Book Review: Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith

February 12, 2006 | 46 comments
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I have a friend –I know her through the homeschooling community–with an interest in the Church. She told me that one of the books that she read about the church was Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith. Now, she’s not stupid–she didn’t expect it to be unbiased–but she did want to know my reaction to it. So I read it and then sent her this email:

Hi xxxxxxxxx,

I read Under the Banner of Heaven this weekend, and I think my reaction to it is probably about what your reaction would be to a book that argued that homeschooling should be illegal on the basis of a few abusive families who hid their abuse by claiming to homeschool.

I was really amazed at how fast and loose Krakauer was with the evidence. I could give you literally dozens of examples, but I doubt you want to read all that, so let me just pick a few:

(1) His entire explanation for Joseph Smith’s polygamy is that it was about fulfilling his sexual lust with what Krakauer calls ‘nubile adolescents.’ This thesis becomes a little less convincing when you know the ages of some of the women that he married: 47, 50/51, 53/54, 58, and 56 (while Joseph Smith was in his 30s).

(2) His basic thesis is that religious belief in general–and LDS belief in particular–causes people to be violent because rationality goes out the window when people think they can talk to God. This is a fairly easy thesis to prove or disprove–about all it takes is a quick look at the statistics to see if areas with high LDS populations have a higher or lower violent crime rate than the national average. Utah County is often used for this type of thing since it has about a 90% LDS population: “An FBI report showed the Provo-Orem area to have the second-lowest rate of violent crime in the nation for the year 2000.” Of course, Krakauer doesn’t mention this but instead focuses on a few lurid and sensational cases–as if there were a single minority group (racial, religious, lifestyle, whatever) that couldn’t be painted as a hothouse for violence on the basis of a few of its members.

(3) He writes about a revelation John Taylor had in 1886 that stated that polygamy would never be ended and that some church members would be called to be ostracized by the church for practicing polygamy. What he doesn’t mention in the text is that his only source for these revelations is . . . a book printed by the FLDS Church! But in the text, he makes it sound as if the revelations are only disputed by a few angry LDS leaders when, in fact, no historian would uncritically accept these as a historical source given their attestation.

(4) He pins the blame for the Mountains Meadow Massacre cleanly on Brigham Young, despite the fact that one of his own main source for that chapter [Juanita Brooks] wrote, “The complete—the absolute—truth of the affair can probably never be evaluated by any human being; attempts to understand the forces which culminated in it and those which were set into motion by it are all very inadequate at best” (Brooks, p. 223).

(4) He often seemed to confuse the doctrine and practice of the LDS and FLDS churches; whether this was deliberate, sloppy writing, or based on his own ignorance of the differences, I can’t say. There are many false statements in the book, such as that the LDS church strongly discourages marriage between black and white members which is completely false. (In fact, a respected couple in my own congregation is an interracial couple.) Another one is that members–particularly women–are encouraged to be mindless sheep. But his own example of Brenda Lafferty as a headstrong woman who wouldn’t tolerate any nonsense suggests otherwise.

I could go on with similar examples from virtually every page, but I think you’ve gotten the feel for my response to this book. I hope that if it raised any specific questions for you, you’ll ask me.

Julie

Note: Lest you think that it is only one quirky woman using this book as a primer on Mormonism, go do a search on Amazon using the keyword ‘Mormon.’ Most days, you’ll get this book as the bestselling hit. It also comes up as the second most likely title to be purchased by someone who does that search. Ugh. Those interested in a more thorough response than mine should read this.

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46 Responses to Book Review: Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith

  1. danithew on February 12, 2006 at 10:40 pm

    Julie, thanks for this review. Months ago my wife was invited to attend a meeting of medical resident women who have a book club and were discussing this book during that particular week. The group consisted of women from a variety of different belief systems and to top if off, my wife hadn’t had an opportunity to read the book. Basically it was her task defend the Church as a knowledgeable member. She actually enjoyed the discussion that took place.

    It is surprising and disappointing that so many have chosen this obviously biased text as their source of information on the LDS Church.

  2. Guy Murray on February 12, 2006 at 11:39 pm

    Yes, Julie–thank you for this quick mini review. Though if and when you had the time, I’d be very interested in the more extensive review you usually do on books you read. It is a sad commentary that so many folks equate this book with the Church. This past fall, some old friends were passing through town, and wanted to grill me on aspects of Church belief, based on their reading of the book.

    Following up on thesis 2, the main characters in his book were not LDS. I didn’t read the book; however, my recollection is that they were some type of fundamentalists, not members in good standing with the LDS Church when they committed their violent acts. As another reviewer has commented, “This book is not history, and Krakauer is no historian”

  3. Stephen M (Ethesis) on February 12, 2006 at 11:50 pm

    Interesting, so he is more interested in making a thematic and readable book than something honest.

  4. Wilfried on February 13, 2006 at 12:24 am

    Good job, Julie.

    Well, the book has meanwhile been translated in various languages and you can imagine the effect on the image of the Church abroad. Critical reviewers, however, have taken Krakauer to task. One Dutch reviewer called him a “writing Michael Moore” – to be seen in that kind of perspective and to be taken with a lot of salt. Not all reviewers, and certainly not all readers, have that good sense though. For them, Krakauer is speaking about regular Mormons… Foreign reviews of “Under the banner of heaven” or reader commentaries can easily be found by googling in a target language with the words Krakauer + the name “Mormons” in that language.

  5. Julie M. Smith on February 13, 2006 at 12:27 am

    Guy– you are correct. The people he writes about were all excommunicated for polygamy, yet somehow their subsequent violent behavior is the Church’s fault.

  6. a random John on February 13, 2006 at 12:39 am

    Julie,

    Can’t we let this bannergate thing die already? Now you’re writing essays about it for your non-member friends? I for one miss Banner of Heaven.

  7. Julie M. Smith on February 13, 2006 at 12:47 am

    One other thing, Guy: my original intention was to do a point-by-point review, but a complete catalogue of his errors and misrepresentations could easily run to one page of review for every three pages of the book, and that’s not hyperbole. The book is so biased that I would consider it a waste of time to give it that level of attention. Hopefully a few more examples will give you a feel for the book and a sense for why I didn’t think it worth a point-by-point rebuttal:

    In describing one of the Lafferty brothers after he had had the ‘revelation’ to kill his sister-in-law (but before doing it) he describes him as having done nothing outside the norm for Utah County (since, you know, Mormons get revelations to kill people all the time). Just a few pages prior, he had described him as being a ‘pariah’ in the community since he had been excommunicated and lost his family and job. So which is it: normal or pariah?

    He describes the Word of Wisdom as ‘draconian’ and writes that “Pioneer Day is perhaps the Saints’ most important holiday.”

    He describes the father of the Lafferty brothers as settling down to “raise his family to be exemplary Latter-day Saints” and then on the very next page he describes him beating “the living tar our of his children [and] his wife.”

    He writes that the First Pres. and Quorum of the Twelve “hold sway over the institution and its membership with absolute power.” (Which, of course, explains the consistent, church-wide 100% home teaching rate . . .)

  8. DHofmann on February 13, 2006 at 1:17 am

    > Another one is that members…are encouraged to be mindless sheep. (edited)

    3 Nephi 11:28 which reads “…neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine…” would seem to agree with this particular assertion.

  9. Guy Murray on February 13, 2006 at 1:22 am

    Julie, Thanks for these other nuggets. Utah County, is indeed one of the more unique places on the planet . . . but he does seem to stretch a wee bit. The Church has actually compiled a few reviews and responses to Krakauer’s book on their website here.

    Thanks again.

  10. Geoff J on February 13, 2006 at 1:24 am

    FYI – DKL wrote a review of this book as well. You can find it here. I haven’t read either the book or the entire review yet but I’m told that it (the review) is very good.

    Here is a sampler quote (the final paragraph):

    “Traditional bigotry has always been best represented by charismatic figures writing compel-ling prose that mixes outright lies with sweeping generalizations from shockingly small samples. This formula marshals anecdotal evidence alongside pseudo-science and pseudo-history to subjugate women, bully minorities, and malign religions. Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith falls squarely within this tradition.”

  11. VeritasLiberat on February 13, 2006 at 9:18 am

    DHoffman wrote:

    “> Another one is that members…are encouraged to be mindless sheep. (edited)

    3 Nephi 11:28 which reads “…neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine…â€? would seem to agree with this particular assertion.”

    In what way? I think the point of the scripture is that we’re not supposed to get bogged down in arguments that generate much more heat than light. You know the type — everybody argues their own opinion without really listening to anybody else’s point of view, feelings are hurt, those on the opposing side of the debate are held to be idiots and/or unrighteous, nobody’s mind is changed, no good is accomplished in the world.

  12. BrianJ on February 13, 2006 at 9:27 am

    I was not at all surprised at how Krakauer played around with evidence: look at the way “Into Thin Air” was received by the masses versus how it was received by mountaineering experts (who called it sensational journalism). Krakauer writes for what I call the High School Science crowd: people who will recognize just enough of the key words to think that the writer is actually informed.

  13. LisaB on February 13, 2006 at 11:24 am

    I LOVED “Into Thin Air.” Very gripping read. Guess that tells you my mental level.

  14. DHofmann on February 13, 2006 at 11:58 am

    I wrote: “3 Nephi 11:28…would seem to agree with this particular assertion [that members are encouraged to be mindless sheep].”

    VeritasLiberat wrote: “In what way? I think the point of the scripture is that we’re not supposed to get bogged down in arguments that generate much more heat than light.”

    You’re explaining what you believe is the intent, while I’m explaining what I believe is the effect. I think that, by definition, a “mindless sheep” is someone who would prefer to keep silent instead of publicly disagreeing so as not to appear contentious.

    Maybe the problem is the wording. “Mindless sheep” could just be a clumsy way of indicating an obedient, harmonious, not-prone-to-arguing person. While “mindless” is just the author’s opinion, the word “sheep” is exactly what members try to be: Christ’s sheep.

  15. M.J. Pritchett on February 13, 2006 at 12:27 pm

    Krakauer is a great story teller. And, like it or not, this is the book that will be the basis for most educated Americans’ understanding of Mormonism for the next ten years. If you have educated non-Mormon friends and want to know what they know about Mormonism, you need to read it.

    I think that this book was strongly influenced by 9/11 and Krakauer makes a decent effort to distinguish between mainstream Mormons and wacky Mormon fundementalists, since his underlying motive is to criticise violent Islamic fundementalism, but leave mainstream Muslims alone. Nevertheless, the history he tells is the history that matters for Mormon fundementalists and he does skew the history towards his thesis.

    In my view, and I think the view of most non-Mormon readers, both Diana and Brenda Lafferty come off as sensible, capable mainstream Mormon women who stand up to their crazy fundementalist husbands, even though it ends in divorce for Diana and death for Brenda.

    I think most non-Mormon readers come away with a better understanding of the distinction between the violent, fundementalist fringe of Mormonism and the mainstream church, which I think is part of Krakaurer’s intent.

  16. Julie M. Smith on February 13, 2006 at 1:06 pm

    M. J.,

    You give the average reader a lot more credit than I do. At one point Krakauer describes the fundamentalists as living off in the desert away from the prying eyes of the govt and the SLC leadership. [The SLC leadership has already exed all of them–what more could or would they do?] This comment–and many, many others–led to me believe that (either maliciously or ignorantly) he blurs the line between the LDS and FLDS (and its offshoots).

    Although, to be fair, the friend that I emailed expressed that she realized that this book was not about the LDS church. So maybe I am the one not giving the nonmember reader enough credit. But I wonder how well a nonmember would be able to distinguish which parts of his story apply to the LDS and which to the FLDS (and offshoots).

  17. mike d. on February 13, 2006 at 1:23 pm

    i thought that krakauer made it very clear in the book which actions/people were and weren’t sanctioned by the lds church. i don’t see anyone who actually reads the book coming away w/ the idea that the modern church sanctions polygamy or what the lafferty’s did.

    i think a lot of people have a problem w/ the idea that a little over 100 years ago a lot of our church’s practices were a lot closer to the present day flds than they would be to the modern lds church.

  18. M.J. Pritchett on February 13, 2006 at 1:30 pm

    Julie:

    As a fellow insider, I share all of your concerns about how Krakauer skews the historical details.

    But in dealing with non-members friends who don’t know a lot about the church, I think the first step is to make sure they know that we share Krakauer’s (and their) revulsion and anger at the Laffertys. After all, the victims here were an innocent Mormon woman and her child.

    We first need to have a conversation about how evil these particular fundementalists are and how proud we are of Diana and Brenda Lafferty for standing up to them, and how their actions reflects the church’s current teaching against polygamy. Then a discussion about how marginal the Mormon fundementalist movement is, especially outside of Utah. That might merge into a conversation about how hard it must be to be a mainstream Muslim who opposes violence. Or even to be a socially conservative Christian when you disagree with some of the actions of Christian right. Finally, then maybe a conversation about how Krakauer skews the history of the church to make it fit in with his story–in the same way many now characterize Islam as “fundementally” violent.

    To jump immediately to the problems with Krakauer’s history seems overly defensive to me. Ironically, the more we act like we’ve been attacked by Krakauer, the more we align ourselves with Krakauer’s primary target, the violent fundementalists.

    With the new HBO polygamy show coming out this fall, I’m sure this will continue to be a hot topic of conversation.

  19. Brett on February 13, 2006 at 1:49 pm

    “I think most non-Mormon readers come away with a better understanding of the distinction between the violent, fundementalist fringe of Mormonism and the mainstream church, which I think is part of Krakaurer’s intent.”
    I can tell you from personal experience that this is not true. In one of my classics classes, the professor was discussing how relegious beliefs can move people to do heinous crimes. She brought up Banner of Heaven, and went on and on about how facinating it was. She asked if anybody in the class knew any Mormons. I raised my hand and said I was Mormon. She was in complete shock “You’re a Mormon?” She couldn’t believe it. I think her conception of mainstream members of the Church was shaped by that book. I bet she was expecting me to be wearing overalls and have a beard or something. It’s sad. This isn’t a dumb lady. She’s has her PhD in classical studies. You would think she would know the distinction between fudamentalism and mainstream Mormonism. If college professor can’t see the distinction, then I don’t have much faith that a normal reader could either.

  20. M.J. Pritchett on February 13, 2006 at 2:28 pm

    Brett:

    More likely she expected you to be wearing a white shirt, tie and name tag.

    It could be that she understands the distinction between fundamentalism and mainstream Mormonism (possibly, as a result of reading the Krakauer book), and is still shocked to find out that you are a Mormon.

  21. rl on February 13, 2006 at 2:29 pm

    I read the book when it came out, I was excited for Banner to come out, because I thought it was going to be an empathetic and fair exploration of fundamentalism, instead of a naturalistic attack on faith.

    As a follow up to Brett’s comment, I had a similar experience.
    My friend from grad school, (working on her Ph. D., Catholic, and pretty open minded) and I discussed this book for a while about a year after it came out. What I found disconcerting was that after reading Under the Banner of Heaven she asked me “How can you be Mormon with all this going on?â€? She presented as though she had a complete understanding of the Mormons and the faith from the book, which from my reading seemed to be just a well paced and scandalous Mormon history hack job. I’m afraid she was reading the book as thourogh and fair history. I explained how I thought it was unfair and suggested other more fair books to take a look at things Mormon. Mormon Country by Stegner, Daughter of the Saints by Dorothy Allred Solomon, and The Mormon Experience by Arrington. Ultimately we agreed to disagree. She kept on harping on polygamy, race issues, mountain meadows and other issues she found distasteful to which I responded “What the hell, your Catholic, cut the history from slack.”

  22. rl on February 13, 2006 at 2:34 pm

    sorry the last line should have read “cut the history some slack”

  23. Mark B. on February 13, 2006 at 2:39 pm

    I’ll second what Brett says. Most people don’t know any Mormons, and probably don’t give Mormons a second thought. And if they happen to read a bit of sensationalist journalism like Krakauer’s book, they are unlikely to try to make fine distinctions between a bunch of people who live far away and speak a funny language.

    A man I worked with in a major New York law firm once told me (after learning that I am a Mormon): “Oh, yeah, I know all about Mormons.” This after he had just read Prophet of Death: The Mormon Blood Atonement Killings, the grisly story of bunch of murders by a member of an offshoot of the Reorganized church. Now, there’s no reason to believe that Wall Street lawyers are as intelligent as the general population, but he didn’t make any distinctions between Mormons and breakaway reorganites.

  24. M.J. Pritchett on February 13, 2006 at 2:58 pm

    Mark B.:

    And I know all about the Amish from watching the movie Witness.

    That’s what happens to a religion which refuses to assimilate, is physically and culturally isolated from the rest of the nation and is unwilling or unable to play a significant role in the intellectual and cultural life of the nation.

  25. John C. on February 13, 2006 at 4:34 pm

    MJ,
    What is this refusal to assimilate of which you speak? I don’t see that at all. Not even a little bit.

  26. Starfoxy on February 13, 2006 at 4:48 pm

    “And I know all about the Amish from watching the movie Witness”

    And lots of people in Europe know all about the Mormons from watching the movie Witness because of bad translators who replaced Amish with Mormon.

  27. M.J. Pritchett on February 13, 2006 at 5:04 pm

    John:

    I’ll start with an easy one. We place a very high value on marrying within the faith.

  28. Ryan on February 13, 2006 at 5:30 pm

    Julie:

    That was an interesting review. I had a different reaction when I read the book. I actually thought it was quite good. Sure, Krakauer is no great LDS historian, but his book was very entertaining and quite interesting. I think the exampler you cite about his inaccuracies are kind of funny. I see them more as “mistakes” of emphasis and opinion, than sloppy, inaccurate writing as you have suggested.

    I thought Krakauer did a good job of separating FLDS and other fundamentalist groups from the mainliners. And, you have to admit, there is some pretty wierd stuff in the LDS past; and, I am fine with Krakauer giving his opinion and proposed explanations for some of it.

    I think your criticisms are somewhat valid too; but, I think you are being overly paranoid and are missing the main point of the book, entertainment. If Krakauer had qualified everthing with long factual regurgitations, it would have been pretty boring. (i.e. Joseph Smith married a lot of young women, but he also married some older ones, too. I (Krakauer) have concluded that the primary reason Joseph married young girls was sex, but, four of the women he married were over fifty and ten of them were ugly, and one had a wart on her nose, etc.)

  29. Sideshow on February 13, 2006 at 5:58 pm

    John (#25),

    I might mention that Mormons are instructed to be a “peculiar people” and to be “in the world but not of the world”. Do you need more evidence that Mormons don’t assimilate than that? Non-assimilation was a big purpose of gathering to Utah, and while Mormon’s aren’t particularly gathering to Utah, they’re sure not scattering either.

    M. J.:

    I like your focus of “what is the best way to deal with this book and our associates reading it” instead of “why this book is awful and shouldn’t have been written.” While it’s useful to know what might be wrong with the book, it’s probably more useful to figure out how to talk about it with people who have read the book who may not be Mormon.

    It might help in situations where people bring up “Under the Banner” to ask them questions about their understanding of it. If people mention ideas that seem to confuse LDS with FLDS beliefs and practices, then we can help them realize the difference. And I think analogies would really help, especially M.J.’s suggestion that it’s like mainstream Islam and extremists or socially conservative Christians and the Christian right.

  30. Stephen M (Ethesis) on February 13, 2006 at 8:51 pm

    And lots of people in Europe know all about the Mormons from watching the movie Witness because of bad translators who replaced Amish with Mormon.

    Well said.

  31. Ivan Wolfe on February 13, 2006 at 9:30 pm

    Most people I know who have read the book, upon finding out I am LDS, actually ask me:

    “But doesn’t that make you a member of a violent religous tradition?”

    I’m not kidding.

  32. Jonathan Green on February 13, 2006 at 9:46 pm

    Ivan: I assume you replied, “You wanna make something of it, huh? You want me to give your sorry hide the Teancum treatment? Do you? That’s what I thought.” I bet people would understand and not say anything about violent religious traditions after that.

  33. Adam Greenwood on February 13, 2006 at 10:03 pm

    “Ironically, the more we act like we’ve been attacked by Krakauer, the more we align ourselves with Krakauer’s primary target, the violent fundementalists.”

    Knowing how Krakauer distorts things when it comes to Mormonism should make us also sceptical that fundamentalist Christians are somehow uniquely violent.

  34. manaen on February 13, 2006 at 11:16 pm

    Knowing how Krakauer distorts things when it comes to Mormonism should make us also sceptical that fundamentalist Christians are somehow uniquely violent.

    As I watched the Muslim demonstrations about the Danish cartoons, I realized that the fundamentalist “Christians” are not uniquely violent at our Temple open houses and General Conferences.

  35. manaen on February 13, 2006 at 11:18 pm

    #34 2nd para. should have highlighted “uniquely”

  36. Seth R. on February 13, 2006 at 11:41 pm

    Adam,

    Are you suggesting we all take a moment to get in touch with our inner fundamentalist?

  37. Adam Greenwood on February 14, 2006 at 8:27 am

    What a smattering of fundamentalists do at Temple open houses and General Conferences is nasty but it isn’t violence. Our indignation is proper but only as long as we stick to the truth.

  38. VeritasLiberat on February 14, 2006 at 10:44 am

    ” I think that, by definition, a “mindless sheepâ€? is someone who would prefer to keep silent instead of publicly disagreeing so as not to appear contentious.”

    Nope. A mindless sheep is not someone who would PREFER to hold his or her peace/keep his or her opinions private, instead of publicly airing a disagreement. A mindless sheep is someone who HAS no disagreements with anything anybody says.

    (Whereas a mindful sheep can hold his/her own opinion, and not be so insecure that s/he has to browbeat those around her into agreeing with his/her point of view.)

  39. Starfoxy on February 14, 2006 at 11:05 am

    Stephen M. (#30) Did you have trouble with that on your mission too? I didn’t personally, but my husband did. He said that people would refuse to talk to them at all because of what they thought they knew about us from that movie.

  40. John C. on February 14, 2006 at 1:53 pm

    MJ and Sideshow,
    Do you live in Utah? I’m often on the campus of BYU (our exemplary site) and the fashions of the world are readily evident. “In the world, but not of the world” assumes a certain level of assimilation, don’t you think?

    Regarding the marriage issue, I suppose that I may simply be confused by what you meant by assimilation. You apparently meant it in the Jewish sense. While we may attempt to be Conservative in many of our personal dealings with God (in which I include marriage), we seem to me to be becoming more Reform in our public-sphere appearance.

    I am around a certain number of Mormons (not just in the bloggernacle) who seem to be able to comprehend and interact with popular culture to such a great extent that I think most talk of lack of assimilation is much more rhetorical than real.

  41. Ben S. on February 14, 2006 at 2:13 pm

    We got the Amish-“Mormons reject technology” thing in eastern France. It was usually dispelled by showing them our digital watches :)

    However, one guy was too clever to be taken in by our digital watch deception. He told us that we were simply a lying advertisement. We , the suit-wearing-digital-watch-consulting missionaries only did so to suck people into the cult, and then once captured, all the convert’s technology got taken away. Eye roll.

  42. M.J. Pritchett on February 14, 2006 at 3:05 pm

    Ben:

    No, I live in Northern California.

    This may be an “is the glass half empty or half full” situation. I assume that to some Muslims wearing the head scarf (rather than a more complete covering) is evidence of assimilation and to other Muslims wearing any head covering at all is evidence of a refusal to assimilate.

  43. Jim F. on February 14, 2006 at 3:21 pm

    M. J., thanks for a very sane view on this thing, a reminder that Krakauer’s book gives us an opportunity to talk about people’s understanding of the Church and that it ought to help us understand better why Muslim’s get upset about their portrayal, as well as why we might be wrong in what we think about them. (I still wish you’d gone into philosophy rather than econ, but c’est la vie.)

  44. Sideshow on February 14, 2006 at 4:58 pm

    John C. (#40):

    I did live in Utah for seven years, including several communities along I-15 and a few to the (eastern) side. I attended BYU, and I would beg to differ with your claim that the fashions of the world are readily evident. I believe there’s a strict dress code that prevents many of the fashions of the world from being evident there, and I encountered many similar dress code enforcements in congregations around Utah.

    While there have been assimilation adjustments — I note that For The Strength of Youth Pamphlets in the 50’s instructed women to only wear skirts and dresses, never pants (and BYU enforced that on campus) — I think Mormons assimilate less than they don’t. For example, faithful Mormons are being even less “assimilant” in their treatment of earrings than they used to, since a decade ago it was fine for females to wear multiple pairs in line with some fashion trends. I may be focused on the other half of the glass, but I will note that the basis for my opinion is that any deviation from complete assimilation constitutes some refusal to assimilate, and many religious groups are considered “non-assimilating” even though you might not always readily identify them on the street (Jehovah’s Witnesses, some Muslims & Jews for example).

    I think a lot of your perspective on Mormon assimilation to popular culture results from two things: Mormons who assimilate more than they should (e.g. don’t dress modestly or restrict their media indulgence to uplifting products) and popular culture’s increasing comfort with the existence of Mormons and their beliefs (an increasing participation in the intellectual and cultural life of the nation, if you will). Although you are certainly entitled to a different opinion, I really think that in the main, (faithful) Mormons don’t assimilate due to their observance of dress codes, temple covenants, dietary laws, language, and sabbath keeping.

    And the difference between Mormons and others seems much more apparent to me outside of Utah, where the Mormons have less influence on popular culture.

  45. Seth R. on February 14, 2006 at 9:47 pm

    Actually, Utah tends to be about a year behind the current fashions.

    For example, bare midriffs went out of style in the fashion epicenters a long time ago, cultural centers in the US like New York and elsewhere got the message fairly quickly. But the intermountain west hasn’t quite caught up yet.

  46. Tona on March 7, 2006 at 12:22 pm

    Now this discussion made me wonder if FLDS didn’t like they way they were portrayed by Krakauer, either…?