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'Stretching the Heavens' with Terryl Givens on Monday's Access Utah


Our guest today is Terryl Givens, winner of the 2022 Evans Biography Award from the Mountain West Center for Regional Studies in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Utah State University, for his new book Stretching the Heavens: The Life of Eugene England and the Crisis of Modern Mormonism.

Eugene England (1933-2001)—one of the most influential and controversial intellectuals in modern Mormonism—lived in the crossfire between religious tradition and reform. This first serious biography, by leading historian Terryl L. Givens, shimmers with the personal tensions felt deeply by England during the turmoil of the late twentieth century. Drawing on unprecedented access to England's personal papers, Givens paints a multifaceted portrait of a devout Latter-day Saint whose precarious position on the edge of church hierarchy was instrumental to his ability to shape the study of modern Mormonism.

A professor of literature at Brigham Young University, England also taught in the Church Educational System. And yet from the sixties on, he set church leaders' teeth on edge as he protested the Vietnam War, decried institutional racism and sexism, and supported Poland's Solidarity movement—all at a time when Latter-day Saints were ultra-patriotic and banned Black ordination. England could also be intemperate, proud of his own rectitude, and neglectful of political realities and relationships, and he was eventually forced from his academic position. His last days, as he suffered from brain cancer, were marked by a spiritual agony that church leaders were unable to help him resolve.

Terryl L. Givens is Neal L. Maxwell Senior Fellow at Brigham Young University and Jabez A. Bostwick Professor of English Emeritus at the University of Richmond.

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Tom Williams worked as a part-time UPR announcer for a few years and joined Utah Public Radio full-time in 1996. He is a proud graduate of Uintah High School in Vernal and Utah State University (B. A. in Liberal Arts and Master of Business Administration.) He grew up in a family that regularly discussed everything from opera to religion to politics. He is interested in just about everything and loves to engage people in conversation, so you could say he has found the perfect job as host “Access Utah.” He and his wife Becky, live in Logan.