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The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense…

The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life (edition 2012)

by Terryl Givens (Author), Fiona Givens (Author)

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482242,697 (4.44)None
Title:The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life
Authors:Terryl Givens (Author)
Other authors:Fiona Givens (Author)
Info:Ensign Peak (2012), Edition: First, Hardcover, 160 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Mormon Theology, Mormon Philosophy

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The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life by Terryl Givens



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I expected to like this more than I did. Not that I didn't like it. The Givens's insights are wonderful. But the book felt overwritten to me, and too dependent on quotations. ( )
  jalbacutler | Jan 10, 2017 |
"We are straining at particles of light in the midst of great darkness." --Keats.

This is hands-down the best book from Deseret Book that I've ever read. I read the Givenses' book (even though Goodreads credits only Terryl, it should also mention his co-writer, Fiona; thus "the Givenses") in conjunction with Lars Svendsen's A Philosophy of Evil, which latter book begins with a 76-page take-down of six major theodicies. Svendsen's main complaint w/r/t all theodicies is this: if God created this universe with evil in it, then He is morally responsible for all the evil in the world. In other words: God is manifestly not good. And yet, Svendsen, even if he does believe in good and evil, doesn't believe in God. (Set aside, for a moment, the a priori impossibility of an atheist finding an intellectually satisfying theodicy.) For Svendsen the problem of evil in the world comes down to this: we must fight it. We must fight evil both in ourselves and in the world. Showing how to fight that fight makes Svendsen's book a balm for the secular (as well as the believer) soul. All of which is wonderful and good.

But the question remains the believer, someone like me: Is God morally responsible for all the evil in the world? And if so, how can He/She/It claim to be benevolent and good? Enter: The God Who Weeps.

For starters, the Givenses believe that good and evil are qualities inherent in any human free agent; i.e., because we can choose *between* good and evil, we therefore can choose *to be* good or evil. Well enough. But, says Svendsen, if God, being good, recognized this fact, wouldn't He/She/It have been better off simply not creating the world? Hard to answer that question, really, conclusively, seriously, given its necessarily moot nature. (In other words, if you believe that God is good, then the fact of this world that manifestly exists is answer to the question of whether it would have been better to have left creation uncreated.) Even still, the question makes good logical sense only if one presupposes that all suffering is meaningless and bad.

Thus, if suffering is evil, and evil is bad, then suffering is bad. That's just good old fashioned syllogistic sense. But what if suffering isn't evil? According to Svendsen, evil (on a continuum, natch) is defined as anything or -one that/who does violence to a human's dignity. It's a commonplace, then, to understand that to cause a person to suffer is to do evil to that person. And there are many ways to cause suffering. One specific way is to torture. And one specific kind of torture that's seen as especially cruel and unusual is to cause someone to undergo extensive and complete isolation.

It's a fact that you never feel so alone as when you're suffering, when you're in terrible and excruciating pain. All you can sense and see and hear is pain, when it's chronic and acute. Your suffering isolates you because you can't share it in any meaningful way without causing suffering to the soul who's seeking to share it with you. And how exactly do you "share" your suffering? In fact, "sharing" suffering looks, in practice, awfully similar to the phenomenon of redirecting aggression (the natural and scientifically proven phenomenon whereby an animal, human or non-, reduces its suffering by inflicting similar suffering on another animal; call it the "kick the dog after a bad day" phenomenon). Thus if God created a world where suffering is not only possible but all but certain, and that the *only* way of ameliorating said suffering is to cause more suffering, then God, if He/She/It exists, must be cruel, right?

But there's another way to ameliorate suffering. It might not be an easy way, but it's both durable and complete. For starters, I don't believe suffering to be bad, and neither do the Givenses (you might reasonably -- and correctly! -- infer from the title of their book), and, it appears, neither does God.

Here's why: Suffering ennobles and expands those souls who use their suffering as a window of empathy into the souls of those who also suffer. The window goes both ways, too. In other words, and leaping logically ahead, those who survive their own suffering, and who therefore trust in their ability to survive all suffering, even unto death, are willing and able to take on or bear the suffering of others. They thereby decrease their own and the other's loneliness in suffering, and thereby decrease the effects of that suffering.

This, in sum, albeit far less eloquently expressed than the Givenses in their marvelous book have expressed it (so read the damn book!), is what God does for us. Because he is willing to suffer to same extent as any one of us, because he is willing to bleed as we bleed, weep as we weep, he therefore is able to pierce the veil of loneliness for the believer who suffers, thereby healing that suffering soul's soul.

And that is why God is a justifiably good God.

Read the book for the second time, listened to it on audio. ( )
  evamat72 | Mar 31, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Terryl Givensprimary authorall editionscalculated
Givens, FionaAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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