Noted LDS historian Hugh Nibley dead at 94

Published: Thursday, Feb. 24 2005 1:49 p.m. MST

Noted Mormon historian, apologist and former Brigham Young University professor Hugh Nibley died Thursday. He was 94.

He died of natural causes, said family spokesman Chris Thomas. Nibley had been bedridden for about the last two years.

Nibley wrote more than 150 items, many of which are available in collected work published by FARMS, the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies housed at BYU.

His work was marked by "brilliance, unbelievable erudition," said Daniel Peterson, a BYU professor and FARMS review editor.

In his work as a defender of Mormon doctrine, he made critical observations of the church and its faithful that, if they had been said by an outsider, would have made people angry.

But Nibley's status within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints instead made Mormons think.

"He was a real critic of materialism and greed, and social status," Peterson said. "And on more than one occasion, he rebuked church members for doing that when they shouldn't. ... He was not only a scholar, but something of a social gadfly, very outspoken."

Nibley and his wife, Phyllis, had eight children.

"He was revered for his intellect, prodigious writing and integrity," son Alex Nibley said in a statement. "Hugh's wit and deep affection for his family and friends were apparent to the end. He was a man who lived life intensely and died in peace. He looked forward with eager anticipation to his journey to the other side."

One of his children, Martha Beck, has written a book, due in stores March 8, in which she claims Nibley sexually abused her as a child. Beck's claims in "Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith" were based on recovered memories revealed in therapy sessions.

Nibley was aware of the accusations and adamantly denied them, family members said.

"Knowing our sister and the circumstances of our home, we agree that Martha Beck's portrayal of our family in 'Leaving the Saints' is false," Beck's seven siblings said in a statement posted Tuesday on the FARMS' Web site. "We are saddened by the book's countless errors, falsehoods, contradictions, and gross distortions."

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