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Under The Banner Of Heaven Episode 4 True Story: What Really Happened

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WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Under the Banner of Heaven episode 4.

FX on Hulu’s Under the Banner of Heaven episode 4, “Church and State,” further explores Dan and Ron Lafferty’s shift into Mormon fundamentalist ideals, though a few major details are changed from what really happened. Based on the 2003 nonfiction book of the same name, Under the Banner of Heaven depicts the true story of Brenda Lafferty’s 1984 murder, with the series and real case uncovering the dangerous realities of religious extremism – particularly in regard to Mormon fundamentalism. While the Under the Banner of Heaven cast and characters manage to bring even the most disturbing aspects of the true story to the series, the Andrew Garfield-starring show still makes a few fictional changes for dramatic effect.

Under the Banner of Heaven episode 4 sees Detectives Jeb Pyre and Bill Taba search for Bishop Stewart Low and Highland LDS Stake President Richard Stowe, both of whom were assumed to be on the killers’ murder list. In flashbacks, Under the Banner of Heaven depicts Dan’s increased fascination with practicing polygamy, his failed campaign for Utah County sheriff, and his brief stint in jail. Meanwhile, Detective Pyre tries to discover the truth behind Dianna’s letter to the LDS Church about the Lafferty brothers’ dangerous behaviors, which he discovers was related to Ron also supporting Dan’s Mormon fundamentalist views. By the end of the episode, Stewart Low and Richard Stowe have been found safe, leading the detectives to wonder why they were spared when Brenda and Erica Lafferty were so brutally murdered.

Related: 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre: What Under The Banner Of Heaven Leaves Out

While the major points introduced in the episode are accurate to the true story, Under the Banner of Heaven episode 4 makes a few key changes in terms of Dan and Ron beginning to embrace Mormon fundamentalism. As such, the depiction of their wives, Matilda and Dianna, as well as their father, Ammon, are slightly different from what really happened. Here’s a breakdown of the true story explored in Under the Banner of Heaven episode 4, and what the series changes.

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Under the Banner of Heaven episode 4 kicks off with Decetives Pyre and Taba searching for Bishop Stewart Low and Highland LDS Stake President Richard Stowe, as Robin Lafferty suggested they also would have been on the “murder list” with Brenda and Erica. This part of Under the Banner of Heaven’s story is true, but it was actually Richard Stowe on the list with Chloe Low, the wife of Bishop Stewart Low. In fact, it was only a matter of luck that Richard Stowe and Chloe Low weren’t killed that night. After the killers murdered Brenda and Erica Lafferty, they drove to the Lows’ house, but the couple was out of town, so they ransacked the home (as depicted in Under the Banner of Heaven’s episode) and left. They intended to move onto the Stowes’ home next, but missed the exit to their house, so the killers decided to flee town instead.

One of the most important aspects of Under the Banner of Heaven episode 4 deals with a letter Dianna Lafferty wrote to the LDS prophet, which was handed off to the prophet’s office and Bishop Low to deal with. The letter asked for help concerning the Lafferty brothers’ questionable behavior and beliefs, with Andrew Garfield’s Detective Pyre discovering that the letter was really about Dianna’s husband Ron Lafferty. However, it doesn’t appear that Under the Banner of Heaven’s letter was real. While the real Dianna Lafferty had sought counsel from close friends, leaders in her LDS ward, and her sister-in-law Brenda about Ron and the Lafferty brothers’ behavior, an actual letter doesn’t seem to exist. Rather than Brenda helping her write a letter, what really happened was that Brenda advised Dianna to get a divorce from Ron, both for her own sake and their children’s.

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The real Dan Lafferty truly was arrested for speeding and failing to have an inspection sticker on his car, but Under the Banner of Heaven changes a major detail by making his wife, Matilda, a witness. What really happened was that Dan was alone in the car leaving a fellow candidate’s home when he was pulled over by an officer, with Dan suggesting that he was only being stopped because of what he wrote about the department in the newspaper. When the officer tried to forcefully pull down the window and grab Dan, he sped off – almost exactly how Under the Banner of Heaven depicts the event. Dan would even spend 30 days in Utah County jail after this arrest, with the real-life Under the Banner of Heaven character being charged with five crimes. However, Matilda wasn’t present for this true Under the Banner of Heaven story.

Related: Under the Banner of Heaven’s Mormon Wedding Attire Explained

Under the Banner of Heaven episode 4 shows Dan Lafferty launching his campaign for Utah County sheriff, with the most important issue on his platform being the 16th Amendment’s unconstitutionality. However, Dan is quickly disqualified, with Under the Banner of Heaven episode 4’s newscast revealing the reason to be that he refused to pay the $15 processing fee. This is actually true, although Under the Banner of Heaven leaves out the fact that he was only willing to pay the processing fee in gold – which was rejected by officials (via Salt Lake City Weekly).

Robin recalls that Ron Lafferty primarily stayed out of the brothers’ fundamentalist Latter-day Saint views until their father, Ammon, became weaker and asked Ron to step in, hoping that he would straighten Dan out. Although Ron truly was sent to one of the Lafferty brothers’ fundamentalist meetings to try to straighten them out and bring them back to reason, it wasn’t Ammon who summoned him. In Under the Banner of Heaven’s true story, Dianna Lafferty requested that Ron attend one of the meetings to speak to his brothers about their questionable behaviors. Dianna had done so on behalf of her sisters-in-law who were becoming increasingly worried about their Lafferty husbands’ beliefs, especially the ones that gave the women no agency. However, as seen in Under the Banner of Heaven‘s episode, Ron came home that night having adopted the other Lafferty brothers’ worldview, whereafter he would become a regular attendee at their meetings.

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Under the Banner of Heaven episode 4’s true story sees Dan Lafferty tell his wife Matilda that he wants to practice polygamy, which she doesn’t take well. While Dan didn’t tell her this as he was being pulled over by policemen, the real Under the Banner of Heaven figure truly propositioned Matilda about taking plural wives. However, Under the Banner of Heaven episode 4 leaves out the fact that when Dan told her this, he declared his desire to take Matilda’s 14-year-old daughter from her previous marriage as his second wife. While Matilda was adamantly against Dan’s polygamy both in real life and the Andrew Garfield-led Under the Banner of Heaven, this didn’t stop him from moving forward with such beliefs.

Next: Haun’s Mill Massacre 1838: Everything Under The Banner Of Heaven Leaves Out

New episodes of Under the Banner of Heaven release Thursdays on Hulu.

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