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A Rascal by Nature, A Christian by Yearning

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Copyright: 2006
Trim: 6 x 9
Pages: 479 pp.
Illustrations: 31 black-and-white illustrations


A Rascal by Nature, A Christian by Yearning

A Mormon Autobiography

Levi S. Peterson

Autobiography and Memoir

"I will introduce myself with a few facts. I was born and raised in Snowflake, a Mormon town in northern Arizona. I have lived most of my adult life in the cities of the American West. Although I consider myself a religious person, I know very little about God. At first I intended this book to be about wilderness, but as I wrote it, it became an autobiography with many themes. Among these themes are wilderness, my vexed and vexing relationship with Mormonism, my moral and emotional qualities, and my family." So begins the autobiography of educator and author Levi S. Peterson.

Peterson has won a wide readership for his novels and short stories, his prize-winning biography of historian Juanita Brooks, and the essays that have appeared with regularity in western and Mormon literary and historical journals. In his autobiography, Peterson describes growing up on the Mormon frontier of rural Arizona, his growing skepticism with his Mormon faith, his teaching career at Weber State University, and his struggle to understand and master personal crises of confidence that kept him in therapy for almost two decades. Of particular interest to readers familiar with Peterson’s fiction are the many pages devoted to the creative process.

Errata: The author apologizes profoundly for erroneously including, on page 371 of his autobiography, A Rascal by Nature, A Christian by Yearning, the name of Martha Bradley among the persons excommunicated during September 1993. Martha Bradley was then and remains a church member in good standing. The pdf paragraph above will replace the erroneous paragraph in reprints of this work.

Levi S. Peterson is emeritus professor of English at Weber State University. He is currently the editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought.

Table of Contents:


1. My Ancestors
2. That Failed Anthropologist, My Father
3. The Ranch
4. My Mother's First Marriage
5. The Family I Was Born Into
6. How Green Was Her Valley
7. A Piratical Fraternity
8. High School
9. My Early College Years
10. A Missionary
11. Althea
12. Nebo by Moonlight
13. A Grasshopper's Way of Life
14. A Silvery Tinkling Laughter
15. An Entire Landscape of Possibilities
16. A Wilderness Journal
17. Becoming a Writer
18. Putting a Pathology to Use
19. The Canyons of Grace
20. The Backslider
21. My Mother's House
22. Juanita Brooks
23. Night Soil
24. Our Compass Swings Northwest
25. A Stillborn Book
26. Retrenchment on the Liberal Mormon Front
27. Armchair Mountaineer
28. Aspen Marooney
29. Good-bye to Utah
30. Running Out of Sunsets

Levi S. Peterson: A Bibliography

Praise and Reviews:

"Levi Peterson’s autobiography is an amazing story told with an astonishing candor. His narrative skill, learned through years of writing fiction, creates anticipation. The telling is earnest, engaged, and even ardent. The facts in his life story are never simply that—they are pondered. They become an odyssey of self-discovery and courageous self-revelation. The autobiography, in short, is a rigorously examined life in the sense Socrates meant when he said that the unexamined life is not worth living."
—William Mulder, emeritus professor of English, University of Utah

"Certainly the most honest rendition of a life I have ever read.... His artistic account of his own life enriches our own."
Utah Historical Quarterly

"Like Peterson's fiction, his memoir is writ large—it is big-hearted, often funny, sometimes tragic but always the truth, at least as seen by the author."
Deseret Morning News

"Levi is a good storyteller, and he approaches the writing of his own story with the craftsmanship he displays in his other writing."

"Levi Peterson is nothing if not a marvelous wordsmith. Those who enjoy reading about writers and how they ply their craft will find much to enjoy about this book."
Association for Mormon Letters


Mormon History Association Best Biography Award

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