These episodes (186 & 187) constitute the second of our three-part series on Hugh Nibley (1910–2005), focusing this time on Nibley as scholar of the ancient world and the ways he applied this scholarship to places of intersection with LDS scripture, history, and theology. In these episodes, Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon is joined by Nibley biographer Boyd Petersen, along with Mormon scholars Brian Hauglid and Kevin Barney, for a discussion of Nibley’s areas of scholarly interest outside of Mormonism and in, the types of work he did and approaches he took—primarily seeking for and writing about parallels between Mormon textual clues and ideas with those found in antiquity—including an examination of criticisms of that approach. They also examine an often-made critique that Nibley’s footnotes/citations contain many mistakes or push beyond what the texts actually say. Each also shares ways that Nibley’s scholarship and defenses of the Mormon tradition have affected their own lives and faith journeys.
Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life, by Boyd Jay Peterson
“In Memoriam: Hugh Winder Nibley,” by Kevin L. Barney (as well as the rest of the Sunstone magazine tributes and remembrances section upon Hugh’s passing)
for these wonderful podcast’s, I love it – I can never get enough of Nibey. Hugh
Nibley is one of a kind – and his writings show that. He is a living example
for the rest of us; he has inspired us by calling us to repent. I have always
seen Nibley as a prophet more than a historian – no matter what he writes about
you end up feeling the need to repent (in Norwegian repent is
“omvend” which means to turn around). He invites us to reread the
scriptures, look critical at our “mormon” culture and society in general. Nibley
is constantly telling us to turn around, change directions and look to God – I felt
this side of him did not get the attention it deserves in the podcasts. He has
been amazingly consistent in his long life – he is fascinating. I can recommend
all his books.
In Part 3, we spend the first 45 minutes or so on Nibley as prophet/prophetic voice, and the rest on the kind of things you talk about here. Should be ready to post by Thursday or Friday (Aug 29/30). Hope you’ll enjoy!
Great – I can’t wait.
Love the discussion here Dan!
Could you link to a cliff notes version of the “diffusion theory”?
I am new to Hugh Nibley even though I’ve seen his collected works on my families bookshelves over the years. It appears he had lots of interesting ideas, flawed or not they are interesting.
Hmmmm. From a quick search, I’m not seeing anything that lays out what we are talking about here (mostly seeing theories of culture diffusion) in a clear, concise way. In this case, we’re simply arguing that Hugh and many scholars (believers mostly) tend to hold to the idea that there was an original religion with a set of practices, etc., and when we see parallels in various cultures, it’s a signal that these are remnants from that original religion that got diffused (and also changed somewhat though not enough to fully drown out the parallels) across time and space as people migrated, etc.
The main competing ideas come more from sociology, psychology, anthropology and suggest that parallels are because the way humans are wired, that rituals “work” to facilitate certain types of experiences with the Divine or to give a sense of one’s ability to influence/take control over chaos, etc. Hence, if we see water used in lots of rituals in various cultures, instead of seeing it as a remnant from an original religion that featured baptism, it would simply be read by the latter group (me, included) as a natural symbol a group would employ when thinking about cleansing, fresh start, etc. and creating a ceremony that includes those ideas.
Hope others can do better! Any good, concise sources for this?
I agree with Brian. I am somewhat familiar with the diffusion/parallel theory as that is what rules right now in Mormon culture. But the other theory of which you only touched briefly, I am not familiar. I would appreciate some clarification.
I agree. Hugh Nibley was much more of a prophet in my mind. The first book I read was Approaching Zion and it was a good punch in my gut. I can’t wait for part 3. This is really exciting. I praise Dan and all the others on the panel for these podcasts helping us to remember Nibley. I’m going to make a donation as soon as I get paid! Great work Dan.
I absolutely love the honest look at Hugh Nibley’s life. I feel like so many times when we look at important people inside and outside our Church, we need to paint a certain picture of them. The problem is that people are complicated. There are good and bad parts of them that we need to be open to. It was a great discussion and introduction to Hugh Nibley for me. It really makes me want to get to know him through his work. Thanks.
Of course Nibley did not speak of the deeper doctrines, for they are only meant for the initiated. Enoch attests to this.