The Crucible of Doubt by Givens and Givens is a terrific book for anyone who is struggling with doubts about the LDS faith. It covers a lot of areas where questions commonly arise, such as how a benevolent and omnipotent God could allow so much suffering, how a person can continue to participate in a religion despite the flawed leadership and despite the frustratingly dogmatic and uncritical ways that members often express belief, and how belief is a choice that we can make even if we don’t experience the transcendent affirmations that are the hallmark of ‘testimony’ in the LDS church. Everything they say is terrific, but where they lose me is in failing to recognize that continued participation means having to swallow — and financially ‘sustain’ — a whole lot of stuff that is rather unpalatable, especially the idea of a divine mandate for male supremacy.
Maybe they’ll cover that in the next book.
The book presents core Mormon beliefs: a profoundly loving Father in Heaven, a vision of the Fall as an opportunity to become more like God, rejection of original sin, and a view of mortality as one part of God’s larger plan for us to become like Him. These straightforward tenets of Mormonism are no surprise to adherents, though this book may be surprising in the insights offered into the implications of these beliefs, or “how Mormonism makes sense of life.” There is a God whose heart is so set upon us that he weeps when we suffer and there is purpose to the suffering. This belief, this experience of God as a tender parent and our mortal experience as a place to learn, where mistakes are not only inevitable but necessary for us to be pulled towards the light of truth, reveals the true nature of our (and others’) intrinsic worth, our relationship with God, our understanding of sin and doubt, and our perspective on the challenges of life. Mormonism makes sense of life because it reveals the meaning of all our mortal experiences—the mundane, the beautiful, and the agonizing. Others may find, as I did, that this book provides a course correction, moving me towards faith, love, and acceptance of myself and others irrespective of where we are on our journey or the direction we’re headed.