How Two Fundamentalist Mormon Brothers Used ‘Revelation’ From God To Justify Murder
The tragic story was recounted in Jon Krakauer’s non-fiction classic Under the Banner of Heaven.
Nearly four decades ago, a Utah mother and her baby daughter lost their lives at the hands of two brothers who fell prey to fundamentalist theories and beliefs.
In the early 1980s, Brenda and Allen Lafferty, devout members of the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, were living in American Fork with their infant daughter, Erica.
Ron and Dan Lafferty didn’t support their brother Allen’s marriage, and their growing belief in fundamentalist teachings created even more animosity between them and their sister-in-law, Brenda.
Dan believed the Mormon church was wrong to turn away from polygamy at the end of the 19th century, and Ron began to fall under his influence. In 1983, the two radicalized siblings were excommunicated from the LDS Church and they joined “School of Prophets,” a fundamentalist Mormon offshoot.
The following year, Ron claimed he received a “removal revelation” from God ordering him to kill Brenda and her 15-month-old daughter because Brenda didn’t agree with his polygamous beliefs or his conviction that he was a prophet, and she supported the decision of Ron’s wife to divorce him, according to The Salt Lake City Tribune.
In 2014, Watson Lafferty Jr., one of Ron and Dan’s other brothers, told the Salt Lake City Weekly that his sister-in-law “was not afraid to tell [Ron] her opinion: that he was a jerk to his wife and she didn’t want him anywhere around her husband, Allen.”
“She didn’t pull any punches,” he added about Brenda.
When members of the School of Prophet didn’t support Ron and Dan’s deadly so-called revelation, the two brothers left the group.
On July 24, 1984, Ron and Dan went to the apartment their brother Allen shared with Brenda, 24, and the couple’s 15-month-old daughter. They beat Brenda, used a vacuum cleaner cord to strangle her and a 10-inch boning knife to slash her and their little niece’s throats.
“I was praying pretty steady … as I pushed my way into the house and I took those two lives,” Dan told the Salt Lake City Weekly.
Allen discovered his wife’s body in the kitchen of the couple’s apartment and his daughter, who was nearly decapitated, lying dead against her crib.
According to court testimony from witness Chip Carnes, when the two killers returned to the getaway car he was in, Ron allegedly said he was responsible for slaying Brenda and thanked Dan for “doing the baby.”
Ron was found guilty of the murders and sentenced to death in 1986 and again in 1991 after the original verdict was overturned on a technicality. He died in 2019 of natural causes while on death row at a Salt Lake City penitentiary.
Dan received a sentence of life behind bars for his role in the slayings, where he remains today.
“I understand very well that my philosophy makes me sound crazy, but I try to make it as logical as I can,” Dan told the Salt Lake City Weekly. “But I don’t mind if people think I’m crazy, and I don’t know that I’m not ... but I don’t think that I am. I think there is some good s*** coming. God’s a good mother******, and when he comes back, he’s gonna be smoking a doobie, saying, ‘Tired of this world? Well, it’s time to party.’ I really believe it.”
Watson Jr. said his brother’s responsibility for the brutal crime, which was covered in the 2003 book Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, put life into perspective for him.
“Enough time goes by, and you actually realize that the experience makes you a better person because you know what a big thing is and what a little thing is,” Watson noted. “A washer breaks ... that’s nothing, but if someone in your family loses their soul — that’s the deepest, darkest hole you can go in.”
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