I met Boyd Peterson at Utah Valley State College in the the Summer of 2004. We were both in a week long faculty seminar on ethics-across-the-curriculum.
I had recently read Boyd’s biography of his father-in-law Hugh Nibley. Having never attended BYU, I had not had many opportunities to discuss Nibley and I was excited to meet Boyd.
In our conversation, Boyd mentioned something that has stuck with me. He said that Nibley fans fall into two categories: 1. Approaching Zion Nibleyites and 2. Temple and the Cosmos Nibleyites. The thing that struck me about this is that I considered myself to be in both categories. I still do.
Approaching Zion (AZ) is Nibley’s great work of egalitarianism. It is a scathing critique of the greed and pride of the 1970s and 1980s. The critique very much applied to the 1990s and beyond. Nibley draws upon ancient scripture and modern prophets to tackle what has become a dominant school of thought in American socio-economic thinking…Social Darwinism.
The Temple and The Cosmos (TC) is a collection of Nibley’s essays and talks on the temple. To be honest, TC is farther from my area of expertise than is other Nibley works like AZ and Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints (BB). While I cannot comment on the academic merits of Nibley’s writings on the temple, they have helped me gain an appreciation of the temple. Mostly it has done this by teaching me to approach the temple through both a spiritual and interpretive lens. This approach has led me to love the temple, something which I had struggled to grasp.
Both of these strands of Nibley’s thought are important. They are both of great value to me. They are also complex and nuanced.
Years ago, SmallAxe challenged me to take back Nibley from the zealots. These zealots tarnish the legacy of Hugh Nibley.
So, this begins a series. In the U2 live album Rattle and Hum, Bono takes back the Beatles song Helter Skelter. Conceding Nibley to the anti-intellectuals does a disservice to not only the legacy of Nibley, but also to Mormonism. I am taking him back.