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Dan Lafferty gives raves to 'Banner'

Published: Wednesday, July 16 2003 3:07 p.m. MDT

DRAPER — Convicted double murderer Dan Lafferty told the Deseret Morning News a year ago that he was eagerly awaiting Jon Krakauer's new book describing the murders he and his brother, Ron Lafferty, committed in 1984.

Lafferty said he considers Krakauer's just-released book, "Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith," to be a part of God's plan for him to spread his "strange" revelation.

On Tuesday at the Utah State Prison, Lafferty reiterated in an interview with KSL Newsradio 1160 that he slashed the throats of his sister-in-law and her 15-month-old daughter 19 years ago — on July 24, 1984 — in a "quest for truth" and as part of "understanding God."

Lafferty gives Krakauer's book a rave review, although the book has received mixed reviews from major publications. And the book has rankled leadership at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"I got a chance to read it. I liked it a lot," Lafferty said in the interview with KSL.

During the interview, Lafferty, clad in a prison jumpsuit, remained chained to the floor, a long rubber-banded beard meandering down his chest.

"There are a number of inaccuracies that are not significant, but Jon, being an outsider, I think he did a good job."

One example, he said, is Krakauer reportedly said the murders took place in Provo, when they actually occurred in American Fork.

Reviewers have described the book as a broad, outsider's view of Mormon fundamentalism, with the Lafferty brothers as poster children for religious belief gone awry.

The Economist magazine described the book as focusing on Mormon fundamentalism but falling short in explaining the LDS Church's phenomenal growth worldwide.

The book and its resulting controversy has put the spotlight on one of Utah's most infamous murder cases just in time for the murders' 19-year anniversary.

Ron and Dan Lafferty are in prison for the ritual murders of Brenda Lafferty and her daughter, Erica. Dan is serving life without parole, while Ron is on death row with his last remaining appeals passing through the hourglass.

Ron Lafferty has declined to give interviews to news reporters regarding the book.

Dan Lafferty claims the murders were ordered by God as a revelation while the brothers were involved with a religious group called The School of the Prophets (the group claims both men were kicked out for their radical beliefs four months before the murders).

"I believe it was God's business. I'm doing it for God," Lafferty told KSL. "It's all part of God's strange plan, and it's strange, that's an understatement . . . (The book) is probably the closest thing to being a celebrity now. I've never had a celebrity effect."

Leaders of the LDS Church say they resent being associated with such a man, who himself jokes about being crazy.

"This book is not history, and Krakauer is no historian," said LDS church spokesman Mike Otterson. "He is a storyteller who cuts corners to make the story sound good. His basic thesis appears to be that people who are religious are irrational, and that irrational people do strange things."

In addition to focusing on the Lafferty brothers, Krakauer writes about church founder Joseph Smith and the organization of the LDS Church in 1830.

Otterson said Krakauer focuses on a handful of historians who are "unsympathetic" to the church.

The book's author, who also penned "Into Thin Air," expressed surprise at reaction from members of the LDS Church. During a Tuesday appearance on NBC's "Dateline," Krakauer referred to Mormon culture as a "culture of violence."

On the show, Krakauer said he doesn't want to put Dan Lafferty in a favorable light.

"Dan Lafferty and Osama bin Laden are cut from the same cloth," he told "Dateline."

In reaction the the church's critical remarks, Krakauer said he was surprised that Mormons were angered by his book, adding he felt he distinctly explained the difference between Mormons and Mormon fundamentalists.

Lafferty, who believes he is the prophet Elijah and will declare the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, said he has spent most of his recent days responding to mail generated by the book.

Just as the murders themselves, Lafferty said Krakauer's book was all part of a divine plan to spread Lafferty's prophesies, including his personal revelation that when Christ comes he will lead a wild party.

"It's OK that people think I'm crazy and that's OK. I even joke about being crazy. It doesn't bother me that everybody thinks I'm insane," Lafferty said.

The book also returns to the public spotlight the infamous murders, how Dan Lafferty took a vacuum cleaner cord and strangled Brenda Lafferty as she begged for her child's life, and how he then took a barber's razor and slashed the throats of her and her daughter. He then wiped the blade on the kitchen curtains.

"I couldn't imagine myself, with my personality, which is to want to do what's right, I could never not do what I did," he said.


LDS Church statement

"Krakauer's portrayal of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is utterly at odds with what I — and millions like me — have come to know of the church, its goodness and the decency of its people. This book is an attempt to tell the story of the so-called fundamentalist or polygamous groups in Utah, and to tie their beliefs to the doctrines and the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The result is a full frontal assault on the veracity of the modern church." — Mike Otterson, LDS Church spokesman


E-mail: gfattah@desnews.com.

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