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Carole Mikita ReportingA wave of nationwide publicity is starting to build over a new book that profiles murderer Dan Lafferty as an example of religious beliefs gone bad. Best selling author John Krakauer's new book, "Under the Banner of Heaven," focuses on the 1984 murders here in Utah of Brenda Lafferty and her infant daughter.
Tonight on Dateline NBC Tom Brokaw talks to the author about his book and its controversial approach to the subject of Mormon history.
Krakauer's premise in this book is that these crimes had their roots in the founding of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A fact that already is putting it into dispute and will place it under the heading of 'controversial' just as it is hitting the bookshelves.
Sporting a ponytail and waist-length beard convicted murderer, Dan Lafferty, talks with Tom Brokaw. The story focuses on Lafferty's religious fundamentalism while delving into what he calls 'their shadowy off-shoot' from the roots of Mormonism.
Still today Lafferty believes God ordered him and his brother, Ron, to kill his sister-in-law, Brenda Wright Lafferty and her baby daughter, Erica on July 24th, 1984.
Ron Lafferty, Convicted Murderer: "She played a major hand in my brother's excommunication, separation from his wife, divorce and all of that."
Jon Krakauer, Author 'Under the Banner of Heaven: "Common sense goes out the window. It's no match for the voice of God if you are a true believer and God tells you to kill a woman and her baby or tells you to kill three thousand people in a skyscraper. If you're a true believer, you listen and you do it…If you walk down the streets of Salt Lake City, you don't have to walk very far before you will come across a polygamous household."
The Church's official historian Rick Turley wonders how readers outside the faith will separate the mainstream religion from sects that have nothing to do with it.
Rick Turley, Ph.D./ LDS Church Historian: "That's my great concern here is that people will not understand members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and they will mistakenly believe that the so-called Mormon fundamentalists, are part of the group when, in fact, they are not."
Krakauer's latest hit bookshelves today. Reviews of it so far are mixed.
Book Magazine writes, "It's a dangerous maneuver to damn a religion because some of its practitioners are psychotic... and yet this study of faith and violence in Mormonism is not only provocative but also convincing."
From the Wall St. Journal, “ It would be difficult to count the number of religious people in the world who would find this characterization frightfully unfair, but one could start with the 11-million members of the Mormon Church.”
"Dateline" airs tonight on Channel 5 at 9 pm. Jon Krakauer will be in Salt Lake Friday to discuss and sign copies of his book. That will be at Trolley Corners, upstairs movie theatre at 7 pm.