Levi Peterson is one of Mormondom’s most celebrated authors and writing teachers who, in this episode chats with LDF host Dan Wotherspoon shortly after the release of his latest collection of short stories, Losing a Bit of Eden. His most famous novel is The Backslider, and he has written, among many other things, a celebrated biography of LDS historian Juanita Brooks (who was the first to document in a scholarly way the events of the Mountain Meadow Massacre) and a wonderful autobiography, A Rascal By Nature, A Christian by Yearning.
In their conversation, Levi shares a bit about his writing process and the ideas that launched several of his works, his upbringing as a faithful Mormon for whom the church and certain teachings never quite fit but how and why he continued to regularly attend church and gather with fellow Latter-day Saints. He shares about his encounters with Juanita Brooks and how he became fascinated by her and knew that she deserved a thoughtful and scholarly biography, as well as about longtime friendships with Mormon writers and scholars and their impact on his life, especially Lavina Fielding Anderson and Eugene England. Finally, he speaks candidly about the arc of Mormonism and Mormon culture during his lifetime and reflects on certain LDS leaders.
This is a fun, wide-ranging conversation that you will enjoy immensely as you come to get a feel for Levi—now 87 years old—his personality and charisma. He and his works truly deserve celebration and continued reading.
Books by Levi S. Peterson (Amazon Links below but check availability of used copies through Benchmark Books, www.benchmarkbooks.com)
Losing a Bit of Eden: Recent Stories (Signature Books, 2021)
The Backslider (Signature Books, 1986)
The Canyons of Grace (University of Illinois Press, 1982). Short Stories
Juanita Brooks: Mormon Woman Historian (University of Utah Press, 1988)
Night Soil: New Stories (Signature Books, 1990). Check availability through Benchmark Books, www.benchmarkbooks.com)
Aspen Marooney (Signature Books, 1985)
A Rascal by Nature, A Christian by Yearning: A Mormon Autobiography (University of Utah Press, 2006
Other things mentioned:
Levi Peterson, “The Civilizing of Mormondom,” Sunstone, May-June 1982
John Bennion, Falling Toward Heaven (Signature Books, 2000)
Rebecca England, “A Professor and Apostle Correspond: Eugene England and Bruce R. McConkie on the Nature of God,” website: https://www.eugeneengland.org/
Terryl Givens, Stretching the Heavens: The Life of Eugene England and the Crisis of Modern Mormonism (University of North Carolina Press, 2021)