Terryl Lynn Givens is a senior research fellow with the Neal A. Maxwell Institute of Religious Scholarship at Brigham Young University. He was professor of literature and religion at the University of Richmond, where he held the James A. Bostwick Chair in English. He taught courses in nineteenth-century studies and literary theory. He is best known, however, for his publications on Latter-day Saint history, culture, and theology, most of which he has published with the prestigious Oxford University Press. He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Givens was born in upstate New York in 1957, but was reared in Arizona and Virginia. He served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ in Brazil. He earned his bachelor’s degree in comparative literature at Brigham Young University and did graduate work at Cornell. He received his PhD in comparative literature from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He started writing books when his father, a book collector, challenged him to explore what he thought were the unusual depictions of Mormonism in the nineteenth century. His research led him to write Viper on the Hearth. Generally, his research emphasizes the intersection of literary and religious studies, and more recently, religious themes across time and the western religious and philosophical traditions. He has written numerous articles and papers and has edited two volumes—Joseph Smith, Jr.: Reappraisals After Two Centuries and The Columbia Sourcebook of Mormons in the United States—with Reid L. Neilson and The Oxford Handbook of Mormonism with Philip L. Barlow).
In 1997, he received the Distinguished Educator Award from the University of Richmond, and in 2002 he was named the BYU College of Humanities Honored Alumnus.
Givens and his wife, Fiona, have six children. She has collaborated with him on several books.
- Stretching the Heavens: Eugene England, Mormonism, and the Dilemmas of Discipleship (forthcoming 2021)
- Mormonism: What Everyone Needs to Know (2020)
- All Things New: Rethinking Sin, Salvation, and Everything in Between (with Fiona Givens) (2020)
- The Pearl of Greatest Price: Mormonism's Most Controversial Scripture (2019)
- The Christ Who Heals (with Fiona Givens) (2017)
- Feeding the Flock: The Foundations of Mormon Thought, vol. 2 (2017)
- Wrestling the Angel: The Foundations of Mormon Thought, vol. 1 (2014)
- The Crucible of Doubt (with Fiona Givens) (2014)
- The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life (with Fiona Givens) (2012)
- Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism (with Matthew J. Grow) (2011)
- When Souls Had Wings: Pre-Mortal Existence in Western Thought (2010)
- The Book of Mormon: A Very Short Introduction (2009)
- People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture (2007)
- The Latter-day Saint Experience in America (2004)
- By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture that Launched a New World Religion (2002)
- The Viper on the Hearth: Mormons, Myths, and the Construction of Heresy (1997)
- Dragon Scales and Willow Leaves (1997)