marriage, and the Mountain Meadows massacre. Evans
concludes the review by affirming, “So of course the Mormon church is
upset. But this book, with extensive notes and footnotes, won’t be shouted
down by people representing a faith that, as a matter of policy, strives mightily
to control and sanitize its past.”47
A San Francisco Chronicle review declares that Krakauer “masterfully
weaves Mormon history and modern polygamy into a seamless story about the strangest
subculture of the American Southwest.”48 A St. Petersburg Times review
describes the book as “a piece of solid reporting,”49 and USA Today
affirms that “Krakauer also explores the often blood-soaked roots of the Mormon
faith.”50 Barnes & Noble Presents declares Krakauer’s work as “provocative
but also convincing,”51 while BooksMags.com proclaims Krakauer’s efforts a “superb
job of chronicling several schisms in the Mormon church.”52
According to one Salt Lake Tribune review, “Krakauer never pretends
to be historian or master of theology. He is a journalist, powerfully gifted
in writing non-fiction.”53 Obviously, for this fellow journalist, gifted writing
supercedes thorough research and accuracy. “The fact is, Krakauer probably knows
more about early, unvarnished church history than most practicing Mormons today.
His premise for connecting zealotry with unspeakable violence is as sound as
Notwithstanding the positive reviews, a number of mixed and negative reviews
point out fundamental flaws in Krakauer’s book. One reviewer charges Krakauer
with being a “one-sided journalist,”55 and another with viewing such religious
actions as wearing sacred garments as “freakishness rather than fervor.”56 The
Wall Street Journal describes the book as “quite misleading,”57 while
the International Herald Tribune complains that the book “provides
more voyeuristic astonishment than curiosity or understanding.”58 A Deseret
News review describes Krakauer as lacking “the personal understanding of
religious devotion necessary to deal with such a complex topic.”59 And Christianity
Today warns its readers to “keep in mind the origin of Krakauer’s project,
[which started] with an agenda.”60 Even more to the point are the comments found
in the Japanese-published English-language newspaper Daily Yomiuri,
which notifies its readers that the book is not “an unbiased history.” The review
concludes with this insightful comment:
Ultimately, we are left feeling that Under the Banner of Heaven would
have been a better book had Krakauer had a more authoritative grasp of his material.
He is not a historian, and his principal strengths are his vigorous writing
and a fascination with those on society’s fringes. Here, as an avowed agnostic,
Krakauer is in unfamiliar territory, and in treating the Lafferty murders as
a particularly Mormon crime, he places himself in danger of papering over the
fact that any murder committed in the name of God is extremist, rather than
religious in nature.61
Krakauer uses charged language when describing certain events and practices
in the Mormon past. This language is probably used to reinforce negative stereotypes.
This practice reflects a proven bias on Krakauer’s part against religion
in general and conservative religion in particular. Krakauer’s book has
serious problems that must be addressed. These include historical and factual
errors, which are either the result of a knowing deception or an ignorance of
Mormon history, doctrine, and church government. Either way, they should send
up red flags to any reader with an understanding of the Church of Jesus Christ.
Krakauer also cannot hide his lack of familiarity with general American history.
This is obvious with the main theme of his book—that the origins or foundations
of Mormonism have bred a significant amount of violence.
While Krakauer focuses on the “story of violent faith,” he does
so without putting the church within the historical and social context of the
nineteenth century. No doubt some Saints engaged in violent behavior. However,
was this violent behavior a result of Latter-day Saint teachings or were the
teachings that touched on aspects of violence a result of the social milieu
in which the Saints lived?
David H. Fischer has shown that aspects of violence in early America were
the result of what he called the “backcountry” culture.62 This culture was strongly
influenced by descendants of the Scots and Irish as well as by other groups
from the traditional Celtic fringe of Great Britain and the north border country
of England. The backcountry consisted mainly of the southern highlands of Appalachia,
the old Southwest, and the Ozark Plateau, as well as places to which their descendants
migrated. In these regions “a climate of violence” developed, “which remained
part of the culture of that region to our own time.”63 Personal violence or
lex talionis (the rule of retaliation) was expected and encouraged
by people of Scots-Irish heritage in the backcountry. The concept of accepted
violence and retaliation was taught within the community and among the families.64
Characteristics of this culture of violence included perceptions of men as “warrior
castes”; the concept of honor as “a pride of manhood in masculine
courage, physical strength and warrior virtue”; and defense of honor by
“lashing out instantly against . . . challengers with savage
violence.” “To behave dishonorably was to commit an ‘unmanly
act,'” “order was a system of retributive violence,”
and vigilantism was an accepted part of backcountry culture.65 This tradition
of violence extended to Missouri, where it rubbed up against, and most certainly
influenced, the early Latter-day Saints. Violent confrontations in the form
of vigilantism, dueling, and other forms of extralegal justice were not only
accepted but romanticized. Indeed, “Ozark vengeance” continued into
the 1950s in parts of Missouri.66 Without doubt, “These backcountry order
ways created an exceptionally violent world.”67
In his review, Turley mentions several of the book’s problems regarding
its handling of church history and doctrine. For example, Krakauer states that
“a disgruntled client had filed a legal claim accusing Joseph of being
a fraud” (p. 57). However, Josiah Stowell, Joseph Smith’s employer,
not only did not file the complaint, but testified in Joseph’s behalf
at his trial. Joseph Smith was found innocent.68
Krakauer demonstrates a further lack of knowledge when he discusses the letter
Brigham Young sent to southern Utah Mormons telling them not to attack members
of the Baker-Fancher party and, instead, to see to their safety until they were
out of Utah Territory. Unfortunately, the letter arrived too late to stop the
now infamous Mountain Meadows massacre. Young’s attempts to thwart this
tragedy are belittled by Krakauer, who insinuates duplicity on the part of church
leaders by claiming that “the actual text of Brigham Young’s letter
remains in some doubt, because the original has disappeared (along with almost
every other official document pertaining to the Mountain Meadows massacre).
The excerpt quoted above is from a purported draft of the letter that didn’t
surface until 1884, when an LDS functionary came upon it in the pages of a ‘Church
Letter Book'” (p. 221n).
However, as Turley explains, the text of Brigham Young’s letter does not
remain “in some doubt.” As with most of Brigham Young’s correspondence,
this letter was copied immediately after being written by using a letterpress
book that contained onionskin pages to create a mirror image of the document.
“A perfect mirror image of Young’s famous letter is right where
it should be in Brigham’s 1857 letterpress copybook. It is a contemporaneous
copy and was available to and used by the prosecution in the trial that led
to John D. Lee’s conviction and subsequent execution in the 1870s.”69
Turley and others have demonstrated that Krakauer seems to lack historical
training. Evidently Krakauer took at face value statements and accusations made
in jaundiced secondary literature. Rather than searching for and analyzing the
primary sources, Krakauer merely regurgitates old assertions. He announces,
for example, the existence of “compelling circumstantial evidence [which] suggests
that [Samuel H. Smith] succumbed from poison administered by Hosea Stout” (p.
194). Quinn, in The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, affirms:
William [brother of Joseph and Samuel H. Smith] eventually concluded that Apostle
Willard Richards asked [Hosea] Stout to murder Samuel H. Smith. The motive was
to prevent Samuel from becoming church president before the full Quorum of Twelve
arrived. William’s suspicions about Stout are believable since Brigham
Young allowed William Clayton to go with the pioneer company to Utah three years
later only because Stout threatened to murder Clayton as soon as the apostles
left. Clayton regarded Hosea Stout as capable of homicide and recorded no attempt
by Young to dispute that assessment concerning the former Danite.70
Quinn bases this statement on the June 1892 letter of William Smith to a Brother
Kelley. The letter was written almost forty-eight years after Samuel Smith’s
death and William Smith’s bitter estrangement from Brigham Young and the
other apostles. In addition, while Mary B. Smith Norman, Samuel Smith’s
daughter, claimed in 1908 that her father had been poisoned, there appear to
be no contemporary sources indicating death by poisoning. Furthermore, while
no one who has read Stout’s diary would contest accusations of violence,
even leading to death, there is no evidence whatsoever that Stout murdered Smith.
Quinn acknowledges this lack. Even so, he still places credence in a rather
tenuous assortment of evidence. Krakauer, on his part, appears to have read
Quinn’s book and either ignored the extensive endnotes on this matter
or chose not to mention the serious lack of facts supporting Quinn’s assertion.71
The following statement is among the potpourri of historical and doctrinal
errors found in Under the Banner of Heaven: “Mormons esteem three books
of scripture above all others” (p. 6n), when in reality four books constitute
the Latter-day Saint canon. Krakauer is also incorrect in his assertions that
Native Americans are, according to the Book of Mormon, descended from the lost
tribes of Israel (p. 69). And regarding the Mountain Meadows massacre, he announces
that William Aden was killed on 10 September 1857 (p. 221). That would have
been the night before the actual massacre. Aden was killed at least two and
probably three days before the 11 September massacre.
Perhaps one of the more glaring instances of Krakauer’s limited knowledge
of Latter-day Saint history and doctrine appears in his discussion of Elizabeth
Smart’s kidnapping. In March 2003, Elizabeth Smart was found alive and
well in Sandy, Utah. Her kidnapping the previous June had made news not only
in Utah but across the country and, indeed, around the world. Smart’s
kidnappers were arrested, and she was returned to her family. It would not be
an exaggeration to say that people all over the world were able to celebrate
a happy ending to a story that could have been a horrible tragedy. However,
very soon after her rescue, rumors began to filter out to the media that Elizabeth
Smart’s captors were religious fanatics with a connection to the Church
of Jesus Christ and that she had been kidnapped in order to become a polygamous
Although many of the media attempted to distinguish between the mainstream church
and its various offshoots, more often than not there was confusion in the resulting
newspaper and television reports wherein the reader or listener might not have
been able to differentiate between the various groups. Moreover, at the public
announcement of the charges against Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee, Smart’s
abductors, the rumors and suggestions of sexual assault seemed to be confirmed.73
Taking advantage of sensational headline news, Krakauer quickly did some rewriting
and added a chapter about Elizabeth and her subsequent return to her home and
family. Under the Banner of Heaven mentions Mitchell’s desire to make
Smart a “polygamous concubine.” Krakauer concludes that Smart would have been
susceptible to Mitchell’s “weird, self-styled wedding ritual” to “‘seal'” her
to himself in “‘the new and everlasting covenant’—a Mormon euphemism for polygamous
marriage” (p. 44). He then explains:
Raised to obey figures of Mormon authority unquestioningly, and to believe that
LDS doctrine is the law of God, she would have been particularly susceptible
to the dexterous fundamentalist spin Mitchell applied to familiar Mormon scripture.
The white robes Mitchell and Barzee wore, and forced Elizabeth to wear, resembled
the sacred robes she had donned with her family when they had entered the Mormon
temple. When Mitchell bullied Elizabeth into submitting to his carnal demands,
he used the words of Joseph Smith—words she had been taught were handed
down by God himself—to phrase those demands. (p. 45)
To back up his claim, Krakauer quotes Debbie Palmer, a former fundamentalist
plural wife and currently an antipolygamy activist, as follows: “‘Being
brought up as she was made her especially vulnerable. . . . Mitchell would never
have been able to have such power over a non-Mormon girl'” (p. 45).
These two statements demonstrate not only a bias that any scholar or informed
journalist would seek to avoid but also, as already suggested, an ignorance
of Latter-day Saint doctrine and practice. Two examples will suffice. First,
Krakauer stated that Elizabeth would have worn temple robes when she accompanied
her family into a Latter-day Saint temple (p. 45). This, of course, is
false. As she was born in the covenant, she would not have gone into the temple
to be sealed to her parents. And with the exception of being sealed to their
own parents, youth are allowed only in specific parts of the temple, such as
the baptismal font. Even if she had not been born in the covenant and had later
been sealed to her parents, Elizabeth would not have worn the temple robes since
she would not, at that time, have gone through the endowment ceremony.
Second, the statement by Debbie Palmer turns out to be ludicrous. Palmer moved
with her parents to the fundamentalist community of Creston Valley, British
Columbia, when she was two years old. She was raised in this community and entered
into her own plural marriage when she was fifteen years old. Eventually she
left the fundamentalist community and has since been an outspoken critic of
so-called Mormon fundamentalism (pp. 30-37).74 Therefore, for Krakauer
to use Palmer as an expert on whether or not Mitchell would have influence over
a girl who has been raised in the Church of Jesus Christ is unreasonable.
This brings us to another point of concern—the numerous examples of highly
charged, inflammatory, and prejudicial language that appear to be used for shock
value and to reinforce negative stereotypes. In discussing the origins of the
church, Krakauer borrows heavily from polemical works on Mormonism, picking
up on the ever-present theme of Joseph Smith’s treasure hunting and folk
magic. For example, he describes Smith’s “scrying” and “money
digging.” “Soon his necromantic skills,” according to Krakauer,
“were sufficiently in demand that he was able to command respectable fees
to find buried treasure for property owners” (pp. 56-57).
Krakauer also attributes to Joseph Smith a “nimble mind and an astonishingly
fecund imagination” (p. 55). Indeed, according to Krakauer, Smith
“could sell a muzzle to a dog” (p. 55) and thus was able to
invent something that would appeal to people. This involved dabbling in folk
magic. “Joseph’s flirtation with folk magic as a young man had a
direct and unmistakable bearing on the religion he would soon usher forth”
(p. 56). In fact, in introducing Moroni’s original visit, Krakauer
writes that “peep stones and black magic would again loom large in Joseph’s
life” (p. 57).
Krakauer’s accusations of Joseph Smith’s supposed involvement with black magic
are not original and are certainly not well founded. Indeed, such accusations
appeared in print as early as 1830 when Abner Cole, under the pseudonym of Obadiah
Dogberry, published “The Book of Pukei” in the Palmyra Reflector.75
Stories and charges of Smith’s practicing black magic swirled about during his
lifetime and continue to the present.76 While it has been debated by historians
whether or not Joseph and other members of the Smith family actually practiced
magic, there is consensus that the type of magic the Smiths might have practiced
would have been folk magic. This type of magic is sometimes referred to as white
magic. Folk magic was common and socially acceptable among common or backwoods
people throughout most of the nineteenth century. Black magic was viewed with
understandable fear and loathing by these common people and would not have been
practiced by the Smiths.77
Perhaps Krakauer’s most volatile statements appear when he discusses one
of the main themes of his book, plural marriage. He introduces the topic by
announcing that “the LDS leadership has worked very hard to persuade both
the modern church membership and the American public that polygamy was a quaint,
long-abandoned idiosyncrasy practiced by a mere handful of nineteenth-century
Mormons” (p. 5). He then suggests that Joseph Smith introduced plural
marriage in part because he “remained perpetually and hopelessly smitten
by the comeliest female members of his flock” (p. 118) and because
“it was impossible for Joseph to conceal so much illicit activity from
his followers” (p. 122). “Neither Emma’s tears nor her
rage” (p. 118), nor her haranguing him about his “philandering”
(p. 124), “were enough to make Joseph monogamous” (p. 118).
Thus he took multiple women as wives. According to Krakauer, “Not even
this profusion of wives, however, managed to sate his appetite” (p. 121)
nor stop his “sexual recklessness” (p. 122).
Even more astounding to Krakauer are the “still pubescent girls”
(p. 120) whom Joseph married. Falling into the same trap as many people
and even some historians, he places his own modern values onto another place
and time and, when their marriage patterns do not conform to his worldview,
he looks upon it and writes about it with an open-mouthed, suitably shocked,
and offended approach. For example, Krakauer suggests in an interview that Mormons
would be uncomfortable with how he portrayed their history, “They will
not like the fact that I point out that Joseph Smith told 14-year-old girls
‘God says you should marry me, if you don’t . . .’
His way of getting laid doesn’t reflect well on him.”78
Beyond being simply offensive, Krakauer’s comments are problematic in
several ways. First, Joseph Smith did not marry a plurality of fourteen-year-olds
as suggested by Krakauer. In fact, only Helen Mar Kimball can be positively
identified as being fourteen.79 While Nancy Maria Winchester could have been
fourteen years old, she was probably fifteen by the time of her marriage. Second,
the idea that Smith married a parcel of pubescent girls is sheer fallacy. Along
with the fourteen-year-old and probable fifteen-year-old who married Smith,
only two sixteen-year-olds married him. While there were three seventeen-year-olds,
there were no known eighteen-year-olds and only three nineteen-year-old women
who married Smith. As puberty is traditionally recognized as the time period
surrounding menarche, or the onset of menstruation, and, since the average age
of menarche was about fourteen to fifteen years at that time, only one to two
of Joseph Smith’s wives could possibly have qualified as a “pubescent
Besides, marriages of younger girls were not uncommon in the past. Peter Laslett,
the noted social historian, published an interesting essay concerning the age
at menarche in Europe since the eighteenth century. Laslett noted that while
girls in Britain and Western Europe reached menarche at a later age, girls in
America and Eastern Europe started menstruating at a younger age. Indeed, according
to Laslett’s research, in eighteenth-century Belgrade, Serbia, girls as young
as eleven and twelve were not only marrying, but having children. In fact, at
one point, eighty-seven percent of all women between the ages of fifteen and
nineteen were married.81 On the American side of the Atlantic, between 1634
and 1662 about 220 marriageable girls were brought to Quebec to marry. These
girls were called les Filles du Roi, or the king’s daughters. While
most of the girls were sixteen to twenty years old and the second largest group
were between the ages of twenty and twenty-five, at least seventy-six (the fourth
largest grouping statistically) were between the years of twelve and fifteen.
Thus it was not surprising to have women marrying and bearing children at a
younger age. Indeed, it was common in newer regions of settlement and farming
in both the United States and Canada for women to marry at a younger age.82
For example, in seventeenth-century Chesapeake Bay and environs, it was common
for young women to marry at age sixteen or younger. Both brides and grooms were
very young in colonial America.83 In fact, American marriage laws borrowed heavily
from traditional English common law.84 Under the common law, the age at which
the law conferred nuptial rights on individuals was twelve for women and fourteen
for men. Most states and territories accepted those two ages as the minimum
ages for marriage. Even as late as the turn of the twentieth century, seven
states still allowed twelve-year-old girls to marry. Utah’s minimum age
for girls was fourteen.85
While the marriage age for both women and men has risen over the years in the
United States and other parts of the Western world, there are still some ethnic
and social groups that continue to accept and even encourage marriages between
younger couples. Most recent was the international debate over acceptable marriage
ages caused by the union of a twelve-year-old Gypsy (or Roma) girl and a fifteen-year-old
boy in Romania: “Marriage age for [Gypsies] has been 11 to 14 years old
for hundreds of years.”86 Simply stated, among certain groups and cultures,
marrying at a young age continues to the present.
Thus, Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven offers a flawed and biased
story. He demonstrates his own ignorance in regard to historical research and
analysis. And, while some errors can be expected from a novice attempting to
deal with the Latter-day Saint past, not everything Krakauer has done in his
book can be viewed as innocent mistakes. Indeed, with whatever agenda in mind,
Krakauer appears to have created a book that focuses on the negative and sensational
in order to portray the church in an unflattering light.
Krakauer portrays himself as a martyr in behalf of truth and honesty. He vacillates
publicly between anger and belligerency, hurt and puzzlement. In a Salt
Lake Tribune editorial, he admits to being sad that the church had “elected
to regard [his] book in such a reductionist light.” He then proceeds to accuse
the church of sanitizing their historical record and concludes by lamenting,
“I am disappointed that [church leaders] continue to do everything in their
considerable power to keep important aspects of the church’s past hidden in
the shadows. And I am especially disappointed that they feel such an urgent
need to attack writers, like me, who present balanced, carefully researched
accounts of Mormon history that happen to diverge from the official, highly
expurgated church version.”87
Krakauer’s denials of being an anti-Mormon fly in the face of his comments.
In addition, his book-signing schedule not only at bookstores but also at churches—including
the First Parish of Cambridge Church (Cambridge, Massachusetts), Unity Church
(Boulder, Colorado), First Congregational Church (Portland, Oregon), and Unity
Temple on the Plaza (Kansas City, Missouri)—seems to lend credence to
the application of this designation.88 It is not difficult to imagine why these
churches hosted book signings for Krakauer, given the nature of the subject.
No doubt they invited their congregations to attend and hear the dark side of
Further adding to the perception that Under the Banner of Heaven
is an anti-Mormon book in a fancy cover are the reactions found on various online
anti-Mormon sites and in their publications. For example, the Mormonism Research
Ministry Web site recommends the book for “those who would like to better understand
the polygamist mindset,”89 and John L. Smith, an anti-Mormon from Marlow, Oklahoma,
describes Krakauer’s book as “the most fascinating” book he has read in years.
In addition, he offers the book for sale to the readers of his publication,
the Newsletter.90 And the negative impact of Krakauer’s book extends
beyond American borders. In November 2003, the Ghanaian Chronicle claimed
that Krakauer had “revealed the Mormon Church as a fertile breeding ground for
killers, child abusers, racists, polygamists and white supremacists.”91
In conclusion, Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven has not lived
up to expectations nor to its pre- and postpublication publicity. Moreover,
his obvious biases against both religion in general and the Church of Jesus
Christ in particular have made the book nothing more than a flawed, sensationalistic
work that, it is hoped, will soon be forgotten along with many similar anti-Mormon
works of the past.
I would like to thank Newell G. Bringhurst, Steven L. Mayfield, and Louis C.
Midgley for their help and advice.
- Quotation is from Rand Lindsly’s Quotations; also in Maria Leach, comp.,
The Ultimate Insult (New York: Carroll and Graf, 1997), 173.
- Although Krakauer’s book discusses the Lafferty murders, as well as the
fundamentalist communities of Colorado City-Hildale and Bountiful, this book
review focuses rather on Krakauer’s discussion of the history and doctrines
of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
- “An Interview with Jon Krakauer,” as published at www.randomhouse.com/boldtype/0697/krakauer/interview.html
(accessed 25 August 2003).
- “‘Under the Banner of Heaven’ Author Visits Oregon State,” Corvallis
Gazette-Times, 25 July 2003.
- “An Interview with Jon Krakauer.”
- “About Jon Krakauer,” found at “Jon Krakauer Under the Banner of Heaven:
A Story of a Violent Faith,” as published at www.randomhouse.com/features/krakauer/
- United States Population Schedule, 1930 Census, Brooklyn Borough, King’s
County, New York, E.D. 24-1508, sheet 29A, lines 5-7, available at ancestry.com
(accessed 22 March 2004).
- Passenger Record for Jakob Krakauer, available at www.ellisislandrecords.org
(accessed 27 August 2003). When Krakauer emigrated, most of Poland was under
the control of the Russian Empire.
- Heinrich W. Guggenheimer and Eva H. Guggenheimer, Jewish Family Names
and Their Origins: An Etymological Dictionary (Hoboken, NJ: Ktav, 1992),
427; and Mail
- 1930 census.
- Lewis Krakauer died 24 September 2001. Corvallis (Benton County, Oregon)
City Directory (Los Angeles: Polk, 1958-); “Lewis J. Krakauer,” Corvallis
Gazette-Times, 25 September 2001 as found at www.gazettetimes.com/articles/2001/09/26
(accessed 15 September 2003); and ancestry.com—Social Security Death Index,
“Lewis J. Krakauer” (accessed 27 August 2003). Between 1958 and 1990, Lewis
J. Krakauer and his family resided in Corvallis where he continued with his
medical practice until his retirement.
- Biography section of Jon Krakauer’s official Web site—www.cwu.edu/~geograph/krakauer.htm
(accessed 27 August 2003).
- James L. Anderson, Frank George, Lewis J. Krakauer, Roy J. Shephard, and
Joseph S. Torg, eds., The Year Book of Sports Medicine, 1981 (Chicago:
Year Book Medical, 1981); Krakauer, ed., The Year Book of Sports Medicine,
1984 (Chicago: Year Book Medical, 1984); and Krakauer, ed., The Year Book
of Sports Medicine, 1987 (Chicago: Year Book Medical, 1987).
- “An Interview with Jon Krakauer.”
- “Dateline NBC,” found at www.msnbc.com (accessed 15 July 2003).
- “Spilt Ink Presents Jon Krakauer,” as found at www.spiltink.com (accessed
4 February 2004).
- Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild (New York: Villard, 1996).
- “Jon Krakauer,” Gale Literary Databases, found at www.galenet.com/servlet/GLD,
n. 18 (accessed 25 August 2003).
- Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air (New York: Villard, 1998).
- “Plumbing the Depths of Faith,” at www.theage.com.au/articles (accessed
16 August 2003).
- Timothy Egan, “What’s Left after Everest?” New York Times, 13 July
- “Author Visits Oregon State.”
- Telephone interview with North Las Vegas City attorney and mountain-climbing
enthusiast Kenneth Long, 30 August 2003.
- Steve Weinberg, “Why Books Err So Often,” Columbia Journalism Review,
- “Coming Down,” Salon Wanderlust (August 1998), found at archive.salon.com/wlust/feature/1998/08/cov_03feature.html
(accessed 8 June 2004).
- “Plumbing the Depths of Faith.”
- “Dateline NBC” (15 July 2003).
- Notes taken by Steven L. Mayfield at a talk and book signing by Jon Krakauer
at Trolley Corners Theater, Salt Lake City, Utah, on 18 July 2003 (copy in
possession of author).
- In Chris Nashawaty, “Jon Krakauer Gets Religion,” Entertainment Weekly,
18 July 2003, 47, Krakauer explains: “I grew up in a family of atheists, so
the closest thing I’ve ever had to religion is climbing.”
- Paul Roberts, “Profile: Jon Krakauer,” Outside online, found at web.outsideonline
- “Plumbing the Depths of Faith.”
- Nashawaty, “Krakauer Gets Religion,” 47, emphasis in original.
- “About Jon Krakauer.”
- Eric Johnson, “Under the Banner of Heaven,” as found on the Mormonism Research
Ministry Web page www.MRM.org (accessed 1 April 2004).
- Typed statement in possession of author.
- “Church Response to Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven,” available
at www.lds.org/newsroom/mistakes (accessed 9 July 2003).
- Mayfield notes.
- Mike Otterson, “Church: Best-Selling Author Is No Historian,” Salt Lake
Tribune, 13 July 2003.
- Holly Mullen, “Mullen: ‘Banner’ Account of Early Mormondom Stirs the Beehive,”
Salt Lake Tribune, 3 August 2003.
- Martin Naparsteck, “Truth Trumps Accuracy in ‘Under Banner of Heaven,'”
Salt Lake Tribune, 27 July 2003.
- Ed Gray, “Writer Stirs a Controversy among the Mormons,” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette,
27 July 2003.
- “Challenging the Creationist Approach to Mormon History,” www.booksmags
- Clay Evans, “‘Banner’ Examines Sect’s Violent History: Krakauer’s Carefully
Researched Book Studies Mormon Fundamentalists,” KnoxNews, 24 August 2003.
Perhaps Evans does not realize that extensive documentation does not necessarily
mean careful documentation. He also shows a serious bias against the Church
of Jesus Christ.
- Don Lattin, “Blood Faith and Fanaticism: Krakauer Weaves ’84 Murders into
Enthralling History of Mormon Breakaway Polygamists,” San Francisco Chronicle,
13 July 2003.
- Ellen Emry Heltzel, “Obsession, Murder and Mormonism,” St. Petersburg
Times, 13 July 2003.
- Deirdre Donahue, “Murder by Zealot Mormon Sect Sparks Deeper Look,” USA
Today, 13 July 2003.
- Paul Evans, “God’s Soldiers,” Barnes & Noble Presents, July–August
- “Challenging the Creationist Approach to Mormon History.” Other positive
book reviews include Lauren F. Winner, “Of Marriage and Murder: Two New Books
Shed Light on the Hidden—and Sometimes Violent—World of Mormon Fundamentalism,”
Newsday, 13 July 2003; Lev Grossman, “Thou Shalt Kill,” Time,
21 July 2003; Malcolm Jones, “Murder in the Name of God: Best-Selling Journalist
Jon Krakauer Finds Religion—in a 1984 Double Homicide,” Newsweek,
21 July 2003; Tom Walker, “Mormons, Author Battle over Accuracy,” Denver Post,
13 July 2003; “Banner Ruffles Some Feathers,” Book Magazine, July-August
2003; Cathy Lynn Grossman, “In the Name of GOD,” USA Today, 17 July
2003; “Newsalert,” The Berean Call at www.thebereancall
- Mullen, “‘Banner’ Account of Early Mormondom.”
- Ibid. One of the best reviews was the press release prepared by Richard
E. Turley Jr., which is available on www.lds.org/newsroom/mistakes/. However,
Mullen’s review berates Turley for questioning Krakauer’s “admitted lack of
faith in God.” While Mullen sees no problems with Krakauer’s methodology and
analysis, Robert Wright’s “Thou Shalt Kill,” New York Times, 3 August
2003, gave a mixed review, complimenting the fascinating chapters but questioning
some of the analysis.
- Lee Benson, in his review titled “Krakauer’s Writing Is One-Sided,” Deseret
Morning News, 21 July 2003, goes even further by questioning not only the
analysis but accusing Krakauer of being “unfair” in his approach.
- Janet Maslin, “Book Review: Under the Banner of Heaven,” International
Herald Tribune, 25 July 2003.
- Naomi Schaefer, “Review,” Wall Street Journal, 11 July 2003.
- Maslin, “Book Review.”
- Dennis Lythgoe, “Author Blunders over LDS History,” Deseret Morning
News, 6 July 2003.
- “Hearing Voices,” Christianity Today, September–October 2003.
- Annabel Wright, “Krakauer’s Book on ‘Mormon Murder’ Case Falls Short of
Its Goals,” Daily Yomiuri, 16 September 2003, found at www.yomiuri.co.jp.
Two British publications also had interesting reviews which, while appreciating
Krakauer’s writing and storytelling skills, expressed concern about some of
his conclusions: “Hells Bells: Mormons Who Murder,” Economist, 3
July 2003, and Jacqui Goddard, “Mormon Fury as Author Likens ‘Fundamentalist’
Wing to the Taleban,” Scotsman, 28 July 2003.
- David H. Fischer, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), 10, 765, 769–70.
- Ibid., 769.
- Ibid., 663, 765, 769–70.
- Ibid., 690, 764, 767.
- Dick Steward, Duels and the Roots of Violence in Missouri (Columbia:
University of Missouri Press, 2000), 1, 205.
- Fischer, Albion’s Seed, 770.
- The trial is discussed in Gordon A. Madsen, “Joseph Smith’s 1826 Trial:
The Legal Setting,” BYU Studies 30/2 (1990): 105, as quoted in Turley,
- Turley, “Review,” 7–8.
- D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power (Salt
Lake City: Signature Books, 1994), 153.
- Ibid., 384–85 nn. 50–54. As examples of Stout’s violent nature, Quinn references
Stout’s published diaries, Juanita Brooks, ed., On the Mormon Frontier:
The Diary of Hosea Stout 1844–1861, 2 vols. (1964; reprint, Salt Lake
City: University of Utah Press, Utah State Historical Society, 1982). However,
there still is no evidence, contemporary or after the fact, to suggest the
murder of Samuel Smith at the hands of Hosea Stout.
- Kevin Cantera and Michael Vigh, “Elizabeth a ‘Plural Wife'” Salt Lake
Tribune, 15 March 2003; “Polygamy May Be Motive,” Ogden Standard-Examiner,
16 March 2003; Tomas Alex Tizon and David Kelly, “Abduction May Be Rooted
in Polygamy,” Los Angeles Times, 15 March 2003; Dean E. Murphy, “Utah
Girl’s 9-Month Ordeal Poses a Puzzle Strange and Biblical,” New York Times,
16 March 2003; “Hostage Girl ‘Wed’ Abductor,” Daily Mirror (London),
15 March 2003; and Duncan Campbell, “Kidnapped Girl’s Ordeal Over after Nine
Months,” Guardian (Manchester), 14 March 2003. The 17 March 2003
issue of the National Enquirer ran front-page pictures of Elizabeth
Smart in the robes and veil she was forced to wear in public with the headline,
“Elizabeth Smart’s Life on the Run,” and a subheadline that read, “Their Shocking
- See the National Enquirer source mentioned in note 72, and “Charges Delayed
in Elizabeth Smart Case,” Washington Post, 17 March 2003; Nick Madigan,
“Abducted Girl’s Relatives Say Her Captor Brainwashed Her,” New York Times,
17 March 2003; “Suspects Charged in Utah Teen’s Abduction,” Washington
Post, 18 March 2003; “Charges Filed in Utah Abduction,” USA Today,
19 March 2003; Kevin Cantera, Michael Vigh, and Stephen Hunt, “Accused Abductors
Charged with Felony Sexual Assault,” Salt Lake Tribune, 19 March
2003; and the description of charges filed on 18 March 2003 found at www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/mitchellcharge1.html
(accessed 19 April 2004).
- Ancestral File, William Blackmore Family Group Record; “The Bishop of Bountiful,”
as found at CBC News, at www.cbc.ca/fifth/polygamy/debbie.html (accessed 15
July 2003); and Robert Matas, “Woman to Bring Suit against Mormon Church,”
Globe & Mail, 19 November 2002, at the Utah State site of the
American Atheists, 22.214.171.124/UtahAA/flds.html (accessed 15 July 2003).
- Obadiah Dogberry [pseudonym for Abner Cole], “The Book of Pukei,” Palmyra
Reflector, 12 June 1830, 36–37, as quoted in Mark Ashurst-McGee, “Moroni:
Angel or Treasure Guardian?” Mormon Historical Studies 2/2 (2001):
- Craig Foster, Penny Tracts and Polemics: A Critical Analysis of Anti-Mormon
Pamphleteering in Great Britain, 1837–1860 (Salt Lake City: Kofford Books,
2002), discusses the mid-nineteenth-century imagery of Joseph Smith and early
Mormons practicing magic. Two tracts of William J. Schnoebelen and James R.
Spencer, Whited Sepulchers: The Hidden Language of the Mormon Temple
(Idaho Falls: Triple J, 1990) and Mormonism’s Temple of Doom (Idaho
Falls: Triple J, 1987), are examples of the sensational and illogical accusations
of Smith’s involvement in black magic that exist to the present.
- The most detailed and important discussion of the Smiths’ purported belief
in and practice of folk magic is D. Michael Quinn’s Mormonism and the
Magic World View (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1987; 2nd ed., 1998).
Quinn’s premise is that the Smiths were part of the social and cultural milieu
of the time. Alan Taylor, in “The Early Republic’s Supernatural Economy: Treasure
Seeking in the American Northeast, 1780–1830,” American Quarterly
38/1 (1986): 29 n. 10, suggested that for Joseph Smith, “treasure seeking
represented a relatively immature but sincere manifestation of [his] religious
concerns.” Stephen D. Ricks and Daniel C. Peterson, “Joseph Smith and ‘Magic':
Methodological Reflections on the Use of a Term,” in “To Be Learned Is
Good If . . .,” ed. Robert L. Millet (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1987),
143, conclude that “to the extent that treasure seeking was practiced by Joseph
Smith, it was . . . a ‘deeply spiritual’ exercise, and was viewed as being
done by the power of God.” Alan Taylor, in his article “Rediscovering the
Context of Joseph Smith’s Treasure Seeking,” Dialogue 19/4 (1986):
18–28, concludes that treasure seeking and the practice of folk magic were
good and could be practiced only by those who were pure. Two very informative
essays place folk magic and treasure seeking in its historical and cultural
setting: W. R. Jones, “‘Hill-Diggers’ and ‘Hell-Raisers': Treasure Hunting
and the Supernatural in Old and New England,” in Wonders of the Invisible
World, 1600–1900: The Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife Annual Proceedings
1992, ed. Peter Benes (Boston: Boston University Press, 1995), 97–106, and
Wayland D. Hand, “The Quest for Buried Treasure: A Chapter in American Folk
Legendry,” in Folklore on Two Continents: Essays in Honor of Linda Dégh,
ed. Nikolai Burlakoff and Carl Lindahl (Bloomington, IN: Trickster, 1980),
112–19. See also Mark Ashurst-McGee, “A Pathway to Prophethood: Joseph Smith
Junior as Rodsman, Village Seer, and Judeo-Christian Prophet” (MA thesis,
Utah State University, 2000).
- Nashawaty, “Jon Krakauer Gets Religion,” 47.
- According to Richard Lloyd Anderson and Scott H. Faulring, “The Prophet
Joseph Smith and His Plural Wives,” review of In Sacred Loneliness: The
Plural Wives of Joseph Smith, by Todd Compton, FARMS Review of Books
10/2 (1998): 79, Kimball was nearly fifteen at the time of her sealing to
- Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith
(Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2001), 4–8, 604–7. Joseph Smith’s sixteen-year-old
wives were Fanny Alger and Flora Ann Woodworth. While Joseph Smith had ten
wives who were teenagers at the time of their marriage, he had thirty-three
known wives and eight possible wives, for a total of forty-one wives. Thus,
only a quarter of his plural wives were teenagers.
- Peter Laslett, “Age at Menarche in Europe since the Eighteenth Century,”
in Marriage and Fertility: Studies in Interdisciplinary History,
ed. Robert I. Rotberg and Theodore K. Rabb (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University
Press, 1980), 291. Basically, one-third of all fifteen-year-old girls and
over half of all sixteen-year-old girls already had husbands (ibid., 293).
- Peter J. Gangné, King’s Daughters and Founding Mothers: The Filles
du Roi, 1663–1673 (Pawtucket, RI: Quintin Publications, 2001), 1:17–23;
Silvio Dumas, Les Filles du Roi en Nouvelle-France: Étude Historique
avec Répertiore Biographique, Cahiers d’Histoire 24 (Quebec: La
Société Historique, 1972), 67; and Richard A. Easterlin, George
Alter, and Gretchen A. Condran, “Farms and Farm Families in Old and New Areas:
The Northern States in 1860,” in Family and Population in Nineteenth-Century
America, ed. Tamara K. Hareven and Maris A. Vinovskis (Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press, 1978), 39–40. Naturally, Quebec’s situation was
different to a degree from other new frontiers. Even so, these patterns are
comparable to other American regions.
- Michael Gordon, ed., The American Family in Social-Historical Perspective,
3rd ed. (New York: St. Martin’s, 1983), 16, and Fischer, Albion’s Seed,
- Michael Grossberg, Governing the Hearth: Law and the Family in Nineteenth-Century
America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985), 106.
- S. N. D. North, comp., and Desmond Walls Allen, ed., Marriage Laws in
the United States, 1887–1906 (Conway: Arkansas Research, 1993), 2, information
arranged alphabetically by state and territory.
- Alison Mutler, “Child Bride Protests Wedding: 12-Year-Old Girl Stalls Arranged
Roma Ceremony,” Kansas City Star, 28 September 2003; “Child Bride:
Sex Abuse or Cultural Diversity?” from BBC News at news.bbc.co.uk (accessed
7 October 2003); and, “Child Bride Fuels Ire in Romania,” USA Today,
1 October 2003. An example showing the obvious misunderstandings and how values
and prejudices can be projected onto other people and cultures is demonstrated
in the declaration that the fifteen-year-old boy could be charged with rape
because “a bloodied bedsheet [was shown wedding guests] to prove the marriage
had been consummated.” In reality, among Middle Eastern, North African, Gypsy,
and other cultures, the practice of showing a bloody bedsheet or garment is
not to show that the marriage was consummated but to prove that the bride
was a virgin. Since gifts and money are traditionally exchanged between the
families of the bride and groom, and since a wife is traditionally considered
property of the husband, her virginity needs to be proven. A discussion of
this custom can be found in the following: Edward Westermarck, Marriage
Ceremonies in Morocco (London: Macmillan, 1914), 159, 228, etc. (see
index, s.v. “Virginity, marks of the bride’s”); Hilma Granqvist, Marriage
Conditions in a Palestinian Village (Helsinki: Akademische Buchhandlung,
1931–35), 2:127–30; and I. Ben-Ami and D. Noy, eds., Studies in Marriage
Customs (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1974), 54, 174, 260, 262, as cited in Jeffrey
H. Tigay, “Examination of the Accused Bride in 4Q159: Forensic Medicine at
Qumran,” n. 1, found at ccat.sas.upenn.edu/jwst/4q159.htm (accessed 22 April
2004). Regarding this practice among Gypsies or Romani, W. R. Rishi, in Excerpts
from Roma, www.romani.org/rishi/rmoral.html (accessed 22 April 2004), wrote,
“A Romani girl has to prove her virginity on the night of consummation of
her marriage; otherwise she is sent back to her parents as no boy would accept
such a girl.” While this practice is repugnant to most Westerners, it is,
nonetheless, a tradition of these people which must be placed within their
historical and cultural context.
- Jon Krakauer, “Krakauer: Church Rigidly Controls Its Past,” Salt Lake
Tribune, 13 July 2003.
- www.randomhouse.com/features/krakauer/appearances.html (accessed 21 July
- Johnson, “Under the Banner of Heaven.”
- John L. Smith, “A Fabulous New Book,” Newsletter 2/18 (November–December
2003): 2. John L. Smith recently began a newsletter not associated with UMI,
which operation he sold several years ago and in which he no longer has any
- Nicholas Wapshott, with additional files from Raymond Archer, “The Mormons
Are No Saints . . . And They Are Not About to Change,” Ghanaian Chronicle
on the Web, 20 November 2003. The article is very critical of the Church of
Jesus Christ. The second paragraph announces that Krakauer had concluded in
his book that “the Church is an authoritarian, racially intolerant, homophobic
organization, whose members encourage extreme-right militias and [are] reluctant
to shake off their polygamous past.” The article, which is not only unfriendly
toward the church but also toward the political party in power, suggests that
the church has “the closest links with the Central Intelligence Agency” and
bribed the Minister of Information and Presidential Affairs when it was trying
to build the temple in Accra, which was dedicated in January 2004.
author.html (accessed 21 July 2003). While Krakauer grew up in Corvallis, he
later lived for a time in Seattle and presently lives in Boulder, Colorado,
with his wife of twenty-three years, Linda Moore.
.Jewish Mailing List 34/15 (22 January 2001).
.com/disc/guest/krakauer/profile.html (accessed 27 August 2003).
.com (accessed 29 August 2003).
.org/newsletters/aug03/other.htm (accessed 9 September 2003); “Banner of Blood,”
The Inkslinger: The King’s English Bookshop 11 (Summer 2003): 1, 7;
Timothy Egan, “Krakauer Draws Fire from Mormon Church,” Toronto Star,
19 July 2003; and, Jane Lampman, “When Certainty Reigns, Reason Goes into Thin
Air,” Christian Science Monitor, 17 July 2003.