People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture

People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture

by Terryl L. Givens

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People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture by Terryl L. Givens

In People of Paradox, Terryl Givens traces the rise and development of Mormon culture from the days of Joseph Smith in upstate New York, through Brigham Young's founding of the Territory of Deseret on the shores of Great Salt Lake, to the spread of the Latter-Day Saints around the globe. Throughout the last century and a half, Givens notes, distinctive traditions have emerged among the Latter-Day Saints, shaped by dynamic tensions--or paradoxes--that give Mormon cultural expression much of its vitality. Here is a religion shaped by a rigid authoritarian hierarchy and radical individualism; by prophetic certainty and a celebration of learning and intellectual investigation; by existence in exile and a yearning for integration and acceptance by the larger world. Givens divides Mormon history into two periods, separated by the renunciation of polygamy in 1890. In each, he explores the life of the mind, the emphasis on education, the importance of architecture and urban planning (so apparent in Salt Lake City and Mormon temples around the world), and Mormon accomplishments in music and dance, theater, film, literature, and the visual arts. He situates such cultural practices in the context of the society of the larger nation and, in more recent years, the world. Today, he observes, only fourteen percent of Mormon believers live in the United States. Mormonism has never been more prominent in public life. But there is a rich inner life beneath the public surface, one deftly captured in this sympathetic, nuanced account by a leading authority on Mormon history and thought.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780199883257
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 08/29/2007
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 1,040,219
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Terryl L. Givens is Professor of Literature and Religion and Jabez A. Bostwick Chair of English, University of Richmond. His books on Mormonism and American religious culture include The Latter-Day Saint Experience in America, By the Hand of Mormon, and Viper on the Hearth.

Table of Contents

Introduction xi

Part I Foundations and Paradoxes in Mormon Cultural Origins

1 The Iron Rod and the Liahona: Authority and Radical Freedom 3

2 The Endless Quest and Perfect Knowledge: Searching and Certainty 21

3 Everlasting Burnings and Cinder Blocks: The Sacred and the Banal 37

4 Peculiar People and Loneliness at the Top: Election and Exile 53

Part II The Varieties of Mormon Cultural Expression

Beginnings (1830-1890): The Dancing Puritans

5 "The Glory of God Is Intelligence": Mormons and the Life of the Mind 65

6 "Zion Shall Be Built": Architecture and City Planning 101

7 "No Music in Hell": Music and Dance 117

8 "On a Cannibal Island": Theater 143

9 "Novels Rather than Nothing": Literature 157

10 "A Goodly Portion of Painters and Artists": Visual Arts 179

Part III The Varieties of Mormon Cultural Expression

A Movable Zion (1890-Present): Pioneer Nostalgia and Beyond the American Religion

11 "Fomenting the Pot": The Life of the Mind 195

12 "A Uniform Look for the Church": Architecture 241

13 "No Tabernacle Choir on Broadway": Music and Dance 253

14 "Cinema as Sacrament": Theater and Film 265

15 "To the Fringes of Faith": Literature 285

16 "Painting the Mormon Story": Visual Arts 325

Conclusion: "Through the Particular to the Universal" 339

Notes 345

Index 397

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