Created by Dustin Lance Black, FX on Hulu’s crime series ‘Under the Banner of Heaven’ revolves around the murders of Brenda Lafferty and her daughter Erica Lafferty. Based on a true story, the series progresses through Detective Jeb Pyre’s attempts to solve the intricate double murder case while questioning his faith. Pyre and his partner Bill Taba’s investigation encounter the presence of the Mormon Church frequently, leading the investigators into a horrifying dimension of religion. The title of the show echoes one of the principal ambitions of the show — to bring out the terrifying influence of religion on modern-day society. If you are interested in knowing more about the same, let us decode it for you!
What is the Meaning of Under the Banner of Heaven Title?
The title of the show, ‘Under the Banner of Heaven,’ is drawn from an address given by John Taylor, the third president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, on January 4, 1880, during a Sunday assembly in Great Salt Lake City. Taylor was proclaiming the need of fighting against “the man-made laws” in the name of heaven. According to Taylor, the interests of heaven needed protection from laws implemented by the government. In the address, he warned that the believers of the LDS Church will group to fight for upholding God’s interests.
“God is greater than the United States, and when the Government conflicts with heaven, we will be ranged under the banner of heaven against the Government. The United States says we cannot marry more than one wife. God says different,” Taylor said at the address. The LDS Church’s disregard for government and law enforcement influenced several believers, who believed that they are fighting for and in the name of heaven and their God while standing against anything that didn’t conform with the values of Mormonism. Ron and Dan Lafferty were two such believers, who killed their sister-in-law Brenda and niece Erica under “the command of God.”
The inspiration behind the show, the double murder of Brenda and Erica, happened when Ron and Dan believed that they have to fulfill the wishes of the Heavenly Father. “Thus saith the Lord unto my servants the prophets. It is my will and commandment that ye remove the following individuals in order that my work might go forward. For they have truly become obstacles in my path and I will not allow my work to be stopped,” Ron wrote about the supposed instruction he received from God. “First thy brother’s wife Brenda and her baby, then Chloe Low and then Richard Stowe. And it is my will that they be removed in rapid succession,” “the removal revelation” further read.
Brenda lived a life that didn’t align with the norms and beliefs of the highly pious Lafferty family. In the show, she aspires to become a television news presenter. She never holds back when it comes to expressing her opinions and ambitions. Brenda lives without any regard for the patriarchal notions of Mormonism, which infuriates the brothers. In reality, Brenda reportedly was a free spirit and had the courage to stand against the brothers. In Ron and Dan’s eyes, Brenda seemingly did challenge the notions they believed in.
Image Credit: Michelle Faye/FX
As far as Ron and Dan were concerned, the brothers killed Brenda and Erica “under the banner of heaven” to fulfill “God’s wishes.” They wanted to “materialize what the Heavenly Father wanted them to do”. They believed that they were fighting for the interests of their God by killing two members of their family. “I held Brenda’s hair and did it pretty much the way they did it in the scriptures. Then I walked in Erica’s room. I talked to her for a minute, I said, ‘I’m not sure why I’m supposed to do this, but I guess God wants you home,'” Dan said to Deseret News.
The title also displays what creator Dustin Lance Black hopes to achieve through the show. “Raised in the LDS faith, my hope is that this true-crime thriller might shed light on the horrific brutalities perpetrated in the name of God in our own backyards,” said Black in a statement. Or in other words, Black aspired to depict the harrowing occurrences that happened “under the banner of heaven.” The title, like the show, makes us realize how heaven and God were incorporated into the monstrous murders Ron and Dan committed.