This comment by tom (#23) at Dave Banack’s challenging post over at T&S sums up why I think the Nibley approach to apologetics and its reception have, in part, had long term and still expanding negative effects on church members:
“Might not hurt to read a little Nibley along the way.. not exactly light reading, but take some time to examine the connections he makes with Enoch, Abraham, and ancient temple worship – through all the various non-biblical records that have come to light since the days of Joseph Smith. There really is a lot of evidence that Joseph was a prophet and that these restoration scriptures are really what they say they are.”
Here are some of the problems I see in these two sentences:
1. Nibley and his corpus of writings are assumed to be authoritative and can be wielded like a deceased General Authority and his conference talks.
2. Nibley’s work is dense and often impenetrable, and, therefore, just like Tallmadge’s Jesus the Christ, authoritative, irrefutable, irreplaceable, or un-updatable.
3. Obsession with finding ancient parallels and sources for modern LDS temple ritual revealing a basic assumption that ancient=genuine/divine
4. Strip-mining “non-biblical records that have come to light since the days of Joseph Smith” for the rare, usable nugget while disregarding everything else these texts offer or refuse to offer
5. Engaging in this strip-mining effort so that we can assertively and triumphantly ask: “How could Joseph have possibly known this?!”
6. Licensing every day members to make absolutist claims about the Book of Abraham, draw lines in the sand about its translation and provenance, make these criteria for heresy/orthodoxy and, to complete the circle, cite Nibley to prove one’s point about it.
7. Then drive by blog it to bash someone over the head
I value much of what Nibley wrote. His writings inspired a younger version of me and altered my life trajectory. But this continuing abuse of his work in the pursuit of faux-apologetics or chastisement is just plain bad. And all too common.