Scholars Terryl and Fiona Givens discuss life, love and their new book, 'The God Who Weeps'
“It was really the most extraordinary thing,” Fiona Givens said. “She was particularly little and frail. I wondered, 'How is it humanly possible for you to be doing what you are doing because looking at your physical frame, there is no strength there?' But her face was full of light. It radiated. That really impressed me. She was God-touched.”
Fiona Givens went on to earn a master's degree in European history and has worked extensively in the field of communications and translation. As the years passed, she has found hidden blessings in life’s challenges. Raising her children, especially her second son, taught her many valuable lessons.
Her son Jonathan "is the sort of person who sees a flame and puts his hand in it rather than testing tentatively like his older brothers,” Fiona Givens said. “But raising him taught me that God’s patience is infinite. His love is universal, consistent and unconditional. And he can create beauty out of tragedy and misfortune.”
Fiona Givens is the Sunday School gospel doctrine instructor in her LDS ward. She loves to engage the scriptures, and her testimony of the gospel has been strengthened through experiences that have challenged her faith.
“I feel testimonies are alive. They either grow or they die,” she said. “These faith crises are an opportunity for us to either incline ourselves towards God or not. But it makes us dig deep into our own souls for the authentic self.”
In 1893, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir won second place in the choral competition at the Chicago World’s Fair. At the same event, the LDS Church was forbidden from making a presentation to the world parliament of religion.
“The lesson that seemed to be learned as a result of that was as Mormons, we will sing and dance for you, but we won’t insist you take our theology seriously," Terryl Givens said.
“The God Who Weeps” is the Givens’ concerted effort to give readers something more substantial about Mormon theology.
Using quotes and ideas from great poets, writers and philosophers, the book explores five core principles of the Mormon faith regarding the nature of God, where man came from, why he is here and what awaits him after death. The five tenets include:
God is a personal entity, having a heart that beats in sympathy with human hearts, feeling our joy and sorrowing over our pain. .
We lived as spirit beings in the presence of God before we were born into this mortal life. .
Mortality is an ascent, not a fall, and we carry infinite potential into a world of sin and sorrow.
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.
Heaven will consist of those relationships that matter most to us now.
Fiona Givens, an active collaborator in all her husband’s books, became a full partner on the project.
“I am always his first reader and harshest critic, unfortunately,” she said. “It was particularly gratifying to be able to work on this together because these are core Mormon beliefs that we feel resonate not only with Mormons but they have universal application.”
Researching and writing the book were a fulfilling experience, Terryl Givens said.
“What we learned, most importantly, is that all these voices from other times, cultures and traditions don’t corroborate our faith — they enrich our faith,” he said. “Part of our task has been to try to recuperate the contributions of those other holy men and women, whom God recognizes as inspired, saintly and godly, and as having something meaningful to contribute to our understanding of discipleship.”
Bushman described the book as “beautiful,” “eloquent” and “very persuasive.”
“I think it’s a path-breaking book in that it tries to use Latter-day Saint theology to find the meaning of life,” said Bushman, author of "Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling.” “I think their fruitful partnership was very instrumental in bringing the whole thing about.”
The co-authors hope readers come away from their book with a greater understanding of the profound truths found inside and outside Mormonism.
“We have much to learn from those outside our faith and there are elements of our tradition that we don’t fully appreciate or understand as fully as we need to,” Terryl Givens said.
“It’s a linking of Mormon faith tradition with a global yearning for a humane God ...," Fiona Givens said.
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