The 7 Hugh Nibley Quotes Every Mormon Should Know

Hugh Nibley was a man of great intellect and spiritual strength. As one of the most gifted scholars of the Church, Nibley enlightened many through his study of the gospel.

 To celebrate his life and contributions to members everywhere, here are seven inspirational quotes from this great religious scholar. 

1. We recognize what is lovely because we have seen it somewhere else, and as we walk through the world, we are constantly on the watch for it with a kind of nostalgia, so that when we see an object or a person that pleases us, it is like recognizing an old friend; it hits us in the solar plexus, and we need no measuring or lecturing to tell us that it is indeed quite perfect. It is something we have long been looking for, something we have seen in another world, memories of how things should be.

“Goods of First and Second Intent,” Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 9:528

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2. Don't be like anybody else. Be different. Then you can make a contribution. Otherwise, you just echo something; you're just a reflection.

“Apocryphal Writings,” Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 12:292

3. Who is righteous? Anyone who is repenting. No matter how bad he has been, if he is repenting he is a righteous man. There is hope for him. And no matter how good he has been all his life, if he is not repenting, he is a wicked man. The difference is which way you are facing. The man on the top of the stairs facing down if much worse off than the man on the bottom step who is facing up. The direction we are facing, that is repentance; and that is what determines whether we are good or bad.

"Funeral Address," Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 9:301-2

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4. A temple, good or bad, is a scale-model of the universe. [I believe] the first mention of the word templum is by Varro, for whom it designates a building specially designed for interpreting signs in the heavens—a sort of observatory where one gets one’s bearings on the universe.

“What Is a Temple?” Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 4:357-58

5. The only person you try to impress is your Heavenly Father, and it is awfully hard because he can’t be fooled—not for a minute. I have always felt driven in this way. The gospel is so wonderful. There is so much to find out. It opens the doors to so many things. It is sort of an obsession, a sort of personal thing. As long as you are going to be doing something, why not be doing something that hasn’t been done before?

“Nibley the Scholar,” 2

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6. If you take yourself seriously, you won’t take the gospel seriously and the other way around. If you take the gospel seriously then you will say, now I know that man is nothing. . . . Oh, the nothingness of man. We can joke about ourselves once we take the gospel seriously and once we know its blessings and promises. Then we can relax and breathe easily and have some fun, which I don’t do enough of.

“Nibley the Scholar,” 2

7. Work is, after all, not a busy running back and forth in established grooves, though that is the essence of our modern business and academic life, but the supreme energy and disciplined curiosity required to cut new grooves. 

"Great Are the Words of Isaiah," Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 1:232

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Collected Works of Hugh Nibley

Hugh Nibley received his Ph.D. in history from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1939, and was an emeritus professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University. A prolific writer, a keen and witty observer, and a relentless critic of the worldly, he has led members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of all ages to a deeper understanding of and commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Dr. Nibley passed away in February 2005.

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