The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life

by Terryl Givens, Fiona Givens

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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

Unabridged audio book

Product Details

Audiobook NarratorFiona Givens
Runtime5 hours 25 minutes
Audiobook Runtime5.42
Audiobook NarratorFiona Givens

About the Authors

Terryl Givens

Terryl Givens holds the Jabez A. Bostwick chair of English and is Professor of Literature and Religion at the University of Richmond. His several published works include his two-volume history of Mormon thought, Wrestling the Angel and Feeding the Flock, as well as When Souls Had Wings and By The Hand of Mormon, all published by Oxford University Press.

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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 and The Crucible of Doubt. 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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Average rating:

(based upon 20 reviews)

Worth Reading Despite the Justified Criticism
By , Submitted on 2018-07-02

I understand and agree with the criticism of the eye-rollingly self-indulgent writing style. This is a real bummer. I recommended the book to a friend, but he told me he couldn't finish it for this reason.

If something can be said with 5 straightforward words, then the Givens will say it with at least 100. In fact, "Fiona-izing" your own sentences is a fun game to try: Why say "God loves all of us" when it's so much more fun to say: "The sun, that distant burning fiery celestial sphere of plasma and fusion set ablaze amidst the heavens beyond our realm of present experience and comprehension, sends forth its vibrating photons and infrared energies through the vastness of the void planetary orbital planes to incite the neurons of the brain connected intricately to the golden epidermis of one's nape of one's neck, activating memories of a long lost but familiar blissful assurance of eternal divinity transcending this transient frame of flesh and blood. And thus we cannot see, yet are certain indeed, that God sheds his love forth upon all the souls of creation's dream, both living and dead, though ordained to rise again in the morning of the first resurrection."

HOWEVAHH, a couple of really important things:
1) To give the benefit of the doubt to the Givens, I think the writing style is meant to convey their intense passion for the message. It's silly and it misses the mark, but I can forgive them for it (haven't gotten to "Christ Who Heals" yet, but if God truly does answer my prayers, then they will have toned it down).
2) I actually do like the message of this book. It's wonderful and has the power to repair and re-calibrate the perspectives of depressed souls. Probably lots of people out there will read this, maybe have a good cry, and feel lots better about things. I also mostly agree with the Givens' desire to remedy some negative effects (however innocent and unintentional) of LDS culture and tradition.
3) Fiona's voice and accent are sublime. I could go to sleep to this audio book every night, and I'm not being facetious. Please audition to be the next Siri.

By , Submitted on 2018-01-22

I listened to this book while on a beach vacation. Each morning as I walked on the beach I contemplated the beautiful theories about the plan of salvation and how God loves each one of his dear children. I cried a few times listening to it. Fiona’s voice is so soothing, peaceful and smooth in her British accent. I could listen to her speak for hours. This was the first of the Givens’ books I read, and eventually had to read all. Their philosophizing and including quotes from scholars, poets, and saints alike makes this book priceless.

Maybe listening to it is easier than reading it for those who think it is a hard read. But so far I have loved all of their books because they make me pause to think, and I’ve learned a lot from them.

By , Submitted on 2017-11-13

Amazing book!

I have had questions about the atonement for ever! This book puts voice to those questions and and offers well reasoned and thoughtful answers.

A definite must read!

Fantastic and Inspiring
By , Submitted on 2017-01-13

One of the most inspiring and profound Gospel books I've ever read. A few reviewers have surprisingly said the prose is too difficult to understand, but I found it a refreshing change from the standard stuff. The authors have deep thoughts that require a rich language to convey.

A Faith Inspiring Book
By , Submitted on 2016-07-12

I absolutely loved this book. I actually bought the audio book, and I'm planning on buying the paper edition. It has earned a place on my bookshelf, and that is saying something. This book was a great boon to me in a time of great personal trial. I appreciate so much the insight and faith promoting words of this work. It is intellectually full and deep, and quite frankly, that was a great deal of the attraction for me. Highly recommended!

By , Submitted on 2016-06-14

Hardcover (edit)
Review The Good Who Weeps is my first experience with Terryl & Fiona Givens' writing, and it won't be my last. They did a beautiful job at distilling the very essence of the LDS understanding of things such as Sin, Salvation, and the true nature of our relationship to God the Father and His son Jesus Christ, among other important topics. Their near seamless intertwining of scripture (both modern and ancient) with the thoughts of some of he world's greatest religious thinkers and writers through out the ages should give non-LDS Christians and non-Christians alike pause for thought about the creeds to which their faiths' may subscribe versus what they themselves may intuitively believe. The God Who Weeps was a spiritually uplifting and gratifying read which served as a solid reminder to my soul why I believe the way I do.

There are many excellent 4 & 5 star reviews of this bookon Goodreads that go into greater depth than I desire to do at this time. Please, take time to peruse them.

“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.”

― Terryl Givens, The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life

Powerful and moving explanation of the unique LDS doctrines about God's nature
By , Submitted on 2015-10-07

Multiple times while reading this book it was me who was weeping as I came to see God's nature and my relationship to him in new ways, and as I came to understand that the truths I believe in most fervently about God, the Plan of Salvation, and human nature, are uniquely LDS doctrines. It's a beautiful and inspiring book. There are many quotes from literary and Christian history sprinkled throughout the book. Occasionally I felt that the Givens's writing was so powerful that the quotes didn't add to it, but it's also really affirming to see how the light of Christ has led these people toward the truth about God's nature and sometimes they express it in profound ways. I am truly grateful for this book and the beautiful way it teaches about God's nature and our relationship to him.

Brilliant! Inspired!
By , Submitted on 2015-08-05

Thank God for Terryl & Fiona Givens...

The Plan of Salvation explained with beauty and depth
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

I was sad to read the reviews of those who didn't get much out of this book. It was one of the best books I have ever read on the subject of Heavenly Father's relationship to his spirit children. I do not have a masters or doctorate degree, but I am a deep thinker when it comes to the gospel so I appreciate profound insight, particularly when it is sound and not meant to be sensationalized. I can understand why some feel the book is written for intellectuals. Some of the language takes repetition to comprehend. It is reminiscent of the writing and speaking style of Elder Neal A. Maxwell, whose beautiful, metaphorical expressions often required some dissecting. So, in fairness to some of the other reviewers, it isn't what I would call an easy read and it wouldn't be the best choice for someone looking for a quick, cover-to-cover-in-a-day kind of book. It took some work to get through. But I wouldn't describe it as being only for the highly educated, either. There is so much good material in this book, and the language is exquisite. I came away feeling greatly enlightened, having a much clearer vision of the Plan of Happiness. I couldn't wait to recommend it to my friends and family. In my opinion, well worth the time.

Hands down... One of the greatest books Deseret Book has published!
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

This book has helped open my heart to new depths, understanding and comprehending the indescribable love of God. This book has been praised by some of the greatest scholars of Mormonism, rightfully so. Beautifully written, we're given insight from the ages.. masters of scholarship and philosophy are brought into a single view... "God’s pain is as infinite as His love. He weeps because He feels compassion... it is not their wickedness, but their “misery,” not their disobedience, but their “suffering,” that elicits the God of Heaven’s tears. Not until Gethsemane and Golgotha does the scriptural record reveal so unflinchingly the costly investment of God’s love in His people, the price at which He placed His heart upon them. 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... 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."

fiona has a wonderful voice
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

What wonderful insights into the nature of god. I would highly recommend this to anyone!

Difficult book to read and understand
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

I bought this book with great hope that it would be the spiritual experience I anticipated. Frankly, I could not read past chapter two. I found the book requires a PHD/or Masters Degree to interpret what the author is saying through the language used. It is not written for the person who enjoys a read that is easily understood.

Beautiful, logical and increased my understanding of God's perfect love.
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

Wow! Bought 12 of them as small Christmas presents... read it 3x in 2 weeks.


A Great Disappointment!
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

I purchased this book at Christmas for my wife. She read it from cover to cover, but repeatedly kept telling me that she wasn't enjoying it. I had a hard time believing her because of the great reviews. I recently picked up the book in order to discover for myself whether her assessment was accurate or not. I read the Introduction and then Chapter One. I found the content to be flowery nothingness and a great disappointment. I have an extensive church library and cannot remember ever being so spiritually disappointed in a books content that I have decided it would be in my best interest of time to close it and not pick it up again. Sadly, this has been the case!

Profoundly inspiring
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

Geoff's review echoes my sentiments. For me, there were many "I never thought of it that way" moments with perspectives and ideas that were profoundly inspiring. “The God Who Weeps” is beautifully written and enriched by many literary and philosophical references that otherwise would be unknown to the average reader but are perfect complements to each subject or conversation. It is both logical and emotional. For those whose reason suppresses their faith, I can’t help but think this book would gently persuade them to rethink, redefine and return to who they really are. I loved this book.

An eloquent statement of LDS beliefs about God's relationship to us.
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

This is truely an eloquent discussion of LDS beliefs, a very thoughtful and perceptive analysis of our relationship with the Divine....a loving God who has our best interests at heart.
This is beautifully written with numerous references to philosophers and poets to help give added depth to the arguments and discussions. The book seems to gain more insight and depth as it goes on with the last chapters rich and fertile ground for thought and insight. A few have commented about the 'intellectual' nature of the book but I disagree, the authors adequately explain their inclusions which dispels, for me, any need to feel distant. The authors need congratulations!

Written by intellectuals for intellectuals
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

Written by intellectuals for intellectuals. I collected a few good gems from the book, but most of it was above me. I read a lot, but this book really challenged my comprehension. Great title, that's why I bought the book.

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.

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

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...
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 :)

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.

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