Stretching the Heavens

The Life of Eugene England and the Crisis of Modern Mormonism

By Terryl L. Givens

344 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 14 halftones, notes, index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-6433-0
    Published: August 2021
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-6434-7
    Published: July 2021
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5742-2
    Published: July 2021

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Awards & distinctions

2022 Evans Biography Award, Mountain West Center for Regional Studies in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Utah State University

Finalist, 2021 Association for Mormon Letters Award (Religious Nonfiction)

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.

About the Author

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. Among his books are Wrestling the Angel and Feeding the Flock.
For more information about Terryl L. Givens, visit the Author Page.


"A powerful exploration of how England maintained, on the one hand, devout loyalty to and genuine belief in the institutional church and, on the other hand, an indefatigable commitment to investigation and autonomy."—Benjamin Park, By Common Consent

"Revealing, detailed . . . a solid biography that will illuminate key trends and moments in LDS history for scholars and general readers alike."—Publishers Weekly

"Stretching the Heavens pays tribute to a remarkable scholar and writer, and to a new openness on the part of the institutional church and its culture. It’s an important contribution in understanding the environment in which the church and its members continue to operate and introduces a powerful voice to new generations of aspiring scholars and members at a dynamic time in the church’s history."—Association for Mormon Letters

"[A] carefully written biography . . . [that] paints an honest portrait of an important figure in the founding of Mormon studies."—CHOICE

“[Stretching the Heavens] comes alive in its penetrating detail. . . . This is a remarkable biography.”—BYU Studies Quarterly

“Provides[s] insight into late-twentieth century Mormonism.”—Journal of Mormon History