- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 24, 2005

Hugh Nibley, 94, Mormon historian

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Hugh Nibley, an outspoken Mormon historian, professor and defender of the faith, died of natural causes Feb. 24. He was 94.

Mr. Nibley, who a family spokesman said had been bedridden for the past two years, was widely known in the Mormon world for his teachings and writings, but his legacy became clouded recently when one of his children accused him of molesting her as a child.

Martha Beck made the accusations in a book due in stores next month called “Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith.” She said memories of the abuse were recovered in therapy sessions.

Miss Beck, a columnist for Oprah Winfrey’s O magazine, said she confronted her father four years ago and he denied her accusations.

“My sister just told me one of the last things he said was, ‘I just loved Martha so much. She was my favorite,’ ” Miss Beck told the Associated Press from her Phoenix home. “He was my favorite, too, and that’s why I’ve done everything I’ve done. I wanted us all to heal.”

Family members, however, denounced the book. “We are saddened by the book’s countless errors, falsehoods, contradictions and gross distortions,” Mr. Nibley’s seven other children said in a statement this week.

Mr. Nibley was a professor at Brigham Young University. His writings were marked by “brilliance, unbelievable erudition,” said Daniel Peterson, a professor at the university.

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

“He was a real critic of materialism and greed and social status,” Mr. Peterson said. “And on more than one occasion, he rebuked church members for doing that when they shouldn’t.”

Mr. Peterson added: “He was not only a scholar, but something of a social gadfly, very outspoken.”

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