To further quote:
They kept themselves properly dressed and were obsessed with status to win the praise of men rather than out of a desire to shine the light of the gospel to all who see them.
They kept the rules, but forgot the reasons they were given. They kept the letter of the law, but neglected (and sometimes rejected) the spirit.
They loved their nation, but disregarded what made their nation great to begin with. They were guilty of many of the same sins as the harlots and publicans, but covered them with a veneer of pretended righteousness.
For more Nibley see https://www.scribd.com/document/45840307/Hugh-Nibley-Work-We-Must-but-the-Lunch-is-Free?fbclid=IwAR0YSYqZFSrcUPjW5waLG96AMZPL2iLCzyV4eg5sKVZk1QNwVHqZ8_HAh4A
People often criticize Nibley for a number of reasons. What do you think of what he had to say?
I’m totally here for it.
This is almost too easy. In fact, it is too easy. No comment.
I am thankful that Stephen R. included the entire quote. The first snippet can be taken out of context unless the full quote is included.
The sin was not in keeping the rules. The sin was the obsession with obtaining status by praising oneself for keeping the rules.
The Gospel, and by extension the Church, could not function without rules. Nibley knew this, and he was not stating otherwise. No religious organization can promote moral values or produce charitable works without rules.
If men (there you go Elisa) and women come to church dressed like Post Malone and Cardi B., they distract others from feeling the Spirit. In fact, their scurrilous appearance leads others to behave as if they were hot dog merchants visiting the local honky tonk.
Without rules for appropriate dress and behavior, church services would devolve into meaningless festivals no more productive than a pack of crazed weasels at sundown. Nibley would absolutely have opposed so-called Saints appearing scantily clad for worship service.
Sorry, JCS, but I don’t see how including the second part of the quite is redemptive. One might site the example of focusing not on just wearing a shirt and tie to services but then going the extra step of attaching super-piety to wearing a white shirt instead of colors or patterns.
I have two other favorite quotes from Nibley. “The greatest secret in the church is the gospel of Jesus Christ” and “ the twin pillars of Mormonism are an obsession with wealth and a distain for the scriptures”
Nibley contributed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ by animating the modern world with temple motifs and by creating space to study and talk about sacred things. He taught us how to “read beyond the text.”
Nibley was a scholar by happenstance: his “work” was expounding upon ordinances and covenants. I don’t measure an apostle by office, but by what he or she reveals pertaining to the kingdom of God. He was in every way consecrated in his work. He could have easily specialized and could have easily focused on some narrow field in order to cement his name among the rest of tombstone academics, but instead, in Nibleyesque fashion, he “let the dead bury their dead,” and followed the path that most served others and most served God.
Cemetaries are full of academics whose lifework is buried with them. Nibley’s life and work is a template for the modern apostle-scholar and it continues to feed and nourish the congregation.
I don’t care at all whether Nibley would have opposed so-called Saints appearing scantily clad for worship service. I don’t belong to the Church of Hugh Nibley of Latter-day Saints.
I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ, the same Jesus who dined with publicans and harlots and whose central message was that a focus on purity codes over compassion was a perversion of a true understanding of God, who is love.
If we saw Post Malone and Cardi B as humans and children of God, I think we’d be glad to worship with them no matter what they wore. Who would Jesus condemn – someone willing to show up to worship and serve and love no matter what, or those who want to write pages and pages of handbooks dictating who is and isn’t welcome based on what they’re wearing?
JCS, might I recommend you try a meditation app so you learn to clear your mind and not be so distracted by the appearances of those around you. What a worldly concern unbecoming of a person of God like yourself! Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.
Nibley was right to condemn “the religious leaders with their insistence on proper dress and grooming.” That is a huge problem today. The proper dress has become the mask.
The mask has overtaken the white shirt as the new method of virtue signaling. It has become the way for the self righteous to judge others and say, “Look at me, I am more righteous than you as proven by the article of clothing on my face.”
The joke’s on us. Any proper puritan worth his salt wouldn’t know who Cardi B and Post Malone are; he wouldn’t let himself sink to such levels. JCS is the charlatan hypocrite who rails again the revealing clothes young women wear but leers at them from behind the bushes.
I admire Nibley for his social views. I don’t admire his apologetics.
Ivy, “The mask has overtaken the white shirt as the new method of virtue signaling.”
Wow. How about, the First Presidency has urged members to wear masks as well as all public health officials. It seems quite the opposite, actually. Those not wearing masks in defiance of mask mandates and First Presidency requests are virtue signaling their too cool for school-ness and their Trumpian fake maverickness. Those wearing masks are simply acting in compliance with public health recommendations and county mandates.
Bwah! @jaredsbrother, truth be told I don’t know who Post Malone or Cardi B are actually. Like, only through JCS’s references here. But I’ll still defend their right to wear what they want if they show up at church.
Otherwise I’ve got no dog in the Hugh Nibley fight. Honestly not familiar enough. Kinda uncomfortable with the hero status he’s accorded 🤷🏼♀️ and his snark to Fawn Brodie (guess what? She was right …). But I’ll shut up bc, no dog in the fight.
“ … appearing scantily clad for worship service”
Well so much for the attendance problem. Frankly I wouldn’t miss a Sunday – and if they were (unlike hotdog merchants and crazed weasels) completely honest, neither would the rest of my red-blooded brethren, including John Charity Spring. Methinks he dost protest too much. At some pt – yes, even in the middle of Sacrament – birds&bees biology will blossom, whether dresser or dressee, likely both.
“If men (there you go Elisa) and women…”
Fascinating. If I’m not mistaken, this is the first time JCS has responded to a commenter rather than the OP. In fact, this could be the first indication that JCS even reads other comments. And what’s more, he modified his behavior in response to Elisa’s criticism (granted, he went from objectifying women to objectifying both men and women, but hey, my mind is still blown).
The last thing I heard about Cardio B before JCS’ tirade was that she had pledged to pay for the funerals of the Bronx fire victims. I doubt she’s heard of Nibley, but it seems she understands the sentiment of the quote.
From USA Today:
“ As common as cloth face masks have become, health experts say, they do little to prevent tiny virus particles from getting into your nose or mouth and aren’t effective against the new variant.”
This scientific fact has been reported by The NY Times, Wall Street Journal, and countless other news organizations by now. Truly inspired church leaders would have been ahead of this, instead of still blindly following outdated theories. Nibley would be turning over in his grave.
Nibley rides again!
^ Well, obviously it matters what kind of mask you wear. And the First Presidency statement didn’t recommend any particular type. But surely this is one of those cases where “it is not meet that we be commanded in all things,” as in DC 58? That is to say, the FP recommends wearing masks to reduce the risk of covid transmission, and it follows that we should make reasonable efforts to wear masks that are more likely to do so. So don’t blame the FP for not saying “forget about the masks, they don’t work”. If you’re so concerned about face mask virtue signaling, let me ask if you diligently wear a KN95 mask, as per current CDC guidance for omicron?
Ivy, so what you meant to say is that wearing only a cloth mask is virtue-signaling but wearing a KN95 mask is not virtue-signaling? I gather that what you’re trying to say that most masks that people wear aren’t effective anyway, so what’s the point? The point is awareness and conscientiousness about public health and letting actual public health officials with experience and expertise inform us about virus risk and heeding their orders and suggestions on individual behavior to help reduce transmission of a virus that’s killed over 5 million around the world. Inasmuch as mask-wearing is virtue-signaling, it is a signal of the virtue of order in public health against a menacing virus, a true virtue indeed, even if one’s individual efforts are meager. I wear a mask and get vaccines not because I know much about masks or vaccines (not more than the average person or what can be learned by reading newspaper articles on the topics), but because I believe in having order in public health. Anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers are signaling a different set of values that are mistaken as virtues, which are anarchy and anti-intellectualism. For in rejecting mask-wearing where mandated, they act in defiance of public health. By not taking the vaccine, they defy the scientific consensus that has found the effectiveness of vaccines. These are no virtues at all. These are dangerous and disorderly.
The idea that Nibley (who leaned liberal while alive) would have been an anti-masker is ludicrous. Liberals in the US are overwhelmingly pro-mask and pro-vaccine. I have every reason to believe that Nibley would have masked up and gotten the vaccine were he still alive.
Refreshing to read Nibley’s thoughts. The hyper focus on the outward is a problem.
An easy solution to modesty for women and girls in the church is to wear pants—like the men do.
That’s what I’m doing.
No more quibbling over hemlines.
No more uncomfortable pantyhose.
You are all quick to criticize the church for having rules. Not a one of you has explained how the church could function without any rules.
I am too young to know Nibley. It would be interesting to hear his apologetics if he were alive in today’s church. Would he be a Daniel Petersen type apologist, or would he be a Maxwell Institute/Patrick Mason apologist? Who is today’s Hugh Nibley in the church?
Ernesto, your rule obsession is exactly what Christ was fighting against. Strangely enough, most Christians don’t wake up and look at a list of rules. They don’t think that God is going to judge them strictly by their works and certainly don’t think they can win their way into heaven, and yet manage to govern themselves and do good acts. Good parenting is not making a long list of rules and consequences of breaking those rules. It is ok to have expectations, and then guidance and teaching as to how those expectations are in the best interests of your child.
In my mind, rules are for dogs and slaves.
Sports have rules. Traffic has rules. Businesses have rules. How can you or anyone else on this chain say that a church could function, or even exist, without rules?
Sports, traffic, business have rules with a purpose–most often to protect participants against injury. Religions have rules–pay your tithing and you can go to the temple, don’t be gay so God will love you–to arbitrarily create separation between the good, the better, and the best, and to make sure coffers overflow. The trick is to convince members that the rules come from God instead of just old men. I don’t care if fewer rules, or just rules with a demonstrable purpose, cause the church to go extinct.
I loved Nibley’s prayer at the BYU Commencement: “. . . we gather here today, Lord, in the robes of the false priesthood . . . “
Ivy: People like you are exhausting. Judge me all you want for wearing a mask. I really don’t care anymore. I’m happy to follow rules to protect others. If you prefer to not follow rules to protect others, well, not cool, but since I don’t know you, then best of luck. It sounds like attending church right now is no fun for you though; how unfortunate. And shaming people in cloth masks who perhaps cannot afford disposable masks is just gross. They are trying their best with what they have. No shade here.
Ernesto: My family is taking a good, hard look at joining a local universalist unitarian church. They don’t have rules, but they have a creed. It’s freaking amazing. It’s like a more relevant articles of faith. We believe in taking care of the planet. We believe in treating all people with kindness. That sort of thing. I suppose these are rules, but there aren’t really consequences for non-compliance. I don’t think anyone here is arguing there shouldn’t be rules. I think what we are arguing that the church imposes a list of rules that is too long and irrelevant. For example, the TR interview rules are lengthy and don’t really get at the heart of loving Christ and others. But hey, it all those rules work for you, go for it.
Lily: on a personal note, Nibley’s prayer was at my BYU Commencement. To paraphrase “We are gathered here in the robes of the Devil’s priesthood to confer on one another the honors of men.” Got my attention! Ernesto: it is not an all-or-nothing proposition that the Church has rules or no rules. Some rules are necessary. Too many rules choke out the life and leave little room for the Spirit.
Chadwick and Elisa:
No one is saying that you can’t wear a mask to your heart’s content. What I am saying is that masks have done absolutely nothing to stop the pandemic. The church should get out ahead of the curve for once and stop mandating a practice with no proven health benefits.
Geez, Ivy, the horse is long dead. Do you use essential oils, take health supplements, pray? No proven scientific benefits other than placebo effect from any of those, which makes them different from masks.
Also, “no proven health benefits” is what you’ve read into the news, not what they necessarily say. Note that the USA Today article you mention specifically talks of cloth masks, which work in varying degree depending on whether or not there is a filter sewn into the mask. Cloth masks are not surgical masks, nor are they N95 or KN95 masks. Often, they’re nothing more then a completely useless piece of polyester through which everything passes, hence the admonition to use the right mask to achieve at least some benefit.
You cite the NY Times, WSJ and other national publications supposedly in support of your assertion that there no reason to wear a mask. But then there is this article in the WSJ explaining what types of masks work and how to wear them correctly. https://www.wsj.com/articles/cloth-face-mask-omicron-11640984082
Here is the Mayo Clinic offering advice on how masks can be a helpful prophylactic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/coronavirus-mask/art-20485449
Here is a lengthy article in the church-owned D News explaining how masks are effective if used properly. https://www.deseret.com/coronavirus/2022/1/12/22881114/do-masks-really-prevent-omicron-heres-what-we-know-covid-n95-risk
Here is a CDC literature survey of the efficacy of proper mask use and Covid transmission: A study of an outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, an environment notable for congregate living quarters and close working environments, found that use of face coverings on-board was associated with a 70% reduced risk of infection.
Here is a link to a DoD study on the risk to airline passengers wearing masks of catching Covid: https://www.ustravel.org/news/dod-study-finds-risk-covid-19-transmission-plane-extremely-unlikely-if-masks-are-worn
I don’t care if you wear a mask or not, and I know you don’t care if I choose to wear one. But if you’re going to continually assert that there is “no proven health benefit,” bring receipts.
That’s an extremely bold claim to make. Care to provide support? Or provide us your credentials for your statement?
My siblings live in UT where masks are verboten. All their schools are online now because of COVID, from SL district to Jordan district to Canyons district to Alpine district and up to Cache valley. I’m raising my family in California, where kids wear masks at school. Our schools are open for in-person learning. Irvine unified is one of the largest districts in the state with zero school closures. If masks are not the difference, then you tell me what’s creating the difference. Because otherwise a school is a school and kids will be kids. No school can keep the kids six feet apart due to space issues, no school can mandate the vaccine while it’s under emergency authorization, no school can move classes outdoors in the winter. And COVID is everywhere. Masks are the only notable difference.
Also, while cloth masks may no longer be as effective against Omicron, I’m not aware of any study that says the same against the previous variants.
But hey I’m just some guy on the internet.
@Ivy, I didn’t say anything about masks on this thread. I am not sure why you @’d me. I am kinda tired of talking about masks. Since you @’d me, I assume it’s because I’ve expressed on other threads that I think that masks DID help with the pandemic (in my experience and based on my reading, they DID prior to omicron, I agree that they don’t seem to be enough anymore and indeed am myself recovering from Covid, although I don’t think masks are now or have ever been virtue-signaling. Maybe you thought I’d said that on this thread.
Anyway, I can see that this is something that really bothers you as it keeps coming up even when only tangentially related to the post or comments. I would like to understand that better. Would you explain that to us? (I hope that doesn’t come across as condescending. Like, I honestly, truly do not mean it that way. I genuinely would like to understand why this is something that is so triggering for you – did something happen? Did someone shame you over mask wearing? I am just genuinely confused over it because it’s really different from my experience and perspective and since I have some neighbors who really hate masks, I am wondering if they feel the same way as you and so would love for you to explain your experience to me as maybe that’ll help me understand them better. Not your *opinion* – I understand your opinion – but your *experience*.)
@LHCA and Lily – whaaaaat? That’s so weird. I find that really off-putting. First of all, seems really … flippant? For a prayer. Because it sounds like a joke.
Second of all, seems really rude to like, the rest of the world. Like any pursuit outside of Mormonism is Satanic? I dunno. Maybe I am totally missing the context. But it is not warming me to Nibley.
Am I totally misinterpreting this?
Ivy, I think you meant to direct your comment at me and not Elisa. There seems to be a preponderance of evidence showing that masking and social distancing have indeed slowed transmission of the virus. But the virus and its variants have simply proven to be impossible to fully contain (exponential growth is simply too fast). If everyone wore KN95 masks when gathering, I have no doubt that virus transmission would slow considerably. The problem is that it has also been impossible to stamp out misinformation and persuade everyone to wear masks when gathering and get vaccinated. The anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers are overwhelmingly to blame for clogging the healthcare system. If they were fully in power (and they already have a scary amount of influence on power in the US as it stands) over the course of the pandemic, millions more would have died and tens of millions more would be suffering from long COVID. The public health authorities and system have done a considerable amount to save millions of lives and keep the health care system in tact.
Elisa – I was told the first time I went to the temple that it was ancient and literal. Meaning Adam, in fact was visited by three future apostles to teach them how to get back to heaven. One of the things my Stake President told me is to look for similarities in the temple that resembled things in our lives today. One of the specific examples was graduation robes as a ceremonial garb that had stolen from the original temple ceremony. I was wondering where that line of thinking came from and I guess we can at least trace it back to Nibley.
Ernesto, I used to believe like you, so I push back hard against it mainly pushing back against my old self. Does human growth come from giving humans rules and strictly enforcing them? Is the church there to protect the institution or to help us develop attributes that will serve us in this life and in the next? I am all for order, just hate the word rules when it comes to religion. It might be more of a semantic thing.
The problem is not rules, per se. The gospel has specific doctrines and commandments, without which it would cease to exist–e.g. thou shalt not kill, love thy neighbor, mourn with those who mourn.
The problem is with rules that are not the product of doctrine but are instead the product of the preferences of men (and women) who have interpretations about right and wrong that may or may not (and are usually are not) connected to actual doctrine. Moreover, these are often hedges around the law–ideas that are meant to keep people from getting close to a line–or anywhere in the same universe of a line. Examples of this proliferate: no beards at BYU, no Dr. Pepper, white shirts at church, one earring, a bishop who won’t give a temple recommend because a member attends the occasional R-rated film (yes, this happened to my mother)….this list could be nearly endless.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is simple but can be easily distorted even by those seeking to do good…or those seeking to extend their authority. Nibley recognized that pharisaical attitudes could (and do) exist among even the “elect” (aka members of the LDS Church).
And the Church and its members have one major problem that, if addressed and solved, would go a long way towards creating the kind of Zion society that Christ envisioned: focusing on the internal rather than the external. More difficult? Sure. More Christ-like? Absolutely.
Insightful Nibley quote:
“Even the cornerstone of virtue, ‘He that is idle shall not eat the bread . . . of the laborer’ (D&C 42:42), hailed as the franchise of unbridled capitalism, is rather a rebuke to that system which has allowed idlers to live in luxury and laborers in want throughout the whole course of history.”
Masking children is child abuse.
I am very glad to see this post and comments from others.
When I was a teenager and BYU student, I collected all of his books.
Thirty years later here is my perspective on Nibley: By the way, after my faith transition, I consider the church to be a fully human organization.
1) His apologetic arguments seemed to me at the time to be essentially exploratory, and he was always reserving the possibility of revising his argument as more evidence arrived. Being open to more evidence was a good thing. Instead of thinking he was totally right, I thought he had found interesting parallels and the future would be exciting! I waited patiently to see if the arguments would be supported by further discoveries, but from my point of view the accumulating years have disconfirmed his arguments.
2) I liked his openness about science and that he didn’t bury his head in the sand with respect to evolution (See “Before Adam”). His acceptance of anthropology was a healthy attitude. Now that we have so much genome evidence, there is absolutely no excuse for burying ones head in the sand about human origins.
3) His urgent message about the environment was right on. Climate change will cause major disasters. It is a far worse world we leave to our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. I think many of them will curse when they think of us.
4) He participated in most of the major battles of WWII and is a very insightful witness of the catastrophe that war brings. For me his anti-war message is morally correct.
5) He was very clear how shallow materialistic societies trend towards dangerous polarization. For him the polarization of a society is what happens just before it gets destroyed. Given the number and types of weapons that exist in the US, he is right that de-escalation and finding common ground are important and urgent.
6) He had a more deep appreciation for indigenous cultures and ancient cultures than most of us. I remember in one of his asides how remarkable it was that Egyptian funerary documents emphasized the decency, kindness, and generosity of the deceased. For the Egyptians, worthiness for eternal life depended on treating the poor well and being kind and benevolent. I have seen documents like this on exhibit in the Louvre and British Museum, as well as the University of Chicago and University of Pennsylvania exhibits. It is meaningful to recognize the values I share with these people dead for three to four thousand years. Thanks Hugh!
7) The OP is about Pharisees. It made me think of Sister Rasband’s talk about obeying then Elder Nelson about where to sit. Has it really come to this?
Finally, I wanted to say that I crossed Nibley on campus once in the library. He shot me a withering stare. I am sure he would very much disapprove of me and my life. But I think many of his values resonate still with me and I have tried to pass them on to my children.
Well said, plvtime, that’s exactly how I want to remember the man, even though a bit incomplete. He also wasted considerable time & energy on churchly concerns that could have been directed to more productive ends, i.e., understanding reality.
@M, I think your comment was stuck in moderation. I’ve been thinking about that too and had considered whether to bring that up. I’m not interested in defending Nibley (as mentioned above). But I don’t think the Martha Beck issue falls quite neatly into the “believing women” category because she relies recovered memories of ritualistic abuse from early childhood. I’m not sure that’s the same species as believing women so I would hesitate to conflate those two types of claims.
In any event, under no accounts did he seem to be a particularly good husband or father.
Whether you agreed with him or not, Nibley was a brilliant and fascinating individual, the likes of which may never be seen again in the LDS Church. He knew how to walk the line, and sometimes deliberately crossed it, but looking at his career through a modern lens I’m amazed he lasted as long as he did. If a present-day incarnation of Dr. Nibley tried to carve out a similar career path at BYU today, I doubt he would last long, if he’d get hired at all in the first place.
Was Nibley a good parent? I’m in no position to judge. Would Nibley were a mask? I don’t care. Do I agree with everything Nibley wrote. Hell no.
But I loved his take on affluenza. I loved his take on leadership. I loved reading “Lehi in the Desert” in the Improvement Era. I’m not a fan of apologetics. It’s mostly wasted effort. And poorly thought out. And does more harm than good. His “No ma’am that’s not history” was embarrassing.
But the Church needs more members who stir the pot. More members to call the kettle black. Luckily the Internet has provided the opportunity for people to air their frustrations. And Nibley provides a great role model, particularly on social issues.
May our memory of him live on.
@roger Hansen to be clear I’m in no position to judge anyone’s parenting. I’ve read things from
Nibley, his wife, and other family members that basically he was a pretty obsessed academic and a fairly detached spouse and father and he knew it. That’s where my comment came from.
And M of course was referring to his daughter’s claims of sexual abuse.
Nibley’s writings are dated now, as he knew they would be. I am puzzled by some describing him as an “apologist.”. I would not categorize a person as an apologist who would likely been excommunicated had he not had powerful relations in church leadership! His critiques of materialism deeply influenced me.
As students, we found him kind, generous and visionary. He was the most powerful spiritual person I have met in my life outside of Spencer Kimball.
Reading Hugh Nibley is like reading the Bible, you’ll always find some quote, read out context, that will suit whatever point of view you espouse.
As a complete outside to the Restoration churches, I only know Nibley through his daughter’s expose (Martha Beck, “Leaving the Saints”), which I assume is famous in these circles. While I understand that her account of sexual abuse by him has been challenged, setting that aside, the impression I got from her about him was of a crank historian honored by the LDS church for devoting his life to applying an academic veneer to their strange theology. If the Flat Earthers had that much money, they might be able to produce similarly impressive tomes.
I’m more familiar with her post after his death that Nibley appeared to her as an Angel of light and blessed her with his love.
That, and that all LDS chapels have wiretapping centers for their neighborhoods.