The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life

by Terryl L. Givens, Fiona Givens

The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life
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"The Givenses are never confrontational or aggressive in their presentation of Mormonism’s contribution to the discussion nor do they ever whip out a trump card of why the Mormon perspective is to be crowned king. The result is a very readable, reasonable and thought-provoking experience."
—Bryan Buchanan - Association for Mormon Letters

"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.

Praise for The God Who Weeps

“I read this fine book in order better to understand what Mormons believe about divine compassion, and it certainly gave me that. But more important: I received in reading it some deeply personal lessons about the tears of God.”

—Richard J. Mouw, Ph.D., President and Professor of Christian Philosophy, Fuller Theological Seminary

“Writing from the perspective of Mormon faith, Terryl and Fiona Givens have produced a work of theological reflection that has much to offer not only to Latter-day Saints, but to intellectually and morally serious men and women of every religious persuasion who ponder the mystery of a God who, though profoundly transcendent, reveals Himself to us, offers us His friendship, and even shares our joys and sorrows. To be sure, readers who are not Latter-day Saints will learn from The God Who Weeps a great deal about what Mormons believe (including certain distinctively Mormon doctrines) and why they believe it. But that is only part of the value of the book. For even readers who do not share certain fundamental tenets of the LDS faith, but who believe in a personal, omnipotent, and omniscient God, will benefit from the Givens’ thoughtful reflections on how such a God enters into the lives of imperfect creatures like ourselves, lighting our paths, lifting us up when we fall, and summoning us to share in His divine life.”

—Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University, author of The Meaning of Marriage: Family, State, Market, and Morals

“Terryl Givens, one of current Mormonism’s most celebrated thinkers, with Fiona Givens here provides a fresh perspective on a number of distinctively LDS teachings.The God Who Weeps is a stirring and sensitive look into a personal God whose passions include an infinite capacity to feel after and respond eagerly to the pains and pleadings of His children; a life before this life for both Deity and humanity; a refusal to adopt the classical Christian view of original sin and the dismal and discouraging picture of the human race it paints; and, an optimistic glimpse into a divine plan that seeks to save all of those who wish to be saved. This important work provides a substantive optimism, a welcome and needed portrayal of humanity’s heavenly possibilities.”

—Robert L. Millet, Professor of Religious Education at Brigham Young University, author of Grace Works

“Reading this book is like experiencing Mormonism in high definition. By masterfully weaving together insights from ‘the best books’—scripture and literature, theology and philosophy—Terryl and Fiona Givens bring new depth to the fundamentals of their faith. Whether you know a lot or a little about Latter-day Saint doctrine, this book will both educate and inspire you.”

—David E. Campbell, Professor of Political Science, University of Notre Dame, Author of American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us

“Anyone desiring to understand more about Mormon Christianity could find no better guides than Terryl and Fiona Givens. Their heartfelt testimony to what their faith tradition has taught them about life is enriched with luminous insights from Western literature and philosophy. A lovely book!”

—Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard and former US Ambassador to the Vatican, author of The Forum and the Tower: How Scholars and Politicians Have Imagined the World from Plato to Eleanor Roosevelt

The God Who Weeps is an elegant meditation on the basic tenets of the Mormon faith. The Givenses write with precision and poetry. Their literary and religious references are unusually rich and varied: they include the classic texts of the Bible, early Christian thinkers, Enlightenment philosophers, Romantic poets, German theologians, Russian and American novelists—and many, many more. The prose is at times urgent and even soaring.

“Mormons will enjoy this succinct, sophisticated and searching précis of their core beliefs. Non-Mormons will be led into the heart of a religion that was born on American soil, and whose history is one of the great neglected narratives of our national life.”

—Helen Whitney, producer of

The Mormons and Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero

“What if God were everything we are, only perfectly so? And what if those perfections included our vulnerability, our suffering, and our joy? In the Givens’ masterful hands, the Mormon view of God comes alive in fresh and challenging ways. Mainstream Christians have much to learn from Mormonism, and this book is the place to start.”

—Stephen H. Webb, professor of Religion and Philosophy, Wabash College, author of Jesus Christ, Eternal God

“This is not the kind of book Latter-day Saints ordinarily write. It begins at a deep point of human experience where all is uncertain. It asks: how do you move from an elemental condition of ignorance and yearning to belief and faith? The Givenses tell us not only where they end up but how they got there and along the way confront the most baffling moral and intellectual conundrums of human existence.”

—Richard Bushman, Gouverneur Morris Professor of History, Emeritus, Columbia University, author of Joseph Smith, Rough Stone Rolling

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based upon 12 reviews
Truly remarkable
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

In the MP3 audio version, Fiona Givens reads the book that she and her husband have authored. The beauty and depth of the insights are well matched by the beauty and eloquence of Fiona's voice. Reading/listening is a marvelous and moving experience. It is one of the best books I have ever encountered.

We worship a God who weeps!
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

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 :)

Brilliant,overpowering
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25


I had only read the Excerpt on this book.It truly touched my heart.Sometimes as humans we forget who we are,and where we came from.
To understand that indeed God weeps at our sorrows,and that he truly understands how we feel,is not to humanise him,but makes him more accesible to us.
To say as the scriptures attest,"for now we see through a glass darkly" brings home to me how we can overcome that darkness as we walk into the light of his love.
I will be purchasing this book. The language is breathtaking and glorious,like precious pearls,made more lovely as we read it.Thank you.

About the Authors

Terryl L. Givens

TERYL GIVENS holds the James A. Bostwick chair of English and is Professor of Literature and Religion at the University of Richmond and the author of several books. His writing has been praised by the New York Times as “provocative reading” and includes, most recently, When Souls Had Wings, a history of the idea of premortal life in Western thought; a biography (with Matthew Grow) of Parley Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism (winner of the 2012 Best Book Award from the Mormon History Association); and Wrestling the Angel: The Foundations of Mormon Thought.

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Fiona Givens

FIONA GIVENS is a retired modern language teacher with undergraduate degrees in French and German and a graduate degree in European History. She is now an independent scholar who has published in several journals and reviews in Mormon studies, including Journal of Mormon History, Exponent II, and LDS Living. Along with Terryl, she is the author of The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life. Terryl and Fiona are the grandparents of five—fonts of delight; and the parents of six—sources of intellectual challenge and inspiration.

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