"Under the Banner of Heaven," examines Mormonism, scratch that, should have examined Mormonism. Rather then mainline Mormonism, Krackauer weaves a story of a 1984 murder of a woman and her baby by two members of an FLDS group with a pretty good history of Mormonism. This history that is presented is told in such a way as to be sympathetic of the polygamist groups who fall under a general banner of FLDS, or Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints. Picking on FLDS members, and tying them with the LDS church is a much of a straw man as making Creationists in Christianity representative of the majority. However, this book made me feel sympathy for the FLDS members and their plight. They feel that it is their duty to marry at least three women and have as many children as possible. Part if this comes from D&C 132. President Woodruff issues a Manifesto stating that the Church and it's members must follow the law of the land. The FLDS members believe this is a great apostasy, that the LDS church sold out to the government of the United States. They believe it is in their right to practice their religion under the Constitution, which they believe is divinely inspired. Anyway, what you have in the end, after 100 or so years of the abolition of the practice of plural marriage, are isolated communities of practicing polygamists, including plenty of sexual abuse, brainwashing, and abuse of the social welfare system. I don't need to describe what Colorado City is like, just picture as bad as it could be, and that's how Krackauer paints it. Although, at the end, when interviewing a former FLDS member, he did acknowledge that the people in the city, despite all of the hardship, are probably happier then people outside.
I think the key, and what should have been examined further, are the people who feel so strongly that God is talking to them, telling them to do things. This was brought up in the court case regarding the murder, because an insanity claim was made, because one of the men received a revelation from God that a list of people should be killed. He wasn't deemed insane, because plenty of people believe they talk to God, and many of people believe they get answers to prayer. Are they all insane too?
In Kohlberg's moral ladder, the highest level of morality involved acting rightly, even though you will be punished for it. Here is where one can find sympathy with those in the FLDS, and even those who commit horrible crimes because they are justified through their faith. However, by what basis do we judge an action as moral or not? If one follows secular law, and disobeys God's law, is that moral?
Now, I'm an atheist, I don't follow any God's law, and have only my own morals and secular law to live by. But, how can I judge someone who, say, prays and believes they should protest a war through nonviolent means, despite getting punished, or someone who keeps their 17 children isolated an illiterate, and happens to abuse a daughter sexually because God tells him she's to be a special daughter, and must submit. Now, that story is from Alaska, and I don't think that guy was Mormon. I judge the protester is moral, but the guy from Alaska is immoral, even though both use the same reasoning for their actions. Both are acting rightly, according to their beliefs. Is it because I would be sympathetic to the cause of the protester? Would I feel differently, if the protester were violent? What if the protester were shooting politicians in order to end further violence, at least in his or her mind? Are the actions moral? So, the answer to prayer, or revelation from God is not a good basis for determining morality. So, what use is it to pray for guidance for morality? I don't mean to say that the faithful toss a coin between violence and peace when praying, it's just difficult to judge morality based on that alone.
Here's another example, of acting on the top level of morality. Jeannette and I were in the hotel on Sunday morning, and watched EWTN, a Catholic TV network. One show, the Knights of St. Michael, contrasted the Killing of the Innocents of King Herod, with abortion. The show had a Roman politician urging people to act to prevent further killing, with a modern US politician proclaiming that since the last 100 years, over 925 million babies have been