By GREG DELONG
For someone once destined to become a Lutheran minister, Gary Gillum could never have predicted the role he would some day play as a member of the LDS faith.
But since joining the church more than 30 years ago, Gillum has led a remarkable life, the last 28 years of which have been characterized as the personal librarian and friend of famed LDS scholar Hugh Nibley.
?It was a relationship that really wasn?t even academic, but it wasn?t a best friend thing either,? said Gillum. ?It was understanding where we were both coming from in the gospel and knowing what the gospel had to offer.?
Gillum, currently subject librarian for religion, philosophy and ancient studies at the Harold B. Lee Library, was born in Indianapolis, Ind. As the child of a career Air Force father, Gillum and his family lived in many locations.
For seven years, Gillum studied to become a Lutheran minister. Much of his education centered on this aspiration. On realizing he was uncomfortable with the theology and tenants of the Lutheran faith, Gillum abruptly ended his fledgling career.
At one point in 1969, he came across an article in the Improvement Era entitled ?The Unknown Abraham,? by Hugh Nibley. The article helped him realize that faith and scholarship could be effectively combined, he said. Soon after, Gillum joined the LDS church while working as a librarian in Indianapolis, where he also married his first wife.
After completing his graduate work at BYU, the university offered him a position in the general reference section. That was in 1971. Six years later, he had his first formal introduction to Hugh Nibley.
That same year, Gillum had started compiling an index and bibliography for the thousands of sources Nibley had used. Hearing of the work through the grapevine, Nibley came and met with Gillum. Nibley could not understand why anyone would bother to write about him, which was typical of Nibley, Gillum said.
They soon established a warm but low-key relationship, an important part of which involved Gillum locating materials for Nibley.
?After a while, he figured that I was the best one to come to when he couldn?t find a book,? Gillum said.
In an online article titled ?The Works of Hugh Nibley: How a Professional Development Project Lasted 25 Years,? Gillum states that in part he qualified to work with Nibley because they both had such a diversity of interests. In particular, both had a love for foreign languages. Nibley is reported to have spoken or read over 20 languages.
Through the many years of his association with Nibley, Gillum helped write and edit numerous Nibley works. Some of the work he is most proud of includes editing both Nibley?s ?Abraham in Egypt? and ?Nibley on the Timely and Timeliness? as well as working with the Nibley archives, Gillum said.
In addition to editing various Nibley books, Gillum wrote his own book titled ?Of all Things! Classic Quotations from Hugh Nibley.? He was responsible for naming the ancient studies library the Hugh Nibley ancient studies room, and also archived the personal correspondences of Nibley.
Outside the academic realm, Gillum shared a special bond with Nibley because of music. The wives of both men played together in the Utah Valley Symphony at one point. When their wives would talk of music, the two scholars would talk of theology or of their shared interests, Gillum said.
The bonds shared with Nibley and with the library were a source of strength to Gillum, which proved very important to him as he passed through his own personal struggles. Gillum?s first wife died in 1977 and his second wife died nine years later, both of cancer.
?The library has been kind of a haven for me, and the teachings of Hugh Nibley as well to help me through all of that,? Gillum said.
During his tenure with Nibley, Gillum learned from him to seek after all kinds of knowledge. One of the greatest principles learned during that time was how to be a master of learning, he said.
With the recent death of Nibley, Gillum would have people remember him for the legacy of combining faith and scholarship that he left. Elder Neil A. Maxwell also recognized the work and capabilities of Nibley.
?Isn?t it wonderful that the Lord didn?t put him in the Middle Ages in some monastery working with ancient texts, and we?d have lost his genius??