Critics couldn't touch Nibley's faith

Hugh Nibley, one of the greatest defenders of Joseph Smith's work, didn't worry about vindicating the Prophet's character, said Richard L. Bushman at a lecture at BYU on Jan. 14.

Instead, Nibley concentrated on shifting the debate to what Joseph had produced: the Book of Mormon.

Bushman, the Howard W. Hunter Professor of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University (Calif.), was the inaugural speaker of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute's weekly lecture series honoring the centennial of the late professor Hugh W. Nibley's birth. Bushman looked at how Nibley "approached the Prophet from a strangely oblique angle."

Bushman explained that Joseph's character had been under heavy attack while Nibley was growing up. For example, historian I. Woodbridge Riley suggested the big question about Joseph Smith was: "Was he demented or merely degenerate?"

"The degradation of the Smiths eliminated entirely any need to take Joseph's work seriously," Bushman said.

Nibley took these types of arguments against Joseph Smith and turned them around.

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