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"Whether by design or by chance," Terryl and Fiona Givens write, "we find ourselves in a universe filled with mystery. We encounter appealing arguments for a Divinity that is a childish projection, for prophets as scheming or deluded imposters, and for scripture as so much fabulous fiction. But there is also compelling evidence that a glorious Divinity presides over the co "Whether by design or by chance," Terryl and Fiona Givens write, "we find ourselves in a universe filled with mystery. We encounter appealing arguments for a Divinity that is a childish projection, for prophets as scheming or deluded imposters, and for scripture as so much fabulous fiction. But there is also compelling evidence that a glorious Divinity presides over the cosmos, that His angels are strangers we have entertained unawares, and that His word and will are made manifest through a sacred canon that is never definitively closed. What we choose to embrace, to be responsive to, is the purest reflection of who we are and what we love. That is why faith, the choice to believe, is in the final analysis, an action that is positively laden with moral significance." As humans, we are, like the poet John Keats, "straining at particles of light in the midst of a great darkness." And yet, the authors describe a version of life's meaning that is reasonable—and radically resonant. It tells of a God whose heart beats in sympathy with ours, who set His heart upon us before the world was formed, who fashioned the earth as a place of human ascent, not exile, and who has the desire and the capacity to bring the entire human family home again.


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"Whether by design or by chance," Terryl and Fiona Givens write, "we find ourselves in a universe filled with mystery. We encounter appealing arguments for a Divinity that is a childish projection, for prophets as scheming or deluded imposters, and for scripture as so much fabulous fiction. But there is also compelling evidence that a glorious Divinity presides over the co "Whether by design or by chance," Terryl and Fiona Givens write, "we find ourselves in a universe filled with mystery. We encounter appealing arguments for a Divinity that is a childish projection, for prophets as scheming or deluded imposters, and for scripture as so much fabulous fiction. But there is also compelling evidence that a glorious Divinity presides over the cosmos, that His angels are strangers we have entertained unawares, and that His word and will are made manifest through a sacred canon that is never definitively closed. What we choose to embrace, to be responsive to, is the purest reflection of who we are and what we love. That is why faith, the choice to believe, is in the final analysis, an action that is positively laden with moral significance." As humans, we are, like the poet John Keats, "straining at particles of light in the midst of a great darkness." And yet, the authors describe a version of life's meaning that is reasonable—and radically resonant. It tells of a God whose heart beats in sympathy with ours, who set His heart upon us before the world was formed, who fashioned the earth as a place of human ascent, not exile, and who has the desire and the capacity to bring the entire human family home again.

30 review for The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life

  1. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    If you only pick up one book on Mormon theology, make it Fiona and Terryl Givens’ The God Who Weeps. The Givenses have written a masterful encapsulation of the most transcendent and sublime core beliefs of our faith, particularly as they relate to the nature of God, the plan of salvation, and the purpose of our existence. This beautifully written book describes the weeping God with whom Enoch conversed (see Moses 7:29-37). This is a God who “chooses to love us. And if love means responsibility, If you only pick up one book on Mormon theology, make it Fiona and Terryl Givens’ The God Who Weeps. The Givenses have written a masterful encapsulation of the most transcendent and sublime core beliefs of our faith, particularly as they relate to the nature of God, the plan of salvation, and the purpose of our existence. This beautifully written book describes the weeping God with whom Enoch conversed (see Moses 7:29-37). This is a God who “chooses to love us. And if love means responsibility, sacrifice, vulnerability, then God’s decision to love us is the most stupendously sublime moment in the history of time. He chooses to love even at, necessarily at, the price of vulnerability.” While the conventional understanding of vulnerability would define it as a weakness, the Givenses assert that it is a strength, the very capability to feel which allows God to be God. “God’s love, His vulnerability, are a permanent condition of who He is.” And because of that love and vulnerability, “God’s pain is as infinite as His love.” As a counterpoint, they affirm that opposition provides meaning: “If vulnerability and pain are the price of love, then joy is its reward” both for God and for us. Within this paradigm, the misnamed Fall was actually an ascent, not a descent; a required step forward “to something even greater than the paradise we left.” It frames “the divine plan [as] about elevation rather than remedy, advancement rather than repair.” The God Who Weeps starts with a presupposition that those with doubts aren’t faithless, that faith is an act of will and a “choice to believe,” and that reason is an essential aspect of faith. “A supreme deity,” they postulate, “would no more gift us with intellect and expect us to forsake it in moments of bafflement, than He would fashion us eyes to see and bid us shut them to the stars.” Doubts are a natural, even essential, part of the growth process. “There must be grounds for doubt as well as belief, in order to render the choice more truly a choice, and therefore the more deliberate, and laden with personal vulnerability and investment.” I love the inclusion of truths from other faith traditions and philosophies as well as from early Christian thinkers. The Givenses quote Origen, C.S. Lewis, William Wordsworth, Sam Shepard, Saint Augustine, and Soren Kierkegaard, to name just a few, as well as Brigham Young, Parley Pratt, and Eliza R. Snow. This unrestricted gathering of truth from whatever source it springs reminds me of Joseph Smith’s expansive definition of Mormonism: “Mormonism is truth; and every [one] who embraces it feels himself at liberty to embrace every truth…The first and fundamental principle of our holy religion is, that we believe that we have a right to embrace all, and every item of truth.” (see Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 264) It is remarkable how many profound truths Fiona and Terryl Givens managed to cram into these 120 pages; I haven’t even scratched the surface in this review. The gospel explained in The God Who Weeps is the gospel I believe in to my very core: a personal, vulnerable God who loves His children; a continual striving for progression and becoming like God; and an infinitely compassionate and inclusive plan of redemption, not condemnation. For more book reviews, come visit my blog, Build Enough Bookshelves.

  2. 4 out of 5

    David Redden

    The God Who Weeps is a beautifully written book with a beautiful message for a broad audience. Fiona and Terryl Givens endeavor not to prove God's existence, but to demonstrate the more modest point that a belief in God is not unreasonable. More specifically, they seek to show that the Mormon conception of God and our relationship with Him is not unreasonable. I am of course admittedly biased, but I think they are generally successful. Rather than an ethereal and impersonal God, the Givens relate The God Who Weeps is a beautifully written book with a beautiful message for a broad audience. Fiona and Terryl Givens endeavor not to prove God's existence, but to demonstrate the more modest point that a belief in God is not unreasonable. More specifically, they seek to show that the Mormon conception of God and our relationship with Him is not unreasonable. I am of course admittedly biased, but I think they are generally successful. Rather than an ethereal and impersonal God, the Givens relate in beautiful terms the Mormon conception of a very personal God. A God in whose image we are made, who loves us and longs for our happiness. Who weeps over our grief, yet stays his hand so that we may learn and grow from this life and bring ourselves by degrees more in tune with his love for us. In short, the sort of God I worship and that makes sense to me. I’m convinced the Givens are tapping into a vein that runs deep within Christian laity but has not always found full expression in the doctrine of many (or possibly most) denominations. The Givens' demonstrate this by employing an array of sources, including literature, poetry, philosophy, the Bible and Book of Mormon, and historical Christian thought, to differentiate the Mormon conception of God from, say, the Augustinian conception, but also to show that the Mormon conception of God is not wacky or unreasonable. A God who weeps is consistent with scripture and informs the questions, longings, and deep-seated feelings expressed by humanity throughout at least the last 2500-odd years. More recent literature confirms this point. Take, for example, one of my favorite lines from Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna: “Tonight a shadow passed across the moon. Don Enrique says an eclipse. But Leandro says it is El Dios and El Cristo putting their heads together, crying over everything that happens down here.” So I suspect that much of what Givens' have to say about the nature of God would ring true for scads of Christians from all sorts of denominations. If folks can get past the fact that it’s coming from Mormons, they will probably not find it wacky or unreasonable in the least. I did have a couple of minor quibbles, but I think that’s because the book is written for a broader audience—the type of book I don’t normally go for. Chapter 1 puts forth a couple theories as to why it would not be unreasonable to believe in God that I thought weren’t necessarily the most convincing. I also had one “oh come on” moment in Chapter 2 and had to put the book down for a bit. There they talk about how the mere thought that we could have been born elsewhere exposes a deep assumption that we existed as a something before we were born. I don’t understand how that follows. Seems to me we’re just imaginative and empathic—no assumption is necessary or even warranted. I'm going to chalk it up to them not clearly delineating between their thoughts and the thoughts of those they’re summarizing. In any case, I soldiered on, and I’m glad I did, because it’s a beautiful and inspiring book. UPDATE 12/8/12 - I have been thinking about this book, and I'm going to add a star, because I keep talking about it and recommending it to people, particularly to people who are struggling with their faith on an intellectual level. I struggled for a time with my faith in the LDS church, and this book would have been very helpful to me then. Its measured tone is so different and more satisfying than the strident certainty that prevails in other LDS books discussing similar topics, and in that way I think it presents a different and helpful way of articulating Mormon faith and the basis for that faith.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Shauni

    What I love most about The God Who Weeps is its humility. Even though it was published by Deseret Book, it doesn’t assume a Mormon audience. For that matter, it doesn’t assume much at all, not even the existence of God. Rather, it merely attempts to place Mormonism in a broader philosophical context and to show that Mormonism’s theological claims are not unreasonable. Terryl and Fiona Givens quote extensively from philosophers, scientists, and theologians from the so-called “dark ages,” and surp What I love most about The God Who Weeps is its humility. Even though it was published by Deseret Book, it doesn’t assume a Mormon audience. For that matter, it doesn’t assume much at all, not even the existence of God. Rather, it merely attempts to place Mormonism in a broader philosophical context and to show that Mormonism’s theological claims are not unreasonable. Terryl and Fiona Givens quote extensively from philosophers, scientists, and theologians from the so-called “dark ages,” and surprisingly enough, they quote very sparsely from LDS leaders. The topic of discussion here is not Mormon history, culture, or policy. Rather, it digs right into the very heart of Mormonism, or in other words, our views on God and the purpose and nature of human existence. They quote from outside sources in order to back up the validity of Mormonism’s hopes and claims, rather than simply to reinforce the belief of those who are already familiar with Mormon doctrine. They make the case that Mormonism isn’t unique in expressing these ideas for the first time; rather, it brings these ideas together in a way that has never been done before. The title The God Who Weeps refers to the prophet Enoch’s vision, in which he is taken into heaven. He sees how much power Satan has over the earth, and sees that the world is veiled in darkness. “The God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and He wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains? And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep?” (Moses 7:28-29). He’s not asking God why He weeps, but how it is that His tears are even possible. Throughout the book, Terryl and Fiona Givens discuss five key doctrines that make Mormonism unique, and they connect these concepts to their broader theological context. These doctrines are 1) God is a personal entity, 2) We lived as spirit beings before our mortal births, 3) Mortality is an ascent, not a fall, 4) God has the desire and the power to unite and elevate the entire human family, and 5) Heaven will consist of those relationships that matter most to us now. Not a word is mentioned about the First Vision, the Book of Mormon, modern prophets, or even temples. As I mentioned, this book is theology at its core. Much of The God Who Weeps deals with theodicy, the problem of evil. This is a subject that has been weighing on my mind lately, especially after watching PBS’s Half the Sky documentary (and reading the book), hearing a Holocaust survivor tell her story, watching the coverage of the Sandy Hook shootings, and hearing about the gang rape victim in India (one of far too many). Terryl and Fiona Givens make the case that it is God’s vulnerability that made Christ’s atonement possible. “That vulnerability is both the price of the power to save, and that which saves […] This supernal act of vulnerability invited His own destruction, even as it drew millions to Him […] Such weakness and the love behind Christ’s sacrifice cannot be bracketed as a unique act of condescension, supernal as it was. This vulnerability, this openness to pain and exposure to risk, is the eternal condition of the divine.” And here is the crux: “God does not instigate pain or suffering, but He can weave it into His purposes. God’s power rests not on totalizing omnipotence, but on His ability to alchemize suffering, tragedy, and loss into wisdom, understanding, and joy.” One point the authors make is that we should not just wait for the next life for the problem of evil to be resolved, but that we should do our part to build a Zion-like society in the here and now. William James said, “Pure religion is to care for widows and orphans, not to sermonize about their plight.” Terryl and Fiona Givens go on to add, “Enoch’s vision is a useful corrective to the ‘blue sky heaven’ that would seduce us into seeing less continuity between this world and the next than we have good reason to suspect exists.” In other words, if our goals is to be Christlike, we should be doing everything we personally can do eradicate pain and suffering from the world. I’m almost positive that this book was a shout-out to skeptics like me, who have not been blessed with the gift of simple belief. The authors even say that “reason must be a part of any solution to the mystery of life that we find satisfactory. A supreme deity would no more gift us with intellect and expect us to forsake it in moments of bafflement, than He would fashion us eyes to see and bid us shut them to the stars.” Later in the book, they write: “Those mortals who operate in the grey area between conviction and incredulity are in a position to choose most meaningfully, and with most meaningful consequences […] Perhaps only a doubter can appreciate the miracle of life without end.” This book has certainly touched my heart, helped me to understand my religion in its proper context, and has motivated me to do my part in making the world a better place.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lon

    Most books marketed to an LDS audience present gospel doctrine as easy-to-digest pablum, making no intellectual or spiritual demands of the reader. Safe and familiar quotes from past and present leaders of the Church back up every insight--to the point that one wonders if the authors are unable to do any original thinking of their own, or if, instead, they are simple unwilling to take intellectual risks in a ecclesiastical culture that privileges orthodoxy above all else. Want to be safe? Organi Most books marketed to an LDS audience present gospel doctrine as easy-to-digest pablum, making no intellectual or spiritual demands of the reader. Safe and familiar quotes from past and present leaders of the Church back up every insight--to the point that one wonders if the authors are unable to do any original thinking of their own, or if, instead, they are simple unwilling to take intellectual risks in a ecclesiastical culture that privileges orthodoxy above all else. Want to be safe? Organize a plethora of quotes from vetted General Authorities into topics, and let each tidy pile of quotes become a chapter for your book. The orthodoxy of your views will be beyond reproach. These are the kinds of books we're used to being offered by Deseret Book. This is not that kind of book. The Givens give us credit for having a mind--a god-like mind--capable of using both reason and deep intuition to test the soundness of five propositional ideas: 1. God is a personal entity, having a heart that beats in sympathy with human hearts, feeling our joy and sorrowing over our pain. 2. We lived as spirit beings in the presence of God before we were born into this mortal life. 3. Mortality is an ascent, not a fall, and we carry infinite potential into a world of sin and sorrow. 4. God has the desire and the power to unite and elevate the entire human family in a kingdom of heaven, and, except for the most stubbornly unwilling, that will be our destiny. 5. Heaven will consist of those relationships that matter most to us now. These propositions, the Givens argue, are compelling, inspiring, and reasonable. That they are reasonable--or at least not unreasonable--becomes their burden to prove, and they do so by in ways that respect our intellect and also appeal to our sacred, experiential lives. Like a good buddhist, we are to accept nothing simply on the authority of another, but to trust our own experience and sense. Each chapter is chock-full of quotes, but they are signposts guiding us to the experiences others have also had in wrestling with the greatest questions of existence. Most satisfyingly to me, the Givens don't make truth claims. Instead, they more modestly suggest that some ideas are more reasonable, ennobling, and ultimately fruitful than others. In another essay, which partakes of the same spirit of intellectual humility, Terryl Givens shares his personal approach to belief: "If I have a spiritual gift it is perhaps an immense capacity for doubt… In the course of my spiritual pilgrimage, my innate capacity for doubt led me to the insight that faith is a choice. That the call to faith is a summons to engage the heart, to attune it to resonate in sympathy with principles and values and ideals that we devoutly hope are true, and have reasonable but not certain grounds for believing to be true. I am convinced that there must be grounds for doubt as well as belief, for only in these conditions of equilibrium and balance, equally “enticed by the one or the other,” is my heart truly free to choose belief or cynicism, faith or faithlessness. Under these conditions, what I choose to embrace, to be responsive to, is the purest reflection of who I am and what I love." A favorite quote from the book: "A supreme deity would no more gift us with intellect and expect us to forsake it in moments of bafflement, than He would fashion us eyes to see and bid us shut them to the stars,” (pg. 4)

  5. 4 out of 5

    Derek

    The Givenses write very beautifully and compellingly. This distilled essence of LDS theology is one I find very attractive, very enticing. Oh, that it were the vision of theology taught in LDS services, sermons, and classes! The book begins with five propositions of the LDS theology as the Givenses interpret it. They then go on to elaborate on each point, to explain the evidence for each position, both deductive and inductive. They don't attempt to prove anything, acknowledging up front that ther The Givenses write very beautifully and compellingly. This distilled essence of LDS theology is one I find very attractive, very enticing. Oh, that it were the vision of theology taught in LDS services, sermons, and classes! The book begins with five propositions of the LDS theology as the Givenses interpret it. They then go on to elaborate on each point, to explain the evidence for each position, both deductive and inductive. They don't attempt to prove anything, acknowledging up front that there is no proof, merely evidence compelling enough, in their opinion, to choose to believe (recognizing that there is also enough compelling evidence to the contrary to make a sincere choice not to believe as well). I felt the evidence presented for the second proposition, We lived as spirit beings in the presence of God before we were born into this mortal life seemed a bit contrived. For the most part, these were insightful and thought-provoking points. Their fifth point, heaven will consist of those relationships that matter most now, was particularly eye-opening. Mormonism points to the idea of heaven as being...well, related...to relationships, with its focus on eternal marriages, but is not generally discussed so expansively. And the fourth proposition God has the desire and the power to unite and elevate the entire human family in the kingdom of heaven, and, except for the most stubbornly unwilling, that will be our destiny, would provoke some opposition from those who accept the traditional teachings of the Church, but I find the universalist ideas elegant and enlightening. How many people would avoid the despair and discouragement so common in our faith if this were the theology taught in our culture? Inspiring work. This is the vision of Mormonism that I could gladly embrace.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Shauna

    START THIS BOOK IN CHAPTERS 3-5 THEN READ CHAPTERS 1-2! JUST SAYIN' I have had a couple of people now tell me that this book is a little hard to get into...And I tend to agree... BUT... Once you get to chapters 3-5 you can't put it down! Amazing thoughts on who the God we worship is and how he LOVES his children~~US! AND...How he wants us to be HAPPY! If you have started this book...and have put it down...pick it back up and skip to chapter 3... You will be happy you didn't give up on this book :) START THIS BOOK IN CHAPTERS 3-5 THEN READ CHAPTERS 1-2! JUST SAYIN' I have had a couple of people now tell me that this book is a little hard to get into...And I tend to agree... BUT... Once you get to chapters 3-5 you can't put it down! Amazing thoughts on who the God we worship is and how he LOVES his children~~US! AND...How he wants us to be HAPPY! If you have started this book...and have put it down...pick it back up and skip to chapter 3... You will be happy you didn't give up on this book :)

  7. 4 out of 5

    Spencer

    Terryl Givens is one of my heros. I hope what he says is true. He certainly paints a picture of life and God that is more beautiful than any I have read. I still dont know how to reconcile it with my reading of the old testament God but. . .shelved it. He seems pretty utilitarian in his understanding of sin. Like God is more upset that we are in pain and estranged, not that we have broken a law. What a wonderful idea! sweet quotes "there must be grounds for doubt as well as belief. . . an overwhel Terryl Givens is one of my heros. I hope what he says is true. He certainly paints a picture of life and God that is more beautiful than any I have read. I still dont know how to reconcile it with my reading of the old testament God but. . .shelved it. He seems pretty utilitarian in his understanding of sin. Like God is more upset that we are in pain and estranged, not that we have broken a law. What a wonderful idea! sweet quotes "there must be grounds for doubt as well as belief. . . an overwhelming preponderance of evidence on either side would make our choice as meaningless as a loaded gun pointed to our heads. the option to believe must appear on ones personal horizon like the fruit of paradise, perched precariously between sets of demands held in dynamic tension" quoting proust- "everything is arranged in this life though we entered it carrying the burden of obligations contracted in a former life; there is no reason inherent in the conditions of life on this earth that can make us consider ourselves obliged to be good. . .all these obligations which have not their sanction in our present life seem to belong to a different world, founded upon kindness. . . self-sacrifice, a world entirely different from this" "legitimate guilt is to the spirit what the sharp protest of a twisted ankle is to the foot: its purpose is to hurt enough to stop you from crippling yourself further" "our lives are more like a canvas on which we paint, than a script we need to learn- though the illusion of the latter appeals to us by its lower risk. it is easier to learn a part than create a work of art" quoting emerson- "that which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. . .what we are worshiping we are becoming" "we cannot so trivialize life that we make of it a coliseum where we wage moral combat like spiritual gladiators, for a presiding authority on high to save or damn according to our performance. . .heaven is not a club we enter. Heaven is a state we attain"

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brad Hart

    I read this book when it first came out, but have since read it 2 more times (yeah, it's that good). Anyway, I decided to do a thorough review of it for those who might be interested in reading this book. ***It may be easier to read my review at the following link: http://hartbrad.blogspot.com/2013/10/... Unfortunately, I couldn't get the format to work here at Goodreads. But, for what it's worth, here is my review: The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life. By Terryl and Fiona Givens (S I read this book when it first came out, but have since read it 2 more times (yeah, it's that good). Anyway, I decided to do a thorough review of it for those who might be interested in reading this book. ***It may be easier to read my review at the following link: http://hartbrad.blogspot.com/2013/10/... Unfortunately, I couldn't get the format to work here at Goodreads. But, for what it's worth, here is my review: The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life. By Terryl and Fiona Givens (Salt Lake City: Ensign Peak, 2012. Pp. 160). In recent years, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) has experienced a sudden exodus from the faith on the part of many of its rank-and-file members. Thanks in large part to the Internet, many Mormons have discovered a number of historical and theological issues that has caused great deal of doubt and concern for many Latter-day Saints who originally believed that their faith was impenetrable to such things. As former Church Historian Marlin K. Jensen recently stated: "Maybe since Kirtland, we've never had a period of -- I'll call it apostasy, like we're having now...It's a different generation. There's no sense kidding ourselves, we just need to be very upfront with [members] and tell them what we know and give answers to what we have and call on their faith like we all do for things we don't understand. This crisis of faith, that has already claimed a number of former members in its wake, has gone relatively unopposed. Little has been said (other than the traditional "don't you dare doubt" or "just pray about it" responses) to help remedy the situation." That is until now. In their book, The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life, the husband and wife team of Terryl and Fiona Givens offer us a concise but extraordinarily eloquent overview of the profoundly complex yet extremely basic theology that is found in Mormonism, and how said theology answers some of life's most difficult to answer questions. The Givens challenge many of the preconceived ideas held by both Christian and Mormon supporters and detractors by resting their thesis on the idea that God's strength and ultimate sovereignty rest in his infinite loving vulnerability rather than his divine dictatorial supremacy. In consequence, The God Who Weeps reveals a god who mourns for his creations when they sin, as opposed to a god who arbitrarily consigns the sinner to an eternity in hell. The book is essentially divided into five sections (chapters) that each emphasize a separate and unique concept that the Givens believe are both unique to the Mormon faith and worthy of our further inquiry. In the first chapter (His Heart Is Set Upon Us), Terryl and Fiona Givens develop their concept of the "weeping God" and how such a deity is both worthy of our devotion and fully capable of coming to our aid: "There could be nothing in this universe, or in any possible universe, more perfectly good, absolutely beautiful, worthy of adoration, and deserving of emulation, than this God of love and kindness and vulnerability. That is why a gesture of belief in His direction, a decision to acknowledge His virtues as the paramount qualities of a divided universe, is a response to the best in us, the best and noblest of which the human soul is capable. But a God without passions would engender in our hearts neither love nor interest. In the vision of Enoch, we find ourselves drawn to a God who prevents all the pain He can, assumes all the suffering He can, and weeps over the misery He can neither prevent nor assume." The Givens further develop the idea of the "suffering" or "weeping" god by pointing to the writings of early church patriarchs like St. Augustine and Origen, along with modern writers such as C.S. Lewis and Emily Dickinson, all of whom insinuated, in one way or another, that God's strength and ultimate sovereignty rested in his love and vulnerability for mankind as opposed to his supremacy as some sort of cold and distant dictator. In the second chapter (Man Was in the Beginning With God), the Givens focus on a point of Mormon doctrine (pre-existence) that they believe is dramatically underplayed by both critics and supporters of Mormonism. It is worth nothing that the majority of this chapter's material is drawn from Terryl Given's other book, When Souls Had Wings, which is almost exclusively devoted to the concept of pre-mortal existence and it's development in Western thought. In this chapter, the Givens turn to the writings of the ancient Greeks, Babylonians Jews, etc. who all maintained an interest in the idea of a pre-mortal world. In the third chapter (Men Are That They Might Have Joy), the books highlights the importance of human choice and how said choices can determine our happiness and illustrate what we as individuals value most in our mortal lives: "Whatever sense we make of this world, whatever value we place upon our lives and relationships, whatever meaning we ultimately give to our joys and agonies, must necessarily be a gesture of faith. Whether we consider the whole a product of impersonal cosmic forces, a malevolent deity, or a benevolent god, depends not on the evidence, but on what we choose, deliberately and consciously, to conclude from that evidence. To our minds, this fork in our mental road is very much the point. It is, in fact, inescapable." In other words, the Givens remind us that joy, faith and hope really are in the eye of the beholder. They do so by pointing to biblical figures like Adam and Eve, and the apparent quandary they experienced while in the Garden of Eden. Partaking of the fruit meant introducing pain, hurt, grief and despair into the world, but it also brought about joy, happiness, love and charity. In short, life becomes a quest to put off the "natural man" and experience for ourselves (and through our own choices) the joy that is available to all. Chapter 4 (None of Them Is Lost) is, in my opinion, the most important chapter of this work. In this chapter, the Givens challenge many of the erroneous cultural beliefs that Mormons have with regards to salvation. Too often members of the Mormon faith (and Christians in general) make the incorrect assumption that salvation will only be attained by a select few and that heaven will be a relatively underpopulated place while hell will be full to the brim. This is nonsense. As the Givens point out: "God is personally invested in shepherding His children through the process of mortality and beyond; His desires are set upon the whole human family, not upon a select few. He is not predisposed to just the fast learners, the naturally inclined, or the morally gifted. The project of human advancement that God designed offers a hope to the entire human race. It is universal in its appeal and reach alike. This, however, has not been the traditional view." And: "We are not in some contest to rack up points. We will not someday wait with bated breath to see what prize or pain is meted out by a great dispenser of trophies. We cannot so trivialize life that we make of it a coliseum where we wage moral combat like spiritual gladiators, for a presiding Authority on high to save or damn according to our performance. Where would be the purpose in all that? He might take the measure of our souls at any moment and deal with us accordingly, saving Himself, not to mention us, a great deal of trouble. How much more meaningful is a life designed for spiritual formation, rather than spiritual elevation." In other words, heaven isn't a prize to be won but a state of being to be attained. The value of this concept is infinitely important for Mormons and the world as a whole. God wants to save everyone, not just a few. As a result, Mormonism is NOT a small tent faith of exclusivity but is a big tent UNIVERSALIST religion. As Joseph Smith himself stated, "God will fetter out every individual soul." In their 5th and final section (Participants in the Divine Nature), the Givens essentially sum it all up and illustrate the Mormon belief that God wants the best for all of his children. As a result, we can, through our own merits and God's grace, achieve a state of full happiness and joy, surrounded by those we love most. In short, the Givens suggest that heaven will be, for those who choose it, a continuation of all the special relationships we experience here on Earth, except that the joy can be infinite. Though our own vulnerability, we too can become "joint heirs" with Christ. In summation, The God Who Weeps is a welcomed and invaluable response to those who believe that Mormonism has nothing to offer them. It presents a theology that is fully developed, complex and worthy of scholarly inquiry and soul-searching meditation. The authors of this work demonstrate an exceptional ability to sift through centuries of material to find the perfectly pitched quotations and evidence needed to prove their argument. The depth and breadth of their knowledge of world literature, theology, philosophy, art and history is astounding, and serves to support their thesis that Mormonism is a deeply rich and fulfilling religion with a great deal to offer the world. All current and former Mormons would do well to realize that trivializing the faith, or reducing the argument to the smallest possible denominator, does little to help increase our understanding. There is nothing to be gained from picking fun at the low-lying fruit of Mormonism As Terryl Givens states: Mormons have largely left others to frame the theological discussion. In opting to emphasize Mormon culture over Mormon theology, Mormons have too often left the media and ministers free to select most esoteric and idiosyncratic for ridicule. So jibes about Kolob and magic underwear usurp serious engagement, much as public knowledge about the Amish is confined to a two-dimensional caricature involving a horse and buggy. But members of a faith community should recognize themselves in any fair depiction. And it is the fundamentals of Mormonism that should ground any debate worth having about Mormon beliefs or Mormon membership in the Christian community. And for the Givens these fundamentals are: 1.) God's strength is found in his vulnerability. His Heart is set upon us. 2.) We are eternal in nature and were in the beginning with God. 3.) We can, through our own choices and God's eternal grace, have eternal joy. 4.) Salvation is universal and open to all who want it. Mormonism is Universalist in nature. 5.) We can be participants and joint heirs in the divine nature. In a mere 160 pages, The God Who Weeps does what no other book has been able to: present to the world a concise yet complex narrative of why Mormonism matters. My advise to all who read this is simple: if you love being a Mormon and have never questioned your faith, read this book. It will give you a better understanding of those who do. If you are a Mormon and have doubts or have already left the faith, read this book. It may give you a better understanding/perspective. If you are not a Mormon and want to know what the faith is all about, read this book. It will give you a better understanding of why Mormonism is a unique and valuable faith that is worthy of more than both its members and critics have given it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Chris Taber

    Can't say enough good things about this book. It was eloquent, thought-provoking, prejudice-challenging, profound, contemplative, humorous, intellectual yet accessible, expansive, and familiar all at once. The back-story on the book is almost as interesting as the premise of the book itself. According to some interviews I listened to with the authors, Terryl Givens was speaking at an academic conference on religion in America and had said something about how it was a shame that the American schol Can't say enough good things about this book. It was eloquent, thought-provoking, prejudice-challenging, profound, contemplative, humorous, intellectual yet accessible, expansive, and familiar all at once. The back-story on the book is almost as interesting as the premise of the book itself. According to some interviews I listened to with the authors, Terryl Givens was speaking at an academic conference on religion in America and had said something about how it was a shame that the American scholarly discussion about religion was happy to have Mormons sing and dance for them or be their quarterbacks and pop stars, but not so keen to include them in the religious discourse. He lamented this because he felt that Mormonism has plenty of worthwhile contributions to make to the scholarly and intellectual conversation, even apart from its religious context. Someone at the conference asked him what he would say (i.e., about Mormonism) if he were given the chance to contribute to such a conversation. The five chapters of this book were his answer. Somehow, word of this exchange made its way back to Sheri Dew, CEO of Deseret Book, and she reached out to Givens to discuss actually writing that book. The five chapters of the book discuss five fundamental propositions that Mormonism offers the world, but presents each one in such a way that many Mormons might not even recognize them, as the authors support them using citations from scholars, poets, theologians, and philosophers from a wide variety of backgrounds and faith traditions. What they accomplish in doing so is to show that the truths that many Mormons assume are unique to our faith tradition actually have a much older, richer, and broader history of thought, and that Joseph Smith's accomplishment in the Restoration was more of a synthesizing of disparate truths THOUGHT to have been long lost, but which in reality had only been marginalized over the centuries by much more powerful voices and forces. I alternated between the Kindle edition and the audio edition of this book. The audio is read by Fiona Givens, who has a beautiful speaking voice, a delightful accent (including her attempt to narrate Huck Finn using a decidedly non-British accent), and a very comfortable pace. My one complaint is that the recording studio did not seem to have made good use of "pop filters" during the recording sessions as there are distracting noises throughout, and they did not edit for noises like page turns (which can be avoided entirely nowadays by using an e-reader). Regardless, these are minor nit-picks, and did not distract from the quality of the text nor of my enjoyment of it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Howard

    A much needed book for Mormons today. It will be especially vindicating and validating for some while being paradigm shattering for others. The Givenses present a "reasonable and resonant" portrayal of Mormonism and how it makes sense of life. They defend and expound upon a particular Mormon worldview that I find the most strikingly beautiful and authentic, polishing away the falsehoods or misrepresentations that have attached themselves to Mormonism through Mormon culture or church leaders in l A much needed book for Mormons today. It will be especially vindicating and validating for some while being paradigm shattering for others. The Givenses present a "reasonable and resonant" portrayal of Mormonism and how it makes sense of life. They defend and expound upon a particular Mormon worldview that I find the most strikingly beautiful and authentic, polishing away the falsehoods or misrepresentations that have attached themselves to Mormonism through Mormon culture or church leaders in less-than inspired moments. The Givenses elaborate on 5 essential Truths of Mormonism. At the heart of it is a vulnerable and loving God who weeps. Sin and eternal progression can only be understood in terms of relationships. Something is sinful because it separates us from God, or divides us from one another. It isn't some arbitrary set of rules or rituals. We can become like God because we are of the same divine nature. Mormonism espouses an "eventual universalism". Living in a state of Heavenly being will always be open to us. God is always waiting to welcome us into a celestial existence as soon as we have sufficiently conformed our lives to celestial laws. No man or woman will be forced to Heaven. A heavenly existence is for those who want to and are capable of living such an existence. Sin existed before our mortal life, challenges us now, and will exist in the next stage of our progression. Repentance and growth will be with us after this life. And God will hold his arms open until we are ready to live a life worthy of Heaven. We can all make it, eventually, if we that is what we want. While I think this notion of "eventual universalism" will be the most challenging for hyper-orthodox Mormons, I find it to be the most richly satisfying. For a book sold at Deseret Book, this is unusually intelligent and academic. The authors quote endlessly from the Western Canon providing additional witnesses to Truths found in Mormonism. Although they explain authentic Mormonism, the Givenses use quotes from the World's great writers, thinkers, poets, etc. to give support. The God Who Weeps is written in a way to be accessible to a very wide audience, but should strike at the heart of Mormons. It should be read by every Mormon who thinks he or she understands the Plan of Salvation. It should especially be read by any who struggle for an intelligent and palpable Mormonism.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    Thank God for Terryl and Fiona Givens. This book is a tremendous meditation on the Mormon conception of God and human existence, drawing on an overwhelmingly rich variety of secular sources from the Greeks to Kant and Dostoevsky to Freud and Bertrand Russel, to show how Mormonism seeks to address some of the thorniest questions of philosophy and theology. Most impressive is how the Givenses take some of Mormonism's more controversial or heretical teachings (a God of parts and passions, a premort Thank God for Terryl and Fiona Givens. This book is a tremendous meditation on the Mormon conception of God and human existence, drawing on an overwhelmingly rich variety of secular sources from the Greeks to Kant and Dostoevsky to Freud and Bertrand Russel, to show how Mormonism seeks to address some of the thorniest questions of philosophy and theology. Most impressive is how the Givenses take some of Mormonism's more controversial or heretical teachings (a God of parts and passions, a premortal life, baptisms for the dead, deification) and tie these doctrines to a rich legacy of Western thought, without being defensive. All in just about 100 pages. I think the authors struggle at times to decide who their audience is since they are fine scholars writing a more or less devotional book. I think this book will work best for a Mormon audience, but I would recommend it to everyone.

  12. 4 out of 5

    J.

    Givens has become a light among faith-challenged, struggling Mormons searching for answers about how to stay in the LDS Church. These strugglers met the internet and found differences between the LDS version of events and history. One such example was prominent in the NY Times a few weeks back: http://tinyurl.com/k549ffc. Givens gained this reputation by several publications, but most likely by a book that details and addresses some anti-Mormon claims about the Book of Mormon. Furthering his cre Givens has become a light among faith-challenged, struggling Mormons searching for answers about how to stay in the LDS Church. These strugglers met the internet and found differences between the LDS version of events and history. One such example was prominent in the NY Times a few weeks back: http://tinyurl.com/k549ffc. Givens gained this reputation by several publications, but most likely by a book that details and addresses some anti-Mormon claims about the Book of Mormon. Furthering his credibility is a current tour with Richard Bushman (emeritus Columbia history professor and Joseph Smith biographer) to address these struggling faithful in “firesides” worldwide and help them stay in the faith. It is presumably with this intention that Givens writes “The God Who Weeps – How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life,” a 148-page mess that talks very little about how Mormonism makes sense of life. The basis of the book is a section of Mormon scripture that describes God weeping. But Givens doesn't come out and say that this is a Mormon source, he says it comes from what “may well be … [t]he most remarkable religious document published in the nineteenth century.” And then doesn't tell anybody what it is. This “may well be” is the Pearl of Great Price, a book of scripture that Joseph Smith “translated” from Egyptian papyrus (later found at the U. of Chicago museum, and upon investigation found to be yet another copy of the Egyptian Book of Breathings). Readers unfamiliar with Mormonism deserve more of an explanation. The preface promises an exploration of five propositions. These propositions serve as future chapter headings and little else. Givens can’t seem to stay on a theme, but meanders widely among favorite quotations and digressions. His literary ADD rivals that of famed-Mormon “Egyptologist” and BYU Professor Hugh Nibley. Whose thousand-page wanderings leave a reader with a series of un-interesting and un-connected facts. Take Chapter 5 for instance. In a mere 19 pages, Givens manages to cite 55 different sources, 17 of which are LDS sources. He neither differentiates nor explains the Mormon sources. Instead, he blends them, as though citing Parley P. Pratt next to Kant will fool the reader into thinking that the former is as intellectually engaging as the latter. This reminds me of the BYU art museum where paintings by Warhol and Monet are interspersed with Mormons dragging handcarts. Apart from the rapid shifting quotations and general wandering, this book suffers from bad writing. Can somebody please explain the following sentence to me? From page 83: “God’s supreme happiness is not an arbitrary category of the divine nature; it is inseparable from the perfection of those attributes that He chooses to manifest through His actions—actions that He invites and empowers us to emulate.” Beyond this mud, the index is thoroughly inaccurate (I went looking for a JS quote and found that only half of the JS references were in the index), citations wrong (Darwin, specifically), and references unclear (William Law is the name of both a high-ranking Mormon dissident and an English preacher, which Givens manages to differentiate only on the second citation). Givens ultimate insult was a false discussion of honey bees and Darwin that went on for two pages (long for him). Givens maintains, based on misreading of Darwin, that the honey bee’s stinger is flawed because it is barbed. A barbed stinger stays with the attacked and kills the bee. Givens maintains that an un-barbed stinger is superior. Thus, natural selection stopped evolving short of perfection because of a lack of opposition. And relating that to spiritual matters, Givens states we need opposition to progress spiritually. In actually, Darwin praised the barb. On the whole, the barb works “if the power of stinging be useful to the community.” The worker (the only bee with a barbed stinger: the queen and male do not have barbed stingers) can sting rival insects without dying. The barb only sticks to mammals, along with a pumping sack that continues to poison after the bee is dead. That sounds highly effective to me. And who says that bee stingers are done evolving anyway? This is Givens’ longest analogy and really the only thing that he spends more than two sentences talking about. Now, I don’t expect Givens’ analogies to “walk on all four legs.” But I do expect a Ph.D professor to pick a thought-out analogy, to understand the source material, and to properly cite it. I was offender both as a reader and a beekeeper. Givens goal, as inferred by me, is to lend literary and aesthetic credibility to Mormonism. And much like the BYU art museum, the casual observer and blue blood Mormon may be satisfied. But the art lover, bee keeper and keen reader are left wanting.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    This book is a breath of fresh air to the student of literature on mormonism. To those tired from the never-ending stream of sappy personal experiences and eager apologists seeking to justify individual faith, The God Who Weeps offers an approachable, rational explanation for why and what the authors--and by extension, readers everywhere--can choose to believe. The text is abundantly rich in citations from classical, medieval, renaissance, romantic, and contemporary secular and religious literat This book is a breath of fresh air to the student of literature on mormonism. To those tired from the never-ending stream of sappy personal experiences and eager apologists seeking to justify individual faith, The God Who Weeps offers an approachable, rational explanation for why and what the authors--and by extension, readers everywhere--can choose to believe. The text is abundantly rich in citations from classical, medieval, renaissance, romantic, and contemporary secular and religious literature, indeed a literary journey through time. I found many of the authors' claims provocative. For example: - God is not some angry or even ambivalent father figure; rather, He loves us and desires our happiness. Jonathan Edwards's depiction of God in his timeless sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," is not only inaccurate, it describes a being not worthy of our adoration. Nothing about His merely creating us demands our respect, at least no more than we respect an abusive or neglectful father. It is precisely because He is the supreme example of divine love that He is worthy of our worship. - God's love for us makes Him vulnerable to sadness when we make mistakes because He knows unhappiness is the natural consequence of sin. - Ultimately, His plan is to reunite the entire human family, and if the fall of Adam and Eve into mortality was God's plan B, then His plan wasn't very well designed. Our current mortal existence is and always has been the plan. - Perhaps God has commanded His people over the centuries to build temples not for us, but for Him. For such a glorious being as God, visiting an imperfect world where people He loves are poorly choosing sin over Him must be emotionally draining. Temples, then, are for His refuge, not ours. These are just a few of the many points the authors make, and I feel I am not doing them justice. For the full effect, I must recommend you read the book!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Much has been made in the LDS intellectual community over this one, particularly among the more liberal-minded of us. I certainly consider it a must-read, particularly for those unfamiliar with the Givens' somewhat unique take on LDS theology. There were a number of occasions on which a particular idea or theory really surprised me with its originality and depth. I was touched in those moments, and brought to tears at least once. There were also, however, a number of times--particularly when the Much has been made in the LDS intellectual community over this one, particularly among the more liberal-minded of us. I certainly consider it a must-read, particularly for those unfamiliar with the Givens' somewhat unique take on LDS theology. There were a number of occasions on which a particular idea or theory really surprised me with its originality and depth. I was touched in those moments, and brought to tears at least once. There were also, however, a number of times--particularly when the authors discuss matters of science--where I detected a discouraging disregard for empiricism and a casualness towards matters (such as Darwinian evolution) that deserve more serious engagement and grappling. Overall, highly recommended, though. And we should all be encouraged that this work was published by Deseret Book. Baby steps forward indeed.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Josiah

    I am often frustrated talking about my religion that discussions seem to focus on outward behavior like why I don’t drink, do I pay tithing on my net or gross income, etc. This book cuts to the most significant aspect of Mormonism, that we are children of God and he loves us. That is the starting point of my faith and I wish I could articulate it as well as the Givenses.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    This book explains the mormon concept of God brilliantly and poetically. It is well-researched and well-written. It depicts God as compassionate and knowable--He is a god who weeps for his children. (There is also a mother God.) The Givens' take from scripture and modern church doctrine to describe God, but they also borrow from Christian writers and poets of the past. This book explains the mormon concept of God brilliantly and poetically. It is well-researched and well-written. It depicts God as compassionate and knowable--He is a god who weeps for his children. (There is also a mother God.) The Givens' take from scripture and modern church doctrine to describe God, but they also borrow from Christian writers and poets of the past.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Peter Fuller

    If you already know something about Mormon theology and consider it dinky, silly, and/or the creative product of Joseph Smith’s frenzied mind, this book will bore and likely amuse you. You’ll lol heartily when Givens quotes The Book of Abraham alongside Kierkegaard. If you have no preconceived notions about Mormon theology, I think this book is a lovely read. It’s impassioned, succinct, quotes from many beautiful literary and scriptural sources, and generally feels very upbeat and positive. If y If you already know something about Mormon theology and consider it dinky, silly, and/or the creative product of Joseph Smith’s frenzied mind, this book will bore and likely amuse you. You’ll lol heartily when Givens quotes The Book of Abraham alongside Kierkegaard. If you have no preconceived notions about Mormon theology, I think this book is a lovely read. It’s impassioned, succinct, quotes from many beautiful literary and scriptural sources, and generally feels very upbeat and positive. If you are a member/former member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I can’t recommend this book enough. I myself am a sometimes-ardent, sometimes-apathetic member of this church, and I found Givens’ message to be incredibly helpful, uplifting, and positive to my own religious and spiritual journey.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Afton

    One of the first books we should give to any inquirers (esp. Christian) about what members of the Church believe... probably before any pamphlets tbh. There are only a handful of quotes by LDS leaders/members; most sources cited are philosophers and religious thought leaders across eras/faiths (refreshing and universalizing!). Love the Givenses and how artfully they articulate the most consequential distinctions surrounding points of macro-doctrine. The way they contemplate doubt as a vehicle fo One of the first books we should give to any inquirers (esp. Christian) about what members of the Church believe... probably before any pamphlets tbh. There are only a handful of quotes by LDS leaders/members; most sources cited are philosophers and religious thought leaders across eras/faiths (refreshing and universalizing!). Love the Givenses and how artfully they articulate the most consequential distinctions surrounding points of macro-doctrine. The way they contemplate doubt as a vehicle for gratitude is refreshing!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    4.5 stars. This book was so well researched and so comprehensive for a 148 page book. I loved the academic approach while appealing to the poetic. This is a must read before any mission, any lesson, any religious discussion. If anyone has any religious leanings then it shows how similar we all are in our yearnings for God's love. The world would have us believe that we are so disparate but we are very similar. Caution: you HAVE to read this with a highlighter in hand. 4.5 stars. This book was so well researched and so comprehensive for a 148 page book. I loved the academic approach while appealing to the poetic. This is a must read before any mission, any lesson, any religious discussion. If anyone has any religious leanings then it shows how similar we all are in our yearnings for God's love. The world would have us believe that we are so disparate but we are very similar. Caution: you HAVE to read this with a highlighter in hand.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Linda Hart

    This was a highlighter, a book I will remember, quote, recommend, and reread. It is a rational theology, an ongoing narrative of logistical conclusions providing a concise explanation of how Mormonism's view of God and Jesus Christ differs from mainstream view . . . and why it matters. This was a highlighter, a book I will remember, quote, recommend, and reread. It is a rational theology, an ongoing narrative of logistical conclusions providing a concise explanation of how Mormonism's view of God and Jesus Christ differs from mainstream view . . . and why it matters.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Gasser

    A liberal arts education in Mormonism. And for you RM's out there... the Plan of Salvation on academic steroids. A liberal arts education in Mormonism. And for you RM's out there... the Plan of Salvation on academic steroids.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Paula Soper

    This book saved my life. Thanks, Givenses!!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    In general, I liked this book, but it felt a little like I was sauntering along and randomly picking up shiny quotes along the way without really a sense of direction. It reads similar to how a C. S. Lewis book such as Mere Christianity would read, providing rational for faith in the God of Mormonism, particularly in subjects like the preexistence, belief, divine vulnerability, and the power of choice. The authors seemed to be speaking to people who were struggling with belief and complex faith. In general, I liked this book, but it felt a little like I was sauntering along and randomly picking up shiny quotes along the way without really a sense of direction. It reads similar to how a C. S. Lewis book such as Mere Christianity would read, providing rational for faith in the God of Mormonism, particularly in subjects like the preexistence, belief, divine vulnerability, and the power of choice. The authors seemed to be speaking to people who were struggling with belief and complex faith. As a practicing Mormon who has wrestled with doubt, I tended to strongly agree with most of the ideas proposed. Below is a list of quotations that I found most powerful in the book: • “All transactions whatever…have relation to the future, we have to take a leap in the dark…to act upon very imperfect evidence…I believe it to be the same with religious belief… Some people seem born with a capacity to readily believe…such a gift we have not found to be common” (3). • “The call to faith is a summons to engage the heart, to attune it to resonate in sympathy with principles and values and ideals that we devoutly hope are true and which we have reasonable but not certain groups for believing to be true. There must be grounds for doubt as well as belief, in order to render the choice more truly a choice, and therefore the more deliberate” (4). • “The beast in the parable starves to death because he is faced with two equally desirable and equally accessible piles of hay…he perishes in indecision…if we linker in indecision, as Buridan’s beast, we will not perish. We will simply miss an opportunity to act decisively in the absence of certainty, and show that our fear of error is greater than our love of truth” (4-6). • “So does the content of a human heart lie buried until action calls it to faith. The greatest act of self-revelation occurs when we choose what we will believe” (5) • “We are never so defenseless against suffering as when we love” (23). • “God is not exempt from emotional pain” (25). • “In making herself [Ruth] vulnerable, she reveals the exquisite beauty of her own character” (30). • “We never feel completely at home in this world…because we sense we carry within us clues to our origins” (38). • “Where and when had I any experience of happiness, that I should remember it and love it and long for it?”—St. Augustine (39). • “We can only seek what we have known, and knowledge of God, then, must be memory of God (39). • “One theologian found in premortal existence a solution to “the mystery of that inextinguishable melancholy and sadness, which lies hidden at foundation of all human consciousness” (41). • “We are pre-wired to speak the language of the Spirit” (43). • “If we have not existed before birth… then there are no grounds for supposition that we shall continue to exist after our existence has apparently ceased”--Percy Shelley (46). • “Early Christians thought it likely that forgetting was a tender mercy” (47). • “My impression is that….the veil quite properly funnels the bulk of our attention to the here and now….The veil is not a curse or cause for existential lament. It is necessary to our stage of progression as beings…affords us freedom for independent action…and [gives us] freedom independently to discern and choose between good and evil”–Philip Barlow (47). • “Legitimate guilt is the spirit what the sharp protest of a twisted ankle is to a foot: its purpose is to hurt enough to stop you from crippling yourself further. Its function is to prevent more pain, not expand it” (49). • “We know we had other options…guilt is how we know we are free to choose…we are not born good or evil. We are born free…we are free to regard our circumstances” (49). • “In our present, earthly form, we are clearly the product of forces outside our control that influence our personality, inform our character, and shape our wants and desires. And yet, we know we are free. How can this be, unless there is something at the heart of our identity that was not shaped by environment, not inherited from our parents, and not even created by God?” (50). • “Soberingly, if we are co-eternal with God, then it is not God’s creation of the human out of nothing that defines our essential relationship to Him” (53)… Our profoundly felt frailty and dependence dispel any illusion that co-eternity means co-equality” (54). • “Eve’s and Adam’s decision to eat the fruit of the tree…may be an allegory for—if perhaps a counterpart to—our own decision to accept the conditions of mortality, in exchange for a heavenly paradise” (57). • “Hegel argued forcefully, the most tragic predicaments in which we find ourselves are those that require a choice between competing Goods, not Good and Evil” (57). • “In consequence of Eve’s choice, God does three significant things: He notes that they have not become “as one of us,” indicating some kind of growth that has been initiated. He curses the ground “for [their] sake or “on [their] account,” suggesting He is facilitating rather than punishing their decision to encounter a world of trial and opposites. And he does not forbid them immortality, but defers their immortality for a period” (58). • “Without contraries, is no progression”—William Blake (62). • “Paul never felt guilt in the face of this weakness—pain, yes, but not guilt”…Christianity’s fixation on the “plagued conscience” is a development Stendahl traces to Augustine three centuries after Paul” (63). • “Love may be a heavy burden because of pride…Or perhaps we are genuinely ill at ease, as one who knows at what great cost the gift has come” (74-75). • “People may honor or abuse us, harm or nourish us. But for the most part, it is our own choices that shape our identity” (81). • “Dante drives home the truth that hell is a prison we build for ourselves one brick and one choice at a time” (82). • “Heaven is not a club we enter. Heaven is a state we attain…we acquire Heaven in according with a growing capacity to receive it…God cannot arbitrarily dispense a blanket “salvation” on the human race for two reasons. First, because heaven depends on attaining a particular mode of being….second…even if it were possible, imposing a heavenly reward on those who do not choose heaven would be just that: an imposition to the “unwilling” and an abrogation of the moral agency of which all human life and earthly existence is predicated” (89). • “If God’s dominion does not end with our death, why should the progress of the human soul?” (98). • “Hell, in the sense of permanent alienation from God, a stunting of one’s infinite potential, must exist as an option if freedom is to exist…some of us choose our own private hells often enough in the here and now” (99). • “We are, fundamentally and inescapably, relational beings” (108)…”Relationships are the core of our existence because they are the core of God’s” (109). • “We humans have a lamentable tendency to spend more time theorizing the reasons behind human suffering, than working to alleviate human suffering, and in imagining a heaven above, than creating a heaven in our homes and communities” (111-12). • “It takes relationships to provide the friction that wears down our rough edges and sanctifies us” (113). • “Salvation is a process, not an event” (116). • “What if in our anxious hope of heaven, we find we have blindly passed it by?” (120)…They are the stuff and substance of any Zion we build, any heaven we inherit. God is not radically Other, and neither is His heaven” (121). • “The New Testament makes the point that those mortals who operate in the grey area between conviction and incredulity are in a position to choose most meaningfully….Many of us will live out our lives in doubt, like the unnamed father in the gospel of Mark. Coming to Jesus, distraught over the pain of his afflicted son, he said simply, “I believe, help my unbelief”” (122). • “Miracles do not depend on flawless faith. They come to those who question as well as to those who know” (123). • “Perhaps only a doubter can appreciate the miracle of life without end….We may be closer to truth in recognizing that most individuals are divided in their souls between belief and doubt, just as the father Mark describes. We certainly do not profess any certain knowledge” (123).

  24. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    The Givens’ book was an interesting combination of doctrine, interpretation, and confirmatory support from a wide variety of sources, including prophets, scripture, scholars of ancient scripture, poetry, prophets, and so forth. Thoughts from some of the great thinkers and artists of the world have been juxtaposed with the ideas and teachings of great men and women of God to show that the doctrines of God, as fundamental tenets of the LDS faith, are fully supported. I like the Givens’ writing styl The Givens’ book was an interesting combination of doctrine, interpretation, and confirmatory support from a wide variety of sources, including prophets, scripture, scholars of ancient scripture, poetry, prophets, and so forth. Thoughts from some of the great thinkers and artists of the world have been juxtaposed with the ideas and teachings of great men and women of God to show that the doctrines of God, as fundamental tenets of the LDS faith, are fully supported. I like the Givens’ writing style, the depth and clarity of their expositions, and the warmth and generosity and love with which they affirm the doctrines of God. Much of what they wrote resonated with me, and I found myself recording in my study journal many thoughts and ideas that came to me as I read. Some of the passages that stood out for me, and prompted some of those thoughts, include the following: 1. The greatest act of self-revelation occurs when we choose what we will believe, in that space of freedom that exists between knowing that a thing is, and knowing that a thing is not. Reminiscent of the late Viktor Frankl’s insight that “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Surely, this life is a time to learn to make the best use of that space, and to learn that our behavior, our thoughts, our every word and deed, can be placed under our control. And likewise, we choose to believe what we will, to respond to that within us which is divinely appointed, or to reject it and choose a more worldly way. 2. Evidence does not construct itself into meaningful patterns. That is our work to do. In my work as a social scientist, that is a basic tenet, that it is my job to search for and find the patterns that create meaning out of raw data, and then to interweave those patterns into the fabric of human existence that we are trying to understand. Likewise, in my spiritual life, it is my job to identify how the laws and principles of the gospel interact with my behavior, thoughts, motivations, and so forth to create patterns, and perhaps even more importantly, to purposefully construct the patterns of my life as I would have them…remembering always that “there is a law, irrevocably decreed…upon which all blessings are predicated…” 3. …we become ever more adept at discerning good and evil, and nourishing the wellsprings of human love. And in so doing, we grow more capable of discerning a kind and merciful God among His many counterfeits. Such an important thing, to be able to see the true face of God in the midst of all the fakery and folly and foolishness that humanity has constructed, and that we all too often believe. Perhaps that is why my heart thumps a bit harder when I glimpse His love and commitment to us when he reveals Himself to us as our eternal Father, or His son as our eternal Lord, as in the following passage (D&C 50:40-42): “Behold, ye are little children and ye cannot bear all things now; ye must grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth. Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world, and you are of them that my Father hath given me; and none of them that my Father hath given me shall be lost.” 4. It is our own identity that we must struggle to discern, before we can rightly perceive our place in the cosmos and our relation to the Divine. As the Primary song goes, “I am a child of God…” Simple words that I grew up singing, not realizing how truly profound is the meaning behind them. I am a child of God…and if I am, so is every other person on the face of the earth, whether rich or poor, drunk or sober, bound by addictions or free of them, educated or not. Beloved by God, who wants each one of His children to return home to Him, and who must weep at the choices we make that take us far from Him. 5. In turning to God, therefore, we are not converting – but reverting – to a holy model… As Wordsworth wrote, we come to this mortality “not in entire forgetfulness…” Thus, what we think of as painful progression toward a better understanding of our Father may rather be a slow response to our forgotten memories of Him, or our pre-mortal life with Him, and of our relationship with Him as His children. As the Givens’ say later in their book, Sin has its part to play, but it is neither our original condition, nor our inherent nature. If we only live to satisfy our physical desires, we are suffocating our spiritual selves. And yet later, The unhappiness of sin is nothing more than our spirit rebelling against a condition alien to its true nature. 6. God has the desire and the power to unite and exalt the entire human family in a kingdom of heaven, and except for the most stubbornly unwilling, that will be our destiny. “This is the father’s will…that of all which He hath given me I should love nothing.” What a comforting assurance, akin to that any father or mother might make to a child – no matter what, I will always love you, and help you, and guide you, and bring you home safely again. 7. Sympathy and sorrow, not anger and vengeance, are the emotions we must look to in order to plumb the nature of the divine response to sin. In the language of scripture, this is God’s response to human sin, an underlying sorrow, not anger…For He is the God who weeps. I don’t know how others respond, but depending on circumstance, my response to anger is fight, flight, or paralysis, none of which is conducive to growth or development as God assuredly intends. Sorrow, on the other hand, especially that of one whom I love deeply, provokes in me a desire to improve, to eliminate the cause of that sorrow, to humble myself and change for the better. Anger is the world’s way, and for God’s purposes, to create beings who can and will return home to Him, it simply doesn’t work. 8. What is always at stake in any decision we make is what that choice turns us into. As C.S. Lewis put it, "There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God , Thy will be done, and those to whom God says, in the end, Thy will be done.” Ultimately, we choose, but God our Father will be as patient as is needful to bring us along until we are ready to make that choice fully conscious of the consequences, and fully prepared. I believe that for most of us, we will not reach that point in this lifetime. 9. The Greek term, “metanoia,” means a change or reversal of mind, purpose, or disposition. Repentance, in other words, means to re-decide, to choose afresh. But the mercy thus freely offered through Christ’s atonement…cannot extend to the point of choosing on behalf of individuals. Repentance is therefore an ongoing process by which we repudiate unrighteous choices, acknowledging Christ’s role in suffering the consequences of those sins on our behalf, and choosing afresh in accordance with purified desire. And so we go on choosing, again and again. ‘Nough said. 10. The cosmos revolves on comforting the sick. When you act in this way, you are sharing in the love which built the stars. Holiness is found in how we treat others, not in how we contemplate the cosmos. Perhaps that is why I find so much more satisfying small acts of service one on one, rather than grandiose movements and gatherings and such. I think it has ever been true, despite all of the great and grand organizations, that real service is done one on one, one person to another. Nothing ever happened until someone acted on behalf of another, no floor was ever really cleaned until someone got down on hands and knees, no burden ever lifted, no pain alleviated, and no difference made…until one person extended a hand to lift another. I strongly recommend this book, and hope those who read it find it prompting their own minds and hearts as it did mine.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Austin

    This book is a great survey of Mormon thought on a range of important topics, such as faith, the nature of God, universal salvation, pre-existence, the nature of sin, science, and the nature of our relationship with God. It turns out that the ideas Mormonism has vacuumed into one great constellation of doctrine have been around piecemeal for a very long time. The intellectual detective work to gather the relevant quotes supporting seemingly unique Mormon ideas such as baptisms for the dead, pre- This book is a great survey of Mormon thought on a range of important topics, such as faith, the nature of God, universal salvation, pre-existence, the nature of sin, science, and the nature of our relationship with God. It turns out that the ideas Mormonism has vacuumed into one great constellation of doctrine have been around piecemeal for a very long time. The intellectual detective work to gather the relevant quotes supporting seemingly unique Mormon ideas such as baptisms for the dead, pre-existence, universal salvation, and The Fall-as-Ascension is truly impressive and convincing. Perhaps it's too difficult given the breadth of topic, but I would have liked to see a more coherent flow to the book. It felt a bit like a shotgun blast of various doctrines and ideas held most dear by the authors. The markings of the blast form a beautiful mosaic to be sure, but the reading feels a bit disjointed, less a coherent intellectual history than a calendar with daily, not necessarily related, quotes. One important idea not covered by the quotes below is that each human being is learning crucial lessons in this life, and is exercising his free agency to become either more or less like Christ, whether or not he is a Christian by name. Mormons believe that all but the most stubbornly unwilling shall eventually be saved; therefore, many who do not know Christ in this life by name will find they know him very well indeed after this life, because they have become like him. Why then the importance of preaching the Gospel on this earth? I drew an analogy to my own life to help me answer this question: The awareness of Christ by name has been explicitly lacking among many people on the earth, much like I was unaware I suffered from ADD for many years. I was only formally diagnosed at the age of 29. But this does not mean that I was ignorant of the condition in substance. I really knew ADD even though I didn't know the name for it yet. I had already learned a great deal about managing the condition so that when the diagnosis came the next step was accepting a more powerful medication for which I was then ready. Had I not been diagnosed, I would have continued to hone my abilities to manage the condition, but perhaps I would not have fully lived up to my potential. That's perhaps the importance of preaching the Gospel now; to help all who benefit to live up to their spiritual potential and not forestall happiness. Great Quotes: - What Is Faith?:"The call to faith is a summons to engage the heart, to attune it to resonate in sympathy with principles and values and ideals that we devoutly hope are true and which we have reasonable but not certain grounds for believing to be true. There must be grounds for doubt as well as belief, in order to render the choice more truly a choice, and therefor the more deliberate, and laden with personal vulnerability and investment." - What is God's Power?: "God's power rests not on totalizing omnipotence, but on his ability to alchemize suffering, tragedy, and loss into wisdom, understanding, and joy." - What is Guilt? "Legitimate guilt is to the spirit what the sharp protest of a twisted ankle is to the foot: its purpose is to hurt enough to stop you from crippling yourself further. Its function is to prevent more pain, not expand it . . . Guilt is how we know we are free to choose." - On Pre-existence of Souls: "However far back we go, only belief in pre-existence can reconcile the principle of free will and the recognition that every event has a cause." ~John Wisdom - The Nature of Our Relationship with God: "Soberingly, if we are co-eternal with God, then it is not God's creation of the human out of nothing that defines our essential relationship to Him. It is His freely made choice to reciprocate, that are at the core of our relationship to the Divine." - What is Sin?: "Sin itself is a condition we assume when we place ourselves in opposition to those moral laws that undergird the structure of reality." and "Sin is real, and the barriers it erects between us and other beings--both human and divine--is its most pernicious consequence." (Thus one might say that anything erecting such a barrier is sin) - On Happiness: "The secret of happiness is this: let your interests be as wide as possible . . . There is no abstract and impersonal proof either that strawberries are good or that they are not good. To the man who likes them they are good, to the man who dislikes them they are not. But the man who likes them has a pleasure which the other does not have; to that extent his life is more enjoyable and he is better adapted to the world in which both must live . . . The more things a man is interested in, the more opportunities of happiness he has." ~Bertrand Russell - On the Effects of the Gospel: "The gospel . . . causes men and women to reveal that which would have slept in their dispositions until they dropped into their graves. The plan by which the Lord leads this people . . . brings out every trait of disposition lurking in their [beings] . . . Every fault that a person has will be made manifest, that it may be corrected." ~Brigham Young - What is Heaven? "Heaven is not a club we enter. Heaven is a state we attain, in accordance with our 'capacity to receive' a blessed and sanctified nature." - On the Eventual Divinization of Man: "He who framed this whole universe . . . was good, and one who is good can never become jealous of anything. And so, being free of jealousy, he wanted everything to become as much like himself as was possible." ~Plato - Why Mormons Have No Real Conflict with Science: "The study of science is the study of something eternal. If we study astronomy , we study the works of God. If we study chemistry, geology, optics, or any other branch of science, every new truth we come to the understanding of is eternal; it is a part of the great system of universal truth. It is truth that exists throughout universal nature; and God is the dispenser of all truth--scientific, religious, and political." ~Orson Pratt

  26. 4 out of 5

    Matt Perry

    First, a note on style: I really hate when authors 1) don't number their notes and 2) obscure sources behind phrases like "according to a contemporary philosopher." The Givens's are guilty of both. In the first section, where the authors discussed non-Mormon and non-theological ways of viewing the world, the oversimplification was laughable. Though the authors say that there is good reason to be atheistic as well as good reason to have faith, their straw-men caricatures of nonbelief make it seem First, a note on style: I really hate when authors 1) don't number their notes and 2) obscure sources behind phrases like "according to a contemporary philosopher." The Givens's are guilty of both. In the first section, where the authors discussed non-Mormon and non-theological ways of viewing the world, the oversimplification was laughable. Though the authors say that there is good reason to be atheistic as well as good reason to have faith, their straw-men caricatures of nonbelief make it seem like nonbelief doesn't really have much going for it. So, if you're looking for someone to sit down with you and seriously address questions you have about the existence of God, look elsewhere. The rest of the book assumes belief in God and talks about the Mormon theory of who and what God is and our relationship to him. It was refreshing. Even though I haven't been an active Mormon for years, the basic worldview still resonates with me, and the authors had a number of illuminating points regarding the necessity of love, pain, and choice to divinity. There was one omission that should be obvious to anyone with a cursory knowledge of Mormonism: they spoke of heaven, singular, when Mormon doctrine holds that heaven is comprised of three kingdoms of differing glories. I'd have liked to hear how the authors meshed that tiered system with the no-permanent-consequences, warm-and-fuzzy view of sin they put forward. I guess no one wanted to be Bad Cop. Overall, the book left me feeling confident and comfortable in my conception of God, but otherwise full of questions about what can be known and what can't, when it's appropriate to trust yourself and when it's appropriate to take direction, how to tell the difference between sin and something you've been taught to think of as sin, and so on. An interesting, worthwhile book. Too skimpy in some parts, and a truly awful citation system. Three stars.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Terry

    Quoting liberally from scripture and a wide variety of literary sources, Terryl and Fiona Givens help the reader understand that God loves us so much that He weeps for our suffering. They develop strong arguments for believing in a God of passion -- one who's love is so sweeping and enduring that he desires that all His children return to Him. Then He makes this possible through the gift and atonement of Jesus Christ. God chooses to be our Father and demonstrates through Jesus Christ that He is Quoting liberally from scripture and a wide variety of literary sources, Terryl and Fiona Givens help the reader understand that God loves us so much that He weeps for our suffering. They develop strong arguments for believing in a God of passion -- one who's love is so sweeping and enduring that he desires that all His children return to Him. Then He makes this possible through the gift and atonement of Jesus Christ. God chooses to be our Father and demonstrates through Jesus Christ that He is a God of love, kindness and vulnerability. We are drawn to Him because He loved us first. This book is profoundly uplifting -- I intentionally read it slowly, marking passages and savoring the sense of love, acceptance, gratitude to God that pervades every page. This book is consummately hopeful. While the "surfeit of evil" in the world is often commented on in other venues, this book discusses God's blessing the earth with a "superabundance of joy". Surely, one of the most important aspects of that superabundance is that, as God's children, we are all participants in the Divine Nature. Our relationship with God is reflected in our relationship with those around us. Our earthly relationships are preparing us for future, eternal relationships. Our mortal state does not just prepare us for a future heaven, rather we are building heaven right now - "our present relationships are both the laboratory in which we labor to perfect ourselves and the source of that enjoyment that will constitute our true heaven". (p. 112) Because everything with God is about relationships, even our salvation is a "collaborative enterprise" - that is, we need not only God, but each other, to help us find our authentic self, to develop the kind of compassion for others that the "weeping God" shows to us.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mahonri

    This is the best book on Mormon Theology I have ever read. Here's a snippet from my review at the Association for Mormon Letters blog, Dawning of a Brighter Day: "It’s a masterful work that draws on a wide gamut of philosophers, poets, reformers, and theologians throughout the Western literary, philosophical, and theological traditions and shows how they lead to very Mormon conclusions of pre-existence; a relatable, and compassionate, God; a Heavenly Mother (or Wisdom as She is called in the Psa This is the best book on Mormon Theology I have ever read. Here's a snippet from my review at the Association for Mormon Letters blog, Dawning of a Brighter Day: "It’s a masterful work that draws on a wide gamut of philosophers, poets, reformers, and theologians throughout the Western literary, philosophical, and theological traditions and shows how they lead to very Mormon conclusions of pre-existence; a relatable, and compassionate, God; a Heavenly Mother (or Wisdom as She is called in the Psalms); a heroic Eve and Adam who brought us to the possibility of an ascension, not a fall; the apotheosis of humankind’s journey to being joint-heirs with Christ; and the fabric of an eternal family, reaching far before this life. It’s a work that takes head on the assumptions of Freud, Kant, and Darwin. It stares stark secularism in the eye, never blinking, never flinching, and without talking down, without insult, without dismissing the very real pangs of doubt and skepticism, shows a compassionate and powerful view of the Universe that even many Mormons may have not realized could have been borne out of their faith tradition." For my full review, here's the link: http://blog.mormonletters.org/?p=5849

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Bringhurst Familia

    The God Who Weeps tops the list of my favorite books about my faith. I found this both a thought-provoking and a faith-provoking book. Terryl and Fiona Givens have distilled some of the most powerful core doctrines of the Mormon faith into a slim volume brimming with hope, philosophy, and divine compassion. Basing their premise on Enoch's moving description of his encounter with a weeping God, they describe the ultimate power in the universe in startlingly personal terms, as a being who not only The God Who Weeps tops the list of my favorite books about my faith. I found this both a thought-provoking and a faith-provoking book. Terryl and Fiona Givens have distilled some of the most powerful core doctrines of the Mormon faith into a slim volume brimming with hope, philosophy, and divine compassion. Basing their premise on Enoch's moving description of his encounter with a weeping God, they describe the ultimate power in the universe in startlingly personal terms, as a being who not only loves us, but knows us intimately and weeps for us and with us. One of the things I loved best was the broad range of sources from literature, poetry, philosophy, and Christian history that the Givens invoked as powerful and moving illustrations. I would have liked to hear more discussion of the male/female duality of God, although they at least brought it up in their chapter on the Hymn of the Pearl. This is the first book I would recommend for non-Mormons curious about the Mormon conception of God and the meaning of life. I would also recommend it for those like me, who grew up Mormon and are working to re-engage their childhood faith in a way that feels authentic.

  30. 4 out of 5

    MaryLynn

    I really wanted to love this book-but I didn't. I am very practical and literal. I have never enjoyed philosophy and find it pointless. My brain skips over poetry without me even being aware of it. I miss symbolism unless it hits me in the face. So I know the problem is me. I love the ideas presented in this book, but was turned off by the incessant quoting of philosophers, poets, mystics, etc. I am okay with the fact that I am shallow and a literary heathen, but when an author is presenting inf I really wanted to love this book-but I didn't. I am very practical and literal. I have never enjoyed philosophy and find it pointless. My brain skips over poetry without me even being aware of it. I miss symbolism unless it hits me in the face. So I know the problem is me. I love the ideas presented in this book, but was turned off by the incessant quoting of philosophers, poets, mystics, etc. I am okay with the fact that I am shallow and a literary heathen, but when an author is presenting information that can change lives but insists on being so obscure and dense that a large percentage of the people who start their book will give up halfway, I just don't understand why they even bother.

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