Monday, February 8, 2016

Walter White & Father Maciel: Breaking Bad in Meth & Sex

Father Maciel and Walter White: Breaking Bad in Meth and Sex

Breaking Bad is an American crime drama television series created and produced by Vince Gilligan. The show originally aired on the AMC network for five seasons, from January 20, 2008, to September 29, 2013. It tells the story of Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a struggling high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer, who, together with his former student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), turns to a life of crime, producing and selling crystallized methamphetamine to secure his family's financial future before he dies, while navigating the dangers of the criminal world. The title is from a Southern colloquialism meaning to "raise hell". Breaking Bad is set and was filmed in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

I am doing this for my family….
is the phrase and the reason chemistry teacher Walter White uses to justify his actions as he embarks on a life of manufacturing methamphetamine. The venture will become increasingly dangerous as he becomes immersed in the drug manufacturing and dealing world. Walter gradually resorts to more ruthless ways to “protect” himself, his family and his “business”. Walter evolves as a grey individual who gradually becomes more hardened as he uses everything and everyone to reach his goal. Walter’s end is good; but he shows no moral qualms regarding the means he deems necessary.
Despite being resentful, vengeful and self-centered Walter tries hard to maintain normal relationships with his wife, his disabled son and the new-born baby. To hide his double-life he constructs a web of lies and deceit. He possesses an uncanny sense of controlling, manipulating others and recruiting them to his cause while leading them to believe he has their best interests at heart. He is occasionally torn by his allegiances and by the devastating effects of his actions but reaching his goal always wins out in the end. Walter also possesses great astuteness and ingenuity to massacre his opponents.  Jesse, who is a witness and even a victim of his cruelty, is the one who gradually sees through him and turns against him.
At the very end, when his wife confronts him, Walter cruelly and cynically admits that he likes doing what he does. That it makes him feel free and strong.


I am called by God to found a Catholic Religious Order,
is the conviction that drives Marcial Maciel, a white, blue-eyed, provincial Mexican from the age of fifteen.
Marcial is fully convinced he has a calling from God. His uncomfortable childhood, with an enabling mother and a punishing father, leads him to isolation and mistrust. It is rumored he was sexually abused by one of the farm hands at Don Francisco Maciel’s Poca Sangre ranch in early puberty. He determined nobody would every hurt and humiliate him like that again. It seems he was never attracted to girls and never had a girl-friend like other precocious boys in Cotija, Michoacán. He was no good at sports. The other kids called him “sissy” or “specky-four-eyes” because of his glasses. But that was not important as he was being called by God to follow in the footsteps of his three saintly uncles, all Catholic bishops. He yearned to be admired and famous like the saintly one, his uncle Rafael[i]
With the mystical calling firmly embedded in his psyche, Marcial read every little event in his adolescence as a confirmation of his vocation. The first step was to enroll in a seminary. Off he went enthusiastically. God seemed to be against him for he was expelled from seminary three times. When he tried to imbue a small group of his fellow seminarians with true devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the superiors accused him of overfamiliarity. But Marcial remained faithful to his calling. Hidden astute resources helped him, at the age of nineteen, wheedle into the trust of his third uncle bishop, Monsignor Gonzalez Arias in Cuernavaca. This uncle bought into Marcial’s plans, thus fulfilling the budding saint’s dreams.

I am called by God to found a Catholic Religious Order
Marcial continued with his mission recruiting young boys or 9, 10 or 11 for the new order, The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He liked being close to them, too. He did not want them to be spoiled by others as they approached adolescence. As their spiritual father, he found it natural for him to introduce them to puberty; he showed them how to handle their sexual organs while they helped him lessen the tension in his scrotum. He could not tell anyone about his unique love for his seminarians because they would not understand. And this would jeopardize his God-given mission to create a new religious order that would be better and greater than the Jesuits who had rejected him in the Montezuma seminary. He used all his guiles to keep his privileged victims silent. He was able to get rid of one irate father who tried to impede the work of God. The seminarians believed he has a holy man, chosen by Jesus to start a new religious order. They felt privileged to be part of this special and unique group of Christ’s commandos. Marcial felt that his little peccadilloes paled in comparison to the gigantic mission he was fulfilling. He knew that God understood.
He was too busy instructing his seminarians, raising funds with rich widows and providing for the boys’ every need to be able to study for the priesthood. But his bishop uncle overlooked this minor detail on seeing his nephew’s zeal for souls and his vocation as a founder, the first in the family. Thus Marcial fulfilled another dream when he became a priest on November 26, 1944 at the age of twenty-four. By this time, he was training his twelve apostles, just like Jesus.

I am called by God to found a Catholic religious order.
Nothing but the best would do.  Enlisting the help of the Spanish ambassador, Martin Artajo, he secured free passage for them from Veracruz to Santander, Spain, to the Jesuit-run seminary of Comillas. Everything was going smoothly until some of the superiors started doubting his holiness and good intentions. Somehow he began using pain killers to cope with the moral suffering. Thank God his close circle of confidants understood his need for medication.  One the one hand, they agreed that he would break his vow of celibacy if he used prostitutes to relieve his pain. And it would be an even great sin if he were to enlist the help of nuns to take care of his intimate need. God forbid! On the other hand, they were willing to go in search of his Demerol. It was wonderful how they understood their role in God’s Plan.
Marcial was sure that his mission was lofty. He needed to get a foothold in Rome and at the pope’s side so that enemies of God’s plan would not halt the Legion’s growth. He had the uncanny gift of identifying the leaders in any group or organization and he used it to find out who was who in the Roman Curia. His pale blue eyes zeroed in to discover personal flaws and weaknesses. He made friends with the powerbrokers and found out what they liked and what skeletons they were hiding in the closet: money, luxury, boys… It that didn’t win them over he could always use the dirty linen to blackmail them. He sent his most intelligent and attractive seminarians to take care of the monsignors’ needs...
He had a few scary moments when God’s Plan was in danger. One in 1948 when some of his enemies at the Vatican tried to prevent getting approval for God’s new order. The Holy Spirit helped him outwit those dumb brutes. The same misguided Jesuits and Carmelites spoke ill of him and two of his own betrayed him in 1955. The Vatican powers sent him away for a couple of years until he proved his innocence. Reinstated, he put in place some legislation that would prevent his seminarians reporting him again.

I am called by God to found a Catholic Religious Order
Once he had proved his fidelity to God, it was plain sailing. He continued to enjoy the love of his seminarians. As they grew older they helped him develop sexually along with them. Pedophilia evolved into ephebophilia and eventually into homosexuality -though he would never lose his preference for the innocence and softness of puberty. He knew these dalliances were not unusual among the Roman clergy, especially in the Curia.
Some seminarians got tired of his attentions or discovered their relationship with the founder was not exclusive. This was painful but he was usually able to give them what they wanted, send them away or placate them with leadership positions. If anyone got nasty with him, Marcial knew how to take care of business: with a hint dropped here and there he could easily defame and destroy. A few nasty bastards would not understand and he had to punish them: scare them with some crazy story, tell them their heterosexuality was an obstacle to ordination, threaten them, kick them out of the seminary -Boy, how that felt good! -  get them involved with women, send them to the Congo or to remote places in Mexico, Brazil or Colombia…Who did they think they were questioning the Founder and trying to scuttle God’s Plan!
Pope John Paul II was so clueless about human malice and Roman Curia intrigue that soon Marcial was able to gain his trust. At that point Marcial could not put a step wrong. He was praised and honored. His self-confidence grew and the Legion’s success boomed.
He had always been a genius handling money and became fascinated with investing the Legion’s. His disciples had already set up a well-oiled fundraising machine. The USA was great because he Irish he had recruited we well liked and smart enough to set up mass-mailing. Gullible gringos dropped like flies sending in donations, large and small, for the seminarians and Foreign World Missions. They would believe anything. He was able to put in a few cameo appearances to beguile lonely rich elderly widows with his holiness and Mexican charm. That was great fun. Frs. Bannon and Bailleres would overwhelm them with kindness first and then he would step him to give them the coup de grace as the millions slipped out of their dying grasp into the Legion’s coffers.

I am called by God to found a Catholic Religious Order
On top of the world, Marcial wondered what it would be like to have family. He had always despised women, including their sexuality and the dirty body fluids they emanated. At least that is what he told his chosen ones. But maybe there was something to women. He had tried almost everything else: sex with minors, sex with pre-pubertal and pubertal boys -this was his specialty: having them offer up their virginity to him. Watching their arousal, their fear, their embarrassment, their confusion and having them under his control. To control them by deceit, by outsmarting them and being able to do whatever he wanted with them. There would never be anything like that. But it also gave him satisfaction to outwit and pleasure himself with the older ones. When they were older it was man to man, and he could get more from them, more heightened pleasure…He might even be able to get them to give him big one in the right place.
So he had done all that. He got tired of all those uptight seminarians and priests The vein would stand out on his forehead when he impatiently screamed: “Get out of my sight! You are useless! You don’t know how to do it!” If they didn’t do better the next time he would expel them from his harem. Why should he waste his R&R with those ungrateful little brats! So he began exploring the pleasures of boys and young men who were less inhibited. He would find them when he left Legion headquarters with $10, 000.00 cash pocket money given by the unwitting procurator general and disappeared for a few days in Bogota, Caracas, Rio…These professionals knew how to do it. He needed to distract his mind from the heavy responsibilities of Superior General of the most successful Catholic religious order, the darling of popes and princes. Little entertainments for little people: soccer and soap operas. But the movers and the shakers of the Kingdom of Christ deserved the best hotels, spas and resorts. He liked being incognito in a dark, well-tailored suite, or casual with his fine guayabera and Panama hat in the warmer climates…Sometimes he brought a handsome seminarian along with him. He could always leave him in the hotel when he had other appointments. The seminarian would remain in the hotel, close by the phone, at his master’s behest, like a faithful dog. The master had important meetings to attend. Maybe he had to win over a new benefactor…Occasionally, an attractive woman crossed his path, Flora or Nora, who would do anything to support God’s work. They always began by wining and dining the refined priest of the pale blue eyes, refined aquiline nose and aristocratic bearing.

I am called by God to found a Catholic Religious Order
So women, why not? By this stage he was untouchable and the challenge of new clandestine activities over-rode his cautious nature. If could get one woman to trust him enough to get under her skirts and see what havoc his weapon could wreak…Wow! He wondered how he had not discovered this pleasure earlier. The vagina won the allegiance of his Ever Ready. The way the woman surrendered to him was similar to the way the very young children had. He loved the docility. He was powerful. He was dominant. Nobody was doing it to him. He was doing it to them!
Norma, not Nora, was warm and motherly and became his constant companion. She gave him a daughter to dote on, Normita. He was so pleased with her he introduced her -as his niece- to JP II. The other woman gave him more.  Having your very own little boys! He was totally fulfilled as a man. He did feel bad about slipping into his old bad habits with them a couple of times… But he couldn’t help himself. The Devil made him do it. Damn him! Remember how St. Paul, another great apostle, had the same problem, “the sting of the flesh.”
But what really made his adrenaline rush was being able to live the double or triple life. These pendeja women thinking he was a CIA agent or that he worked with Petróleos Mexicanos. He always marveled at their gullibility. They deserved to be deceived! The same went for all the stupid Legionaries who followed him blindly; and for the craven cowards in the Roman Curia who licked his boots in exchange for the Christmas baskets, a couple of bottles of Spanish brandy and a brush with his seminarians. He felt pity for the Polish Pope, pobrecito, what with his Parkinson’s and advanced age.
The good-natured members of the Regnum Christi Movement had a very import part to play in the Power and the Glory of his brain-child, the Legion of Christ. It was easy to keep up the pretense with the young RC consecrated women. They adored him and would do anything for him. Well, almost anything. Although their frigidity or romantic infatuation was of no use to him personally, he always kept his holy mask in place before them. The same as with the masses of Regnum Christi married men, women and children who had him on a pedestal. His eyes always sparkled at the large public appearances such as Youth and Family Encounters in the USA. He even had some “useful idiots” like Jeb Bush and Rick Santorum give the keynote address.
What continued to amaze him was how he had been able to keep his private lives under wraps for so long, even among the Legion members. Why had God made him so intelligent? He knew the answer: to establish the Kingdom of Christ in society, in Christianity and all over the world. Amen!
The carousel stopped for a while when Ratzinger asked him to step down.
-What did he know? Did he think I’m decrepit? OK, so I’ll step down. But, screw him, the German. I’ll put one of my trusted men -did I say “men”? -that doesn’t matter, the Curia likes them that way- in my place. Faithful to the founder. Alvarito, whom I personally groomed since he was a boy, a pre-pubertal adolescent, and sent him to Ireland to learn English (and be with me) and then had him make his promises and put him in charge, gave him responsibilities. He will have my back until the end
-The German wants me out. Ha! We’ll see. I have friends in high places, especially in Mexico. Men who believe I can get them indulgences to cover up all their marital infidelities, their whoring, their cold-blooded murders and swindles…I will live life to its fullest. I fulfilled my mission. The Legion of Christ is unassailable. It is the richest and most successful order in the Catholic Church. No matter how they tried they could not stop me. Like Our Savior, whose footsteps I have faithfully followed from my youth, I can proclaim: “Padre, he acabado la obra que me diste!!”

[i] [i] Rafael Guízar y Valencia (April 26, 1878 – June 6, 1938) was a Mexican Catholic bishop who cared for the wounded, sick, and dying during the Mexican Revolution. Named bishop of Xalapa, he was driven out of his diocese and forced to live the remainder of his life in hiding in Mexico City. He was also a Knight of Columbus. He was an uncle of Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legion of Christ, a position from which he was removed by the See.
Guizar’s body was exhumed in 1950, twelve years after his death, and witnesses have said it had not decayed, except for the left eye, which he was said to have offered up for a sinner during his lifetime.[1]Pope Benedict XVI canonized Guízar on October 15, 2006.
“We welcome the canonization of our brother Knight, Bishop Guízar y Valencia, and know that his life of courage and legacy of evangelization will be an inspiration to each of our 1.7 million members around the world,” said Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson, who attended Guízar’s canonization in Rome.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Does this sound like the Legion of Christ?

  Revisit the past

  See above when the Legion of Christ sued. It continues to sue whose who question

Another judge criticizes Jehovah’s Witnesses’ court tactics

   January 11, 2016
A panel of judges in Philadelphia has ruled that Jehovah’s Witnesses used an “abusive tactic” to delay a trial in which a woman accused the religion’s leaders of covering up her abuse as a child.  
The Witnesses’ parent corporation, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, had won a motion in a lower court to move the case from Philadelphia to York County, which currently has the largest backlog of civil cases in Pennsylvania.
The Watchtower argued that holding the trial in Philadelphia would burden witnesses who would have to travel to testify. The appellate panel overruled the lower court, calling the Watchtower’s motion a “last-minute gambit to delay trial.”
In her opinion, Judge Patricia Jenkins refers to the Watchtower and other defendants as “the Congregations.”
“The facts strongly suggest that the motion to transfer venue was the product of bad-faith collaboration between the Congregations and the four York County witnesses,” she wrote.
The case was brought in 2013 by Stephanie Fessler, who claims she was sexually abused 30 to 50 times from the ages of 14 to 16 by a middle-aged woman in another congregation.
Jenkins didn’t elaborate on the collaboration, but her remarks were not the first time a judge has taken issue with the Watchtower’s tactics in court. In two cases in California, judges issued default judgments to plaintiffs because the Watchtower refused to produce documents and witnesses.
Fessler, 27, gave Reveal permission to use her name in this story. Jeff Fritz, Fessler’s attorney, said Watchtower policies enabled her abuser.
“The congregation and the Watchtower had knowledge of child abuse that we contend they were obligated to report to law enforcement and child welfare authorities,” he said. “They admit that they had knowledge of it, and they admit that they didn’t report it. As a result, she was subject to continued abuse.”
The Watchtower declined to comment on the case.
Fessler’s lawsuit is one of more than a dozen pending against the Watchtower in the U.S. over the organization’s child abuse policies.
A Reveal investigation last February found that since 1989, the Watchtower had directed Jehovah’s Witnesses elders to hide child sexual abuse from secular authorities. The Watchtower’s pattern of secrecy subsequently was highlighted during an inquiry by an Australian government commission, which found that the Witnesses had failed to report more than 1,000 suspected child sexual abusers in that country.
A commission that regulates charities in England currently is investigating the Witnesses’ child abuse policies.
The trial in Fessler’s case could begin as soon as this spring.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Invaders of... Cancun's Green Areas, Legionaries of Christ Paradise, Part 4

See latest part of the Legionaries' Paradise article by Emiliano Ruiz Parra ranslated from the Spanish

Invaders of ....

Plans for monumental Cathedral Our Lady of Guadalupe of the Sea in Cancun

In city block (Supermanzana) number 30 the Legionaries appropriated part of the park. They invaded it little by little. Seven thousand square meters of space had been allotted to the local community. They divided it in four: one for the pre-school, another for the elementary school, a third for the bandstand (kiosco) and the last was a green area. In the green area the Legionaries started building a small church (capilla). Whenever the padre –a Legionary of Christ- came to say Mass, one of the neighbors would open the gate for him.
One day, that neighbor, Mario Cortés, had to leave town and he loaned the keys to the padre; loaned them until his return. Mario never saw those keys again. The chapel passed into Legion hands and a year later so did the 1,000 square meters of green area it stood on.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Legionaries Paradise

Refer to or ongoing articles

Legionaries' Paradise is a series of tranlations from a Mexican article on the Chetumal-Cancun Prelature of the Legion of Christ; it presents the alternative story to the glowing success described by the Legion as it celebrates its 75th Anniversary.

Follow link above to find series.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Closer Look at the Legion of Christ (recent documentary)

This documentary appeared about a year ago on Irish Television; it was researched by their religion investigative reporter, Mick Peelo, who spent years gathering information and interviewing active and former Legionaries.
He focused on how the Legion penetrated Ireland and so successfully recruited young men despite them being unknown and despite the tight control that His Grace, Archbishop john Charles McQuaid (her seen with Irish Indepedence Leader and First President, Eamonn De Valera)  had on the Irish Church at that time. But Fr. Maciel and his men out-charmed the Irish!

(Initially blogged by ReGAIN)

PS one of Maciel's first accusers, F.D., a Spanish born Legionary studying at the major seminary in Rome, was exiled by Maciel to Ireland where he later fell in love with an Irish girl who became his wife and lived happily ever after with him...

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Alberto Athie Presents at SNAP conference in Washington DC (Cit of Alexandria, VA) this Aug 1-3

Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) are holding their annual conference in Old Town Alexandria this week end.

Alberto Athie, a strong defender of Human Rights in Mexico and Latin America, and a personal friend of Father Maciel's victims, just flew in from Mexico City and will present on how Maciel escaped unpunished and how we can prevent this from happening in the future.

Welcome, Alberto

Welcome all survivor from all over to continue revealing and healing!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Incestuous Fr. Maciel, LC, the Warren Jeffs of Strict Observance Catholics?


Mormonism and the Problem of Jon Krakauer



By Max Perry Mueller | July 14, 2015

Jon Krakauer got lucky. When Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith first went on sale in the summer of 2003, Krakauer hoped that the many sins of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) he set out to expose would not go unpunished forever. And he certainly believed that his own book—framed as muckraking of faith gone bad—would help bring this day of reckoning forward. Yet Krakauer couldn’t have imagined the FLDS Church would soon become headline news for much of the next decade. In 2004, child sexual molestation charges against the FLDS Church’s reclusive prophet Warren Jeffs made him one of the most notorious men in America. Krakauer also could not have foreseen that Jeffs’ subsequent trials and police raids of FLDS communities in Utah and Texas would overlap with Mitt Romney’s two presidential campaigns, not to mention with the hit Broadway musical, The Book of Mormon. The fact that the “Mormon fundamentalist moment” of the aughts intersected with the latest “Mormon moment” in American history helped make Under the Banner of Heaven the bestselling book on Mormon history in recent memory.
Krakauer knows the work of Warren Jeffs well. Much of Under the Banner of Heaven examines how, starting in the 1980s, Warren and his father Rulon (who died in 2002) ruled with a potent mix of religious zealotry, intimidation, and corruption the 10,000-member sect, most of whose members reside in Colorado City, Arizona, located on the Utah-Arizona boarder. According to Krakauer, in the FLDS Church, men who do the church leaders’ bidding were rewarded with power, wealth, and very young wives. Dissenters and young men, who were seen as potential threats, were often run out of town. In 2004, just after Krakauer’s book debuted, Jeffs’ nephew filed a lawsuit accusing his uncle of abuse. That scandal was followed by allegations that Jeffs had presided over the marriage “sealing” of a fourteen-year-old girl to her nineteen-year-old cousin. Those accusations set in motion a series of events that began to dismantle the religious community, which was built on a “patch of desert,” as Krakauer put it, on the upper rim of the Grand Canyon. Church members had hoped that such isolation would allow them to be “left alone to follow the sacred principle of plural marriage,” which the LDS Church had officially abandoned in 1890. In May 2006, a nation-wide manhunt began after the FBI placed Jeffs on its “Ten Most Wanted List.” In August of that same year, Jeffs was arrested following a traffic stop in Las Vegas. Along with one of his estimated 80 wives, in Jeffs’ Cadillac SUV police found more than a dozen cell phones, a police scanner, dozens of pairs of sunglasses, three wigs, and $54,000 in cash. In 2011, Jeffs was convicted of aggravated sexual assault against two of his “spiritual brides,” aged 12 and 15, and sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years.
These events kept journalists, pundits, and casual readers coming back to Under the Banner of Heaven, in hopes of understanding the origins of this violent and abusive faith. After all, what Krakauer claimed on the pages of his book—that the church is run by pedophiles claiming to speak to and for God, and who use their prophetic authority to insist that teenage girls submit to their often octogenarian husbands—was borne out in the court documents and witness testimonies produced during Jeffs’ trials.
As Matthew Bowman, the author of the Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith, explained to me, Under the Banner of Heaven “rode the wave of Warren Jeffs for a few years until it became entrenched” as the single most influential book on Mormonism published this century. (Full Disclosure: Bowman is a friend and colleague and I consulted on much of his book.) The popularity of Krakauer’s book occurred despite the LDS Church’s efforts to keep modern-day Mormon polygamy and the LDS Church separate in the collective American mind. In fact, while Jeffs was on the run in 2006—and HBO’s Big Love was all the rage on TV—the LDS Church declared that “there is no such thing as a ‘Mormon Fundamentalist.’” Instead, the LDS Church insisted that journalists refer to Jeffs’ church as a “polygamist sect,” not a Mormon one.
Yet Krakauer, who grew up in heavily Mormon Corvallis, Oregon, doesn’t believe that the chasm between the two faiths is as vast as the LDS Church claims. After all, “Mormons and those who call themselves Mormon fundamentalists believe in the same holy texts and the same sacred history,” Krakauer writes in Under the Banner of Heaven. “Both believe that Joseph Smith, who founded Mormonism in 1830, played a vital role in God’s plan for mankind; both LDS and FLDS consider him to be a prophet comparable to Moses and Isaiah.” And like fundamentalists who claim to be his true spiritual descendants, Joseph Smith also took teenage girls as his plural wives, a fact that the LDS Church has only just recently acknowledged.
Based on this shared history, Krakauer claims that LDS authorities have learned to tolerate Mormon fundamentalists like “a crazy uncle,” but nevertheless an uncle within the same Mormon family. Despite their church’s protestations, many if not most Mormons still have “‘polygs’ hidden in the attic,” as Krakauer puts it. Even Mitt Romney’s father, George who also ran for president, was born on a polygamist compound in Mexico that was established by Mitt’s great-grandfather in the 1890s to avoid anti-polygamy prosecution.
But Krakauer is (mostly) wrong here. In fact, in their efforts to distance themselves from their polygamist past, the LDS Church and its members have become virulent “polyg” hunters. They are quick to call church officials and the cops on any suspecting offenders of the Utah State Constitution, which explicitly outlaws polygamy, or of LDS marriage norms of traditional, heterosexual monogamy.
The fact that the LDS Church hasn’t been able to shake off the scarlet letter of polygamy has a lot to do with, I would argue, the continuing popularity of Under the Banner of Heaven. This is what I call the “Krakauer problem”: more than twelve years after it was first published, and after Romney’s presidential campaigns helped make Mormonism an acceptable American religion, Under the Banner of Heaven remains the definitive book on Mormon history in popular culture. Under the Banner of Heaven spent months onThe New York Times bestseller list, and it is still ranked number one on Amazon’s bestsellers in the “Mormonism” list. Its popularity is also reflected at social events—even social events with other scholars of religion. When historians of Mormon history like me explain what they study, most of those who have read one book on the faith will tell us that they’ve read Under the Banner of Heaven. And, as Krakauer himself intended, they will also tell us that they understand it to be not only an exposé of Mormon fundamentalism, but also a reliable history of the origins of the LDS Church, too.
To be sure, this is a problem for the LDS Church and for its members. Mainstream Mormons don’t want to be called upon to answer for Jeffs anymore than “mainstream” Muslims want to be called upon to answer for jihadists. Yet, this is also a problem for scholars of Mormonism, a problem that we’ve yet to solve. Scores of both scholarly and popular books on Mormonism have been published since Under the Banner of Heaven was first released in 2003. Yet none have come close to displacing it as the dominant portrayal of Mormon history in American culture.

THE QUESTION IS, WHY? What’s so compelling about Under the Banner of Heaven? That is, what makes it such a gripping and troubling read? The primary answer is perhaps an obvious one. Krakauer knows how to write a page-turner. “In its depiction of that strange American blend of piety, violence and longing for the End times,” wrote Don Lattin in his review of the book in the San Francisco Chronicle, Under the Banner of Heaven is a true-crime thriller “right up there with In Cold Blood and The Executioner’s Song.” In the late 1990s, Krakauer became one of the most celebrated and controversial narrative non-fiction writers of his generation. All of Krakauer’s stories focus on the human desire to conquer their environment. Whether it’s in recounting a catastrophic Everest expedition or the story of a promising young man who dies alone in the Alaskan wilderness, Krakauer imbues his writing with a feeling of impending doom—when humans let their own hubris go unchecked, disaster is unavoidable. In Under the Banner of Heaven the disaster occurs in 1984, when brothers Ron and Dan Lafferty, recent converts to a brand of Mormon fundamentalism, cut the throat of their young sister-in-law, Brenda Lafferty, in her home in American Forks, Utah, and subsequently the throat of her infant daughter. Krakauer uses these murders as an entrance into three narrative strains that he interweaves throughout the book, the three narratives ultimately becoming one on Brenda Lafferty’s doorstep.
The first part of Krakauer’s narrative is focused on the early history of the LDS Church and centers on the life and leadership of the church’s founder and prophet, Joseph Smith, Jr. Krakauer follows Smith from the founding of the church in Palmyra, New York, through the nascent church’s tumultuous attempts to establish permanent settlements in Ohio and Missouri, to Smith’s eventual murder at the hands of an anti-Mormon mob in Nauvoo, Illinois. Krakauer describes Smith as a religious genius who taught an “optimistic cosmology” that departed radically from the Calvinistic doctrine of total human depravity that many of his earliest followers inherited from their parents’ Yankee Puritanism. Instead, as Krakauer explains Smith’s basic theological beliefs: “Anyone who elected to obey church authorities, receive the testimony of Jesus, and follow a few simple rules could work his way up the ladder until, in the afterlife, he became a full-fledged god—the ruler of his very own world.”
According to Krakauer, Smith’s success at attracting converts led him make increasingly brazen theological innovations. Smith’s revelations about “the Principle of celestial marriage” sparked internal feuds among the Saints, then gathering in Nauvoo, and angered the Illinois public at-large. After Smith’s death, the Mormons left the United States to seek isolation in Utah. Yet polygamy did not die with Smith. Instead under Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, “the Principle” became the defining organizing principle of Mormon culture as they built their Zion in the high plains desert. Only at the end of the nineteenth century did continual conflict with the federal government force the Mormons to give up polygamy.*
This drastic departure from what had been the defining organizing principle of early Mormons leads to the second part of Krakauer’ narrative—the history of Mormon fundamentalism, which emerged in 1890 when then-LDS President and Prophet Wilford Woodruff declared that “‘it was the will of the Lord’ that the church stop sanctioning the doctrine of plural marriage.” Most Mormons eventually accepted the change. But small groups of Mormons felt that the LDS Church had betrayed the true faith. A small number broke from the church, settling small communities throughout the American West. More than a century later, much to the dismay of the mainline LDS Church, not only do Mormon fundamentalists continue to practice polygamy, but they also “consider themselves to be the keepers of the flame—the only true and righteous Mormons,” Krakauer explains. The fundamentalist prophets like Warren Jeffs taught that plural marriage brings order to this world and the next. It forces women into their proper roles as servants to their husbands, and provides for their eternal salvation as no woman can enter the kingdom of heaven if she has not practiced the Principle. Unwilling to compromise celestial marriage for acceptance into the American mainstream as the LDS Church has done, Mormon fundamentalists leaders, who run Colorado City, Arizona “like Kabul under the Taliban” believe they alone carry forth Joseph Smith’s true message.
The story of the Lafferty brothers’ gruesome murders of their sister-in-law and infant niece in 1984 is the third and most problematic part of Krakauer’s narrative. He uses the Lafferty brothers to tie the present-day LDS Church to Mormon fundamentalism by demonstrating that, at its core, the LDS Church has not abandoned its violent polygamous past. After all, the Lafferty brothers were not raised as Mormon fundamentalists, but were reared in what Krakauer describes as a model LDS family. They were known as “hundred-and-ten percenters” in their Provo, Utah community, fully dedicated to living saintly lives—lives that today’s LDS Church maintains would be theologically and culturally incompatible with Mormon fundamentalism. And yet according to Krakauer, it was exactly this dedication to their faith taken to its logical conclusion that drew Ron and Dan Lafferty to begin studying Mormon origins, especially Joseph Smith’s revelations on plural marriage. After meeting a Canadian Fundamentalist prophet, Ron and Dan, along their other brothers, quickly worked to establish their own fundamentalist community based upon the principles of plural marriage and strict patriarchal control. While most of the brothers’ wives went reluctantly along with their husbands’ drastic changes, Brenda Lafferty, the wife of the youngest Lafferty brother, Allen, refused and urged her sister-in-laws to do so as well.* When Ron’s wife Dianna divorced him, Ron received a revelation from God to kill Brenda and her infant daughter, Erica. Ron and Dan carried out the revelation and after living on the run for a time, the two brothers were apprehended, tried, and convicted of the murders.

SCHOLARS OF MORMONISM—both within and outside the LDS Church—have taken Krakauer to task for his richly detailed, but ultimately self-serving research. (Following the initial publication of Under the Banner of Heaven in June 2003, the LDS Church published a lengthy critique of both Krakauer’s sourcing and his interpretation of Mormon theology.)
Bowman explains that because his book is so thesis-driven, in telling his tale about the origins of polygamy and about the Mormons’ propensity to violence in the nineteenth century, Krakauer “sacrifices accuracy on the alter of sensationalism. He treats as facts rumors and unreliable sources, which serious historians have debunked.”
J.B. Haws, a professor of history at Brigham Young University and author of The Mormon Image in the American Mind, notes that of particular concern is how Krakauer “makes little distinction between [LDS] polygamy past and [FLDS] polygamy present.” According Sarah Barringer Gordon, a renowned legal scholar on church-state relations who has written extensively on the history of Mormon polygamy, Joseph Smith built from the ground up a radical new Christian society, of which a radically new approach to marriage was one part. On the other hand, as Gordon explained to the Salt Lake Tribune a few weeks after Jeffs’ 2011 conviction, “[Warren] Jeffs inherited a great deal of religious power and spent his life exploiting it,” including teaching his young brides that their highest calling was to please him sexually. To be sure, historians continue to debate Joseph Smith’s fundamental motivations behind introducing polygamy to his followers. However, most agree that in the early 1840s, Joseph Smith revealed a theological system that empowered polygamous wives to participate in the civil and religious governance of Mormon communities. In the 2000s, Jeffs delivered prophecies that required that FLDS women submit unconditionally to their husbands.
And yet the Krakauer problem doesn’t end with problematic sources and faulty interpretations of theology. To contextualize Under the Banner of Heaven as a piece of writing, the literary “parents” to Krakauer’s book are not only twentieth-century true-crime thrillers and captivity narratives like Capote’s In Cold Blood (which, of course, has also been criticized for blurring the lines between fact and fiction in service of a better story). Bowman says Krakauer’s version of Mormon history is “descended from the works of Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Jack London who all wrote nineteenth-century dime novels premised on the notion that Brigham Young’s Zion was a totalitarian dictatorship complete with secret police and young Mormon maidens pining for rescue from the grimly-bearded elders of the church.”
Part of the Krakauer problem then becomes a problem of genre confusion. To be sure, Under the Banner of Heaven is meticulously researched with extensive endnotes. And Krakauer’s hours of interviews with former members of the FLDS expose the abuses that the leadership of this insular community have long perpetrated. And he does so with arguably more authority than even the many Mormon fundamentalist captivity narratives published before or since. Yet, more than history or investigative journalism, Under the Banner of Heaven is first and foremost a page-turning polemic against religion in general and Mormonism—in all its forms—in particular. As such, if it can be solved at all, the Krakauer problem cannot be solved by peer-reviewed biographies of Joseph Smith, like Richard Bushman’s celebrated and exhaustive Rough Stone Rolling, published in 2005.* Nor can it be solved by trade press books like Bowman’s own The Mormon People, which came out in 2012, and has been perhaps the best single-volume history of Mormonism published in the last decade. Krakauer tells a better, more gripping story because he writes by a different set of rules that values thesis over fact.
Krakauer believes that there are degrees of difference—not distinctions of kind—between the murderous Lafferty Brothers, the Mormon fundamentalists, and the LDS Church. This despite the fact that the Lafferty brothers never belonged to Warren Jeffs’ church. And this despite the fact that the mainstream Mormons are, as Gordon has put it, “the most antipolygamy people you could meet.” Yet Krakauer, like others before him and since, makes the argument that because each group claims to be the true heirs to Joseph Smith’s legacy, whether they recognize each other as such or not, they all belong to Joseph Smith’s Mormon faith. However, while they all might belong to the Mormon movement, Warren Jeffs is not LDS. For that matter, Lafferty brothers aren’t FLDS. In fact, most Mormon polygamists look and live more like TLC’s Sister Wives—consenting adults with jobs and careers, who wear clothes from the Gap instead of long prairie skirts and bonnets, whose children attend public schools in communities far away from Colorado City, and who reject the FLDS as dishonoring the Mormon tradition even more vociferously than the LDS Church. When I had the chance to visit with Sister Wives’ Kody Brown and his four wives when they came Boston in 2011 to film an episode of their very popular reality show, they told that the main reason that they chose to “come out” as polygamists was to try to displace Warren Jeffs as the dominant face of Mormon polygamy.
At its core, Krakauer’s thesis is that faith corrupts. And absolute faith—like those held by Mormon fundamentalists—corrupts absolutely, to the point that brothers kill another brother’s wife and child; to the point that thousands of parents allow their teenage daughters to become the spiritual brides of church leaders. The closer the faithful hue to the origins of the faith, the more radical the faithful. As such, the difference between the FLDS and the LDS is that the LDS has moved away from the founding principles (notably the “Principle” of polygamy) to become the kind of friendly, family-oriented Mormon friends and playmates, teachers and coaches, whom Krakauer encountered when he was a child in Oregon. But, according to Krakauer these Mormons’ faith still corrupted their ability to reason, to “sustain belief when confronted with facts that appear to refute it.”
And yet for Krakauer the corrupting power of faith isn’t particular to Mormonism. Mormonism—in the extreme form he presents it—becomes a case study of the irrationality and violence inherent to all faith. “As a means of motivating people to be cruel or inhumane,” Krakauer explains in the book’s introduction, “as a means of inciting evil, to borrow the vocabulary of the devout—there may be no more potent force than religion.”
Krakauer’s view on Mormonism in particular and religion in general is a problem. But it’s a problem not only for scholars of religion but also religious people, whose faith Krakauer reduces to a tool of coercion. And as such scholars of religion should pay attention to how, beyond just the FLDS and Warren Jeffs, the lives of the religious people whose sins and traumas Krakauer profiled with such pathos have unfolded since the publication of his book.
The case of Elizabeth Smart might be a good place to start. In Under the Banner of Heaven, Krakauer chronicles the then-14-year-old’s abduction from her Salt Lake City home in 2002 at the hands of another self-proclaimed polygamist Mormon prophet and his wife. Krakauer argues that it was Smart’s devotion to her LDS faith that made her susceptible to the manipulation of her kidnapper, who allegedly quoted revelations from Joseph Smith while he raped her almost nightly during her nine-month captivity. In recent years, Smart, who has become an advocate for victims of sex crimes and human trafficking, has herself spoken out against how traditional Mormon sexual purity lessons kept her from simply running away from her captures while they were walking the streets of Salt Lake City, just miles from her home.
Yet, as JB Haws pointed out to me, Elizabeth Smart, who recently gave birth to her first child with her husband whom she met on her Mormon mission in France, has also spoken about how her faith sustained her during and after her captivity. “I wonder if Elizabeth Smart’s resilience, activism and strength and religious commitment will give readers [of Under the Banner of Heaven] pause—a sort of a decade-later postscript,” Haws suggested. “Will it make readers ask, ‘What is it about Mormonism that produces more Elizabeth Smarts than Laffertys?’”
Max Perry Mueller is a contributing editor to Religion & Politics.
*Corrections: The youngest Lafferty brother’s name was Allen, but he was originally misidentified as Dan. The LDS Church ended polygamy in the nineteenth century, not the twentieth. Richard Bushman’s book was published in 2005, not 2007 as originally stated. The paperback version came out in 2007.