‘Under the Banner of Heaven’ and its path to truth


Created by Dustin Lance, Under the Banner of Heaven premiered on April 28, 2022 on Hulu. This mini-series staring Andrew Garfield, Daisy Edgar-Jones, Sam Worthington, and other A-listers is based on the nonfiction book of the same name by Jon Krakauer. This novel tells the true story of the shocking killings of Brenda Wright Lafferty and her baby daughter in a quiet town in Utah, but the undertones of this book tell a much more haunting truth.

According to Time news, the show, like the book, dives into the founding of the Church of Latter-Day Saints (otherwise known as LDS or Mormonism). A man named Joseph Smith created the church in 1830. The story of the founding of the church parallels the story of the Lafferty family, a prominent Utah Mormon family known for their strong values by some, but strict disciplinarians by others. The show itself highlights these parallels in every episode of the seven episode series.

Brenda herself was brought up in the LDS church and was a multifaceted woman. She was a former beauty queen, as well as a talented singer and actress who majored in broadcast journalism at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Brenda married Allen Lafferty, the youngest son of the Lafferty family, and Brenda was fully devoted to her husband and baby daughter Erica. However, Brenda was not afraid to openly disagree with Allen’s older brothers views on fundamentalist Mormon teachings. Examples of the beliefs of fundamental Mormonism teachings include plural marriage, a form of polygamy, as well as egalitarian communalism (a form of communism), and the belief of “blood atonement.” This is the concept that if a person has sinned to a certain amount, the patriarchs of the church can kill them to spill their blood and allow them to enter heaven. It is, in their mind, the only way they can be forgiven.

To prevent any spoilers for the show, Brenda is killed because of people who believe in these fundamental Mormonism beliefs, and those who did kill her did not originally believe in fundamental Mormonism. They were steered down this path because of their need for power. They weaponized these beliefs for their own gain, so much so, that they believed that they were getting “messages from God” to kill their own family members because of their questioning of their morals.

This element of weaponizing religion for their own gain, refusing to allow others to think differently, and going so far as to want to murder those who question you, is where the undertones of truth come into play in this show. The message is clear: any group of people can become corrupt, even those who preach mercy, forgiveness, and understanding. It is important to understand how those with any sort of power can take advantage of those who are struggling and weaponize their pain for their own gain. Brenda was a brave woman who stuck up for herself and her beliefs, and she was killed for it. She deserves to be recognized for her strength, and that is the truth of this show.