It is not my first time reading this book, but that doesn't make it easier. Or perhaps 'easier' isn't the word for it. I'm only three-quarters into the book, but my fingers already feel limp, and my mind is catatonic.
This non-fiction account tells of the murders of Brenda and Erica Lafferty, both of whom had their throats slit in the afternoon of July 24, 1984. Brenda Lafferty was the 24-year-old spouse of Allen Lafferty, the youngest in a line of six Lafferty brothers, and Erica was their baby girl. When Allen came home after work to find his wife and daughter soaked in their own blood, he called for help, and then 'went to Brenda and prayed'.
Krakauer's investigative skills really shines through in this narrative. It is a story not only of a horrible, pointless ritualistic murder in the name of God, but also of the blood-ridden history of the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints, who believe in plural marriage, the blood atonement of sinners, and the exclusion of dark-skinned peoples ('Lamanites') from the church - yet Krakauer's voice takes you through it all with a kind of bald-faced Stoicism, which for some may pass for redemption (excuse the pun).
Brenda and Erica's murders were committed by Mormon fundamentalists Ron and Dan Lafferty, who saw themselves as the 'mouthpiece' and the 'arm' of God respectively. Ron had purportedly received a 'removal revelation' from God, who had asked him and his brother to 'remove' their youngest brother's family 'in order that [God's] work may go forward'.
Dan did not follow the instruction blindly. He was also a member of the School of the Prophets and, upon hearing about his brother's revelation, prayed fervently to God for direction. Yet, his motto can be summarised by what he said to his older brother: "All I can say is make sure it's from God. You don't want to act on commandments that are not from God, but at the same time you don't want to offend God by refusing to do his work." Ultimately, it was God's word that counted.
Satisfied that the removal revelation was legitimate, Dan and Ron pushed their ways into Allen Lafferty's home and murdered his spouse and child, before continuing in hunt of two other individuals in the removal revelation: Chloe Low and Richard Stowe. Had they not been stopped in time, the brothers would have faced four charges of first-degree murder each, instead of two.
I cannot recommend this book enough. Krakauer gives a fair and objective analysis of the nature of faith, and challenges us to be a lot more educated about what it is that we believe in.