Terryl and Fiona Givens' new book, "The Crucible of Doubt: Reflections on the Quest for Faith" (Deseret Book, $19.99), started with a letter to a family member who was struggling spiritually. Terryl Givens titled the 15-page document "Letter to a Doubter."
About the same time, Givens was invited to speak to a group of young adults in Palo Alto, California. He felt impressed to share the same letter.
"There was a widespread interest in the letter. It soon went viral on the Internet," Givens said in a recent interview with the Deseret News. "That and subsequent experiences convinced us that there was a large audience who would be receptive to a book on that same theme. So I asked my wife to write that with me, and we did."
"The Crucible of Doubt" is the second book co-authored by the husband-wife team. The Givens' published "The God Who Weeps" in 2012.
Terryl Givens is the author of several best-selling books and a professor of literature and religion at the University of Richmond in Virginia. Fiona Givens is a retired modern language teacher with degrees in French and German and a graduate degree in European History. The couple are also the parents of six children and five grandchildren.
While traveling along a spiritual path, an individual will inevitably encounter questions and occasional doubts, the authors write. One of the main themes in "The Crucible of Doubt" is that questions and doubts can act as catalysts for deeper faith and spiritual understanding. The 168-page book addresses questions relevant to Christianity in general, although some parts in the book specifically relate to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"It's not a condition we aspire to, but it can be an apprenticeship, a catalyst prompt, that leads us to a more profound wrestle with God, and ultimately, a more profound commitment to the gospel," Terryl Givens said.
Fiona Givens said no faith journey can be successful or rewarding without asking questions or confronting doubts. The restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ unfolded when Joseph Smith began asking questions.
"We should all be engaged in asking questions. At the same time, we should have our minds open and receptive to answers that may come in unexpected form or fashion," Fiona Givens said. "God is actually trying to create a much more profound relationship with us. We can only do that if we are actually wrestling with issues at hand."
Having wrestled with their own personal doubts and questions, the Givenses hope readers will find "a process of discovery" within the pages of the book. They don't claim to have all the answers, but so far the book has resonated with readers. The couple receives emails or Facebook messages almost every day. They feel the book has been able to articulate what many are feeling.
"A lot of people have intimations, glimmerings of faith. But they can’t see their way clearly to make sense of it all," Terryl Givens said. "We’re not trying to evangelize as much as we are trying to help people put together a more workable paradigm, if that’s what they are looking for."
Terryl Givens has also recently authored another book titled "Wrestling the Angel: The Foundations of Mormon Thought: Cosmos, God, Humanity" (Oxford University Press, $34.95). Due out Oct. 1, it's the first in a two-part series studying the foundations of Mormon thought and practice from Joseph Smith's First Vision in 1820 through to the present day. This book attempts to do several things at once, Terryl Givens said.
"On one hand, I think it’s the first attempt anybody has made to present a kind of narrative of the development of Mormon thought. It doesn’t attempt to be an authoritative description of Mormon beliefs, but it does attempt to chart the journey that got us to where we are," Givens said. "At the same time, it tries to answer the question, 'What is Mormonism’s relationship to the Christian tradition?' by emphasizing both radical departures and surprising commonalities with earlier Christian expressions."
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