Hugh Nibley dies, leaving scholarly legacy

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    By Julie Espinosa

    Prominent LDS scholar and BYU professor-emeritus Hugh Nibley died in his sleep at age 94 Thursday morning in his Provo home.

    He is survived by his wife, Phyllis Draper Nibley, and their eight children.

    Friends and colleagues said Nibley?s unique blend of faith and scholarship set a precedent for the LDS scholarly community. He lived his life consistently with his ?big picture? vision of the gospel, which he related to every other subject, they said.

    Nibley?s primary contact with BYU in about the last 20 years has been through the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS).

    ?He has stood as an example for thousands of people of how the dust of the world can be used effectively and honestly to support and defend the Restoration,? FARMS Director Noel Reynolds said. ?His work paved the way for a new generation of scholars that are taking research on Restoration scriptures to an even higher level.?

    Nibley was born March 27, 1910, in Portland, Ore. He graduated summa cum laude from the University of California at Los Angeles and completed his doctorate as a University Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. He taught at Claremont College in California before serving in military intelligence in World War II. He has been associated with Brigham Young University since 1946.

    Nibley has been credited with proficiency in as many as 20 languages. He listed 14 on his curriculum vitae when he applied to teach at BYU. In his lifetime, he published numerous books and articles on the gospel, sharing insights gleaned from ancient records and artifacts.

    Neil A. Maxwell once remarked that Nibley was like a miner, scouring caves for their valuable ore. Nibley?s son-in-law Boyd Peterson wrote the biography ?Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life? and described Nibley?s mind as encyclopedic.

    ?He was into everything. There was no field he wasn?t interested in,? Peterson said.

    FARMS has worked to publish Nibley?s complete works and will publish his last book, ?One Eternal Round,? when it is fully edited. The Harold B. Lee Library archive personnel are in the midst of cataloging boxes of his correspondence, lesson plans and other papers.

    Friends and colleagues cherished Nibley?s genuine personality and spiritual outlook. He loved to be around children and would happily stop to play with them. He was sometimes critical but never looked down on people, Peterson said.

    ?He was one of few people I know who was absolutely faithful and committed to the gospel yet quite critical of Mormon culture,? Peterson said.

    In past years, Nibley?s mobility was restricted, but his mind was unceasingly active, friends said. He was nearly as exuberant in his old age as he was in younger years.

    At press time, funeral and burial details have not been announced.

    Gary Gillum, a BYU Ancient Studies librarian who has had much contact with Nibley?s works and documents, summed up Nibley?s lasting effect.

    ?He opened a lot of doors for many, many scholars,? Gillum said. ?There are a dozen BYU professors who can credit what they do to Brother Nibley?s influence. But there?s not ever going to be another Hugh Nibley.?

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