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Wrestling the Angel: The Foundations of Mormon Thought: Cosmos, God, Humanity
     

Wrestling the Angel: The Foundations of Mormon Thought: Cosmos, God, Humanity

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by Terryl L. Givens
 

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In this first volume of his magisterial study of the foundations of Mormon thought and practice, Terryl L. Givens offers a sweeping account of Mormon belief from its founding to the present day. Situating the relatively new movement in the context of the Christian tradition, he reveals that Mormonism continues to change and grow.

Givens shows that despite

Overview


In this first volume of his magisterial study of the foundations of Mormon thought and practice, Terryl L. Givens offers a sweeping account of Mormon belief from its founding to the present day. Situating the relatively new movement in the context of the Christian tradition, he reveals that Mormonism continues to change and grow.

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 premortal 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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
10/06/2014
Givens (By the Hand of Mormon), possibly the most significant voice in the field of Mormon studies, has previously explained Mormonism by way of scripture, history, and philosophy. Here, he turns his attention to theology, a more difficult proposition than it sounds, since Mormons tend to emphasize practical living rather than theological speculation and believe in continuing revelation. Although scholars will appreciate the sweeping way in which Givens provides context to Mormon cosmology, rank-and-file LDS members will likely resonate more with the book's brief, discrete chapters on what Mormon leaders have taught about specific issues: the Godhead, theosis, Heavenly Mother, the Fall, premortal life, the Holy Ghost, salvation and the afterlife, and other topics. What emerges is a complex, nuanced picture of a dynamic faith. (Nov.)
From the Publisher

"A sweeping survey ambitiously conceived, ably crafted, capable of unlocking new mental worlds. Wrestling the Angel finally puts a fair assessment of the 'Mormon mind' on full display...[A] magisterial project."--Nova Religio

"Terryl Givens, an unusually creative and eloquent exponent of the Mormon thought he outlines in Wrestling the Angel."--Journal of Religion

"[A] wonderful and capacious contextualization of Mormon theology...I found it a distinct pleasure to work through Givens's work and to witness the Mormon theological tradition emerge from those pages with the kind of complexity and integrity that it rightly deserves."--Mormon Studies Review

"Givens successfully tackles a mountain of logistical, chronological, and topical challenges in an astonishing work of scholarship. This comprehensive and impressive volume is fundamental in the study of an important, multifaceted, and understudied piece of religious history." --Library Journal

"Givens has given us a hugely impressive, erudite and systematic work. He shows us the vast and complex landscape of this most extraordinary and most American of religions. Through this monumental work we experience the sheer scale and audacity of Mormon cosmology and theology and how this transforms our understanding of divine nature and human nature alike." --Simon Critchley, Hans Jonas Professor, The New School for Social Research

"Givens has provided the most thorough and expert accounting of Mormonism's place in the Christian thought-world. The book raises the bar for those who would challenge Mormonism's status as a Christian faith. For the rest of us, who simply want to understand Mormonism, it is a welcome gift of fine scholarship." --Kathleen Flake, Richard Lyman Bushman Professor in Mormon Studies, University of Virginia

"We--general readers and scholars--need a lucid survey of the Latter-day Saints' complex doctrinal developments. We also need work that places the whole of Mormon theology in conversation with Western culture and historic Christian thought. We now have both in one remarkable, rewarding book." --David Holland, Associate Professor of North American Religious History, Harvard Divinity School

"In a sweep of enormous scope Givens takes Mormon thought from the cultural world of its nineteenth century American emergence through theological debates on orthodoxy-heresy amongst the early Christian Fathers to Protestantism's heyday and to today's Latter-day Saint distinctiveness." --Douglas J. Davies, author of The Mormon Culture of Salvation

"Terryl Givens' careful and detailed account succeeds admirably in its goal of presenting the origins and development of Mormon theology clearly. The book is particularly welcome for giving readers a solid sense of where Latter-day Saint theology aligns with, and differs from, the theologies of main Christian traditions." --Mark A. Noll, author of America's God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln

"Terryl Givens's scholarship is magisterial, yet this book brilliantly synthesizes key themes in Mormon thought in a way which is accessible and engaging for the non-specialist reader. An essential study of contemporary Mormon religious thought and its origins which should be read by any serious student of comparative Christian traditions." --Fenella Cannell, Associate Professor of Anthropology, London School of Economics and Political Science

"Givens, possibly the most significant voice in the field of Mormon studies, has previously explained Mormonism by way of scripture, history, and philosophy. Here, he turns his attention to theology, a more difficult proposition than it sounds, since Mormons tend to emphasize practical living rather than theological speculation and believe in continuing revelation...What emerges is a complex, nuanced picture of a dynamic faith." --Publishers Weekly

"Wrestling the Angel not only succeeds in providing the most comprehensive and rigorous overview of Mormonism's theological tradition, but it is, in the end, a key contribution--perhaps the most important contribution in the last half-century--to that very tradition." --The Juvenile Instructor

"Givens does the world a great service by formalizing a very informal theology through remarkable literary artistry. Whether you are interested in tuning into current Mormon studies or looking for a helpful missiological resource, Wrestling will serve you well."-- Kyle R. Beshears, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Wrestling the Angel is a masterful attempt to grapple with a challenging but fundamentally important topic: situating Mormon thought in the history of Christianity. I greatly look forward to the next volume."-- Journal of Mormon History

Library Journal
10/01/2014
Despite its harrowed plight through American history—or perhaps because of it—Mormonism has endured to become one of the most resilient movements of the American Restoration. More than 175 years after being declared public enemies worthy of "expulsion and extermination" by former Missouri governor Lilburn Boggs and surviving plagued cross-country treks in search of their Zion, Mormons continue to practice their deeply complex, ever-evolving, and largely misunderstood faith in ways that simultaneously parallel and divert from traditional Christian thought. Givens (religion, Univ. of Richmond; By the Hand of Mormon) seeks to crystallize this fluid religion with an ambitious and magisterial first volume that studies Mormonism against the greater Christian landscape. The foundation of his work is based on Mormonism's "underlying cosmic narrative" and the understanding that concrete theology is difficult to compartmentalize because Mormons believe in an open canon and continued revelation, among other things. VERDICT Givens successfully tackles a mountain of logistical, chronological, and topical challenges in an astonishing work of scholarship. This comprehensive and impressive volume is fundamental in the study of an important, multifaceted, and understudied piece of religious history.—Erin Entrada Kelly, Media, PA

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199794928
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
11/05/2014
Pages:
424
Sales rank:
523,478
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.60(d)

What People are Saying About This

Kathleen Flake
Givens has provided the most thorough and expert accounting of Mormonism's place in the Christian thought-world. The book raises the bar for those who would challenge Mormonism's status as a Christian faith. For the rest of us, who simply want to understand Mormonism, it is a welcome gift of fine scholarship.--Kathleen Flake, Richard Lyman Bushman Professor in Mormon Studies, University of Virginia
Douglas J. Davies
In a sweep of enormous scope Givens takes Mormon thought from the cultural world of its nineteenth century American emergence through theological debates on orthodoxy-heresy amongst the early Christian Fathers to Protestantism's heyday and to today's Latter-day Saint distinctiveness.--Douglas J. Davies, author of The Mormon Culture of Salvation
Mark A. Noll
Terryl Givens' careful and detailed account succeeds admirably in its goal of presenting the origins and development of Mormon theology clearly. The book is particularly welcome for giving readers a solid sense of where Latter-day Saint theology aligns with, and differs from, the theologies of main Christian traditions.--Mark A. Noll, author of America's God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln
Simon Critchley
Givens has given us a hugely impressive, erudite and systematic work. He shows us the vast and complex landscape of this most extraordinary and most American of religions. Through this monumental work we experience the sheer scale and audacity of Mormon cosmology and theology and how this transforms our understanding of divine nature and human nature alike.--Simon Critchley, Hans Jonas Professor, The New School for Social Research
Fenella Cannell
Terryl Givens's scholarship is magisterial, yet this book brilliantly synthesizes key themes in Mormon thought in a way which is accessible and engaging for the non-specialist reader. An essential study of contemporary Mormon religious thought and its origins which should be read by any serious student of comparative Christian traditions.--Fenella Cannell, Associate Professor of Anthropology, London School of Economics and Political Science
David Holland
We--general readers and scholars--need a lucid survey of the Latter-day Saints' complex doctrinal developments. We also need work that places the whole of Mormon theology in conversation with Western culture and historic Christian thought. We now have both in one remarkable, rewarding book.--David Holland, Associate Professor of North American Religious History, Harvard Divinity School

Meet the Author

Terryl L. Givens is Professor of Literature and Religion and Jabez A. Bostwick Chair of English at the University of Richmond. His books on Mormonism and American religious culture include By the Hand of Mormon, People of Paradox, Parley P. Pratt (with Matthew Grow), and Viper on the Hearth.

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Wrestling the Angel: The Foundations of Mormon Thought: Cosmos, God, Humanity 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Sic_Et_Not More than 1 year ago
This is a very clear description of how early Mormon thought occurred and how the Mormons are thinking today. Very good.  The author discusses some key doctrines such as Heavenly Mother, Adam-God theory, and some early Mormon theology.  It speaks of what the Mormons call apostasy and restoration. I recommend this highly for anyone wanting to pursue early Mormon though and theology.