About Hugh Nibley [off the record]

Hugh Nibley with scary eyes

Religious scholars are very serious people.

Hugh Nibley, 1910-2005, was the strongest intellectual defender of the LDS Church, and, at the same time, Mormon culture’s “gad-fly critic.”

The world knew Hugh Nibley as a writer, lecturer and public speaker. However, he was also a prolific and serious letter-writer, and he came from a time and tradition that regarded conversation as a fine art. This blog is made up mostly of material from Nibley’s unpublished writings, interviews and conversations. We think you will find the posts here entertaining, thought-provoking,  and perhaps even sometimes enlightening.

There are a few things readers should remember when reading these posts:

  • Much of what appears here was never intended for public consumption. Hugh Nibley was a careful editor when preparing his work for publication and made sure what his text said was what he really meant. Many of the letters and conversation you will see here were candid and unguarded, and may contain things he would not have said if had taken time to edit himself.
  • Many of these posts are based on material several decades old, and on certain subjects Hugh Nibley changed his mind over the years.
  • Hugh Nibley often spoke and wrote in an ironic voice, and what he said wasn’t always what he meant. Those close to him knew that, but it isn’t always apparent to others.

We welcome all comments on the posts, both positive and critical; but this is a moderated blog and only comments approved by the editors will be posted. Hugh Nibley loved the give and take of spirited discussion, especially with those who disagreed with him. However, having shuffled off this mortal coil, he will not be able to respond to your questions and comments here.

Finally, we know there are many hundreds of letters and personal stories out there from and about Hugh Nibley, and if you have any you would like to share, we would love to hear from you.


13 Responses to About Hugh Nibley [off the record]

  1. Rebecca Everett says:

    The website takes you to the Portrait I painted of Hugh, which hangs in the Ancient Studies Room at the HBLL, 5th floor BYU. The explanation of the painting is below:


    A Note About the Painting

    I designed the portrait to include many ideas and images that could be associated with Dr. Nibley and his life’s interests. It is built upon a collage of images from the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Nag Hammadi, the facsimiles, a row of scroll jars along the bottom, images of various temples, ancient and modern, and images from the BYU campus area where he has spent so much of his time teaching and in research.

    Placed over the collage is the shape of a large circle representing many symbols: i.e. the sun, the symbol for time, or a day; a reminder of the prayer circle; the disk of the sun god Ra; a ring, Uroboros, the cycle of life; eternity… etc. This was delineated in 18k gold leaf with a sketchy inner edge and a defined outer edge, aligning with the arches on the upper corners of the piece, formed by images of papyrus-headed pillars from an Egyptian temple. Up in the bits of sky visible outside the arches and bounded by linear representations of the square and the compass, are constellations, on the left: the Big Dipper, by which most of us orient ourselves to find the North Star; and on the right: Orion, of all the constellations, the one most easily recognized by Anyman, and thus perhaps an entry point, or first step toward a personal and intimate contemplation of the mysteries of God.

    The portrait itself is painted in oils on vellum, which was superimposed over the collage and further developed in many layers of glazes so that the underlying images are secondary to the portrait, yet still discernible. I wanted to portray the nobility of scholarship, the quizzical disinterest in the honors of men, and a subtle but definite twinkle in his eye that speaks of the deep joy derived from the daily study of the gospel, and the surprise and delight of encountering truths dressed in types and metaphors.

    Inscribed in gold ink and forming a sort of frame to the bottom third of the painting, and into which descends the lower third of the large circle (making an overall under-image of the hieroglyphic symbol denoting “horizon”) is the outline of the temple plan, as found on the Qumran Temple Scroll. I especially liked how the East gate centers upon Dr. Nibley’s point of concentration in the small image of him at work on the bit of papyrus we know as “Facsimile Number One“, and that the “Holy of Holies” lies directly over his heart.

    Included in the piece are his ubiquitous stacks of hand-written 3×5 cards, which I felt MUST be a part of any true portrayal of the man, along with a book of scripture close at hand. My husband Dennis has recounted to me his memories of Dr. Nibley’s office in the JSB, when as a freshman back in 1969, his part time janitorial job took him into that sanctum. He will never forget the frisson of heightened feeling and reverence that fluttered over him as he attempted to sweep and dust while negotiating the labyrinth of shoe boxes full of documents and stacks of notes. He realized that this office was the workplace and second home of a true scholar.

    Along the left edge of the piece I’ve inscribed a column of hieroglyphics that read approximately: “I, Rebecca, make this offering; this portrait, or image; this likeness or similitude; by my two hands, actually; as an honor, or in honor of ~(Hugh Nibley)~ (in a cartouche) He who perceives and understands truth; discovers or uncovers things that are hidden; an instructor or teacher; a wise expert and adept; a just and truth-speaking man; a learned man of great understanding; an untier of knots or solver of difficulties; pertaining to ancient writings or manuscripts; a truthful scribe; concerning old records and ancient laws; a whole lifetime; his heart was glad to do it. In celebration of his 90th birthday: All Life! All health! All prosperity! All stability! All joy of heart!”

    ~Rebecca F. Everett

  2. Were you guys aware that you have a pretty regular issue with duplicate tweets? I love this twitter account and blog, but it’s becoming a little severe. Thank you for providing this service!

    • Hugh Nibley says:

      Jared, thanks for your input. We had noticed that a lot of HN’s Twitter followers follow a lot of people and also that some followers tend to pick up tweets at different times of the day. By scheduling tweet repeats at different times, we hoped people who might be missing them would get a chance to see them. And in several instances we’ve had retweets and favorites of repeated tweets, indicating we probably were hitting some people who had missed things the first time around. That said, we always want people to see the HN logo as a sign that there’s something there that’s fresh and thought provoking. Thank you for reading and responding.

  3. Jane Nibley Gardner says:

    I am so enjoying Hugh’s blog! His brilliance and wit are wonderful and I wish I could have known both Hugh and his family through the years.

  4. benjamin says:

    Hugh Was and still is one of the greatest minds to walk this wonderful earth we live on!!!!!

  5. Tony Batanero says:

    Thank you for this blog

  6. Sheryl says:

    I am an unabashed Nibley fan. I have all his books and lectures, both tape and book. One day in Deseret Book, years ago, I heard his voice. I knew it well, having listened to his tapes innumerable times. I turned and there he stood conversing with an employee. I was breathless. I wanted to tell him how much I admired him but I thought he’d be embarrassed. So I didn’t say anything. To meet him would have been my idea of meeting a “rock star”. In the eternities I do want to meet him. What a mind!

  7. Bill Card says:

    Thank you.

  8. NH says:

    Do you have rss-feed or is the email subscribtion the only way to follow you?

  9. Pingback: Hugh Nibley’s on Twitter! And has a Blog – Temple Study - LDS Temples, Mormon Temples, Study Blog

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