Givens shows that despite Mormonism's origins in a biblical culture strongly influenced by nineteenth-century Restorationist thought, which advocated a return to the Christianity of the early Church, the new movement diverges radically from the Christianity of the creeds. Mormonism proposes its own cosmology and metaphysics, in which human identity is rooted in a pre-mortal world as eternal as God. Mormons view mortal life as an enlightening ascent rather than a catastrophic fall, and reject traditional Christian concepts of human depravity and destiny. Popular fascination with Mormonism's social innovations, such as polygamy and communalism, and its supernatural and esoteric elements-angels, gold plates, seer stones, a New World Garden of Eden, and sacred undergarments-have long overshadowed the fact that it is the most enduring and even thriving product of the nineteenth century's religious upheavals and innovations.
Wrestling the Angel traces the essential contours of Mormon thought from the time of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young to the contemporary LDS church, illuminating both the seminal influence of the founding generation of Mormon thinkers and the significant developments in the church over almost 200 years. The most comprehensive account of the development of Mormon thought ever written, Wrestling the Angel will be essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the Mormon faith.
I found this volume to be a restatement of LDS doctrine, along with something on how the doctrines were developed. It would be a very interesting book if it were not absolutely overflowing with unnecessary academic terms and big words, apparently just for the sake of big words. Givens must have been trying to impress his fellow scholars. It turns out to be dry as dust. I would love to see the book restated without attempting to impress me with the author's vocabulary. And yes I do understand all the words, but it is just a perfect example of an academic wrapped up in academe.
I have always loved the writing of the Givens, and this turned out to be no exception. I am a philosophy major at Utah State University (one of the only active, believing LDS students in that major there), and I had for quite a while been looking for a book that discussed a broad range of philosophical, metaphysical, theological and cosmological aspects present in church beliefs, and this one fit the bill beautifully. I will be using this book a lot in my major.
Givens focuses, as the cover states, on our conceptions of the cosmos, of the Godhead, and of the human race. Nearly every aspect of church history and doctrine is covered frankly, both the normal taught-every-sunday doctrines as well as more controversial ones. Parallels and contrasts in theology and christian thought are given in nearly every case, and it does a lot to legitimize Mormon beliefs in the "controversial" doctrines and policies from a theological standpoint. He does not shy away from pointing out possible mistakes and disagreements among the brethren that have happened over the years as well as their long-term implications, and this is the kind of frankness that is needed in discussion about church history and doctrine. It is books like these that debunk any stereotype of active and believing Mormons being "deluded" and "anti-intellectual" as the critics make us out to be. This book is another example of the ever increasing quantity, quality, and transparency of the scholarly work being done to expound on church rich doctrine and history.
I will say that while I found this book to be overall faith-promoting as well as educational, It delves pretty deeply into many philosophical concepts, and is clearly intended for an academic audience (lots of big, uncommon words). It would probably be over the head of anyone who doesn't have at least some knowledge of the basics of philosophy, theology, or church history.