Terryl Givens, PhD, is a professor of literature and religion at the University of Richmond, a private liberal arts college. Baptized initially in the Presbyterian faith by his minister grandfather, Terryl and his family became LDS when Terryl was eight or nine; however, the family of nine became less active. Born in upstate New York and raised largely in the Southwestern U.S.A., when Terryl was sixteen the family relocated to Virginia from another state, having no immediate prospects for employment, friends or a home. Initially they lived in a tent. In Virginia the family was reactivated and Terryl experienced a personal spiritual reawakening.

Although he set his sights on a wrestling scholarship at Yale, Terryl was always “bookish,” as he describes it. Following a successful church mission in Brazil he graduated from BYU, where he courted and married Fiona. After graduate work at Cornell he completed his graduate studies at UNC, Chapel Hill, by which time the Givens had five children. Dr. Givens’ scholastic work included a semester abroad in Vienna. Fiona has a graduate degree in history. Terryl has served as a bishop. Although he did not initially fancy himself an author, Dr. Givens has authored a dozen books, including some that have been co-authored with Fiona. He has a special interest in Mormon studies, history and culture. His podcasts are accessible through terrylgivens.com.

Episode Highlights

  • 11:37 Unlikely journey to becoming an author…His father’s collection of 19th century anti-LDS literature…Impact of learning the Book of Mormon was the most widely produced book, other than Bible.
  • 15:15 Books are no longer the primary vehicle for disseminating information…Desire to celebrate intellectual and theological richness of Mormonism…People struggling with their faith.
  • 18:00 There is not one, “typical” Mormon testimony…Finding one’s own path in “coming to Christ.”
  • 19:25 Called as bishop in Richmond the week of 9/11…Occupying a position with enormous ability to make a difference in people’s lives…Using the power of the mantle as an influence for good…Ministering to members and promoting member interaction.
  • 23:00 Dealing with faith crises…The gift of empathy…Feeling the weight of their burdens and the texture of their cross…Bishops need to “feel,” not simply fix…Avoiding tendency to view others’ experiences through one’s personal lens regarding matters of faith and other personal struggles.
  • 29:25 President M. Russell Ballard’s powerful statement to leaders: ‘bearing testimony is not the answer to every question’ from people experiencing doubt…Dealing with legitimate perplexities and apparent incongruities…Asking, “What’s at stake in that question?”…Some faith questions are based on false assumptions…Helping people navigate distractions by refocusing on what matters most.
  • 35:10 As a leader, having courage to refer someone to a person with more expertise…Demonstrate validation…Be careful about trying to shut off sources of intellectual inquiry…Transparency.
  • 38:15 “Criminalizing” doubt…Elder Hugh B. Brown’s comment about “apprenticeship in doubt” on path of discipleship…Can faith and uncertainty can co-exist?… “Help thou my unbelief.” Knowing vs believing…On being authentic as to what we know or feel…The culture of “certainty.”
  • 44:52 Scriptural examples of individuals having faith without absolute knowledge…Scriptures appeal to both mind and heart…Saying “I don’t know” and learning together.
  • 47:56 Asking “real” questions in adult Sunday school classes…Does everyone truly agree…Importance of truly spiritual gospel doctrine class teachers…Dealing with boredom in SS class.
  • 52:00 Is there resistance to addressing questions head-on? In the long run, how will church members be fortified? Being “shut down” in the U.K.
  • 55:00 Holy envy…The role of art and literature as sacred vehicles. President Kimball: “When God didn’t have prophets he spoke through poets.” Finding comfort in non-Mormon Christendom.
  • 57:20 Essence of discipleship is recognition that we all have hurts. There is no one whose life can’t be made better by a shared concern. Nearly everyone carries some type of burden.


Terryl Given’s Website

Books authored by Terryl

The Sin of CertaintyWhy God Desires Our Trust More Than Our “Correct” Beliefs

Men are From Mars Women are From Venus

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