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 Post subject: Nibley defended Joseph Smith through scholarship, not testimony
PostPosted: Thu Feb 28, 2019 3:43 pm 
Valiant A
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I am reading through Hugh Nibley's collected works (I'm about 25% of the way through) and I came across something by Richard Bushman (on Nibley), which I found interesting. See link:

https://publications.mi.BYU.edu/publica ... Nibley.pdf


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 Post subject: Re: Nibley defended Joseph Smith through scholarship, not te
PostPosted: Thu Feb 28, 2019 6:45 pm 
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"The worst sinners, according to Jesus, are not the harlots and publicans, but the religious leaders with their insistence on proper dress and grooming, their careful observance of all the rules, their precious concern for status symbols, their strict legality, their pious patriotism...the haircut becomes the test of virtue in a world where Satan deceives and rules by appearances."
Hugh Nibley (1989). “Approaching Zion”,

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 Post subject: Re: Nibley defended Joseph Smith through scholarship, not te
PostPosted: Thu Feb 28, 2019 6:56 pm 
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If you really want to know what Bushman thought of Nibley's scholarship just compare the number of times Bushman quotes Brodie or Quinn as opposed to Nibley in Rough Stone Rolling. Even Bushman himself has acknowledge Brodie's work as preeminent.

Quote:
In 2005, LDS scholar Richard Bushman published a highly regarded biography of Smith entitled Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling which has frequently been compared to Brodie's work. In his book, Bushman noted that Brodie's "biography was acknowledged by non-Mormon scholars as the premier study of Joseph Smith"and called Brodie "the most eminent of Joseph Smith's unbelieving biographers." Bushman wrote in 2007 that Brodie had "shaped the view of the Prophet for half a century. Nothing we have written has challenged her domination. I had hoped my book would displace hers, but at best it will only be a contender in the ring, whereas before she reigned unchallenged."

Nibley, not so much.

When it comes to Nibley''s defense of the Book of Abraham, especially his ""gibberish" Egyptian translations he fares even worse. Ritner has observed:

Robert Ritner wrote:
In 1975 Hugh Nibley attempted both a transliteration and a literal, interlineal translation of only the unrestored portions of Fragments Xi & X. Designed strictly for an audience of believers, Nibley's volume was expressly composed to provide a Mormon rebuttal to the interpretive analysis of Egyptologist, including Baer, with whom he had studied briefly and informally. These word for word incomplete translations produced such results as ... were recognized by Nibley as "nonsense." While intended to highlight his quibbles over the nature of translations (to defend Joseph Smith's use of the term) Nibley's interlinear method of literal translation would necessarily produce gibberish from any language.

Tacitly acknowledging this source of embarrassment, John Gee and Michael Rhodes have attempted to justify Nibley's methods--while promptly dropping them--in their heavily "re-worked" edition of "The Message of the Joseph Smith Papryi".


Like most LDS I grew up idolizing Nibley as this really smart guy who believed and defended Mormonism. And like most Mormons any book I bought of his remained on the shelf, unread. Later on in life when I started examining what he actually said it was a huge let down. Instead of using scholarship to defend Mormonism, he was attacking scholarship he thought was critical Mormonism. The realty is that Nibley did not use scholarship to defend Mormonism, he used sophistry, parallelamania and rhetoric, most of which has not stood well the test of time. In Mormon circles he may still be much admired but in scholastic circles, especially non LDS ones, he is rarely referenced.

So go ahead and spend your time reading though a volume of books that are outdated and no longer relevant, even in modern LDS scholarship circles. But you should know that even within church circles much of what he has written has "not aged well." As LDS Historian David Whittaker noted:
Quote:
Hugh Nibley's 1961 The Myth Makers went even further, suggesting that there never was an 1826 trial. In his 1991 foreword to Tinkling Cymbals and Sounding Brass, historian David Whittaker acknowledged that a number of Nibley's conclusions had not aged well. Noting that Nibley "made no claims to be an expert in American or Mormon history" and wrote "in part under assignment, and preferring that his time could be devoted to other projects," Whittaker wrote: "Readers thirty years later should not be surprised to discover that, with the subsequent professionalization of the Church library and archives, the study of Mormon history has progressed on a variety of details discussed in Nibley’s works. For example, recent work has been done on the now available accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision, as well as on money digging and his 1826 trial, and the earliest treatments of his religious claims. . . . Such new research has strengthened Nibley’s arguments in many cases; it has corrected him in others."

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What Jane Manning did say: "I am white except for the color of my skin."


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 Post subject: Re: Nibley defended Joseph Smith through scholarship, not te
PostPosted: Thu Feb 28, 2019 10:15 pm 
Valiant A
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Mittens wrote:
"The worst sinners, according to Jesus, are not the harlots and publicans, but the religious leaders with their insistence on proper dress and grooming, their careful observance of all the rules, their precious concern for status symbols, their strict legality, their pious patriotism...the haircut becomes the test of virtue in a world where Satan deceives and rules by appearances."
Hugh Nibley (1989). “Approaching Zion”,


I agree with this quote. But as for Nibley, you have to read his essay "On Criticizing the Brethren" in connection with what he says above to get a true picture of his thinking about church leaders.

Also, in Richard Bushman's tribute to Nibley (referenced in opening post) he tells a story about Nibley and Spencer Kimball which is indicative of Nibley's feelings about church leaders.


Last edited by kjones on Fri Mar 01, 2019 12:48 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Nibley defended Joseph Smith through scholarship, not te
PostPosted: Thu Feb 28, 2019 10:22 pm 
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Fence Sitter wrote:
If you really want to know what Bushman thought of Nibley's scholarship just compare the number of times Bushman quotes Brodie or Quinn as opposed to Nibley in Rough Stone Rolling. Even Bushman himself has acknowledge Brodie's work as preeminent.

Quote:
In 2005, LDS scholar Richard Bushman published a highly regarded biography of Smith entitled Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling which has frequently been compared to Brodie's work. In his book, Bushman noted that Brodie's "biography was acknowledged by non-Mormon scholars as the premier study of Joseph Smith"and called Brodie "the most eminent of Joseph Smith's unbelieving biographers." Bushman wrote in 2007 that Brodie had "shaped the view of the Prophet for half a century. Nothing we have written has challenged her domination. I had hoped my book would displace hers, but at best it will only be a contender in the ring, whereas before she reigned unchallenged."

Nibley, not so much.

When it comes to Nibley''s defense of the Book of Abraham, especially his ""gibberish" Egyptian translations he fares even worse. Ritner has observed:

Robert Ritner wrote:
In 1975 Hugh Nibley attempted both a transliteration and a literal, interlineal translation of only the unrestored portions of Fragments Xi & X. Designed strictly for an audience of believers, Nibley's volume was expressly composed to provide a Mormon rebuttal to the interpretive analysis of Egyptologist, including Baer, with whom he had studied briefly and informally. These word for word incomplete translations produced such results as ... were recognized by Nibley as "nonsense." While intended to highlight his quibbles over the nature of translations (to defend Joseph Smith's use of the term) Nibley's interlinear method of literal translation would necessarily produce gibberish from any language.

Tacitly acknowledging this source of embarrassment, John Gee and Michael Rhodes have attempted to justify Nibley's methods--while promptly dropping them--in their heavily "re-worked" edition of "The Message of the Joseph Smith Papryi".


Like most LDS I grew up idolizing Nibley as this really smart guy who believed and defended Mormonism. And like most Mormons any book I bought of his remained on the shelf, unread. Later on in life when I started examining what he actually said it was a huge let down. Instead of using scholarship to defend Mormonism, he was attacking scholarship he thought was critical Mormonism. The realty is that Nibley did not use scholarship to defend Mormonism, he used sophistry, parallelamania and rhetoric, most of which has not stood well the test of time. In Mormon circles he may still be much admired but in scholastic circles, especially non LDS ones, he is rarely referenced.

So go ahead and spend your time reading though a volume of books that are outdated and no longer relevant, even in modern LDS scholarship circles. But you should know that even within church circles much of what he has written has "not aged well." As LDS Historian David Whittaker noted:
Quote:
Hugh Nibley's 1961 The Myth Makers went even further, suggesting that there never was an 1826 trial. In his 1991 foreword to Tinkling Cymbals and Sounding Brass, historian David Whittaker acknowledged that a number of Nibley's conclusions had not aged well. Noting that Nibley "made no claims to be an expert in American or Mormon history" and wrote "in part under assignment, and preferring that his time could be devoted to other projects," Whittaker wrote: "Readers thirty years later should not be surprised to discover that, with the subsequent professionalization of the Church library and archives, the study of Mormon history has progressed on a variety of details discussed in Nibley’s works. For example, recent work has been done on the now available accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision, as well as on money digging and his 1826 trial, and the earliest treatments of his religious claims. . . . Such new research has strengthened Nibley’s arguments in many cases; it has corrected him in others."


I think what Richard Bushman thinks of Hugh Nibley can best be judged by his own words, in the essay I reference in opening post.

As for myself, until someone better comes along, who writes and does scholarship on Mormon issues and the Mormon scriptural canon ... until someone better comes along, in or out of the church, I will stick with Nibley.

P.S. - I have heard several people say, other LDS scholars, that Richard Bushman is Nibley's successor. I would agree, although I don't think Bushman has Nibley's capacious and broad-ranging intellect.


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 Post subject: Re: Nibley defended Joseph Smith through scholarship, not te
PostPosted: Thu Feb 28, 2019 10:28 pm 
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P.S. - I'm sure some of Nibley's scholarship will in time become outdated, as new discoveries are made. He would've been the first to admit this. But even so, books and essays like "Lehi In the Desert", which Bushman referenced in his 2010 tribute, referenced in opening post ... these books will be read and studied for a long time to come.

And I don't think his social commentary, essays like the one you quoted from above in "Approaching Zion" ... I don't think these will ever become outdated.


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 Post subject: Re: Nibley defended Joseph Smith through scholarship, not te
PostPosted: Fri Mar 01, 2019 12:24 am 
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Mittens wrote:
"The worst sinners, according to Jesus, are not the harlots and publicans, but the religious leaders with their insistence on proper dress and grooming, their careful observance of all the rules, their precious concern for status symbols, their strict legality, their pious patriotism...the haircut becomes the test of virtue in a world where Satan deceives and rules by appearances."
Hugh Nibley (1989). “Approaching Zion”,


Franklin Graham ?


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 Post subject: Re: Nibley defended Joseph Smith through scholarship, not te
PostPosted: Fri Mar 01, 2019 10:34 am 
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kjones wrote:
I think what Richard Bushman thinks of Hugh Nibley can best be judged by his own words, in the essay I reference in opening post.


And we can judge what Bushman said about Brodie using his own words, so what is your point? Given Bushman depends so much more on Brodie in his RSR it clear which scholarship he favors when it come to Mormonism and it's not Nibley.
kjones wrote:
As for myself, until someone better comes along, who writes and does scholarship on Mormon issues and the Mormon scriptural canon ... until someone better comes along, in or out of the church, I will stick with Nibley.

This sort of statement is really mind boggling. It's not a question of if someone has come along, it's that there are hundreds of someone's who have come along. The amount of quality scholastic material produced about Mormonism by scholars both in and out of the church, over the last 30 years is staggering. To admit that your still waiting for that special someone to come along to replace Nibley is to admit to a basic unfamiliarity with the subject mater itself. Seriously, if you are intent on undertaking a large scale reading project that will be beneficial to your knowledge and faith of Mormonism, do yourself a favor and ditch the horribly outdated works of Nibley and go with the top notch scholarship that can be found in The Joseph Smith Papers Now that is an undertaking worth doing, and for the record, in view of your interest in defending Oaks, Oaks has claimed to have read the entire set.
kjones wrote:
P.S. - I have heard several people say, other LDS scholars, that Richard Bushman is Nibley's successor. I would agree, although I don't think Bushman has Nibley's capacious and broad-ranging intellect.


I like Bushman and when it come to church history he is widely admired and respected. Of all the biographies that I have read on Joseph Smith his was the second best in my opinion. Brodie's work, as Bushman himself stated, was and is still better. As far as being Nibley's successor, well Nibley isn't even the gold standard, when it comes to the pinnacle of Mormon apologist, that would be Roberts, and given the fact that the field of Mormon studies has expanded so much since both Robert's and Nibley's time, I do not think we will ever see anyone even attempting to defend Mormonism on all fronts.

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What Joseph Smith should have said: "No man knows my hagiography."
What Jane Manning did say: "I am white except for the color of my skin."


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 Post subject: Re: Nibley defended Joseph Smith through scholarship, not te
PostPosted: Fri Mar 01, 2019 12:40 pm 
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Fence Sitter wrote:
kjones wrote:
I think what Richard Bushman thinks of Hugh Nibley can best be judged by his own words, in the essay I reference in opening post.

And we can judge what Bushman said about Brodie using his own words, so what is your point? Given Bushman depends so much more on Brodie in his RSR it clear which scholarship he favors when it come to Mormonism and it's not Nibley.

kjones wrote:
As for myself, until someone better comes along, who writes and does scholarship on Mormon issues and the Mormon scriptural canon ... until someone better comes along, in or out of the church, I will stick with Nibley.

This sort of statement is really mind boggling. It's not a question of if someone has come along, it's that there are hundreds of someone's who have come along. The amount of quality scholastic material produced about Mormonism by scholars both in and out of the church, over the last 30 years is staggering. To admit that your still waiting for that special someone to come along to replace Nibley is to admit to a basic unfamiliarity with the subject mater itself. Seriously, if you are intent on undertaking a large scale reading project that will be beneficial to your knowledge and faith of Mormonism, do yourself a favor and ditch the horribly outdated works of Nibley and go with the top notch scholarship that can be found in The Joseph Smith Papers Now that is an undertaking worth doing, and for the record, in view of your interest in defending Oaks, Oaks has claimed to have read the entire set.

kjones wrote:
P.S. - I have heard several people say, other LDS scholars, that Richard Bushman is Nibley's successor. I would agree, although I don't think Bushman has Nibley's capacious and broad-ranging intellect.

I like Bushman and when it come to church history he is widely admired and respected. Of all the biographies that I have read on Joseph Smith his was the second best in my opinion. Brodie's work, as Bushman himself stated, was and is still better. As far as being Nibley's successor, well Nibley isn't even the gold standard, when it comes to the pinnacle of Mormon apologist, that would be Roberts, and given the fact that the field of Mormon studies has expanded so much since both Robert's and Nibley's time, I do not think we will ever see anyone even attempting to defend Mormonism on all fronts.

Did you read the link I provided in opening post? I don't think you did. This is what Bushman says (this was in 2010) not only about Nibley's response to Brodie, but about what he, Bushman, thinks of Brodie:

Quote:
You would think that his reply to Fawn Brodie’s "No Man Knows My History" would compel him to present a favorable portrait of Joseph Smith to set over against Brodie’s pious fraud. How could he treat a biography of Joseph Smith without making some biographical judgments of his own? Surely glimpses of Nibley’s Joseph would be found there. Not so. Most of Nibley’s response takes the form of attacks on Brodie’s scholarship and reasoning, not a defense of Joseph Smith. (Incidentally, it launches a rather powerful attack on Brodie, in my opinion. In recent years, the pamphlet has been so criticized for its sarcasm that it was a pleasure for me to discover on rereading it how on the mark it was.)

Nibley recognized that compared to previous biographers of Joseph Smith, Brodie gave the Prophet relatively kind treatment. In his opinion she did not write in anger, but although she went beyond the naked scorn of Riley and Linn, her portrait was in the end no more satisfying. “Brodie’s Joseph Smith is a more plausible character than the consummate fiend of the earlier school in that his type is much more likely to be met with on the street any Tuesday afternoon.”

But in the end Brodie’s Joseph was even less plausible than his predecessors. “No blundering, dreaming, undisciplined, shallow and opportunistic fakir could have left behind what Joseph Smith did, both in men’s hearts and on paper.”

What Brodie failed to explain was what this dreamer produced. Being, on Brodie’s account, a “completely undisciplined imagination,” with an imagination that “spilled over like a spring freshet” in a riot of intense color and luxuriant detail, having a wild, unbridled fancy that was not to be “canalized by any discipline,” Joseph should have produced a phantasmagoria of incoherent mishmash, but did he?

"Instead of an opium dream, we find an exceedingly sober document, that never flies off at tangents, never loses the thread of the narrative (which is often quite complicated), is totally lacking in oriental color, in which the sermons are confined to special sections, and which, strangest of all, never runs into contradictions. Joseph might get away with his 'outrageous lying' in little matters, but what outrageous liar can carry the game to half the length of the Old Testament without giving himself away hundreds of times? Brodie doesn’t say."

In the face of this extraordinary achievement, Joseph Smith as a person was in Nibley’s estimation irrelevant. We know a butcher who looks just like the great Johann Sebastian Bach, and he walks and talks and eats and breathes—the very things that Bach did—only there is one slight difference: the butcher can’t write music. Brodie’s Joseph is a real enough character—all the details are there, except one: he can’t do the things Joseph Smith did—the only things about Joseph Smith, incidentally, that really interest us.

There I think you have the heart of the matter. “The only things about Joseph Smith” that “really interest us,” Nibley says, is the music. He could have walked and talked like any butcher without it making a particle of difference. His personality is beside the point. Joseph produced a masterpiece and nothing else about him need concern us. Why then say more about his character or even his divine call?

Fence Sitter wrote:
kjones wrote:
I think what Richard Bushman thinks of Hugh Nibley can best be judged by his own words, in the essay I reference in opening post.

And we can judge what Bushman said about Brodie using his own words, so what is your point? Given Bushman depends so much more on Brodie in his RSR it clear which scholarship he favors when it come to Mormonism and it's not Nibley.

kjones wrote:
As for myself, until someone better comes along, who writes and does scholarship on Mormon issues and the Mormon scriptural canon ... until someone better comes along, in or out of the church, I will stick with Nibley.

This sort of statement is really mind boggling. It's not a question of if someone has come along, it's that there are hundreds of someone's who have come along. The amount of quality scholastic material produced about Mormonism by scholars both in and out of the church, over the last 30 years is staggering. To admit that your still waiting for that special someone to come along to replace Nibley is to admit to a basic unfamiliarity with the subject mater itself. Seriously, if you are intent on undertaking a large scale reading project that will be beneficial to your knowledge and faith of Mormonism, do yourself a favor and ditch the horribly outdated works of Nibley and go with the top notch scholarship that can be found in The Joseph Smith Papers Now that is an undertaking worth doing, and for the record, in view of your interest in defending Oaks, Oaks has claimed to have read the entire set.

kjones wrote:
P.S. - I have heard several people say, other LDS scholars, that Richard Bushman is Nibley's successor. I would agree, although I don't think Bushman has Nibley's capacious and broad-ranging intellect.

I like Bushman and when it come to church history he is widely admired and respected. Of all the biographies that I have read on Joseph Smith his was the second best in my opinion. Brodie's work, as Bushman himself stated, was and is still better. As far as being Nibley's successor, well Nibley isn't even the gold standard, when it comes to the pinnacle of Mormon apologist, that would be Roberts, and given the fact that the field of Mormon studies has expanded so much since both Robert's and Nibley's time, I do not think we will ever see anyone even attempting to defend Mormonism on all fronts.

Because sometimes people who don't know him have taken him for a closet unbeliever, Bushman (who is a former stake prez and patriarch) said this in 2016:

Quote:
July 19, 2016

In the middle of the week last week I began to receive thank you notes from people who had read a statement of mine about the Church’s historical narrative requiring reconstruction. I had no idea what was going on until Dan Peterson wrote about a “kerfuffle”—the word of choice for the occasion—on the blogs. At church on Sunday, D. Fletcher asked me, did you know you were the subject of a kerfuffle. A friend who had been mission president in Brazil sent me a link to a blog in Portugese. Eventually I learned it all began with the transcript of a comment I made at a fireside at Mark England’s house a little over a month ago and posted by John Dehlin.

Sampling a few of the comments on Dan Peterson’s blog I discovered that some people thought I had thrown in the towel and finally admitted the Church’s story of its divine origins did not hold up. Others read my words differently; I was only saying that there were many errors in the standard narrative that required correction.

The reactions should not have surprised me. People have had different takes on Rough Stone Rolling ever since it came out. Some found the information about Joseph Smith so damning his prophethood was thrown into question. Others were grateful to find a prophet who had human flaws, giving them hope they themselves could qualify for inspiration despite their human weaknesses. The same facts; opposite reactions.

The different responses mystify me. I have no idea why some people are thrown for a loop when they learn church history did not occur as they had been taught in Sunday School, while others roll with the punches. Some feel angry and betrayed; others are pleased to have a more realistic account. One theorist has postulated an “emotional over-ride” that affects how we respond to information. But the admission that we ourselves are subjective human beings whose rational mechanisms are not entirely trustworthy does not diminish our sense that we are right and our counterparts mistaken.

As it is, I still come down on the side of the believers in inspiration and divine happenings—in angels, plates, translations, revelations—while others viewing the same facts are convinced they disqualify Joseph Smith entirely. A lot of pain, anger, and alienation come out of these disputes. I wish we could find ways to be more generous and understanding with one another.

Richard Bushman

I think someone like Bushman can admire some bits of Brodie ... while at the same time entirely rejecting her conclusion. Or, one can admire the research (maybe even the writing, since Brodie was a gifted writer), while rejecting the conclusion.


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 Post subject: Re: Nibley defended Joseph Smith through scholarship, not te
PostPosted: Fri Mar 01, 2019 1:31 pm 
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There I think you have the heart of the matter. “The only things about Joseph Smith” that “really interest us,” Nibley says, is the music. He could have walked and talked like any butcher without it making a particle of difference. His personality is beside the point. Joseph produced a masterpiece and nothing else about him need concern us. Why then say more about his character or even his divine call?

Nibley's use of music is an excellent means to define Joseph and illustrate his significance. I am fond of the coda Nibley established straight away in his Sympathy for the Prophet:

Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a prophet of strength and grace.
Pleased to meet you!
Hope you guess my name
But what's confusing you
Is the nature of my game.


None of that pussyfooting around that past writers and Brodie did with their atonal prose. Nibley was going for the Koo-Koo-Ka-Choo in slamming Brodie and establishing another series of footnotes in the music publishing industry.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 06, 2019 12:24 pm 
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kjones wrote:
I think someone like Bushman can admire some bits of Brodie ... while at the same time entirely rejecting her conclusion. Or, one can admire the research (maybe even the writing, since Brodie was a gifted writer), while rejecting the conclusion.


We find plenty who do the same with a earth billions of years old. :confused:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJ599TQUiug

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 06, 2019 1:24 pm 
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Fence Sitter wrote:
If you really want to know what Bushman thought of Nibley's scholarship just compare the number of times Bushman quotes Brodie or Quinn as opposed to Nibley in Rough Stone Rolling. Even Bushman himself has acknowledge Brodie's work as preeminent.

Quote:
In 2005, LDS scholar Richard Bushman published a highly regarded biography of Smith entitled Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling which has frequently been compared to Brodie's work. In his book, Bushman noted that Brodie's "biography was acknowledged by non-Mormon scholars as the premier study of Joseph Smith"and called Brodie "the most eminent of Joseph Smith's unbelieving biographers." Bushman wrote in 2007 that Brodie had "shaped the view of the Prophet for half a century. Nothing we have written has challenged her domination. I had hoped my book would displace hers, but at best it will only be a contender in the ring, whereas before she reigned unchallenged."

Nibley, not so much.

When it comes to Nibley''s defense of the Book of Abraham, especially his ""gibberish" Egyptian translations he fares even worse. Ritner has observed:

Robert Ritner wrote:
In 1975 Hugh Nibley attempted both a transliteration and a literal, interlineal translation of only the unrestored portions of Fragments Xi & X. Designed strictly for an audience of believers, Nibley's volume was expressly composed to provide a Mormon rebuttal to the interpretive analysis of Egyptologist, including Baer, with whom he had studied briefly and informally. These word for word incomplete translations produced such results as ... were recognized by Nibley as "nonsense." While intended to highlight his quibbles over the nature of translations (to defend Joseph Smith's use of the term) Nibley's interlinear method of literal translation would necessarily produce gibberish from any language.

Tacitly acknowledging this source of embarrassment, John Gee and Michael Rhodes have attempted to justify Nibley's methods--while promptly dropping them--in their heavily "re-worked" edition of "The Message of the Joseph Smith Papryi".


Like most LDS I grew up idolizing Nibley as this really smart guy who believed and defended Mormonism. And like most Mormons any book I bought of his remained on the shelf, unread. Later on in life when I started examining what he actually said it was a huge let down. Instead of using scholarship to defend Mormonism, he was attacking scholarship he thought was critical Mormonism. The realty is that Nibley did not use scholarship to defend Mormonism, he used sophistry, parallelamania and rhetoric, most of which has not stood well the test of time. In Mormon circles he may still be much admired but in scholastic circles, especially non LDS ones, he is rarely referenced.

So go ahead and spend your time reading though a volume of books that are outdated and no longer relevant, even in modern LDS scholarship circles. But you should know that even within church circles much of what he has written has "not aged well." As LDS Historian David Whittaker noted:
Quote:
Hugh Nibley's 1961 The Myth Makers went even further, suggesting that there never was an 1826 trial. In his 1991 foreword to Tinkling Cymbals and Sounding Brass, historian David Whittaker acknowledged that a number of Nibley's conclusions had not aged well. Noting that Nibley "made no claims to be an expert in American or Mormon history" and wrote "in part under assignment, and preferring that his time could be devoted to other projects," Whittaker wrote: "Readers thirty years later should not be surprised to discover that, with the subsequent professionalization of the Church library and archives, the study of Mormon history has progressed on a variety of details discussed in Nibley’s works. For example, recent work has been done on the now available accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision, as well as on money digging and his 1826 trial, and the earliest treatments of his religious claims. . . . Such new research has strengthened Nibley’s arguments in many cases; it has corrected him in others."


For whatever genius he may have had, the amount of sustained puff and bluff undermined his potential and his legacy.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 08, 2019 8:25 pm 
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Sounds like a fun project, Kjones. As an undergraduate, I read all the Collected Works then published (up to 15 I think). I was already beyond belief when I first encountered Nibley, so I approached him from a rather unusual angle. I have never met another non-believer who took Nibley as seriously as I did, and anyone I know who took him seriously did so as a believer first, even if they later shed that belief. Anyway, I found Nibley to be a very poor scholar—potential untapped when not abused, though with some moments of sheer brilliance—but he is unquestionably the greatest writer Mormonism has ever had. For that reason, I always enjoy reading him and agree with you that his work has not been surpassed and won't be in the near future. Nibley was creative in the very literal meaning of the word: his picture of Mormonism was not simply the Received Version but rather one infused with particular colors from Nibley's own palette. It's a pity the brilliance of those colors are so rarely appreciated. I suspect Nibley's artistry is better appreciated and enjoyed by people who aren't reading him for validation as believers or hunting for holes and errors as non-believers.

On his social commentary, I admit its value to a point, but it is extremely ill-thought out and amounts to little more than sophomoric grumbling, however eloquently expressed. It is the easiest thing in the world to point out that someone is not leaving up to their stated ideal; the nature and function of ideals is that they define shortcomings, make them intelligible and clear. Nibley was good at pointing out where Mormons were not meeting their ideals, then, but the question is: how to meet them? What do you think he proposed for that? I've argued in this forum that his social criticism reveals Nibley to be as much of a literalist (fundamentalist?) as his scriptural scholarship, for his only his answers to social problems or political problems was to apply the scriptures literally—as if it were that easy to know what they say half the time!—and especially to follow what the Church leaders say. Of course, that kind of obsequiousness is part of the reason why Mormons don't meet up with their ideals—resulting more space for people like Nibley to come in and expose their inadequacy. I just don't see his critiques as having more depth than emotional gesturing—though learned and eloquent in its expression—but perhaps you can persuade me otherwise.

In any case, I hope your reading of Nibley will stimulate some interesting discussion.

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 Post subject: Re: Nibley defended Joseph Smith through scholarship, not te
PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2019 8:03 pm 
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I read probably half of his collected works as a teenager. In contrast to Symm, I was an avid believer when I read them but I had no knowledge of apologetics and I was barely aware of what anti-lit was. I was never a reader, but a friend got me into sci-fi, and then he got me into pseudoscience and church books such as Crowther's works and Skousen's. While my friend persisted in his childish delusions and is to this day a right-wing conspiracy nut (he isn't stupid by any means and has a very good mind for science, he's just childish), I read Since Cumorah, without any context as to what I was getting into, and I underwent a paradigm shift of sorts. It's not that I quit believing in conspiracies as such, but Nibley offered a new perspective I'd never encountered in the way he put his arguments together. Quite honestly, I'm not sure up to that point in my life I'd ever encountered an argument for anything. My exposure to science was entirely through Sci Fi and conspiracy writings, and I think I imagined science as an enterprise of armchair speculation and anecdotes (kind of like how the comment section at Sic et Non sees science as grown adults). Church books I read did perform analysis, but it was more about quoting past leaders and then painting whatever picture they wished to paint. So here's Nibley going off on the "Septuagint" and Dead Sea Isaiah and I'd never heard of any of this stuff, and then he's actually making evidence-based arguments. That must have made all kinds of sense to me so I went out and bought Gaster's Dead Sea Scrolls translation etc. My fascination with the other stuff just sort of drifted -- here was something you could really sink your teeth into with Nibley. And even better, Nibley had all kinds of accolades -- the way I read it, the entire scholarly world lived in fear of Hugh Nibley and admitted his was smarter than they were, knew more, and feared discussing scholarship with him. What I wonder about nowadays with Nibley, is the extend to which Nibley understood how the Chapel Mormon blindly followed his over-confident cynicism. Did he know? Was he okay with it? Well, that was a huge setup for failure. Unrelated to Nibley, I found myself in a library one day reading The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible and within about 20 minutes the paradigm shifted again and I never read another Nibley book.

As a bonus, as I've mentioned all of the above before but not sure about this one: Nibley's satire resonated with me than his scholarly stuff. My favorite Sci-fi series at that time was L. Ron Hubbard's Mission Earth, and Nibley's work reminded me quite a lot of that.

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 Post subject: Re: Nibley defended Joseph Smith through scholarship, not testimony
PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 5:47 am 
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I have a couple of thoughts here. First, Nibley was obviously not playing the same game as most academics. From one perspective it would appear that he must have been deeply cynical or delusional. Both charges more or less fit. I think we have to appreciate the world Nibley came out of. It was one that still felt intense pain and a sense of alienation due to persecution. The “world” rejected Smith, and the US government very nearly destroyed the LDS Church over polygamy. Nibley was much closer, generationally speaking, to these wounds. He also saw the hypocrisy that occurred when Zion embraced Babylon to make money, hence his penitential reverence for Brother Brigham.

So, what did he care about placing a literal reading of Smith’s revelations at the center of his methodology? If he got one over on the wicked, vain Gentiles, then all the better for Mormonism, eh? If he strongly rejected money and academic achievement for his mission of defending the kingdom and making antiquity harmonize with Joseph Smith’s ideas, then he could exorcize the demons of the past weighing upon him.

Secondly, Nibley represents those early followers of Smith who surpassed Smith’s learning by a country mile but lacked his charisma and imagination. They helped make Mormonism, lending it a patina of respectability and sophistication, not to mention some of its more intensely strange content. Having invested in the system in this way, they would not abandon it. Investment came from belief and it intensified belief in turn. Nibley continued the work of Cowdery, Phelps, and Seixas. This had almost nothing to do with being a scholar in the modern sense.


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 Post subject: Re: Nibley defended Joseph Smith through scholarship, not te
PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 9:03 am 
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Kishkumen wrote:
Nibley continued the work of Cowdery, Phelps, and Seixas

I can see the reference with both Cowdery and Phelps, and also the Pratt's might be here as well as Hyde, but why did you include Seixas? Was he a believer? I thought he was just the Hebrew teacher in Kirtland for a very brief time.

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 Post subject: Re: Nibley defended Joseph Smith through scholarship, not te
PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 9:14 am 
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Fence Sitter wrote:
Kishkumen wrote:
Nibley continued the work of Cowdery, Phelps, and Seixas

I can see the reference with both Cowdery and Phelps, and also the Pratt's might be here as well as Hyde, but why did you include Seixas? Was he a believer? I thought he was just the Hebrew teacher in Kirtland for a very brief time.

Oops! My brain slip. I meant Neibaur, Nibley’s ancestor.


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