Wednesday, September 19, 2007

People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture

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.

432 pages; ISBN13: 978-0-19-516711-5ISBN10: 0-19-516711-2

About the Author

Terryl L. Givens is Professor of Literature and Religion and James 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

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