One Mighty and Strong
Episode 5 of Under the Banner of Heaven begins with a testimony from Sam about “One Mighty and Strong” whom God would send.
Sam postures as if he is this chosen one, but Jeb catches him in a lie. He didn’t kill Brenda and her daughter. He didn’t know where their bodies were, and the blood found on him was from squirrels, not humans.
Jeb thinks Sam is protecting someone else. When Sam mentions The School of Prophets, he has his lead.
Robin claims his brothers held no School of Prophets, but a scripture study. Jeb thinks they were trying to unseat President Kimball. He threatens ex-communication to Robin, which would mean alienation from his church and family. He says his stake president would be curious to hear about his school.
So, Robin gives in and tells him the school started with a man named Bernard Brady, who talked about a “dream mine” in Salem with gold that would save the LDS saints. Brady and another man called Onias were part of their school.
Unfortunately for the investigation, the Laffertys’ stake president gets Sam and Robin released. Jeb and Bill still have leads, however. They’ve found the Lowes.
Jeb tells the Lowes they are on the Laffertys’ list of names. Bishop Lowe thinks this goes back to the excommunication court of Ron and Dan Lafferty.
We see in the past Matilda hearing Dan upstairs with her daughter (his stepdaughter) Cora. When she checks on them, he claims he was giving her “an adjustment.” When Cora leaves, he asks Matilda to accept her daughter as her “first sister wife.”
He claims God has given him a vigorous sexual spirit and has called him to take Cora as his second wife. Matilda says she won’t let him, but he warns that going against him is punishable by death.
Dan boards up the house so Matilda and the girls cannot leave. Matilda slips the girls a screwdriver to help them escape and says she’ll see them again.
The girls escaped and gave an account that led to Dan’s excommunication. The Lowes had them put in a home rather than calling CPS. But they ran away and haven’t been seen again.
As for Ron’s excommunication, the Lowes say this didn’t happen because Ron beat his wife. Ron was excommunicated because he threatened Bishop Lowe at Erica’s naming ceremony, after Dan’s excommunication.
Meanwhile at the naming ceremony, Mrs. Lowe spoke with Brenda and Diana. Brenda didn’t like that Ron was beating Diana. She proposed that the threat of excommunication would help push Ron in the right direction. Mrs. Lowe insisted these kinds of solutions weren’t their role as women.
The Lowes say Diana later came back to them with bruises on her face. They encouraged her to get to safety and gave her money. They don’t know where she is now.
Jeb and Bill find Bernard Brady and go into his house with a search warrant. While they search the house, the Bradys tell them about how Ron received his letter of excommunication.
He lashed out on Diana and beat her. She yelled at him to leave and never come back.
The Bradys say Ron was trying to get on the right track. Bernard initially denies being involved in a School of Prophets, but he admits to carpooling with Onias and the Lafferty brothers to “scripture study group.”
The detectives then discover a letter written to Bernard from Bernard. The letter is Bernard siding with the school of prophets constructing a list of names that deserves “eternal consequences.” He wrote it down and notarized it, but he says he wrote it to protect himself from the Laffertys.
He asks if there were other candidates for the list. Bernard alludes to Diana. He compares Diana’s actions to how Emma interfered with Joseph’s holy intentions. The prophet’s wife aligned herself with a publisher that maligned Joseph’s idea of polygamy.
Bernard says Dan talked about building a compound at “the farm” after getting out of jail. Allen sketches the layout of the farm for Jeb and Bill. He’s confused about the idea of “prophets” being plural. There can only be one, just as Brigham Young became the sole leader after Joseph Smith. Allen says not to expect more than one “prophet” alive at this farm.
When Jeb gets home for the evening, the lights are out. He takes out his gun and searches the house, only to find a note that says they went to the bishop’s for evening prayer. Jeb thinks the bishop asked his family over without his knowledge as a way to keep Jeb in line.
On the way to the farm, Bernard recalls how Ron reacted to his excommunication.
We see Ron defend Dan’s patriotism at his own hearing and then storm out. His family hides from him when he returns home. Bernard thinks Ron believed he could hear a truer voice of God.
Looking for the farm, they find an FLDS compound full of young Canadian women. Onias brought them there and left them there 30 days ago with no food and no way to get back.
The women say Ron and Dan used to sleep at the compound. They left behind Ron’s jacket with a note in its pocket that states how Diana needs to repent.
Allen doesn’t understand how Dan could have written the note. Later, Bernard tells Jeb that Allen is wrong. Ron is capable of more than domestic violence. After the church court, he went home to his mother. His mom tells him he’s close to taking the rightful place as head of the family.
“She called him ‘The One Mighty and Strong.’” Bernard says he heard in his mother’s words a calling from God to reclaim his rightful place.
After speaking with his mom, Ron visits his father. Ammon lies sick in bed. He tells Ron he needs a doctor. But Ron recounts others whose lives Ammon put at risk when he didn’t call a doctor for him. Ron would rather let his father die than endanger his soul.
Bernard compares Ron to Brigham Young, who took over as prophet when Joseph Smith was shot as a traitor. Ron sees himself as the “proud new lion of the Lord.”
“There’ll be more blood,” Bill says to this.
The Episode Review
The idea of “One Mighty and Strong” who will lead the Mormon church into dangerous fundamentalism haunts an already taut investigation and casts an even more threatening shadow over the fates of women like Brenda, Diana, and Matilda who dare to protest.
Under the Banner of Heaven episode 5 explores not only this corruption in the more extremist FLDS church. It also pushes back on a longstanding thread of harmful patriarchal thought in the LDS faith. This thread is seen in the Mormon leaders’ instinct to protect the church over its’ vulnerable women. It’s seen in the Lowes’ inaction when it came to protecting Diana, but their initiative in protecting the Bishop against Ron’s threats.
Amidst all this horror, the series grasps for a moral compass and settles on several–none of which are Jeb, refreshingly. As the abuse in the church unfolds, it’s Bill’s watchful eyes that take it all in. In the present, he’s the first to call out the church’s oppressive nature. In the past, it’s Brenda who serves as the moral center of the show.
Under the Banner of Heaven may be continuing to explore the same topics, but it’s peeling back new and terrifying layers in each episode as we go deeper and deeper into this true crime account.