Fiona and Terryl Givens: The Restoration of All Things
For the last decade, Fiona and Terryl Givens have brought to light wonderful and expansive doctrines in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ by drawing upon literature and other faith traditions. Their work helps Latter-day Saints appreciate the beauty of what we believe. On this week’s episode, we talk with these scholars about many of their books, how those books are influenced by their life experiences, and how their studies have brought us greater appreciation for our faith tradition and the faith traditions of others.
If something harrows the mind and constricts the heart, that I don’t think is of God—that is not of the Spirit. But if something—an idea, a thought, a song, a book—enlarges your mind and awakens your heart to joy then we can know that that is true.
Fiona and Terryl's Books:
Letter from Joseph Smith to Isaac Galland, 22 March 1839, “Communications,” Times and Seasons 1, no. 4 (February 1840): 53; quoted in Givens, Wrestling, 38.
Joseph Smith also said, “The Latter-day Saints have no creed, but are ready to believe all true principles that exist, as they are made manifest from time to time” (HC 5:215; quoted in Givens, Wrestling, 38).
And, as paraphrased by Terryl L. Givens, the Prophet stated: “If the Presbyterians have any truth, embrace that. If the Baptists and Methodists have truth, embrace that too. Get all the good in the world if you want to come out a pure Mormon” (sermon given 23 July 1843; in Givens, Wrestling, 38; see HC 5:517 and The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph, comp. and ed. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook [Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1980], 234).
On another occasion Joseph said, “The first and fundamental principle of our holy religion is” to be free “to embrace all, and every item of truth, without limitation or without being circumscribed or prohibited by the creeds or superstitious notions of men, or by the dominations of one another” (letter from Joseph Smith to Isaac Galland, Times and Seasons, 54; quoted in Givens, Wrestling, 38).
Givens noted that Joseph pushed “in the direction of expansive addition rather than contracting reduction: ‘we don’t ask any people to throw away any good they have got we only ask them to Come & get more’” (Wrestling, 38; quoting Joseph Smith, 22 January 1843; see HC 5:259; see also Words of Joseph, 159).
“We must become holy, not because we want to feel holy, but because Christ must be able to live his life fully in us. We are to be all love, all faith, all purity, for the sake of the poor we serve.” Mother Teresa, “On Prayer,” in Mystics, Visionaries, and Prophets: A Historical Anthology of Women’s Spiritual Writings, ed. Shawn Madigan (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997), 421.
1:52- Fiona’s Story
8:47- Terryl’s Story
11:21- The Influence of Life Experiences
14:58- What the Restoration Brings to the Table
21:10- Doubt as a Catalyst
26:23- “The Greatest Act of Self-Revelation”
30:10- The Atonement is Not a Back-up Plan
38:17- Approach to Questions
41:40- “An All-Embracing Gospel”
47:41- Remorse Vs. Guilt
51:48- Desires in Doctrine and Covenants
54:42- What Does It Mean To Be All In the Gospel of Jesus Christ
Morgan Jones 0:00
In The God Who Weeps Terryl and Fiona Givens explored what the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us about the nature of God. The Christ Who Heals explored how what Christ taught is reflected in our understanding of the Savior as members of the Church. And in All Things New they explore how the restoration affects our perception of a variety of gospel topics, from heaven to guilt and obedience. As I prepared for this interview, my gratitude for the restoration of the gospel increased and it is my hope that this interview will do the same for you.
Fiona Givens graduated from the University of Richmond with degrees in French and German, then earned a master's degree in European history while co-raising the last of her six children. She has worked in education, translation services, as a lobbyist and as communications director of a nonprofit organization. Terryl Givens received a PhD in comparative literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is currently a Neal A. Maxwell senior fellow at Brigham Young University but was previously a professor at the University of Richmond.
This is All In, an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, what does it really mean to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm Morgan Jones, and I am so honored to have Terryl and Fiona Givens on the line with me today. Terryl and Fiona, welcome.
Fiona Givens 1:30
Thank you Morgan, we're delighted to be here with you.
Terryl Givens 1:32
Great to be here!
Morgan Jones 1:34
Well, I have been so looking forward to this and I have tried to prep–you can imagine that prepping for a number of different books can be a little bit daunting, but we're gonna try today to cover as much ground as we possibly can. And I just want to start–you both come from very unique cultural and religious backgrounds, and I just wondered if you could tell our listeners a little bit about your individual kind of journeys of faith and also just a little bit about where you come from?
Fiona Givens 2:09
Yeah, absolutely. I was born in Nairobi and spent the first 12 years of my life there. So, Africa is my home. And I have a very strong connection, particularly with Kenya. I went to boarding schools in England with my brothers, they were Catholic, all of the schools I attended actually were Catholic. And I love Catholicism. It's a very rich tradition, it's . . . I love the liturgy, the symbolism, I love Mass. I think it's just a really wonderful place and I think actually, all of the times I went to Mass prepared me for going to the temple, quite honestly, because symbolism–I mean, Catholics do symbolism really, really well, and we don't, as a faith community. So I think that was really, really helpful.
When I, when I graduated from high school in England, we generally take a gap year–what's called a gap year–and we go off, and we either work in Africa in orphanages, and then travel around the world with a backpack, I chose to go to Germany, because I was going to be reading German for my university degree, and I knew it was going to be a very intense program. So I thought a year in Germany would help, at least I could get the language down. And it was while I was there, actually, that I met a lovely lady.
And we, we just had these conversations about God and I really loved her ideas about God, and we were just really good friends. And then she didn't seem to be bored with the subject. So she invited me to Church one day, it was one of those rooms on the second floor of a building in Wiesbaden and I felt something, as I stepped over the threshold into the room. There was nothing religious about–or churchy about the room at all. But I was struck by this feeling which I've never had. And I was struck by the light in the eyes of the sister missionaries who . . . to whom I was introduced. And so it was, it was a really illuminating conversion.
I think there were many instances where I felt the power of the Holy Spirit and what really drew me to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the centrality of Christ. In Catholicism, he is obscured by a myriad of saints and primarily His mother, so it's very difficult actually, to see Him in . . . behind that crowd. And that's, that's really what attracted me. I felt that the LDS Church put Christ front and center and I really felt that's where He should be.
Morgan Jones 5:00
Absolutely. And I think that's interesting because I feel like sometimes that's something that people feel the opposite of when it comes to our faith. And I would love to get some more thoughts from you on that, about how we make Christ the center. But I want to ask you one follow-up. Fiona, I know you said in an interview that I listened to, that it was very difficult for you to join the Church because it felt like a disappointment to your family, and I think that's something that a lot of people listening can relate to. Can you share a little bit about that?
Fiona Givens 5:39
Oh, yes, absolutely. It was catastrophic. And that's the only way I can . . . my decision to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was just totally incoherent to my family. They thought I joined a terrorist gang. It created deep rifts, irreparable rifts, in the family. And it is a pain, which I–and a hurt–which is very deep, and from which I will never recover. We just simply haven't been–it just created this massive rift, rather like the Grand Canyon, and my family couldn't get over it. And so yeah, no, that was incredibly painful. And it still is, it still is. It's like we, you know, I'm from Mars, and they're from Jupiter. And never the two planets will mix or converse, it's as though we're speaking–well, so I am speaking a completely different language which my family's my family doesn't understand.
Morgan Jones 6:48
Yeah, my grandma's a convert to the church, her family, well they were Southern Baptist. And my dad just recently told me that when she joined the Church, her parents were heartbroken. And he said, "I don't think they ever really recovered from that." And that was something I had never known. And so I think that that is something-like I said, that a lot of people dealt with, and they continue to deal with kind of in silence. And so I love, Fiona, that you are honest about how hard that was. And I also love that you have remained so, so faithful. And I think that those two things are tricky to navigate.
Fiona Givens 7:36
Probably the most painful thing for my family, for my mother particularly, was the fact that they could not come–they could not attend my wedding. And that really . . . I think, more than anything else that hurt. I'm a mum, and I, you know, I can't imagine people saying, "No, I'm terribly sorry. But you can't attend the most important, most significant event of your child's life." And I was the only daughter. And that's why, you know, I just I applaud–I'm so grateful for the fact that things have changed, because I'm not the only one obviously, in every single convert who had a temple marriage, and it's the same way, there are so many people who are left out, even if they are members of the Church. Too young or too whatever–they don't attend. So for me, that was a really wonderful breakthrough when the decision was made to, "No, let's"–you know–"Sealings are sacred and sacred places, but marriages are for the family and for friends." So I think that was a wonderful step.
Terryl Givens 8:49
My background is that I'm descended on both sides from a long tradition of ministers, both Presbyterian and Methodist. And yet, by the time I was young child, both of my parents had fallen away from their own faith traditions. And one of my earliest memories as a young child is, I remember my mother sitting at the kitchen table going through a phone book, looking up churches, just because she felt that our family needed to Church. And so I can remember being taken to various denominations, various congregations as my mother kind of led the way. Eventually my father joined in too. So I have this tradition, this heritage that I'm very, very proud of my own parents being seekers and questers in their own regard, and they eventually landed in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and I have followed suit.
Morgan Jones 9:43
Yeah. Terryl, I wanted to ask you something about your upbringing. I heard in a podcast that you grew up in Lynchburg, Virginia. So I grew up in North Carolina and played in basketball tournaments in Lynchburg, and so I'm very familiar with Liberty and kind of that environment, and I can only imagine what it must have been like to be a young person growing up in that area and being a member of the Church. Can you speak to what that was like?
Terryl Givens 10:15
Yeah, that was a very . . . that was not a pleasant epic in which to be a Latter-day Saint living in Lynchburg. That was at the height of the Moral Majority years. Jerry Falwell was one of the most dominant religious figures in America, he publicly preached from the pulpit that Mormonism was one of the three isms that should be “wasms.” My family ran a small local business, we were blacklisted by Jerry Falwell and the entire population of Evangelicals in the area.
So, you know, we weren't physically abused or persecuted, it wasn't like Missouri in 1838, but I can say that there was a tremendous amount of hostility and opposition. And as I said, blacklisting that that made us aware of a kind of cost that came with discipleship in that era. And I think that, that was very formative, in many ways to my own faith and understanding of the place of the Latter-day Saint tradition in American history and culture.
Morgan Jones 11:15
Absolutely. So, I wanted to lay this groundwork right out of the gate, because I think that–and you can correct me if I'm wrong but–my guess is that these unique backgrounds have shaped the topics that you've chosen to address, and the work that you've devoted yourself to, in this Latter-day Saint space. So how would you say–would you say that that's true? And if it is, how would you say that where you've come from has shaped your work in the years since?
Fiona Givens 11:48
No, I absolutely agree. I think you would agree too, would you not, darling? That this, this has definitely shaped this idea, for me, especially of being an outsider, my family won't discuss my religious affiliation. They won't even mention it to anybody. But it was really good to be on that side and sort of be vilified for one's faith, beliefs, and it certainly acted as an impetus for me to dive more deeply into the gospel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Because I felt that if I could, you know, show my family, you know, "These are really beautiful things, they're lacking in Catholicism, they're lacking in the Protestant tradition, but this is a really beautiful, optimistic, generous gospel."
And so it's sort of, you know, I think I must have had my family in mind, but then it was just the joy. Really, you know, that sees both Terryl and myself of being able to talk about and discuss and write about the things that are radically resonant within the gospel of Jesus Christ. And this is a restoration, it's not a, you know, an elongation of the Reformation. It's actually a restoration of a much earlier church, a church before Augustine, a gospel before a Augustine, which was beautiful, the relationship between God and us; and us and God; and us with each other, and that has been a source of incredible joy for me.
Terryl Givens 13:22
Yeah, I think one of the very particular ways in which my background shaped some of the questions we ask is, as a young 16-17 year old boy, you know, in the midst of this furious, fervent Bible Belt, I was frequently accosted, in the cafeteria or on, you know, the playing field, "Have you been saved?" "Have you been saved?" By many times well-meaning friends or evangelicals, but I remember even at that time, I just found that a very disturbing formulation, what kind of–what does that mean about God, that we start from this default position of disadvantage and antagonism and need rescue?
And it wasn't just a matter of not appealing to me, but ever after when I became–because I was only becoming active in the Church really, at that time, we had joined and left and you know, lost our activity many years ago. But to this day, that question preoccupies me. Why do we continue to use this language, even in the Church, of salvation and redemption, without really knowing most often what we think we're being redeemed for or from?
And so that has been part, I think, of the impetus for Fiona and I to re-evaluate the vocabulary that we use and what kind of baggage does it carry with it.
Morgan Jones 14:37
Yeah, that's one thing that I have really appreciated as I've gone through and kind of revisited some of your work in preparation for this is that emphasis on vocabulary and the words that we use and how powerful those words are. Another theme that I seem to notice as I went through, is that there seems to be this connecting thread whether it be The God Who Weeps, or The Christ Who Heals, or your newest book All Things New, or Crucible of Doubt, and the theme seems to be–what does the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ bring to the table about–fill in the blank–whatever that topic may be.
So whether it's exploring what the Restoration has taught us about the nature of God, or what Christ actually taught, or in All Things New, it explores how the restoration affects our perception of a lot of different topics like heaven, and guilt, and obedience. Do you feel that it's accurate to say that that is a common thread, and why would you say that emphasizing what the Restoration brings to the table on those topics is so important?
Terryl Givens 15:52
Well, N.T. Wright is a very popular writer, even for a lot of Latter-day Saints, I think he has a lot of interesting things to contribute to the conversation. But one point he makes, he said, "If you change the story, you change the meaning of everything, all the words within that story." If you change the plot, then you change the nature of the characters.
And I think the thing that amazes me the most and impresses me the most about the Restoration is the audaciousness and the comprehensiveness of the story that it tells, right. That if you look up in a dictionary, a definition of theology, it will say it's the account of God's dealings with man from the Garden of Eden to resurrection. And I think that's not ambitious enough, right. And with King Follett and the Book of Abraham, we push the story back into primeval eternities extended forward into unseen prospects. And as a consequence, it seems we just haven't gone far enough in recognizing how that radically reshapes what happened in the garden, and what our understanding is of Christ's role and the meaning of Atonement, redemption, and all the rest.
So I think it's that overarching structure that continues to challenge us to re-articulate all of the individual elements of that story in light of that great saga.
Fiona Givens 17:16
And I suppose for me, I have been putting my education in print, because this has been a very educative process for myself. As we started, I remember, many years ago, we were at Cedar Breaks, and it was so beautiful, and there was nobody there. And we had this gorgeous view of the mountains and then not far from us was this very idyllic Swiss scene with a beautiful pond. And we just, you know, just what a lovely place to read in the scriptures. So the book opened to Moses seven, and it was just quite extraordinary. I didn't feel–
Terryl Givens 17:53
You were reading out loud to me.
Fiona Givens 17:53
Yeah, I was reading out loud, that's exactly right. And I didn't feel anything. I just noticed that something was happening to the air, as I was speaking into it. It was like the air was crystallizing, it was shimmering. And so I was thinking, I'm not a scientist, but I'm thinking, wow, this is really cool. Is this the altitude? Is this the moisture? What scientific thing is going on here? But we remembered that really clearly.
And it wasn't until later actually a sort of a moment of crisis–
Terryl Givens 18:24
Well of course, remember what–tell them what you were reading in Moses seven.
Fiona Givens 18:29
It did grab me at the time, I was reading Moses seven. And I was, you know we . . . I think we might have discussed it a little, this idea of the God who weeps. But I didn't feel anything. It was a purely intellectual exercise. And it actually wasn't until I was in a period of crisis myself and I started to look at this wrathful, vengeful God,
Terryl Givens 18:57
Preoccupied with the genocide taking place in Africa.
Fiona Givens 19:00
Yes, I had a crush on Bruce Willis at the time and so I watched Tears of the Sun, don't anybody watch that film.
Terryl Givens 19:05
And we just lost our audience.
Fiona Givens 19:05
Anybody don't watch, but it really was. It was just shocking, the genocide that was . . . And so you know, I just got angry with God. And I said, you know, “I hope you're seeing somebody about this, because I don't know how you can survive this trauma on an individual, familial, societal and global basis. And I want you to know, I don't want to become a God, if this is the result of it." So I, you know . . . petulant, you know, stopped and fumed about, and when I calmed down, I had this very strong impression that I needed to read Moses seven, again.
And it was then, in that crisis, as I was reading Moses seven about the God who weeps, a vulnerability, Enoch's shock that you know, that he's seeing God weeping and these aren't happy tears, obviously, and that's when I realized that our faith tradition had something that no other Christian faith tradition was articulating, that God was vulnerable, and that this was the greatest gift He had chosen to love us, and by choosing to love us, He had opened Himself to injury and hurt, as we all do.
But that that was . . . I looked around my little pantheon of gods and realized that our God was the only God who did not require sacrifice from His children, but actually sacrificed for His children. And, and that was really sort of the, was really the starting point, wasn't it?
Terryl Givens 20:47
It was. So I kind of came to everything from the outside in, and this is if you reworked everything from the inside in.
Morgan Jones 20:55
I love that. And I love, Fiona, I heard in an interview where you were talking about having had kind of a crisis of faith. And then you said, "I feel like I kind of have an ongoing crisis of faith." And Terryl in 2013. You've wrote something called "Letter to a doubter." And in it, you said, "My main purpose in writing this letter is not to resolve the uncertainties and perplexities in your mind. I want, rather, to endow them with the dignity and seriousness they deserve, and even to celebrate them."
Would you both say that that describes much of what you've tried to do in the books that you've written together?
Terryl Givens 21:40
Yeah, I think it would, I would probably qualify with some kind of a parenthetical–what we mean by celebrate.
Morgan Jones 21:47
Terryl Givens 21:48
We've taken a few hits from that from people who think that we're glorifying doubt. We're glorifying doubt in its proper place, which is as a provocation, to further search and in questing, not as a defeatist conclusion. And so that's what we mean, we celebrate doubt in the same way that we celebrate Joseph Smith's questioning, "What does this mean?" "Where am I?" "How do I know my place and standing before God?" "Nothing is making sense."
And I think that for–you know, we have criminalized doubt for far too long in the church, and we have inculcated in our young people like I witnessed the atrocity again, this past Sunday of watching a father take a little child to the microphone and whisper into the child's ear what the child was supposed to say. Which is a terrible thing to be doing because we are inculcating this formulaic pattern of, "I know, I know, I know."
And that wasn't a pattern that we can observe in the early church, it's not a pattern we observe in scriptures, right? Nephi freely confesses, "I don't know the meaning of all things, but I know God loves his children." The blind man says, "No, I don't know the answer to your questions. I just know that I was blind. And I see." So I think we are trying to re-legitimize a more earnest kind of wrestle with one's faith, and recognize that it is healthy, to consider our lives a perpetual state of faith development, rather than a fait accompli.
Fiona Givens 23:21
And as you said, Morgan, this idea of, you know, being particular faith crisis, it for me, it acted as a catalyst, it's always acted as a catalyst so I could dive deeper. Now, I don't have the years of tradition, family membership in the Church, as many people do. But I, I've always . . . when, for example, the story about the God who weeps and my row with God, it forces me or impels me to dig deeper, you know, just keep digging. And I think that's what we've been doing with all of the books.
So it's not as sort of a celebration of doubt insofar as–but use that doubt to dive, you know, to dive further into it. Use your mind, your heart, your soul, to seek these things out for yourself. Don't rely on what other people are saying, but tackle, jump in, jump into the scriptures.
I really love Joseph Smith's expansive view of the truth that is to be found elsewhere, outside the faith tradition. Now he famously said in order to come out of pure Mormon, we needed to imbibe everything that was beautiful about other faith traditions, and, and Terryl and I, really, our faith has been bolstered by the literature we have read over time, and for me, Les Misérables by Victor Hugo is–it's just enormous, you know, I feel truth.
So for me, the standard is, if it is true, it is beautiful. And if it is beautiful, it is true. So if something harrows the mind and constricts the heart, that I don't think is of God. That is not of the Spirit. But if something, an idea, a thought, a song or a book, enlarges your mind, and awakens your heart to joy, then we can know that that is true. And so that's sort of been our paradigm. Wouldn't you think, darling?
Terryl Givens 25:34
Fiona Givens 25:35
And that's really been, yeah, that's been at the basis of everything we have done, is just to gather all of these beautiful things that resonate so radically and so beautifully with us and incorporate them into our lives.
Morgan Jones 25:49
Well, before I get to my next question, I just have to say, I think I speak for everyone that will listen to this podcast in saying that we're all jealous that Terryl has you as his audiobook reader all the time.
But I want to, I love that you just said, you know, it's taking all of these things that that feel true and diving deep, and you have done that. You've done that with a variety of different subjects and different things that apply to our testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And I just want to touch–this is going to feel like we're flying through a lot of things that we could talk about, but I want to touch on just a few ideas that are expressed in these books that you've written.
And so first of all, I love one line, that you wrote that you said, "The greatest act of self-revelation occurs when we choose what we will believe." You two are academics, and I heard where somebody was asking you about a statement that had been made by another Latter-day Saint scholar who said that they didn't feel that they had chosen to be a Latter-day Saint, that just was what they were. And you talked about how this is what you have chosen. So for two people that are brilliantly smart, why do you choose to believe what you believe? And why is that the greatest act of self-revelation?
Terryl Givens 27:17
Okay, that's a rich question. And I'm glad that that's the last one and we can take the rest of the hour just on–
Morgan Jones 27:23
You can talk as long as you want.
Terryl Givens 27:26
So I would say three or four things about that statement. First of all, I would say, I personally, cannot understand how faith cannot be a choice, or it can't have any moral implications or consequences, and religious preference is just a matter of the lottery, and drawing a number out of a hat. There wouldn't be a blessedness associated with righteous faith and belief and perseverance if we didn't have–if there weren't a moral component to it. So to some extent, what we choose to embrace has to be a reflection of what we most deeply yearn for and love. So that's the first point.
Second point I would make is that the scriptures themselves refer to the ability to believe without knowing as a gift, when the gifts are enumerated in Section 46. One gift is to know but another gift is to believe without having that certainty. I can get some more beautiful gifts, because just as in marriage or any loving relationship, we're making ourselves vulnerable. We can't know the future, we can't know with any certainty what our standing is going to be in the universe the next day. But we offer as a precious gift on the altar, our trust and our confidence and our belief. And I believe that's what we do every day we affirm our belief in God.
And as far as why more specifically, I choose this form of belief, well, the scriptures refer to the spirit communicating to our hearts and our minds. And I don't think that's just a rhetorical expression. I think what that means is, there are ways of knowing that are outside of and beyond purely logical or rational experience. And I feel that I know in those ways, as the Spirit has testified to me of the power and beauty and goodness of these principles. And I know in my mind, because as an intellectual historian and scholar of religious history, I can say unequivocally that I have never been able to find any theological system that is as radically moral and self-consistent and profound as the Restoration revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith. So I feel like it's in my heart and my mind that I'm drawn to this gospel.
Morgan Jones 29:42
Thank you for that. Fiona. Would you add anything to that?
Fiona Givens 29:45
No, I wouldn't. I think that's brilliant.
Morgan Jones 29:48
Okay, perfect. So I love also, in The Crucible of Doubt, this is something I actually had a conversation with my mom just recently where we were talking about how we wish that there was a better understanding that the Atonement is not a backup plan. Repentance is not a backup plan and in The Crucible of Doubt you write, "The Atonement is not a backup plan in case we happen to fall short in the process. It is the ordained means whereby we gradually become complete and whole, in a sin-strewn process of sanctification through which our Father patiently guides us."
You have said that the role of the Savior in the plan of salvation is to shepherd us along in a process that has always been there and that is still very much intact. Why is it important, do you think, for us to understand that the Atonement is not something that is just in case we fall short? And to understand that sin is an expected part of mortality?
Terryl Givens 30:51
That was well said.
Fiona Givens 30:53
Yes, no, that's actually a really brilliant question. I'm so glad you asked it. As Terryl said, if you change the beginning, you change the end, and you change everything in between. For most of Christianity, what happened in the Garden of Eden was a catastrophe, as a result of which we disobeyed God. Adam and Eve were ejected, their posterity was condemned, and then we had the, you know, the birth of original sin. And then Christ had to come in order to save us from our sins. But, in our tradition, it's completely the other way. And of course, Eve, for being the perpetrator of this catastrophe has been vilified for centuries. And we, as women, quite frankly, have not done well in our lives in politics and social constructs.
But in our tradition, it is so gorgeous. Eve is the heroine of the human family. I want to change her from villain to heroine. So for example, in Genesis, chapter 3, verse 22, God says in response to Eve and then Adam of eating of the fruit "They have become as one of us." Now most theologians will say, "Oh, well, he was being sarcastic." "He was being ironic." And, and it was . . . cause because nobody believes that this was actually a step, an ascent, and that Eve is the heroine of the human family.
And, and we see that repeated in Eve's Ode to Joy in Moses 5:11, "Had we not eaten of the fruit, we never should have had children." So that was not happening. So that was a brave, courageous step that she took. I think she knew it was going to redound badly on her, but then she follows it up, "Had we not eaten of the fruit, we never should have had seed and we never should have known good and evil." Because in chapter 3, verse 22, God says, "They've become as one of us, knowing good and evil." So we take that in the Hebraic meaning–experiencing.
And then in Moses six, God goes on to clarify what he means by good and evil. He's speaking to the heartbroken Adam and Eve whose children are just running amok. And this is wonderful, I think we all fall asleep in verse 53, in any of the chapters, so that's when we actually need to wake up because that's where the really good stuff starts. But the Lord spake unto Adam, so he is, he says that the children are whole from the foundation of the world. So that sort of deals with original sin, we think, and then the Lord says, "Inasmuch as thy children are conceived in sin," and then suddenly, this is like, what just happened? And as a Catholic, I'm thinking did God just convert to Catholicism, because this is very Catholic language, "We are conceived in sin."
And then it gets worse. He says, "Even when they begin to grow up, sin conceiveth in their hearts," you go, okay, so this is very strongly Augustine and I'm freaking out. And then he says, "They taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good," Which is exactly what Eve said, "Had we not eating of the fruit of the tree of good and evil, we should never have known the joy of our redemption."
So, life is, is difficult. It is hard, and some of us are wounded at birth. We are all wounded as we go through our lives, but God is saying, "This is important. There is something about the difficulty of living this life, about the suffering that is sanctifying," or "I can sanctify suffering, I can make all things work for your good." And I just think that's brilliant. This idea of switching out "evil" to "bitter," and this is what we are. We ingest something bitter, it'll either poisonous or it'll be so unpleasant we don't ever want to eat it again.
And I just think that's a really–
Terryl Givens 35:17
And that's the point, so that we develop a taste for virtue and goodness and purity. And we can't develop that taste without having sampled its opposite and reacted accordingly and that's the educative intent behind life and the inevitability of sin.
Fiona Givens 35:37
And our prophets have spoken, Elder Widstoe referred to Eve's decision as being a choice to choose that which was better. And he says, you know, we all have choices in life. Some are better than others, but if they, if the choice you make is going to affect another person, then your sacrifice for that person is the greater good. And, and it was beautiful I should have it.
And that was the case in Eden, it was an incredibly generous giving, knowing that this would probably not work out well for her, which is why I think she's given the title "The Mother of All Living." So once you change that, Morgan, it's like, everything changes. The vocabulary has to change. We're not redeemed–being redeemed from sin, we're not being redeemed by the fall, and in fact, you know, God says that their work and glory is to bring to pass immortality and eternal life of man. That's it. It's optimistic, Christ comes to heal us from our woundedness and we are asked to collaborate with deity in our baptismal covenant, that's in Mosiah 18.
And so it becomes this–we're not acted upon anymore. In the traditional Christian theology, we are acted upon. There's nothing we can do for ourselves. In restoration theology, we are asked, we are invited to collaborate with the Godhead by taking on each other's burdens, mourning with those who mourn, standing, comforting those who stand in need of comfort. And that's a representation of each member of the Godhead. The God who carries our burdens all the way through his life into Gethsemane. And on to Golgotha is God the Christ. The God who mourns with us when we mourn is God the Father. And the God who comforts us when we stand in need of comfort is God the Holy Spirit. So they are inviting us through these baptismal covenants, to cooperate with them in healing the world and creating Zion. I've spoken for far too long.
Morgan Jones 37:54
No, no, that was so good. That was some great stuff. I wanted to ask you, so I know when The Crucible of Doubt came out, I have friends who say that their lives were changed forever by that book. And I know that it affected the lives of many members of the Church. But I wondered, six years later, if there's anything that you would write differently, or add to that conversation surrounding doubt?
Terryl Givens 38:23
Well, I'm wondering if that means Morgan that, you have some suggestions for how we should do that.
Morgan Jones 38:28
You better believe I do not have suggestions.
Terryl Givens 38:31
You know, nothing, nothing specific comes to mind. But I guess I could answer that question by saying a little bit about why we limited it to the topics that we did. Because there's nothing in that book that addresses you know, were there horses in ancient America? Or what do you do with the Book of Abraham? And, and I think what we have learned in the course of our many, many interactions with fellow Saints over the years, is that questions often disturb members of the Church without them really knowing why they're disturbed or if they should be disturbed.
I remember one of the very earliest conversations that Fiona and I had with somebody struggling at the peripheries of the faith was a sister missionary about to return home and she had, she was about to give up on her faith and testimony. And she listed one complaint she had in particular about the Prophet Joseph. And, and I remember, suddenly, this kind of inspiration hit me and I thought to ask her this question. I said, "Sister, can you explain to me why that question matters to your faith and testimony?"
And she thought for a minute, and then there was just this great kind of illumination when she suddenly said, "I don't know. I just assumed that it should. Because that isn't the way that I've heard things in the past." And so that was kind of a moment of enlightenment, I think for both of us, that we recognized that, you know, we tell the story in that book about this fake lock on a door in the John Knox House in Edinburgh, where there's nothing on the other side of the keyhole, it's just a dummy keyhole. And that a lot of our questions, I think, are like that.
So what we were trying to sort out in The Crucible of Doubt was how to ask more meaningful questions, and how to avoid those assumptions that get us into trouble. I don't know if this is a grammatically correct term or not, but I think too often we "over-believe." We believe things that we don't need to, we've added all kinds of baggage to the fundamentals and cores of our faith, and that's where we err.
Morgan Jones 40:43
Yeah, I want to be sure that we get to some questions about your newest book, All Things New. And I want you to know how much I've enjoyed reading this. I feel like there are a lot of things that are helpful to things that specifically people in my generation struggle with. And it's interesting, because I had a conversation with a couple of my former mission companions, where we were talking about, why do we do the things that we do? And do we believe in a transactional God? What happens when the blessings that we think we will receive based on certain acts of obedience don't come? And you talk about a lot of these things in the book, and I just think that they are so, so good. So can you first tell me what inspired this book and how you chose the topics that you chose to address?
Terryl Givens 41:40
Well, I think as you've already hinted, we saw it as an extenuation of a project that we had kind of begun unknowingly. I remember the great breakthrough for us, at least in terms of writer's block, when we were working on The Christ Who Heals was to recognize that we always talk around the peripheries of the faith. The doctrines and tenants and the beliefs. But if the core understanding of Christ as our healer was intact, in 1830, there wouldn't have been a necessity for a restoration. And so that led us to ask, so what does the Restoration bring to the table?
Morgan Jones 42:18
Terryl Givens 42:18
And again, once you redefine the plan of happiness, once you have a new beginning, then as Fiona suggested, the role of Christ as healer, rather than Redeemer, or at least, to enrich the term of redemption by adding in "healer" is useful. So I think that was, that was the principal motivation. And then we just tried to enumerate most of those terms that we had found in personal interactions with people had been troubling or detrimental to them. And of course, one of the principal of those is worthiness. Actually, I assigned a half dozen of my graduate students to make a list of those words that caused them the greatest distress in their own faith lives. And every single person came back with worthiness, among other terms.
And I think, for me, a great epiphany occurred some years back when I was reading the book of Job. And as I read the book of Job, his whole crisis was precipitated by his assumption that he had a transactional relationship with God. That if he did X and Y, then the Lord would do A and B. And there was this total reciprocity that he could expect, every time he did something, he would receive an appropriate reward or recompense.
And I think that's what is shattered when Elihu appears on the scene at the end of Job and says, "Who are you to think that God owes you anything? God doesn't bless you, because he owes you something, He blesses you because He loves you. And your obedience should similarly be predicated on unexpecting love." And I think once we understand that the relationship is non transactional, then we don't continue to measure our worthiness against some assumed standard.
Fiona Givens 44:09
Unfortunately–this is my experience–when I focus on a transactional, so if I do this, then then it's always that, "You have to, God. You have to bless me in this particular way. And this is the way that I want to be blessed. And so if you don't, then there's something very, very wrong with you." And suddenly, your relationship with God has changed dramatically. And you get–you're cross if you do something and you don't receive a blessing. And so you live your life like this, and it's one, it's really damaging, it's certainly damaging to your relationship with God, but I think that if we know that God loves us absolutely, unyieldingly, that there is nothing we can do, nothing we can say, nothing that we are that is going to ameliorate His love in any way, then we're not involved in these questions that really don't take us anywhere. And we tend to live flat lives as a result.
If we are secure in the love of God for us, then it emboldens us to go out and make a difference in the world, try and share that love with other people. So we're not so myopic. And President Nelson used that word, this idea of myopic because his great granddaughter was hoping that, or you know that, you know, he was a prophet after all, and he would heal. But I think what President Nelson was saying, "No step back a little bit. And then, and go into that, see if this is really–is God, a magician, essentially."
And I was so impressed with how much time she spent working through this idea of–and then this illumination, and then the strengthening of her faith. But I think that really comes from this belief at the very beginning, at the very heart, that God loves us absolutely. Then life is brighter, we are more courageous to step out into the world and live our baptismal covenants, and suddenly it's an all-embracing gospel rather than just a "Me" centered gospel.
Morgan Jones 46:28
Yeah, yeah. I think it's interesting, as you were talking, Fiona, I was considering what you were saying about, you know, the transaction. And I think in other relationships in our lives, we recognize that if we are hoping to change someone, or we only love them because we think we're going to get some sort of result from them, that– we recognize that's not a healthy relationship, but maybe in our relationship with God, we've gotten that confused, and we don't recognize that we love Him for who He is, and He loves us for who we are.
And not because we think that He needs to be an exact way or that He expects us to be an exact way. I love where you write, "Since we are apprentices of eternal life, remorse for falling short along the path is an appropriate response, not guilt. If by guilt we mean the preoccupation with unworthiness that is self-concerned and unproductive. Remorse, by contrast, is other concerned, and his evidence of an empathy productive of greater holiness."
And I just have never thought of it that way, and I wondered, how would you suggest that we approach our shortcomings with remorse rather than with guilt?
Terryl Givens 47:59
Great question. Let me put that a little bit into historical context maybe to help.
Morgan Jones 48:03
Terryl Givens 48:04
One of the ways in which we can, I think, clearly tell that Christianity went off the rails a long time ago was with the development of the monastic tradition. Now, I don't mean to suggest for a moment that there weren't many beautiful, noble, virtuous souls in monasteries. But the very practice represented a retreat from the world, and a quest for personal holiness. Which as I understand it is the antithesis of Jesus's principal teaching, which is–you love God by loving each other, by being part of a community, by building relationships. And so that's just a sign of how prone we are to misconstrue personal righteousness with religion. Religion, right–ligare, the root, which means connectedness.
And so I think that in this regard, President Nelson has really been inspired when he says that the quest for spirituality can become the selfish pursuit. Mother Teresa said, "The only reason we should pursue holiness is so that God can work through us more effectively to bless and minister to others." So I think it's a matter of keeping that perspective in mind, and remembering that, that we should be striving to be instruments and vehicles through whom God works. And that the pain that we cause to others is a just a source of remorse, for pain that we have caused. But guilt always means that we're focusing too much on the self, letting ourselves down. "How have I hampered my salvation?" And I think keeping that distinction in mind can be helpful.
Fiona Givens 49:41
It's been very helpful for me in my own life when I when I feel remorse, I want to go to the person and say, "I am so sorry. Please help me make this right." When I feel guilt it's a shame and I pull myself into myself, and I don't want anybody to know, and I want the person whom I've offended to definitely not believe that I am actually feeling bad about what I just did. But again, the vocabulary, it's so important. Words carry so much meaning. And so I mean that's such a brilliant question. The idea of guilt, as Terryl said is self-centered, remorse is outward centered. It's like you want to make things whole, "I fear I may have," And "I wish I am sorry, and I wish to heal this bridge" is such a little thing, but it's massive. Just a changing of the woods.
Yeah, absolutely. I think it's interesting, how much, you know, we talk about following the example of Jesus Christ, and I think sometimes we become caught up in the words and not so much the actions of Jesus Christ. But when you think about, you know, the whole idea of turning outward with everything that we do, that is true remorse, and Jesus wouldn't want us to feel guilt. And so I love the way that you put that and I'm not doing a very good job of articulating the thoughts that it generated for me.
But I want to, before we finish, one thing that I love about All Things New is that I really feel like it reframed for me the things that the Restoration brings to light, and how those things being brought to light invite light into our lives and hope. How do you both think that a study of the Doctrine and Covenants this year in "Come, Follow Me" will strengthen people's understanding of the way that our religion makes things new?
Terryl Givens 52:02
Well, I would suggest just this one thought. The first 8 or 10 sections of the Doctrine & Covenants seem to be this wildly, kind of incommensurate, disparate group of revelations that are just put together in a haphazard order. But as I've studied those first 10 sections this year, I've recognized that there is one word, one concept that appears almost in every single one of those initial revelations, and I don't think it's a coincidence. Think about section 4, for example, every missionary typically memorizes, section 4, right? These are all the things that qualify you for the work. Okay, so there's 15 qualifications. But if you read section 4 carefully, there's only one qualification that calls you to the work. And that's if you have desires.
Every section in those first dozen revelations is about desire. Oliver desires to translate. Joseph desires to lay the foundations. Peter desired to come to Christ swiftly when he died, John desired, so it's as if at the launching of this new dispensation, what the Lord is saying is–if you will have the right desires, I will guide you safely through. And I think that if we understand the process of life as a process of repentance, but we understand repentance, as a process of heart shaping, or desire forging, then I think we can find that theme, just pervasive in the Doctrine and Covenants. And then that can be the foundation of a reengagement with the gospel in which we are open to letting Christ reshape our hearts and our desires as we move ahead.
Morgan Jones 53:49
So beautifully said. Fiona?
Fiona Givens 53:51
Oh no, that was brilliant. Haha, I can't add to that–
Morgan Jones 53:54
You're like, " I'm good."
Fiona Givens 53:56
That was really good.
Morgan Jones 53:58
Perfect. Well, I cannot tell you how much I have appreciated even just the chance to go through and prepare for this interview, and we have not even scratched the surface of the things that I could ask you about. But I just want you to know that I personally have felt my faith be strengthened by yours. And I'm grateful for your scholarship and for sharing it with all of us. Before we finish, I just have one last question for you. And that is, what does it mean to you to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Fiona Givens 54:31
Well, for me, all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is living the baptismal covenants. That means you're all in. It's . . . I feel like we've been invited by the Godhead to work with them in the healing and the bringing to pass of the immortality and eternal life of man, primarily in building Zion. And, so for me, being all in is–yes, I do believe that every single individual on the earth, ever, now, and will be, is inherently divine.
And that our Heavenly Parents love each of us, equally, and what a wonderful, what a wonderful–being all in for me is creating Zion. Is going to be a global Zion, and you know, reaching out to people of like minds, like hearts, to living those principles, essentially. Bearing each other's burdens, mourning and comforting. That, for me, is being all in.
Terryl Givens 55:43
My take on being all in comes from my, one of my lovely daughters, who taught me this important lesson as she herself was climbing another peak in her faith journey. She called me one day with a kind of jubilant tone in her voice, she said, "Dad, today I was reading the parable of the treasure in the field. And I think I learned something important." The man when he found there was a treasure in the field, he went and sold everything he has so that he could buy it. And if you think about a typical field, you're going to get cow manure and old boots and license plates and . . . but there's a treasure in the midst of it. And I think that that's a wonderful apt analogy for a Church that is filled with fallible people. And wonderful inspired leaders who have at times erred. Scriptures that aren't always inerrant. But if we recognize the treasure at its heart, as I believe I do, then I'm willing to be all in and buy the whole field in order to have that treasure.
Morgan Jones 56:49
That's beautiful. Thank you so much. Terryl and Fiona, thank you for spending this time with me. I have really appreciated it.
Terryl Givens 56:57
Thank you, Morgan.
We are so grateful to Fiona and Terryl for joining us on today's episode. You can find many of their books, including their latest, "all things new" in Deseret Bookstores now. A huge thank you to Derek Campbell of Mix at Six studios for his help with this episode and thank you, as always, for listening. We'll look forward to being with you again next week.