Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Wrestling the Angel: The Foundations of Mormon Thought: Cosmos, God, Humanity” as Want to Read:
Wrestling the Angel: The Foundations of Mormon Thought: Cosmos, God, Humanity
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Wrestling the Angel: The Foundations of Mormon Thought: Cosmos, God, Humanity

(Foundations of Mormon Thought and Practice)

4.43  ·  Rating details ·  361 ratings  ·  91 reviews
In this first volume of his magisterial study of the foundations of Mormon thought and practice, Terryl L. Givens offers a sweeping account of Mormon belief from its founding to the present day. Situating the relatively new movement in the context of the Christian tradition, he reveals that Mormonism continues to change and grow.
Givens shows that despite Mormonism's origi
Hardcover, 424 pages
Published November 5th 2014 by Oxford University Press (first published September 19th 2014)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Wrestling the Angel, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Wrestling the Angel

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.43  · 
Rating details
 ·  361 ratings  ·  91 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Wrestling the Angel: The Foundations of Mormon Thought: Cosmos, God, Humanity
Aug 07, 2014 rated it liked it
In this ambitious book, Terryl Givens explores the foundations of Mormon theology. It's a selective overview, Givens said he confined himself to ideas that have come to be generally accepted by most contemporary Mormons, but he also traces a few dead ends like the Adam-God teaching of Brigham Young. He situated LDS thought within it's surrounding environment as well as on a trajectory spanning back from ancient religion, through Greek thought and the later Reformation.

Givens is more articulate
Oct 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is an exceptional exposition of mormon theology. It places the development of theological ideas in the the proper social/cultural context,as well as the context in the Christian theology. This book is a must read for those wanting to better understand the theological underpinnings of the LDS church. As a lifelong member of the LDS church it was eyeopening to understand better how LDS theology fits and does not fit into current Christian Theology. If you have ever wondered why many Christian ...more
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
Nov 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
I wish I could find the equivalent to this book for all religions. It is an inside look at what an expert thinks their own religion’s philosophical and theological ontological foundations consist of.

I’m an outsider looking in and this book told me what they believe and why they believe what they do. The historical context that surrounds their beliefs and the defense going back to Paul, or Augustine or other early church fathers even (considered slightly heretical by some) Pelagius and Origen. T
Sep 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Dear Rivka:

Rarely do I bestow upon a book 5/5 stars. The last 5 star book I read was 71 books ago! Before this book was written, the only really good book on Mormon Theology (in my view) was Jesus the Christ. Now there are two and I'm having a hard time deciding which one is better.

The best chapter is near the end and it reviews the Mormon view on the atonement. I learned new things I had never noticed from the scriptures before or at least never connected them the way the author does. The autho
Liz Busby
Jan 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
To me, this book is the advanced version of The God who Weeps. It's great for both Mormons and those who want to understand them better. As a Mormon, I loved how this book put our doctrines into a historical framework and helped me see who believes similarly to us. For non-Mormons, this book is a great sophisticated introduction to the more audacious doctrines of Mormonism and how they might not be as odd as you think. I will probably make my kids read this in their teen years.
Apr 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
I should start out by saying I am a huge fan of Terryl Givens and find him to be the most thought-provoking and eloquent writer in the Church. In typical Givens fashion, the book is thorough, well-researched, and rich in references to comparative texts. It covers a wide variety of topics ranging from the Godhead, to Christology, and ultimately finishes with Salvation and Theosis. Be aware that this is not your typical Deseret Book or Seminary and Institute fare. This is a scholarly work using sc ...more
Michael Hutchings
Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is simply the fifth book of scripture. Accordingly, It should be read, studied, marked, and cherished again and again.
Russell Fox
I'm clearly not the perfect audience for this impressive book by Terryl Givens. In the first of what he states will be two books discussing the foundations of Mormon theology, he does a great deal of telling (which he's actually quite up-front about, stating in the beginning of the book that his purpose in writing it is "primarily descriptive"--p. 17), but, to my mind, relatively little arguing or persuading. In other words, he is writing primarily to either 1) those unfamiliar with Mormonism an ...more
Stefan Coburn
Mar 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well-researched and cited take on Latter-Day Saint theology

This book places the theology of the Latter-day Saints within the context of contemporary (19th century) and ancient (early 1st through 5th century) Christian thought.

Showing both places of commonality and stark difference.

It is a tour of many different theology questions man has asked about such issues as the conception of the soul, the nature of God, man’s relationship to God and his destiny.
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful in-depth study of Mormon doctrine in context of Christianity as a whole. Givens organizes the work first by topic e.g. salvation, original sin, polygamy and then a historical development of that doctrine. It oftentimes doesn't start with Joseph Smith's conception either, but much farther back to Augustine, Clement, Luther, and other figures throughout Christian history. Joseph Smith claimed to restore doctrines, so it's vital to see what he was restoring.

Particularly fascinating con
Seth Jenson
Apr 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Amazing piece of work by Terryl Givens. Reminded me of Richard Bushman's Rough Stone Rolling (which I LOVED) with its unbiased tone. Much broader in scope though - the latter was focused on Joseph Smith. It's hard to tell if Givens is a member of the church (he is). This is a good thing - he doesn't pull any punches. No rose-colored glasses here. Learned a lot and feel more grounded in my faith than ever. Probably need to read it again....and again. He covers a lot of material!
Corey Wozniak
Dec 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Terryl Givens is my favorite explicator of Mormonism. Very readable historical-theological survey.

Courtney Hatch
I’m sure this book wouldn’t be everybody’s cup of tea, but it may end up being my favorite book of 2018. It’s hefty (I would read about 20 pages per sitting and then walk away and digest it for awhile), but it is also extremely well-written. I’m always so impressed by Givens’ many allusions to literature. The man is just freaking smart. I learned a lot about theology in general and loved talking this thing to death over dinner with my husband. Can’t wait to read his next one.
Jul 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, lds, 2019
3.5 stars.

This is an exploration of Mormon theology. The author seeks to locate the evolution of Mormon theology historically and among other Christian faiths. I was surprised to learn that a number of beliefs I thought were unique to the LDS faith have been shared by philosophers and theologians of other faiths, although not always officially adopted by a particular church or religion. I was also surprised at how certain beliefs have evolved over time.

My critique of this book is that it feels
May 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Another thoughtful book by Givens. He discusses different topics from their biblical beginnings through the reformation and the restoration, including contemporary thoughts of more current church leaders. Lots of good information. It must be read deliberately; there is too much to swallow in big chunks!
Peter W
Oct 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Terryl Givens' best book, but also his most boring book. This is because this reads like an encyclopedia: fascinating but without plot.

Mar 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Great collection of the important doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and how they developed over the years. Also includes comparisons with other churches and what the early church fathers in the early centuries of the Christian era wrote. Very illuminating.
Thomas Blasucci
Mar 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Wrestling The Angel is one of the most ambitious works to come out of contemporary Mormon studies; it’s comprehensive, thought provoking, and rich in historical analysis. Professor Givens pulls no punches, yet offers a faithful perspective on the theological origins and formation of LDS doctrine, using documentation and primary accounts that were most likely unavailable to his predecessors.

Prior to Angel, there have been only 3 attempts to formally layout LDS theology in its entirety: Parley Pra
Clinton Hutchings
Jun 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mormonism
December 2017

Finished this book for the second time. Much more ambitious of a book than I remembered. Thought I’d refresh on some foundational doctrines for the upcoming year. Definitely still 5 stars.

June 2016

Holy smokes! What a book. I think it will end up being one of the top three LDS themed books that I've read - Rough Stone Rolling and Rise of Modern Mormonism the other two. I listened to this so I didn't see the footnotes, but it's probably worth getting the book
Sep 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. A very dry, academic review with a few gems along the way. Not at all like his other works that I've loved. To his credit, Givens doesn't shy away from some of the most difficult moments in LDS history and theology. But the saving grace for me is how it maps the fascinating evolution of LDS theology, highlighting three things: 1) how even Joseph Smith received truth "precept upon precept" in a very organic, sometimes circuitous way; 2) how LDS doctrine is truly a radically progressive ...more
Todd Decker
Oct 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
There are few who write about the Mormon religion with as much eloquence and erudition as Terryl Givens. This book is not a light read—it is deep and challenging—but it is also very rewarding. Givens shows why Mormon ideas are so powerful and why they animate us live the way we do. His study is useful for non-Mormons as a window into the mind and heart of Mormons. It is also useful to Mormons as a reflection of the implications of our own beliefs. I especially appreciate how Givens is able to co ...more
Oct 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Amazingly enough, this book actually exceeded my expectations. I am a big fan of the works of Terryl Givens, and have anticipated the arrival of this book for the last year. I will write a much more detailed review of this book in the next month or two, because such a book is deserving of detailed attention and praise. Suffice it to say that this was probably the most enjoyable book I've ever read on Mormon history and thought. I would recommend it to anyone.
Brent Wilson
This volume makes me wonder - is there any feat of scholarship that Terryl Givens CAN'T achieve??

Separate chapters for a variety of core doctrines, placed in historical Christian context and then showing the Mormon take in its difference and similarity. I tended to skip over some of the Christian history, I admit - but even so, I learned so much about what we share and how we're different - we Mormons I mean.

For lovers of theology - even those of us who won't admit it!
Apr 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Deep. Lots to chew on. I feel like I gained a greater understanding of my religion with this author's comparison of Mormonism and other philosophies and theologies. I had a dictionary nearby to help me in my reading. Truly enlightening. Gave me some different perspectives to think about.
Nov 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An impressive look at the development of Mormon doctrines compared to the development of other Christian doctrines by other faiths.
Jul 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
An incredible resource on the development and current standing of Mormon theology. Pushes the conversation forward. Definitely one everyone should read.
Sep 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful panorama of Mormon thought and its positioning within the expanse of Western theology.
Apr 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book took me ages to work through but is the most helpful book on my theology and faith that I've read. It helped solidify my feelings about a more merciful God and universal salvation.
John Steele
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic book that helped me focus on becoming a reactivated church member. So good I've read it twice.
k k
Jan 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mormonism
Wrestling the Angel: The Foundations of Mormon Thought by Terryl L. Givens is the first of two volumes that explore the historical development and contemporary status of Mormon belief and practice. Despite the author’s preface that Wrestling is “not a work of either systematic or historical theology per se (ix),” it is hard to deny that the book is organized in an almost encyclopedic fashion with each subject loosely attached to those around it. Where Givens departs from a traditional systematic ...more
« previous 1 3 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Christ Who Heals: How God Restored the Truth That Saves Us
  • A Case for the Book of Mormon
  • Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
  • The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality
  • True Hallucinations/The Archaic Revival
  • How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics
  • Jesus' Son
  • Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling
  • 2nd Nephi: a brief theological introduction
  • Insights from a Prophet’s Life: Russell M. Nelson
  • Planets in Composite: Analyzing Human Relationships
  • Planets in Aspect: Understanding Your Inner Dynamics
  • Lord of the World
  • A Scheme of Heaven: The History of Astrology and the Search for our Destiny in Data
  • No Unhallowed Hand: 1846-1893 (Saints, #2)
  • The Pearl of Greatest Price: Mormonism's Most Controversial Scripture
  • For Times of Trouble: Spiritual Solace from the Psalms
  • Letters to a Young Mormon
See similar books…
Terryl L. Givens was born in upstate New York, raised in the American southwest, and did his graduate work in Intellectual History (Cornell) and Comparative Literature (Ph.D. UNC Chapel Hill, 1988), working with Greek, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and English languages and literatures. As Professor of Literature and Religion, and the James A. Bostwick Professor of English at the University of Rich ...more

Other books in the series

Foundations of Mormon Thought and Practice (2 books)
  • Feeding the Flock: The Foundations of Mormon Thought: Church and Praxis

News & Interviews

Are you spending this season bundling up against the chill or enjoying summery southern hemisphere vibes (in which case we are...
100 likes · 32 comments
“Catholics espouse papal infallibility, but no Catholic believes in it. Joseph Smith espoused prophetic fallibility, but no Mormon believes in it.” 1 likes
“Of Sir Isaac Newton’s momentous decipherment of the laws of the universe, the French scientist Pierre-Simon de Laplace famously told Napoleon, in his philosophical euphoria, that he no longer had need of God to make sense of creation. Secular science could henceforth exile God from his universe. In Joseph Smith’s conception, by contrast, naturalism and God co-exist.” 0 likes
More quotes…