If you’ve been hearing a lot of buzz surrounding FX’s original limited series Under the Banner of Heaven, you’re not alone! The show, created by Dustin Lance Black, is inspired by the true crime bestseller by Jon Krakauer, and tells the events that led to the 1984 murder of Brenda Wright Lafferty (portrayed by Daisy Edgar-Jones) and her baby daughter in a suburb in the Salt Lake Valley, Utah. Detective Jeb Pyre (Andrew Garfield) investigates the Lafferty family and unearths buried truths about the origins of the LDS religion which lead him to question his own faith. If you’re a fan of the show and would like to study the background of the LDS faith or read more about the intersection between LDS history, violence, and fundamentalism, this list is for you.
By Todd Compton
A meticulously researched and masterly study of 33 women who were married to Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism.
By Brittany Chapman Nash
Latter-day Saint historian Brittany Chapman Nash gives a historical overview and explanation of the early practice of polygamy among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
By Boyd K. Packer
General authority and LDS apostle Boyd K. Packer examines the doctrines and practices surrounding the holy temples that dot the world, focusing on a temple’s purpose, beauty, and the blessings it offers.
Saints: the Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days. Volume 1, The Standard of Truth, 1815–1846
In 1820, a young farm boy in search of truth has a vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ. Three years later, an angel guides him to an ancient record buried in a hill near his home. With God’s help, he translates the record and organizes the Savior’s church in the latter days. Soon others join him, accepting the invitation to become Saints through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The Standard of Truth is the first book in a new, four-volume narrative history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
By Linda Sillitoe
A skilled con artist by anyone’s assessment, Mark Hofmann eluded exposure by police and document authenticators—the FBI, Library of Congress, the LDS historical department, and polygraph experts—until George Throckmorton discovered the telltale microscopic alligatoring that was characteristic of the forgeries. What ensued was a suspense-ridden cat-and-mouse game between seasoned prosecutors and a clever, homicidal criminal.
By Anthony Sweat
Members of the LDS faith who watch Under the Banner of Heaven will recognize portrayals of temple clothing and ordinances in the show. Anthony Sweat, assistant professor of Religious Education at Brigham Young University, offers answers about the temple endowment by providing a frame to understand the purposes and procedures of its ordinances.
By Ronald W. Walker
On September 11, 1857, a band of Mormon militia, under a flag of truce, lured unarmed members of a party of emigrants from their fortified encampment and, with their Paiute allies, killed them. More than 120 men, women, and children perished in the slaughter. Neither a whitewash nor an exposé, Massacre at Mountain Meadows provides a clear and accurate account of a key event in American religious history.
By David Ebershoff
The story of Ann Eliza Young’s crusade against polygamy interwines with a tale of murder involving a polygamist family in present-day Utah.
By Mette Ivie Harrison
In the predominantly Mormon city of Draper, Utah, some seemingly perfect families have deadly secrets. Linda Wallheim is the mother of five grown boys and the wife of a Mormon bishop. As bishop, Kurt Wallheim is the ward’s designated spiritual father, and that makes Linda the ward’s unofficial mother, and her days are filled with comfort visits, community service, and informal counseling. But Linda is increasingly troubled by the church’s patriarchal structure and secrecy, especially as a disturbing situation takes shape in the ward.
By Rachel Jeffs
The daughter of the self-proclaimed prophet of the FLDS Church describes the abusive patriarchal culture in which she was raised by sister wives and dominating men and discusses how her father remains a powerful influence on his followers.
By Elizabeth Smart
Ten years after her abduction from her Salt Lake City bedroom, Elizabeth Smart reveals how she survived and the secret to forging a new life in the wake of a brutal crime. On June 5, 2002, fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Smart, the daughter of a close-knit Mormon family, was taken from her home in the middle of the night by religious fanatic, Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee. She was kept chained, dressed in disguise, repeatedly raped, and told she and her family would be killed if she tried to escape. After her rescue on March 12, 2003, she rejoined her family and worked to pick up the pieces of her life.
By Tara Westover
Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag.” The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. As a way out, Tara began to educate herself, learning enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University. Her quest for knowledge would transform her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Tara Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes, and the will to change it.