Passage of Hugh Nibley

February 24, 2005 | 80 comments
By

Hugh Nibley Clark reports that Hugh Nibley has passed away. I thought we should announce this.

I expect that some of my co-bloggers will have more eloquent things to say. I’ll only note that brother Nibley was a great scholar and a great man, and the world of Mormon Studies is smaller without him.

Side notes:
1. This is not a Beck thread. Beck comments will be deleted.
2. Every In Memoriam thread we’ve ever posted has attracted at least one comment by someone wanting to mock or criticize the dead. Those comments will also be deleted on sight and may lead to IP bans.

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80 Responses to Passage of Hugh Nibley

  1. The Only True and Living Nathan on February 24, 2005 at 2:02 pm

    My hat is off to the man. Godspeed, Bro. Nibley.

  2. Kaimi on February 24, 2005 at 2:03 pm

    I should note that for people who do want a forum to discuss Beck, Clark is doing an admirable job of analyzing the issues over at his own blog, at http://www.libertypages.com/clark/leaving.html . (I won’t delete my own comment — bending my own above-stated rule, I know, but it seemed like a good idea to leave a pointer for people who do want to comment on that topic. Any other Beck comments on this thread are goners).

  3. Will on February 24, 2005 at 2:38 pm

    Hugh Nibley was a man of remarkable courage, always eschewing the security of conformity and popularity. He will serve as a constant inspiration to people like me who are frequently too lazy and/or timid to blaze our own trails.

  4. Kevin Barney on February 24, 2005 at 2:39 pm

    NIbley was an absolutely huge influence on my life. I was first introduced to his writings when I was on my mission and borrowed a member’s copy of Since Cumorah. I was instantly hooked. I never took a class from him (by then he taught only occasionally), but whenever he lectured I was there, and almost all of my professors had been his students. I studied ancient languages because of him, and continue to be interested in Mormon scholarship and apologetics largely due to his influence, both direct and indirect. And I always appreciated his biting social commentary. I admire the man tremendously, and if anyone hasn’t read the Boyd Peterson biography from Kofford, by all means do yourselves a favor and give it a read.

    A few quick recollections:

    I used to study in the Ancient Studies Reading room on the fourth floor of the Lee library, just on the other side of the wall from the Ancient Studies office. Hugh had a secretary, but he usually typed his own papers on an IBM selectric in the office. I would regularly hear a steady stream of mild epithets coming from the other side of the wall as he tried to get the typewriter to bend to his will. I busted a gut thinking of some spiritual paper on the temple being typed while he cursed a modestly blue streak at his typewriter.

    When I was studying classics at BYU, for a period of time a group of us used to gather in a stairwell not far from the Ancient Studies office for group study sessions. One time Hugh came shuffling up the stairs, while we were engaged in reading Latin poetry. He asked us what we were reading, and we replied “Catullus,” and he got a smirk on his face, got a far off look in his eye, gave out a little laugh, and said, “Ah, Catullus….” [If you’ve never read Catullus in Latin, you don’t know what you’re missing].

    Another time Eta Sigma Phi, the classics honor society, went up into the mountains for a picnic, and Hugh came along. He was always a great supporter to those of us studying classics. This was back before I knew about his prodigious love for the outdoors, but it was obvious from that trip. He was really in his element, hiking around, picking up sticks, examining things, and no one bugging him. That was probably as happy as I ever saw him.

  5. Dave on February 24, 2005 at 3:00 pm

    Just to illustrate the power of blogs: Here we all are sharing our laments for the passing of the White Wizard of Mormon apologetics while the mainstream sites don’t even have the news up yet.

    I read Nibley’s An Approach to the Book of Mormon one month before my mission, then snagged copies of Since Cumorah and The World and the Prophets from a particularly well-stocked ward library while serving as a missionary. He was certainly a one-of-a-kind polymath who found Christian diversity in ancient texts well before it became academically fashionable to do so.

  6. Cliff Davis on February 24, 2005 at 3:09 pm

    I was one of those lucky people who actually was able to take a class from Hugh Nibley. What a giant! What a true exemplar of the scripture “to be learned is good if they hearken to the counsels of God.” A more humble, pious man of God outside of the Twelve, would be hard to find.

  7. annegb on February 24, 2005 at 3:10 pm

    I am a little bemused to say that I have never read anything of Hugh Nibley’s. Nothing. I can’t believe he slipped me. I mean, I often choose not to read an author, if the subject doesn’t interest me, but I never even got that far. I know nothing about Hugh Nibley.

    I’m going to look him up.

  8. Jack on February 24, 2005 at 3:19 pm

    “And then it seemed to him that… the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.”

    Farewell, Brother Nibley.

  9. Keith on February 24, 2005 at 3:22 pm

    Nibley once said “If you take yourself seriously, you won’t take the gospel seriously and the other way around. If you take the gospel seriously then you will say, now I know that man is nothing. . . . Oh, the nothingness of man. We can joke about ourselves once we take the gospel seriously and once we know its blessings and promises. Then we can relax and breathe easily and have some fun, which I don’t do enough of.”

    Nibley was, for me, an ever-present model of one who took the gospel seriously and confronting that kind of person–mostly through his writings, though with 3-4 short (and to him annoying) conversations–challenged me to the very core. Here was somebody for whom the gospel was present in all aspects of life–and I know it must be for me as well.

    And, of course, he helped me understand the concept of a Temple and all that goes on there.

  10. Nate Oman on February 24, 2005 at 3:24 pm

    It is hard to say what Nibley’s ultimate influence will be. He was a great scholar, but his scholarship — like all scholarship — will ultimately age unevenly. Some of it is already out of date, but I suspect that some of it will still be read a century from now. Not a bad accomplishment that.

    However, I think that ultimately Nibley’s greatest contribution may be that he exemplified the “faithful intellectual” for the generations after World War II, showing that the path trod by Fawn Brodie, Dale Morgan, O.C. Tanner, or Sterling McMurrin was not the predestinate road for all intellectually curious Latter-day Saints with advanced degrees. Mormon thought will be permanently the richer for that example.

  11. Kristine on February 24, 2005 at 3:28 pm

    I need to reread lots of Nibley, because I started when I was much too young to get any of it. My parents gave me _An Approach to the Book of Mormon_ for Christmas when I was 8 or 9, then a Nibley volume every Christmas thereafter. It always feels like Christmas afternoon when I read Nibley.

  12. Peter Wiscombe on February 24, 2005 at 3:30 pm

    I know that some people have been scared off by Hugh Nibley’s books. All those footnotes and the obscure references…

    But he had such a fascinating way of bringing the ancient world to light in a way that is really quite accessable to the average reader.

    And I just had to go back and change ” he has” to “he had.”

    Hugh Nibley has been an institution for as long as I can remember. His insights and gentle reproofs will be missed.

  13. Adam Ford on February 24, 2005 at 3:33 pm

    I took BofM from Hugh Nibley Fall/Winter 90-91 at BYU. His lectures were mind numbing and he really would just go on for 20-40 seconds in another language before switching back to English and summing it up for us. The entire grade for the course was based on one paper due at the end of finals. Hugh was a famously tough grader.

    My first semester I sweat and cried and fasted over my paper on the topic “What was each Book of Mormon Prophet’s (through Mosiah) message for the 1990s?” “Even Chemish had a message for us” he said. I recieved an A- with the handwritten comment “An excelent selection.” That paper is one of mymost prized posessions.

    Second semester I got cocky and thought I knew how to write for Hugh Nibley. The test was to write a letter to the leader of a newly free Eastern European nation telling them why they should let the missionaries in using the Book of Mormon as the source text. I played politics with my answer trying not to offend and be too bold. Nibley wrote on the final page, “Beating around the bush never helped the Church a wit. C+.” I have never forgotten that lesson.

    The thing that struck me the most was that the Book of Mormon was not just a book of doctrine to Hugh. It was the actual account of an actual people that actually lived and died, laughed and cried. They were real people to him and he loved them. I would have loved to hear anyone try to tell Hugh Nibley that Lehi was not an actual merchant from the 6th century. To him, being an expert on the subject, the idea that Joseph Smith could . . . well let him speak for himself:

    “A young man once long ago claimed he had found a large diamond in his field as he was ploughing. He put the stone on display to the public free of charge, and everyone took sides. A psychologist showed, by citing some famous case studies, that the young man was suffering from a well-known form of delusion. An historian showed that other men have also claimed to have found diamonds in fields and been deceived. A geologist proved that there were no diamonds in the area but only quartz: the young man had been fooled by a quartz. When asked to inspect the stone itself, the geologist declined with a weary, tolerant smile and a kindly shake of the head. An English professor showed that the young man in describing his stone used the very same language that others had used in describing uncut diamonds: he was, therefore, simply speaking the common language of his time. A sociologist showed that only three out of 177 florists’ assistants in four major cities believed the stone was genuine. A clergyman wrote a book to show that it was not the young man but someone else who had found the stone.

    “Finally an indigent jeweler named Snite pointed out that since the stone was still available for examination the answer to the question of whether it was a diamond or not had absolutely nothing to do with who found it, or whether the finder was honest or sane, or who believed him, or whether he would know a diamond from a brick, or whether diamonds had ever been found in fields, or whether people had even been fooled by quartz or glass, but was to be answered simply and solely by putting the stone to certain well-known tests for diamonds. Experts on diamonds were called in. Some of them declared it genuine. The others made nervous jokes about it and declared that they could not very well jeopardize their dignity and reputations by appearing to take the thing too seriously. To hide the bad impression thus made, someone came out with the theory that the stone was really a synthetic diamond, very skilfully made, but a fake just the same. The objection to this is that the production of a good synthetic diamond 120 years ago would have been an even more remarkable feat than the finding of a real one.

    –Nibley, Lehi in the Desert (quoted at http://farms.byu.edu/display.php?table=review&id=39)

  14. Kevin Christensen on February 24, 2005 at 3:36 pm

    I remember the Sunstone Roast, which I thought would be my one chance to see him, with most of the family and friends there, sharing stories and laughing uproarously. But alas, he’d gotten dehydrated and did not make it. I sat at the next table, just behind Phyllis. My first discovery of his work came on my mission in England in 1975, when a member in Kendall, Lancashire loaned me An Approach to the Book of Mormon. For my Prep day, I took it to the bath tub, and started reading chapters at random. By the time I finished reading the interesting chapters, I had gone through the whole book, the water was cold, but my mind was expanded so much I could not feel it. After I got back, I started collecting books, xeroxing from old periodicals, and finally getting into FARMS when it mostly provided xeroxes of his early work. I never met him, but I will miss him. To this day, I think the best LDS video remains Faith of An Observer. I was fascinated by the light in his eyes when he described his NDE. It wasn’t just the defense of faith, but the mind-expanding approach to faith, open-ended, and fearless, the guided tour through ideas and sources, opening doors. I like Todd Compton’s “pioneer” metaphor, to account for the strengths and weaknesses. I admire his wit and dedication.

    One of the stories told at the Sunstone was that every night, as he went to bed, he would wonder whether tonight would be the nigh that he could go home. And in the morning, he”d wake up and say “Damn.” He’s home after a long journey. And he’ll be embraced in the arms of love.

    Kevin Christensen
    Pittsburgh, PA

  15. Steve Evans on February 24, 2005 at 3:37 pm

    A brilliant, frustrating, but great scholar. You can’t think of mormon studies without thinking of Nibley.

  16. D. Fletcher on February 24, 2005 at 3:41 pm

    I’m actually relieved that Nibley has escaped the entire … controversy. Very timely!

    Though I’m sorry to see that he has passed, his scholarship … isn’t faultless. Most of the time, I found him incoherent and surprisingly defensive on Church issues.

  17. Ben H on February 24, 2005 at 3:46 pm

    Brother Nibley was a major help as I outgrew the religious understanding of my teenage years and worked to figure out what would replace it. I listened to tapes of a Book of Mormon course he gave in the van I drove to deliver newspapers before dawn the summer after I graduated from high school. Then I was lucky enough to take a two semester Book of Mormon series from him in person, two years later, at BYU. I think it’s fair to say I finally learned to read the scriptures as books that could speak to my peculiar questions, by reading with him. He hardly addressed any of the theological questions on my mind directly. But he made it very clear there was a whole world of potential gospel-informed thought waiting, where I could hope to find what I lacked so far, and he set a spectacular example of bold, faithful inquiry. If the scriptures could speak to his peculiar, pointed, scholarly questions, surely they could speak to mine, and sure enough, they have.

    Thank you Brother Nibley.

  18. Jed on February 24, 2005 at 3:55 pm

    It was precisely Nibley’s incoherence, D. Fletcher, that lit the imaginations of Mormons. His footnotes in many langues and his obscure cross-cultural connections (some of them looking slightly dubious upon closer inspection) gave Mormonism a sophistication the Saints were craving at the time. We probably still crave that sophistication.

    I am not saying it was smoke and mirrors with him, because I don’t have the language background to make that judgment; but no one at that time or since had all those languages, making his work almost inconquerable to anyone else, exactly what Mormon minds love. We love that line from the Harvard dean saying while listening to Nibley, “It’s absurd that a man could know that much.” To that line we bask in reflected glory. We say, that’s us, see, the LDS are not the ignoramouses the press has made them out to be.

  19. Shawn Bailey on February 24, 2005 at 3:57 pm

    Speaking of Hugh Nibley as the model of a faithful intellectual, I will always be impressed by the courage that his sincerity, faith, and erudition gave him. I was not a little amazed upon reading (in Approaching Zion) his statements that perhaps the reluctance of our leaders themselves to live the law of consecration has or would delay the establishment of Zion. If I remember correctly, that was in a speech given at the church office building! I take it that few could get away with that. But he could–no one doubted his brilliance or loyalty to God or the church.

    He will be missed. I expect that he is busy asking questions and consulting sources heretofore not open to him.

  20. Jed on February 24, 2005 at 4:08 pm

    Nibley was a gifted stylist, something I very much admire about him. His generation of academics knew how to combine literary devices like wit and irony and hyperbole with a serious academic point. But not all of them were gifted stylists. I have wondered if Nibley’s study of the Roman rhetoriticians gave him an advantage in this regard.

  21. Jack on February 24, 2005 at 4:12 pm

    Is it true that his final work, his “magnum opus”, was to be a study of Facsimile No. 2?

  22. Ben H on February 24, 2005 at 4:16 pm

    The thing that struck me the most was that the Book of Mormon was not just a book of doctrine to Hugh. It was the actual account of an actual people that actually lived and died, laughed and cried.

    Yes. Nibley brought the scriptures to life. After reading with him, I felt these were not just people I had heard stories about, but people I could go talk to myself!

    Age was clearly weighing on him when he taught my class. I sometimes watched him walk slowly up the hill at the south of campus to the Maeser Building, wearing his hat. It seemed wrong for him to walk up and down that hill alone. I hope he knows how much his efforts were worth to us as he worked and worked on through the years, though I was too intimidated to tell him.

  23. Jed on February 24, 2005 at 4:17 pm

    Jack: Yes. Richard L. Anderson told me that in 1994.

  24. Eric Soderlund on February 24, 2005 at 4:24 pm

    Approaching Zion bent my mind for months. Shawn, you are correct–that was a very bold speech. If I recall correctly, an incredulous Camilla Kimball questioned Nibley–soemthing to the effect that, “you mean, we should be living the law of consecration today?!?” For soem reason that really stuck with me.

    To appreciate how towering a figure Nibley is to Mormon Studies, ask yourself, who is his replacement? Answer: a huge team of scholars–Jack Welch, Daniel Peterson, et al. It takes dozens of academics to follow the trails blazed by Nibley.

  25. Kevin Barney on February 24, 2005 at 4:25 pm

    I have a paper in line for publication in a future volume of the FARMS Studies in the BoA series. It will probably be years before it sees print. But it is a study of the name Elkenah from the BoA.

    This paper began when I discovered through diligent research a very strong candidate for the etymology of the name. It first has to do with Akkadian, and I pieced the evidence together from an array of very obscure academic journals in the Garrett Theological Seminary at Northwestern University over the course of several weeks (to see the details, you’ll have to wait for the paper to appear in print). I was so excited, I thought I had found the holy grail.

    Imagine my dismay when I went back to the Nibley corpus to see whether he had said anything on the subject. There was my great discovery, in print 30 years before, put forward offhand in a tossoff paragraph of his lengthy New Era study.

    I still wrote a paper on it, which will be published. I examine the linguistics involved and then evaluate a half-dozen concrete suggestions that have been made over the years, including three from Nibley. I argue why the one I came to independently is the strongest of his suggestions, and the others are not viable. I go on and explain the significance of the two best candidates for understanding the BoA generally.

    But I don’t mind saying I was in some sense disappointed that my great discovery was snatched from me by the man himself. Yet, I also felt quite honored to have independently trod the same intellectual ground he did, if only for a moment.

    Yes, he wasn’t perfect, and yes, much of his scholarship is dated, a trend that will only increase as time marches on. But no one can ever tell me he wasn’t the real deal. He clearly was.

  26. Rusty on February 24, 2005 at 4:27 pm

    Approaching Zion was my introduction to Nibley. It was a major impetus in my paradigm shift. It’s a well-worn road that he trailblazed. He will surely be missed.

  27. Ben H on February 24, 2005 at 4:28 pm
  28. Kevin Barney on February 24, 2005 at 4:31 pm

    Another great thing about Nibley: Whenever I find myself excessively worried about money matters, I find reading some Nibley to be a soothing balm. Don’t have a car? Praise God and walk!

  29. john fowles on February 24, 2005 at 4:32 pm

    Lehi in the Desert was my intro to Hugh Nibley. Then I married the daughter of one of Professor Nibley’s favorite students and colleagues, Jack Welch. I had greatly appreciated Professor Nibley’s contribution before that time, but hearing Jack Welch’s many stories and insights about Hugh Nibley has increased my appreciation for him exponentially. He has been an inspiration and a force for good for me and my family. Thank you Professor Nibley for all you have done.

  30. Melissa on February 24, 2005 at 4:38 pm

    Wow, I can’t believe he’s gone.

    Like Kevin, I used to study in the Ancient Studies Reading Room on the 4th floor of the HBLL. Some of us actually considered that an almost sacred room where dust and old leather mixed with the late afternoon desert sunshine and where, if we were very diligent, we might make some fantastic discovery and have treaures of knowledge revealed to us.

    Three or four times during my years at BYU I found Nibley reading in there by the window when I walked in. I always thought of those moments as special gifts of providence. On those three or four occasions, I remember sitting down at the table beside him for inspiration as I parsed my Hebrew verbs. Once he caught me not so discretely trying to get a glimpse of what he was working on so I finally just asked him and he told that he was working on the hypocephalus. At the time I had no idea what that was, but I was pretty enamored anyway. In fact, I think Nibley is the only person who has ever had the power to turn me into a sort of groupie.

  31. Jed on February 24, 2005 at 4:42 pm

    Pretty neat post, Melissa.

  32. Heather P. on February 24, 2005 at 4:45 pm

    At Deseret News the same AP release as at KSL.

  33. Rosalynde Welch on February 24, 2005 at 4:54 pm

    I grew up in a home where Sunstone, Dialogue, BYU Studies and FARMS nestled against the Ensign, Reader’s Digest and National Geographic in the magazine basket. Eugene England and Hugh Nibley weren’t men to me when I was a child: they were names, words, and they assumed the glamor that the printed page always held for me. We had a book or a journal with a picture of an Egyptian sarcophagus on the cover, and somehow I associated that image with Hugh Nibley: I thought Hugh Nibley was that sarcophagus, a celebrity emissary from the ancient world. When I went to college, Gene became a man–a dear man, in fact, a beloved mentor. But Hugh Nibley always remained a name, words, even though I occasionally encountered him in the HBLL offices of Wilfred Griggs, whom I worked for. He will always remain so for me: words, volumes, and my earliest taste of the sweet celebrity of the written word.

  34. Kevin Barney on February 24, 2005 at 5:11 pm

    Hey, Rosalynde, I worked for Kent Brown (although I no doubt substantially preceded your time there). Small world, eh?

  35. Jack on February 24, 2005 at 5:25 pm

    Jed,

    Do you have any more info on his Facsimile No. 2 work? If it is completed? When it will be published?

  36. Brian on February 24, 2005 at 5:40 pm

    Adam,
    I was apparently in the same Nibley BOM class as you — with the final essay of writing a letter to an Eastern European leader. I remember that Prof. Nibley walked in on the first day of class and just started talking about the Book of Mormon. The semester was 3/4 of the way over before someone had the courage to ask him how we were going to be graded. My favorite part of that class was when he talked about the numerous similarities between the celebrations surrounding King Benjamin’s speech and some holy covenant-renewing celebration that was still used by an obscure native tribe in Central America with whom Bro. Nibley had lived for a summer. He even demonstrated for us the native high priest’s worship dance, while signing a chant in the natives’ language.

    Like a tiny sailboat before a great wind, I felt that if I could capture even a small potion of the intellect he generated, it would take me far. I wonder who he will want to visit with first on the other side of the veil. Nephi? Mormon? Abraham?

  37. danithew on February 24, 2005 at 5:45 pm

    I used to have the published versions of Hugh Nibley’s lectures on the Book of Mormon. I haven’t been able to find them anywhere. Sigh.

  38. Eric Soderlund on February 24, 2005 at 5:50 pm

    “I wonder who he will want to visit with first on the other side of the veil. Nephi? Mormon? Abraham?”

    This is a bit OT, so forgive me, but I have often wondered about this. How much is the other side of the veil like this side with respect to our ability to choose with whom we socialize. For example, I would very much like to visit with Gordon B. Hinckley, Dallin H. Oaks, and Bono. But most of my day is spent talking with other lawyers, my family, and a limited number of friends. When I get to the other side will Joseph Smith suddenly be someone I have access to?

  39. D. Fletcher on February 24, 2005 at 5:55 pm

    Bono, eh?

  40. Kaimi on February 24, 2005 at 5:55 pm

    If you’re spending your time in the next life talking with other attorneys, chances are you made bad choices in this life and are in hell.

  41. Eric Soderlund on February 24, 2005 at 6:02 pm

    Kaimi:

    Touche.

  42. Clark on February 24, 2005 at 6:15 pm

    Jack, John Gee has had the manuscript for some time now of Nibley’s last book. According to what I’ve heard (which isn’t that much) they are mainly going through and fact checking. John was apparently at a meeting with Nibley yesterday over the book with some of the others working on the book. Nibley, due to his ill health, was not conscious for most of the meeting. But it sounds like they are getting it prepared and have been going over the details with Nibley.

    Were I to make a guess, I’d suspect FARMS might use this book and Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri to pressure Deseret Books to finish publishing the rest of the Collected Works.

  43. Jed on February 24, 2005 at 6:37 pm

    Jack, Clark has the scoop. My understanding is that most of the book was finished by the mid-1990s, but Nibley got derailed by the 2nd ed of Abraham in Egypt. I don’t think Gee is the ghostwriter, in other words. Maybe Clark has more on this.

  44. Kevin Barney on February 24, 2005 at 7:04 pm

    It will be called One Eternal Round. Nibley turned over the manuscript two or three years ago. John Gee told me that when they went to pick it up, there were stacks of papers all over the house, and they had to treat it like an archaeological dig, keeping meticulous records of where each pile came from.

    From that initial beginning, it sounded like a morass that would take years to organize. But I guess most of the papers were background materials, and that the manuscript is in pretty good order. It is not that far away from being publishable. I couldn’t give you a timetable, though; maybe a year or two or three.

  45. Christian Cardall on February 24, 2005 at 7:12 pm

    Nibley figures in my experience with what Nate has called a “discovery narrative.” I was not one fortunate to grow up with Dialogue and Sunstone along with other materials. I had heard of these periodicals (mostly negatively), and my freshman year I of course had to look into it, out of intellectual curiosity. The first issue I picked up had an article by Buerger on the masonry connections, and it rocked my world. I never talked to Nibley about it, but just knowing he was there, that there were people like him more intelligent and knowledgable than me who fearlessly knew all about it and weren’t troubled, helped me sleep at night.

    Even as I continue experiencing continuing reverberations of what were at times (for me) seismic impacts, I appreciate Nibley and those like him who project an open, fearless, and (usually) good-natured engagement with the issues, without defensive or avoidance maneuvers.

  46. Michael C. Reid on February 24, 2005 at 7:14 pm

    In the early ’90s we attended the same ward as the Nibley’s. Many a Sunday I spent in the lobby rocking our baby twin daughter in their carriage. I often sat next to Hugh on the couch. One time he was marking what appeared to be a new set of scriptures. I jokingly told him I would pay him $200 to mark a set of scriptures for me. He gave that quite a laugh and commented on what a business that might be for him. Most of the time he sat reading books, and I don’t recall that any of them were written in english. The Bishop at the time said that the only thing he would be remembered for was releasing Hugh Nibley as Gospel Doctrine teacher!

  47. Clark on February 24, 2005 at 7:36 pm

    Just to add to Kevin Barney’s comments a bit more about One Eternal Round that probably fits in with the earlier remembrances. When Nibley finished the book he gave a series of lectures more or less on its themes. I unfortunately missed it since I was burnt out on apologetics at the time and figured the book would be shortly in print anyway. (Obviously poor thinking on my part)

    From what I was told the first lecture was in the lecture hall in the Maeser building. Unsurprisingly it quickly filled up and many people were turned away. The next lecture was at the 9th East chapel, which BYU frequently uses for some conferences. It too filled up and many people were turned away. Next up was the ballroom in the Wilkensen center. That too filled up and people were turned away. From what my friend told me the Joseph Smith Building’s extremely large theatre wouldn’t have been enough for all the interest. They probably could have held it in the Marriott center and filled quite a bit of it.

    (Others might correct me, as I’ve been told this second hand) It does suggest just how Nibley was thought of, especially relative to interest in his Egyptian writings, unlike what some have asserted.

  48. Kevin Barney on February 24, 2005 at 8:11 pm

    NIbley’s GD class in the old Provo 10th ward was legendary. I never crashed it, but I had lots of friends who did. And I understand that Dallin Oaks when he was president crashed it on more than one occasion, taking assiduous notes. It was the place to be on a Sunday.

    Remarkably, though, I also understand that this ward also had another GD class, which too was well attended. Obvioiusly, NIbley’s teaching was not to everyone’s taste.

  49. Scott on February 24, 2005 at 8:30 pm

    I, too, was in Hugh’s ward for Gospel Doctrine and was amazed at the collection of folks showing up for the lessons, including some who looked like they had just come down from the hills or from some Fundamentalist sect. As Hugh once said in GD class- “Every crackpot in the Church ends up on my doorstep”

  50. Jack on February 24, 2005 at 9:00 pm

    Thanks, Jed and Clark.

    If I can say this respectfully, I think Nibley’s passing may also serve as a powerful impetus for getting the rest of his works published.

  51. Richard Onines on February 24, 2005 at 9:10 pm

    My only information is a copy of a part of one presentation. How do I find further contact since the item was forwarded to me and no site was given
    R. H. Onines
    Onines@cfl.rr.com

  52. Mark on February 24, 2005 at 9:46 pm

    I’m surprised noone has mentioned one of his most famous lines, spoken in a prayer at a BYU commencement ceremony in 1960:

    “We have met here today clothed in the black robes of a false priesthood . . .”
    See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Nibley

    See the following link for some interesting anecdotes:
    http://www.lavalane.org/html/nibley.html

  53. Russell Arben Fox on February 24, 2005 at 9:58 pm

    I thought about quoting that one, Mark, in my tribute to the man, as well as something from his graduation address 10 or so years later, “Leaders to Managers: The Fatal Shift,” in which he explained the word choice of that prayer somewhat. For most Mormons, if they have any of Nibley’s social commentary, it’s probably been from that latter piece. But I don’t think it’s among his best; it’s a nice attack on a lot of shibboleths which haunt our thinking about leadership and organizations, but the force of his critique of modern life goes deeper than that, I think, and needs to begin where Nibley, on my reading of his works, usually began: with the question of money.

  54. lyle on February 24, 2005 at 9:59 pm

    Kevin: Surprise, surprise. I worked for S. Kent Brown also. And yes, that very nice Ancient Studies library was the perfect place to study. I wrote my masters thesis largely in that room (and studied for the LSAT). :)

    On a sidenote, his secretary, Pat had the job of organizing those typings & correcting his numerous typos….I hope he finished his last work & approved corrections. His Magnum Opus was supposed to be on the Temple.

  55. HeidiGlyn on February 24, 2005 at 10:00 pm

    I betcha Hugh and Don (Decker) are mountain climbing right now. What mountians those may be we will all have to wait and see, though I imagine som eof us have a pretty good idea.

    I remember seeing Dr. Nibley in the Ancient Studies room–I used to just sit and stare at him. My husband’s most prized posession was a set of scriptures he had carefully marked during several Nibley classes and Jerusalem study abroad. He admired them so vocally that someone stole them from him at sacrament meeting the first year the foreign language housing complex was opened. They are hardbound, and had a copy of his patriarchal blessing inside. If any of you know where they might be, please return them. Thanks.

  56. Russell Arben Fox on February 24, 2005 at 10:10 pm

    Michael C. Reid, we may have known each other: Melissa and I also attended the old Provo 10th ward (just south of campus) for a year–it was 1993-1994, when we lived in a crummy apartment a few blocks away from the Maeser building. (I suppose that whole area has been built over by now.) Hugh wasn’t teaching Gospel Doctrine then, obviously, but I can still remember a fair number of odd characters crashing priesthood every once in a while, sometimes with tape recorders, in hopes of catching him saying something crazy to the high priests. I never spoke with him, except to say hello once or twice in the hallway. I’d sat in on a years worth of BoM classes he’d taught a few years previously (1990, the year I returned from my mission), and had learned a great deal, but I didn’t think he’d remember me.

    Were you in the ward the Christmas of 1993? Melissa and I sang in the choir, and Hugh gave a talk. He started talking about “gifts,” and then he was off. Our choir director silently fumed as the time required for our cantata slowly ticked way while Brother Nibley went on and on. It was brilliant, and mostly incomprehensible, because he would wave back and forth slightly, and his voice was so soft that the microphone only caught about half his words: “…..exactly the same as what Berenger said about supernovas….but in the ancient Chinese they called it…”: you get the idea. Among other snippets, he commented that “children have it right in believing in Santa Claus,” which has always been good enough for me.

  57. Russell Arben Fox on February 24, 2005 at 10:24 pm

    Two last Nibley memories: besides the two semesters of his Book of Mormon classes I crashed (“audited”), I also took a course on Joseph Smith’s Inspired Version of the Bible, taught by Richard Matthews. John Gee was in the class, and we would sit beside each occasionally. Brother Nibley would sometimes come by the classroom (I guess his schedule had him passing by the Maeser building at that time) and talk to John, and John would usually have something for him–a book recommendation, a clipping from a newspaper, just something to catch Hugh’s eye. I can remember one time John’s offering consisted of a Bloom County cartoon strip. He read it, and laughed so hard he had to take his glasses off and wipe his eyes.

    Also, Student Review once managed to interview Hugh Nibley; one of his students performed the interview for us in his office some Saturday. The guy came up with all sorts of questions, and Hugh answered them all. We all listened to the tape several times over; it was cool stuff. We ran it as “An (Almost) Uncensored Interview with Hugh Nibley,” from which my favorite line was a comment he made when asked about the BYU administration (as it existed circa 1994): “Lawyers! Lawyers everywhere! Nothing but lawyers!” Also, he called Supreme Court Justice Scalia “just plain stupid.”

  58. Mark B. on February 24, 2005 at 10:41 pm

    The SL Tribune’s story (attributed to the AP) about Hugh has an interesting typo. It says that he received his bachelor’s degree from UCLA in 1834.

    No wonder the guy knew so much. He got a degree 171 years ago from a university that didn’t exist in a state that was just a gleam in some effete easterners’ eyes. And he’s spent all his time since then trying to learn more!

  59. Arturo Toscanini on February 24, 2005 at 10:58 pm

    Through it all, when there was doubt, Nibley chewed it up and he spit it out. And whatever impact it may have had on his scholarship or apologetics, he was ever the faithful Mormon (and that’s more than one might say about me). Moreover, that’s what’s really important in the final analysis.

    And watch me while I openly flout Kaimi’s charge that we mustn’t be critical of the dead:

    My older brother had Hugh Nibley as a gospel doctrine teacher. He told me that Brother Nibley was always interesting and engaging, but he would sometimes read stuff in ancient languages and forget that his audience didn’t understand. Apparently, the absent-minded-professor thing was part of his persona. I’ve heard from several people it made him charming.

  60. A Edwards on February 24, 2005 at 11:50 pm

    Joining te Church changed my life. Reading Approacing Zion changed my life again. I am in your debt, Bro. Nibley!

  61. Clark on February 25, 2005 at 1:26 am

    Russell, wasn’t that also the interview that FARMS got in a bit of a huff about because Nibley was mad about them taping his classes and publishing everything he ever wrote or said? I seem to recall several quick “corrections” to some of the comments Nibley made along with some assertions that perhaps he wasn’t aware it was being taped. Or am I thinking of something else?

  62. Keith on February 25, 2005 at 2:33 am

    I particularly like something I read in the Bookstore at BYU when I was an undergraduate. In an article in a old student publication (somewhere in the early 80’s or so), a number of scholars at BYU were asked something to the effect of what influence the gospel had on their scholarship. Nibley’s reply was something along these lines: ‘That’s a bad question. It’s like asking whether married men make the best husband, or what effect air has had on your life.’

  63. Heather P. on February 25, 2005 at 11:12 am

    SL Tribune article ; Deseret News article

  64. Russell Arben Fox on February 25, 2005 at 12:10 pm

    Also, Orson Scott Card’s very thoughtful tribute, here.

  65. John Romney Pyper on February 26, 2005 at 10:37 pm

    I am sad to hear of Dr. Nibley’s passing, particularly because I am unable to attend his funeral. But his influence upon me, as it has been on others, has been profound. My course during my life has been strongly influenced. His breadeth of knowledge, linguistic ability and commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ is, I think, only partially comprehensible to us. As a new elder in 1957 I became aware of Dr. Nibley and gospel oriented scholarship as we studied, “An Approach to the Book of Mormon” I was amazed the gold mine of content in the Book of Mormon and how much of human history was related to it, particularly that of the arabic world. Ratherly quckly I went to the LDS bookstore in Phoenix AZ and obtained Lehi in the Desert and the World of the Jaredites, and The World and the Prophets. Through the years, as I collected and read (at BYU and later FARMS) everything that I could get my hands on that he wrote or said I was amazed at the great ride I was on, bouncing all over the history of mankind, and being introduced to the work of great scholars, prophets, etc. of the past. How he connected dots was incredible to me, particularly so because there were so many dots that I didn’t even know about. So what that there is fuzziness here and there. (That’s like complaining that lilies have dirt on the roots or roses have thorns.) He was dealing with monumental issues in many of his reconstructive depictions of history. But amazingly often he would use a lot of common pebbles of knowledge with some esoteric data unavailable to those of us who couldn’t read French, German, Arabic, Greek, Latin, etc. nor knew where to look for such inormation. Usually his thesis was brief. He would then throw up gobs of relevant data. He gave us the sketches for a number of grand compositions that await the hands of many students to finish the them. At first I was ovverwhelmed by his vocabulary and the sweep of his attention. One of my favorite quotes that I learned from Dr. Nibley is from Joseph Smith, “Thy mind, O man, if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must streatch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity.” (found in Educating the Saints)
    Unfortunately, I was too stupid or afraid to take a class from him when I was a freshman at BYU in 1955-56. The stories about him were overwhelming, such as he had to spend the night in the library because he was so busy reading that he didn’t notice the library was closing. And that he started at one corner of the top floor of the library at Berkeley and gradually worked down to the bottom reading every book that he thought was worthy of attention. That was too scary for me to deal with!
    After a mission to Uruguay and Paraguay I was back at BYU in 1960, still too stupid or scared to take a class from him. But the summer of 1961 my wife and I lived next door to the Nibleys and became close. The “Niblets” (my wife’s label) were in our apartment all the time. We went on a family home evening activity in a canyon, listened to him play the piano quite well in my opinion, but not his. We drank his special party beverage, grape-juice and ginger-ale as I recall.There was a wild name for it that I can’t recall. I collected a few line drawings of natural scenes done in sacrament meeting to amuse his children.
    The funniest thing I saw Dr. Nibley do was in his front yard one afternoon that summer. He saw him in his front yard, apparently caught by a foreign student who was talking energetically waving a paper in his hand. Maybe he was trying to improve his grade. Dr. Nibley picked up a garden hose, turned the water on and began actually watering. which was the first and only time I saw the lawn or bushes watered. But how funny to see this student talking excitedly waving his hands trying to maintain eye contact and Dr. Nibley turning this way and that putting a little water here and little there. I worked in the Bindery, actually the book repair section of the Library that summer and had the priviledge of repairing some of his rare books. As a reward he wrote in my copy of The World and the Prophets, “To John and Kathy, With binding affection, Hugh Nibley”. That was a very nice touch of being personal and very funny. I dropped by his office one day, perhaps to deliver a book and was amazed to see note cards arranged all over the office on just about all the horizontal space available, desk, chairs, floor. He was organizing a paper he said. Later I learned that he had been creating note cards for years. Thus his mind had been seeing “big pictures” for a long time and knew “pay-dirt” when he encountered it

    Several years later, he graciously visited for an hour or so with me and a cousin of my wife who had been a missionary among the Navajo and Hopi. She had heard him give a talk to a group of seminary students about many things including similarities between Hopi and Egyptian rites. He mentioned a number of interesting things that he had seen personally. Later, on a Saturday, I brought to him from Ogden a stone statute, found by a deer hunter on the Wasatch Front, that had an Egyptian headdress and Meso-American face. As soon as he saw it he said that it was an American Sphinx He found a tail on the back-side and evidence of red pigmentation which was the color of the Sphinx. It was surprising and invigorating when he got so excited about showing it to a BYU professor of archeology. He called his home and found out that hewas involved in a baptism on campus. So off we went, walking, up the hill and across campus waited for the baptismal service to conclude. They excitedly hob-knobed and I was pleased to bring a bit of excitement into their lives. Well he’s at a wonderful destination now. Lucky him. There are so many wonderful people that he wrote about, who’s reputations grew grander because of his treatment of them. I’m sure that there is just a big long line of ancient ones waiting to greet him.

  66. jim s. on February 28, 2005 at 4:31 pm

    I not only attended Provo 9th ward, as an undergrad. and grad. student, I actually co-taught S. School with Nibley, for two years. It was, of course, far beyond un-nerving to teach in front of Brother Nibley, and he wasn’t the “Let’s give the co-teacher a big hug because he’s insecure” sort of guy. Here are five entertainments. 1. Lots of people came from the lands round about, to hear B. Nibley teach. Every other Sunday, when the class prez. said, “We’ll now turn the time over to Brother S.” a dozen people would either audibly groan or get up and leave or both. This demonstration further deflated an already . . . . 2. I was released as co-teacher after a while, by the first counselor in the Bishopbric. He was a friend of mine, and I asked him privily why I was being released. He said, fully aware of the irony, “Some people have complained that you do not follow the manual.”
    3. One Sunday, I gave a Sacrament talk, while in the Provo 9th, in which I argued for a unqualified Pauline emphasis on grace. I assume, in retrospect, I emphasized a Prostestant interpretation of Pauline grace over a Bk. of Mormon interpretation of Pauline grace. I assume this because the very next week, Brother N. gave a sacrament talk, using the very passages from Romans which I had quoted, and said, as best as I can remember, (I use quotation marks, not to suggest perfect accuracy as much as to signify the persona) “For anyone to emphasise the so-called gratuitous nature grace is to miss a great part of the restoration altogether. Such a view really fails to see that the restoration places man in a respectful footing in relation to God. The restored gospel restores a proper understanding of human dignity. I want to be held accountable for all my acts. I want God to expect me to obey the commandments as a condition for grace. Anything other than that makes man utterly insignificant and worthless. But Joseph taught that . . . . etc. etc.” 4. One evening while studying in the library, I took a break. I wandered down the hall toward the class-room East of the Ancient Studies Office. There was Hugh with a large stack of papers, arranging them on a table. I said, “How are you doing Brother Nibley?” H: “Not very well. People keep interrupting my work.” I immediately began to leave. H: Observing the fallen countenance. “I’m just joking.” J: “Oh. Well, I’ve got a question for you.” H: Interrupting. “I wasn’t joking.”
    (Here, the quotation-marks reflect the conversation, word for word.) 5. Happily, every religion credit I needed at BYU I took from Hugh. And the phil. department actually let me count one of his religion classes toward an elective. In one P. of G.P. class, Hugh had been emphasising the critical importance of studying myth and the nature of myth. Lo and behold, Joseph Campbell himself, the modern guru of world-mythologies, was giving a lecture that very week in the J.S.B. But because the hour of the lecture conflicted exactly with the P. of G.P. class, H. refused to cancel saying “Any other book we’d cancel and listen to the lecture, but the P.G.P. is restored scripture.”
    Would we could return to Arcadia!

  67. Dal Wiscombe on March 1, 2005 at 1:39 am

    Thats two of my most favorite authors gone within a few months of each other Neal Maxwell and Hugh Nibley– I have nearly everybook by both and absolutely enjoy them. The world is less for their passing, but heaven is more for them — Thanks for all you have done. God bless their families. Can’t wait for the Egyptian collection “One Eternal Round” to come out in a couple of years… Thanks for the lectures and your style… see you in the skys beyond.

  68. Gale R. Tipton, Jr. on March 1, 2005 at 9:59 am

    Mr. Hugh and I have known each other for quite a long time, in fact in the premortal existence but for only a pittance of time on this middle earth. His counsel and friendship and bond of the soul is the single most poignant spiritual experience of my life! When two people are drawn to each other from opposite ends of the country the knowledge of God’s intervention is overpowering. In his last days we discussed many things and in a posed question for my personal direction he stated to me that he now knew the reason God left him here on this earth bedridden and ill. He was to counsel me and others, he said and that he could give me the answer to my question but could not. He said only that I must continue to strive for exhaltation. I knew in those quite moments that he was away in communion with the Lord and that God spoke through Mr. Hugh. Others close to me also had the experience of the presence of the Holy Spirit while we visited Mr. Hugh.It overwhelmed all of us. These comments are highly personal and most will not understand the revelance or importance of my time with Mr. Hugh but now I know of the true meaning of my quest for the celestial kingdom. In our prayers together, God gave him peace and right of passage to a glory unfolded for him, everlasting. We both love pie, apple pie, his favorite!
    Respectfully,
    Gale Tipton, Little Rock, AR

  69. Jack on March 1, 2005 at 11:32 am

    Arturo, where are you now!

  70. Dolores Anderson on March 2, 2005 at 8:59 pm

    After reading one of Hugh Nibley’s great book’s all other reading is boring. Reading one of Nibley’s books makes me want to study the scriptures even more.

  71. Jason on March 3, 2005 at 1:59 pm

    I saw the live broadcast of the funeral in the HFAC on BYU campus. It was a good tribute, with most children sharing memories, a sermon by Professor Jack Welch on Nibley’s “articles of faith” (how his corpus affirmed and gave supporting testimony to the doctrines Joseph Smith laid out in the Articles of Faith), Elder Holland read and delivered to Phyllis a letter of appreciation/consolation by the First Presidency, and Elder Oaks spoke on some of Nibley’s traits we would do well to emulate and, of course, the resurrection.

    His children, I thought, were the stars. Zina put on one of his old hats to, as she said he would want, “put the fun back in funeral.” She also said he went to bed every night in recent years hoping “this could be the night, I could go tonight!” and waking up every morning saying “Damn!” Another daughter whose name I didn’t catch spoke of her father taking her picture at a graduation: “I tried to look intellectual, thoughtful, and sexy–sorry, General Authorities!” The camera didn’t pan out at these funny moments, but it was good to see some characteristic Nibley wit at this meeting in his honor.

  72. Kevin Barney on March 3, 2005 at 2:51 pm

    Jim S. I remember seeing a paper you wrote for a class you were taking from Nibley. I can’t remember which one, and the only thing I recall about your paper is that it had a table of various ancient texts, comparing which ones had certain elements in common along with the BoM or whatever it was the paper was about. And I seem to recall that you got an A on that paper, which was a very rare event. Does any of this ring a bell with you?

  73. jim s. on March 3, 2005 at 9:24 pm

    Kevin:

    At the risk of immodesty–well, I’ll embrace immodestia–you’ve got an excellent memory. It is the trophy of my undergraduate life. In my first Nibley class, on the P of G.P., I got this clever idea: I’ll take Hugh’s general interpretive trope and extend it to the PGP. That is, I’ll make a detailed chart listing on the left side, all the elements which outline a certain class of pseudo-epigraphic documents. On the top of the chart, I’ll list all genuinely, ancient pseudo-epigraphic works. I simply argued that the PofGP was an authentic ancient document and not an 19th century forgery. Nibley absolutely loved it. He handed me the paper and said, “That was quite a spectacular paper you wrote.” and he gave me an A+. (Thanks K B for inviting me to dust off the laurel wreath. I’ll send the check.)

  74. Michael C. Reid on March 4, 2005 at 9:36 am

    Just a quick note about the funeral on Wednesday. I slipped into the back of the balcony and was witness to a spiritual treat. The time flew by as almost 2 hours passed by. There was a power spiritual witness that seemed to permeate the Provo Tabernacle. Funerals can become an introspective meeting for me as many times you see a “fast-forward” version of a person’s life. Invevitably I turn inward, examining my life up to that point in time and shaking my head at how far I still need to progress.

    However, having spent 3 years in the Provo 9th Ward, and having had many discussions with Bro. Nibley from time to time, I realized at this funeral that the I was there to pay tribute to one who “fought the good fight” and was triumphal. I felt like I didn’t want the children to finish talking about their father and sharing their experiences.

    Then, to have an Apostle of Jesus Christ be the concluding speaker was the proverbial icing on the cake. He spoke from the scriptures and bore a powerful witness to the truth. May we all never stray from the roots of the restoration, and enjoy the power and blessings that come from restored truth. At the end of the day, it all makes sense and a life like Hugh’s is another example of not only the reality of the restoration, but of how rich and happy is the life of one who holds fast to the iron rod.

  75. Terry Foraker on March 6, 2005 at 4:06 am

    My first real introduction to Dr. Nibley came a week before I returned from my mission in August 1990. I borrowed a copy of Since Cumorah from one of the local members (I hope he got it back) and spent an entire P-day reading it. I wasn’t too hot on the chapters dealing with textual issues and archaeological evidence such as metal plates and stone boxes, but I was dazzled by the last half of the book which focused on the messages of the Book of Mormon–I had never come across anything so magnificent and beautifully written. I couldn’t stop talking about the book to my fellow missionaries. A few months later, while visiting relatives in Salt Lake, I picked up Mormonism and Early Christianity. It was pretty heady stuff, but very rewarding. Shortly thereafter, I read An Approach to the Book of Mormon, and followed that by Approaching Zion. What could I say? WHOA! That one totally blew me away, and the scary thing was that it was rooted in the scriptures, confirming some things that I had secretly found myself suspecting as I studied the Doctrine and Covenants on my mission. Impractical? Absolutely, but no more than living the gospel fully as outlined in the scriptures. A couple of months later, I arrived at BYU (along with my new, treasured Nibley books), where I embarked on a crusade to read everything of his which I could get my hands on–The Myth Makers, Sounding Brass, The World and the Prophets, The Prophetic Book of Mormon, etc.–sometimes two at a time. I received a couple more of his books for Christmas–this was 1991–and finished them in time to pick up his brand new Temple and Cosmos, which I thought more highly of than he did. Over the next year or so, I managed to own all of the FARMS collected works, and in the fall of 1992 I took his Pearl of Great Price class–one of the last classes he taught. I’m not sure how much of it I caught, but I do remember the thrill of returning to my modest apartment and sharing the daily gems of wisdom with my new wife. I also was thrilled to have access to some of Dr. Nibley’s articles on reserve at the library (especially his brilliant articles on the world of Abraham–some of his best work, in my view). One of the most exciting experiences came when I got a copy of a talk which he had given less than a week before–“The Value of the Land” (which was later published as “Promised Lands” in his Brigham Young collection). The thrill of knowing that his latest talk was burning a hole in my backpack was almost too much to bear! Of course, I would show these treasures to my wife and we would read them together–this was before we had a TV or children.

    That was over ten years ago, but my love for Nibley and his work have only grown. I have read his works many times over (don’t ask me what my favorite is; I love it all, though I am especially impressed by his Enoch writings and some of his work on Abraham; a lot of the Egyptian stuff, though, I still have trouble wrapping my mind around), and look forward (finally!) to the republication of the book on the Egyptian endowment, as well as his final work. We can be grateful that he left us that one last book. As it is, he gave us more than we have any right to expect. For his life well lived, and a mind well cultivated and used, we have the Lord to thank. Brother Nibley’s intellect alone was reason enough for praise; coupled with his gentle nature and his charming persona, it causes the heart to soar and the heavens to weep for joy.

  76. John Kammeyer on March 7, 2005 at 7:48 pm

    I came out of the Provo Temple one Saturday, and there was Nibley, standing in the front entrance, looking around, apparently trying to remember where he’d left his car.
    I took Nibley as a bit of a model, and did a political science study of the Book of Mormon, based on the premise that it had to fit into a real-world political context, that of the world of Lehi. It fits. But I found the same thing Nibley apparently found, that all scholarly research into the scriptures inevitably leads back to the Gospel, and questions of faith and revelation. In other words, you can study the Gospel, in the beginning, as an intellectual excercise, but eventually the Spirit will lead you into actually believing in it. I believe in it, and to me the Nephites are totally real. And if I read the above notes correctly, this is the same transition Nibley made. God grant him peace.

  77. joe summerhays on April 3, 2005 at 10:01 pm

    Don’t know any of you on this list. Just googled Nibley Funeral because I wanted to fly in from NY, but couldn’t re-arrange the schedule. He changed my life as well.
    My first introduction to Nibley was by being introduced to Nibley. My anecdote:
    As a missionary in Boulder, CO. in 1981, I was asked by the LDS institute director (Mike Wilcox of CES fame) to accompany one Bro. Hugh Nibley over to the anthropology dept. at CU so he could give a lecture. Nibley was upstairs stealing a nap when I arrived with my companion. We found him zonked on a sofa in his suit. Hat still on. We woke him up and he jumped up and said words to the effect, “Point me in right direction, let’s go.” and off we went.
    The lecture was in a stadium seating classroom of about one hundred anthro students and profs. and a handful of admiring LDS locals who’d snuck away from work to hear the lecture. He was speaking on the Coptic references to the flood and the creation, if I remember correctly
    By the time he finished, I knew I was in the presense of some kind of juggernaut of a scholar. Most of it completely over my head with all the trademark Nibley (insert language here) references in the original, his wit, etc.
    He finished by saying, “Any questions? Good!” and he turned to sit down before anyone could ask a question. But a scholarly looking Prof. stood up (tweed jacket, round glasses, bowtie, straight from central casting) and ripped into Nibley’s thesis.
    Nibley looked out the window as the rebuttal unfolded. I’ll never forget that. The attack was quite visceral, given Nibley had brought the BofMormon and PofG into play during his lecture. When the Prof. finished, he got an ovation from the audience. They really pumped up the room. It was like an Jerry Springer kind of response, only in intellectual garb. The guy really went after Nibley in a heated way.
    I’ll never forget how Nibley responded. He started by saying something close to, “I’ve been invited her to speak about Shakespeare and you’ve just accused me of not speaking about Milton.” He then took apart the rebuttal point by point, quoting in original languages , the very references this Prof introduced as evidence against Nibley. Nibley also expanded many of the point the Prof made with Chinese references and on and on and on. It was done in a Cyrano DeBergerac type of, “You could have taken me apart with this, or this or this, but all you chose to do was this? Her’s what I’d have said if I were you..” etc. Nibley was quiet gracious and entertaining about it all, but ended up giving a response, which when concluded, induced a standing ovation from the entire group.
    This was my first exposure to Hugh. I retold this story that day, the weeks after, and many years after that. I took two years of Hebrew in college after my mission, because his writings and that particular display of virtuosic brilliance so moved me.
    I quickly realized I didn’t have the chops for language period, let alone the mind to work in the rarified air of the like of Nibley. I ended up being an artist, but that is a different story.
    This man was hilarious, smart, unflinching, and cool. To a 20 year old missionary, he was a rock star.
    God bless his family in this time of loss.

  78. Celeste Nibley on April 15, 2005 at 3:24 am

    I don’t usually come to websites like this, but a friend sent me a link to ask a question and I was intrigued. I have read almost all the comments posted and would like to thank you for your stories and kind words about Grandpa. It’s always fun to hear about a family member from someone outside the family. Thank you so much!

  79. Roberts on July 18, 2005 at 1:02 pm

    Hi,
    Can any one tell me what is spaming?
    Thanks

  80. mstaker on August 29, 2005 at 4:19 pm

    I have thoroughly enjoyed the comments.
    I suppose the time is past for input on this one–
    But, in my busy life currently, I have just (today) come here finally!

    Oh, how I wanted to go to the funeral for this great man.
    I have watched the video, “Faith of an Observer,” countless times, have read his books, have listened to his tapes–but there is something about meeting the man…

    A good Latter-day Saint. A disciple. A scholar. A good man.

    I remember seeing him, right after my mission, as I would walk up to campus (south side), he would walk (every day) from his home. I remember seeing him at the gym (walking and the gym, mind and body). I remember seeing him at the library (others have commented on this). I admired him as a sort of hero (although he saw himself as so very mortal and human). I was amazed when my wife(-to-be) just walked up and talked with him (even though he was so down-to-earth, approachable).

    “No one knows what he knows,” as Brother Truman Madsen says.

    My brother and I went and listened to his presentations on the hypocephalus (I took great notes, but I am sure the book will have much more). He opened with, “if anyone has a pencil, I can begin,” and pulled several from his suit coat pocket. (He could do more with a pencil than the rest of us can with blackberries, palm pilots, and the like). :-)

    It all became so REAL when listening to or readin his words.

    (I cannot believe he taught my dad’s religion classes over 50 years ago! How many of us he influenced…)

    I am grateful for his faith.
    God bless you, brother Nibley.
    (and your family).

    (May we learn from him
    how not to waste the days of our probation…)