In 1984, a vicious crime took place in Utah: Two men murdered their brother's wife and infant daughter. The perpetrators confessed, expressed no remorse, said they'd do the same thing again -- and claimed to be following orders from God. Jon Krakauer used the crime as a starting point for Under the Banner of Heaven, a wholesale exposé of Mormon fundamentalism that goes back to the church's origins and reveals in painstaking detail the multiple ways the monolithic institution hides and protects its darkest practices.
Investigative journalist and former SF Weekly staff writer Lisa Davis, who appears Tuesday night at Books Inc./Opera Plaza, takes a similar route in her book, The Sins of Brother Curtis: A Story of Betrayal, Conviction, and the Mormon Church.
She starts with Frank Curtis, "a sweet grandfatherly type" taken in by a woman named Sandy Scott after the two met through a Mormon ward. Long after Curtis had left, Scott's son Jeremiah (who was 11 at the time) reported that Curtis had repeatedly molested him. Davis follows the Scotts into court, where a lawyer finds multiple victims who span several states and decades. We later learn that Curtis uses his position in the church to get close to children -- buying them gifts, acting as a scout leader, living temporarily with families such as the Scotts -- all with church approval and accommodation. What's perhaps most shocking is the lengths to which the church goes to legally defend Curtis and avoid his exposure.