These episodes launch a three-part series on Hugh Nibley (1910–2005), a towering figure in twentieth-century Mormonism who every Latter-day Saint deserves to know better. Most often viewed as an intellectual, scholar of the ancient world, teacher, and defender of the faith, Nibley is also one of Mormonism’s most vocal and incisive social critics, a beloved figure by Mormons of all temperaments who was also able challenge many of the culture’s foibles–the attitudes, assumptions, and habits that keep individuals and the wider church from embodying the ideals of Zion. We are thrilled in these episodes to present him and frame his life, work, and critiques for a new generation who have perhaps heard of him but may not have been aware of his work and influence–or his personality, quirks, and other qualities that make him so endearing.
In Part I presented here, Nibley biographers Boyd Petersen, a son-in-law, and Alex Nibley, a son, present an overview of his life, focusing on the experiences and people who helped shape his interests, spiritual core, and attitudes.
Episode 184 discusses the origins of his love for literature and languages, the influence of his maternal grandmother and a near-death-experience that most directly affected his faith and mystical temperament, the roots of his strong environmental sensibility, his distrust of wealth, and his clear-eyed views about church leaders as both good and fallible. The section of his experiences in World War II presents a very personal entry into the intimacy, fortunes, and horrors of war, and how these events and what he witnessed affected the rest of his life.
Episode 185 focuses on Hugh’s career and family life (unique, interesting!), including a discussion of the accusations made very late in his life by one of his daughter’s, Martha, that Hugh had molested her in a ritualistic manner when she was very young.
Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life, by Boyd Jay Peterson
Sergeant Nibley, Ph.D.: Memories of an Unlikely Screaming Eagle, by Alex Nibley
“Truth is Stranger than Folklore: Hugh Nibley–The Man and the Legend, by Boyd Jay Petersen
Interview with Boyd Jay Petersen at A Thoughtful Faith podcast. About Boyd’s own life and faith journey, but it contains some Hugh Nibley stories and observations as well.
I have heard that Hugh Nibley believed in the Adam-God Doctrine as taught by Brigham Young and other early leaders. In fact, I faintly remember listening to one Mormon Expression episode when AG Doctrine came up briefly, and someone inferred Hugh Nibley believed it.
Is this a rumor? Is it inferred from his writings/speeches? Did he share this personal secret with anyone? I also remember Dan’s Daniel C. Peterson interview on Mormon Stories where he said Hugh kept his opinions about AG Doctrine a secret (part 3, 32:00).
We address questions like this and reincarnation in Part II, which should be ready for release on Monday. I also interviewed Boyd Petersen for A Thoughtful Faith podcast, and we talked about these rumors of Hugh’s unorthodoxy there. After listening to either or both of these, I’m sure Boyd would be happy to engage you further with any other questions about this sort of thing.
Interesting. Thank you. Listened to the A Thoughtful Faith episode. Again, another person says Hugh would not say whether he believed in Adam-God or not. Very interesting. Makes me think he did. He was a big Brigham fan.
Boyd talks of it again near the end of Episode 187 (released today). From the gist, though again careful to say he’s never heard it from Hugh directly, he suspects as you do regarding Hugh’s belief in A-G doctrine.
People like Hugh Nibley are very unique individuals. You can tell he was someone who was extremely intelligent, but because of his loyalty to the LDS belief he would also try to discredit the obvious or give credit to the fallacious which made him appear foolish at times. Do you think that if people like he or Dan Peterson had been born into Scientology they would have been just as passionate in supporting that belief? While it should not be the case, this totally discredited his more credible work for all but the LDS faithful. Had he not been so tied to the illogical he could very well have been the Stephen Hawking of his day.
I live in Medford, Oregon. I must know in what creek Hugh was baptized. Please, please, please.
Hugh was baptized in Jackson Hot Springs between Medford and Ashland. He said it was like a visit to Hades to be baptized on that rainy, cold day I’m March 1918.
Very good. That place is now full of hippies. One more question. On what street in Medford did he live? Do we know? I have everyone here in Medford all excited that Hugh lived and was baptized here.
The more I read Nibley and ancient texts, the more I am convinced he got it right!