19 April 2007

Final Thoughts on Nibley

In the fine Spherical Chickens tradition of stealing homework for blogging material, here's some excerpts from my Writings of Hugh Nibley final, mostly my overall thoughts on the man and his message.

What sets Nibley apart from any other person you've known or read about?

For me, what sets Hugh Nibley apart is his sincere desire to seek out truth and righteousness, without regard to convention, expected party lines, or consistency with past conclusions. There are a lot of people out there who claim to be objective seekers of truth. I’ve found that most of the time this statement just means they’ve decided to go against convention and therefore feel the need to justify themselves. As you continue to read their writings, you find that what they’re really doing is trying to find something new rather than something true. In their quest for the new, they’ve thrown out the true parts of tradition, simply because they are traditional. What I like about Nibley is that he says what he thinks is true, regardless of whether it fits expectations or not. His conclusions may fit the conventional thinking of the Church; they may not. And you’re just as likely to find him on one side as the other.

What is the most important thing later generations could learn from his life and teachings?

Perhaps the most important thing we could gain from Nibley is to be confident in the truth of the gospel. During Nibley’s life and research, he was challenged many times with things that would seem to conflict with gospel teachings. A less intense man would have take the easy road out of conflict and said, “Well, the gospel must be untrue, or at least flawed then.” But Nibley never took the easy way out. He would always think harder about things and find a way that all the things he knew were true could work together—you see this especially in his reconciliation of science and religion in “Before Adam.” This principle of starting from the truth of the gospel and letting all other knowledge stem from that is extremely important for a modern audience. In a world where sincere religious belief is becoming less and less popular, it’s easy for the first conflict with our faith to send us into disbelief. Nibley’s way of holding on to the truth even in the face of doubt provides a path for us to both seek learning and live by faith.

Why do you think Nibley had such a fondness for Abraham?

I think Nibley sees a lot of himself in Abraham, especially in that they are both seekers of truth. As we see in Abraham 1, Abraham dares to ask the big questions, the ones that other people would think presumptuous or assume that they aren’t knowable. Especially Abraham 1:2 reminds me of something that could be Nibley’s motto in life: “having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.” Nibley also has Abraham’s same attitude of trust in the Lord—I can see Nibley being someone who would be willing to sacrifice Isaac even though he did not understand the reason.

How have Nibley and his writings changed your life or thoughts during this semester?

The major way that Nibley has influenced me this semester is that he’s gotten me into thinking a lot more about the importance of the temple and the ritual of ordinances. I’ve often wondered about the importance of physically getting baptized, especially when the changes that make the ordinance effective have to take place in your mind and heart, not just physically. And yet we put such emphasis on the importance of immersion. Nibley’s articles about the importance of tradition and year rites have caused me to think a lot more on the importance of these things in the modern Church. Although I have yet to go to the temple for myself and probably won’t be going very soon, I feel as though reading Nibley has prepared me for some of the things that members say they often find strange on their first time through the temple. He’s made me confident of the importance of these things by showing that they have existed since ancient times in much the same form. For some reason, the ancientness of it now seems more important than ever—probably because oldness was something that Nibley valued. As a result of reading his writings, the temple has become infinitely more important in my mind because of the opportunity to participate in these traditions, to be part of the great pageant of humanity.

How will you most likely spread the 'legacy' of Hugh Nibley to your family and others in the future?

Well, I’m going to be working with Brother Welch this summer on the CWHN project, which is very exciting. And I’m going to be reading more of his articles on my own. There are so many, I’ll never run out. (Yay!) I’m also going to continue to write about Hugh Nibley on my blog. It’s always interesting to hear what people have to say about him. And I think I’m going to start asking for volumes of the Collected Works for Christmas and my birthday . . . . *hint hint*


Liz said...

I am an avid but silent reader of your blog. I feel that now the time has come to speak out. I have immensely enjoyed your posts on Hugh Nibley and his writings and I am sad that your Nibley class is coming to an end. I would hope that you will continue (if only occasionally) blogging your thoughts on his varied works (now that they are no longer homework assignments). They have been truly insightful.

Aaron said...

My favorite book of his is Approaching Zion. I've not read enough of his works. My Dad has read just about anything Nibley's ever written.
The single word that comes to mind as I think of Nibley is integrity. Like you mentioned, he has no agenda other than searching for truth.

Though I attended BYU during Nibley's last year (I think) of teaching, I wasn't fortunate to get into his class. I was fortunate to take a class from Chauncey Riddle (Riddle is to philosophy what Nibley is to ancient scripture). In fact, my wife and I met as freshman while taking a 6-credit "marathon" class from Riddle. It was my favorite class (not just because I met my wife); it influenced the way I think and approach life.

I think of these great men: Nibley, Riddle, Maxwell, President Hinckley (just to name a few). It is hard to believe that men of such stature will still be raised up. It is easy to feel a fleeting sense of loss as the greatest generation passes on. I had these feelings as I sat at my grandmother's bedside yesterday. She has faught a good fight (for over 93 years) and will soon re-unite with grandpa. Will we live as great as they did? I do look forward in faith, however. And my experience with youth these days teaches me that the Lord has many righteous men and women in the "refiner's fire".

It is so exciting to be a part of the Kingdom of God.

Anonymous said...

Geez, no blog posts lately! It's like you were packing, traveling, injured or something!

- Not Too Pensive