In the fifth episode of Hulu’s crime series ‘Under the Banner of Heaven,’ detectives Jeb Pyre and Bill Taba dive into the fundamentalist connections of the Lafferty brothers. After locating the Lows, Pyre and Bill meet Bishop Low and his wife to discuss why the Laffertys have a grudge against them. Bishop Low informs the detectives about the events that led to the ex-communication of Dan and Ron.
Through the bishop, Pyre and Bill come to know that Dan wanted to marry his stepdaughter, his wife Matilda’s eldest daughter. Naturally, the viewers must be looking forward to knowing whether Dan wanted the same in real-life. Let us share the answer!
Did Dan Lafferty Want to Marry His Stepdaughter?
According to Jon Krakauer’s eponymous true-crime book, the source text of the show, Dan Lafferty did really want to marry his stepdaughter. When Dan got exposed to the principles of Mormon fundamentalism, he started to lean towards polygamy. The book stated that reading ‘The Peace Maker,’ a pamphlet advocating polygamy written by Udney Hay Jacob in 1842, changed his view towards marriage. He started to believe in having plural wives and shared his wish to marry her eldest daughter with his wife Matilda.
Krakauer’s book states that he wanted to engage in “spiritual wifery” with his stepdaughter. However, Dan’s wish wasn’t materialized. According to the source material, he eventually married a Romanian immigrant named Ann Randak. Dan did not reveal why he changed his mind to marry Ann. Dan’s wish to marry his stepdaughter to practice polygamy resulted from his transformation into a Mormon fundamentalist.
Along with polygamy, he implemented several rules in his household. He restricted Matilda from handling money or engaging in driving, children from attending school or playing with their friends, and outside medical care. Dan was even against using gas and electricity. Dan’s intention to marry his stepdaughter was a blow to the latter’s mother and the former’s wife, Matilda. Dan’s strict fundamentalist beliefs affected their household severely.
“I had come to a place there was no choices. I could either go and leave my kids or stay and accept it [Dan’s actions],” Matilda testified in court about her life with Dan. Krakauer’s book further stated that Dan was also involved in Robert C. Crossfield AKA Prophet Onias’ School of the Prophets, a group that aimed to restore Mormon principles like polygamy, which the modern LDS church abandoned. The group’s fundamentalist beliefs, specifically concerning polygamy, might have influenced Dan to consider marrying his stepdaughter as well.
Even though the marriage never happened, Dan’s intention paved the way for a severe consequence. In 1982, he was excommunicated from the LDS Church for trying to marry his stepdaughter. Dan’s transformation from a pious Mormon to a fundamentalist advocating polygamy affected not only his household but also his brothers. As per the source material, Ron’s introduction to the School of the Prophets happened when Dan introduced him to Prophet Onias. Eventually, Ron and Dan’s fundamentalist beliefs seemingly led them to commit the murders of Brenda and Erica Lafferty.