Farewell Professor Nibley

February 24, 2005

Professor Hugh Nibley has just passed away. We greatly mourn his passing. He has been an inspiration to us all. Allison and I are glad that Allison’s father had a chance to say goodbye to him yesterday. This will make our reading of his 1954 lecture notes on Apostles and Bishops in Early Christianity a very different experience than we had anticipated.

Anti-Mormon Trump Card III

February 23, 2005

On an earlier thread, I asked whether sexual abuse of the type that Martha Nibley Beck is accusing her father Hugh Nibley of perpetrating will become the new anti-Mormon trump card. This trump card allows self-proclaimed enemies of or detractors from the Church to sidestep all those inconvenient scholarly treatments of the historicity of the Book of Mormon or the plausibility of LDS doctrine and faith (or the implausibility of the criticisms against such, for that matter) and defeat such scholarship without having to use footnotes or spend time in a library.

Later, I revisited the question when O Magazine, that venerable source of knowledge, supported Beck’s book–and therefore its spurious claims–in its March column. O Magazine’s endorsement of the book, I surmised, seemed to support my predictions that this book has the potential both to damage the Church on its own and to set a new trend for anti-Mormon tactics.

One commenter had doubts that my analysis was sound based on my arguments that she was alleging sexual abuse against her father precisely as a way to attack the Church. He though it was more reasonable to think that her allegations stemmed from mental illness coupled with guilt and pride. He wrote

I tend to go with the “guilt and pride” primary motivator rather than the idea of MNB primarily seeking to carry out a strategic attack on LDS religious tenets or her father’s substantive work.

A story in the New York Times displaying Beck’s book, however, lends support to my original suspicion about Beck’s purpose in alleging sexual abuse against her father:

The book, being published next month by Crown, an imprint of Random House, has attracted significant criticism both for its depiction of sacred Mormon ceremonies and for the author’s effort to tie her sexual abuse to what she says were mental disturbances suffered by her father because of his role as the Mormon Church’s “chief apologist.”

In other words, Beck is trying to show that the Church caused Hugh Nibley to abuse her, so, in the end, she is hitting the Church through devastating her father. They are one and the same in this situation, and she achieves two things simultaneously with these allegations: (1) as I have written before, she dispenses with the need to address sound scholarship, both by her father and by numerous other meticulous apologists, by simply coupling outdated anti-Mormon arguments with allegations of sexual abuse in the same paragraph, and (2) she is able to erase a lifetime of research and scholarship done by her father, the veritable father of academic “Mormon Studies” by discrediting him through these allegations. The field for future haters of the Church is now white, already to harvest: just allege sexual abuse and you won’t need to worry anymore about the work FARMS is doing.

[UPDATE 2/24/05: The Nibley family has set up a website in defense of Hugh Nibley that both maintains the ethic of the Nibley family and rebukes Beck’s approach in her book:; “No one in our family has any desire to choose sides between our father and our sister; however, intellectual honesty is a fundamental value of the Nibley family, and sadly we do not see that tradition reflected in “Leaving the Saints.”]

Ideology Before Common Sense

February 23, 2005

President Bush is in Europe discussing Iran, among other things, with our “Allies.” Today, he was with German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, a social democrat. They claimed the differences over Iraq are behind them and that they are united against Iran’s attempts to develop nuclear weapons. I’m not sure how reliable such an expression of solidarity is coming from Schröder, but it is nice to have, nonetheless.

What struck me about this otherwise unremarkable development is the protestor pictured below. This woman apparently puts ideology before all common sense. I can certainly understand her opposition to the war. We should avoid war whenever possible (I assume she doesn’t oppose the American war effort to defeat the Nazis, but why complicate such questions?). But when she protests against Capitalism, that just makes me question her intelligence period. I am no economist, but it doesn’t take much more than Economics 101 at any college or university taught by someone who is not a Stalinist to convince someone with a small amount of common sense that capitalism is the very soul of a vibrant economy, which in turn, is a necessary prerequisite for prosperity and a high standard of living. It might be that a self-determining people might eventually choose to heavily regulate free market or replace it altogether with a social market economy (which still runs on the basic principles of capitalism and completely avoids central economic planning), but this can only really happen after capitalism has created a vibrant economy in the first place. Jumping too soon into a social market economy is a recipe for disaster, and once again, a social market economy, such as the one in Germany, still fully runs on principles of capitalism; the difference is that the people have chosen to part with more of their capitalistically earned wealth for the sake of providing welfare and entitlements to a larger segment of society on a broader range of issues.

The sign reads “No to War and Capitalism”

The other irritating thing is that European protestors always harp on the highly inaccurate idea that Bush is the real war criminal. This evidences a remarkable misunderstanding of international law. If they were aware of the international definitions of crimes, whether codified in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, or in principles of customary international law, or in UN treaties or conventions, then they would have to merely say that We wish international law were such that Bush were a war criminal. Whether the Iraq War was morally just or unjust is not the question here; rather, the question is whether it can serve as a basis for the accusation that Bush is a war criminal. Under the current state of international law, that case simply cannot be made.

Good Luck Jordan!

February 21, 2005

Good luck to Jordan starting tomorrow and going until Thursday. He is taking the Texas State Bar Exam in order to practice law in Dallas. I truly feel for you but I know you will succeed marvelously. Rest assured, you are in our prayers as you sit there pumping your brain for bits of legal information. . . .

Mysterious Mermaid on the Baltic

February 18, 2005

Many people are aware of Denmark’s famous little mermaid, sitting on a stone in the harbor near Copenhagen looking wistfully to the Baltic sea. It has been there since 1912 and has attracted millions of tourists.

(Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid, 1912)

Mysteriously, a new Mermaid, this time not so “little,” has surfaced from the Baltic sea, this time off the German Baltic coast at the East German resort town of Boltenhagen, situated bewteen Lübeck and Rostock, just northwest of Wismar. Follow this link for a picture of the seductive sea creature. The new mermaid appeared on this stone at Boltenhagen on the Baltic on the New Year’s Morning 2005. This is no joke: no one knows where she came from, who created her, how she got there, or any other detail with relation to her. The linked article, which contains a picture of the mermaid, is entitled “Noone Knows Where the Naked Beauty Comes From,” and notes that neither the responsible bureaucratic entities, nor the town’s mayor know anything about the appearance of the mermaid. No application was made nor permission given to place the mermaid where it is:

Ahnungslos zucken dagegen die Experten des Landratsamtes die Schultern. Sie haben weder einen Antrag bearbeitet noch den Sitzplatz in der Ostsee genehmigt.

Are Ancestors Pulling Strings?

February 17, 2005

I have four brothers. So far, 4/5 of us boys have served missions. The fifth is a senior in high school and we hope that he too will serve a mission. The odd thing is that three out of the four of us who have served have served in GERMANY. I served in the Germany Leipzig/Dresden Mission, John served in Berlin, and my brother Adam served in Frankfurt. We have also had several cousins serve in Germany- some more distant than others. For example, John actually served as a companion with his second cousin at one point in Berlin. Our first cousin had just finished his mission in Berlin when John arrived there. I think somebody is pulling strings up in heaven. Have you ever thought that about your ancestors?

(Franklin D. Richards)

Our great-great-great grandfather, Franklin D. Richards, served for a long while as the President of the European Mission. In that capacity, he organized the first branch in Dresden in October of 1855. Just prior to that, he baptized the first Mormons in the then Kingdom of Saxony, in the Elbe River- Karl G. Maeser and his brother-in-law, Edward Schoenfeldt. Things in Saxony at that time were dangerous for Mormons- the baptism was performed at midnight under cover of darkness.

I served for several months in Meissen, where Karl G. Maeser was born. I walked daily by the house, which has been refurbished by the Church, where he was born. I often paused and looked into the Elbe, trying to contemplate that first baptism of Karl G. Maeser. However, at that time I had no idea that my ancestor had baptized him. Still I felt a strange connection to the place, and I knew that it was where I needed to be.

A few months after serving in Meissen, I went to Leipzig. One brother in the Leipzig Ward has collected nearly every copy of the Stern from the beginning of its publication (in 1869) until the present day. When I had the privilege of dining with his family one evening, I became quite interested in his collection and began perusing it. I took out one, and only one, copy from 1916. As I looked down, I was very surprised to see the face of my Great-Great Grandfather, George F. Richards (son of Franklin D., father to Legrande Richards). The Stern was reporting that he had just been called to serve as the European Mission President. The good brother whose home we were in could not believe it- for him it was a testimony to the “spirit of Elijah” turning the hearts of the children to the fathers. And in a way it was, for it was looking in the eyes of my Great-Great Grandfather that day which prompted an interest in my heart about family history.

(George F. Richards)

Well, the point is that I feel as though our ancestors have orchestrated a stream of descendant missionaries to continue preaching the gospel in Germany- especially in the former East Germany. Is that possible? Has anyone else experienced similar feelings?

[UPDATE by john fowles: I have spoken with Aaron, who is our only brother who did not serve a mission in Germany (so far–Austin still has yet to serve his mission). Aaron served in Japan, and it seems there is an uncanny ancestoral connection to his mission in Sendai, as well.

Our uncle Elliot Richards (our grandmother Helen Richards Fellows’s brother) was instrumental in bringing the Gospel to Japan after World War II. He baptized a man from Sendai named Tatsui Sato who became instrumental in building up the Church in Japan after WWII (see Our Heritage: A Brief History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. [Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, Inc., 1996], 117). Drawing mainly from Our Heritage and personal discussion with Elliot Richards, Aaron has written the following concerning Elliot Richards’ role:

Elliot Richards was a servicemen and was stationed at Camp Okazaki—not too far away from a town called Narumi. Narumi is the town that the Sato family resided in following World War II. As I was researching the life of Tatsui Sato, I found that before the war, he went to a small town north of Tokyo called Sendai to study at Tohoku University. I served my mission in Sendai—only the town isn’t very small anymore! After graduating from Tohoku Imperial University, Tatsui taught at the University and local schools for some time, then he moved to Tokyo—Kawasaki to be precise. He worked as a research supervisor at the Nippon Metal Industrial Company, but eventually quit that job because he observed that Japan’s steel was inferior to American steel. He had determined long before the war was over that America was going to win because of the inferior quality of steel Japan used. After his resignation, he went back to the town that he was born in, Narumi. This set him up to meet the servicemen, and my grand uncle, Elliot Richards.

The servicemen were really diligent with missionary work. The Sato family was fortunate to have met the LDS servicemen when they did. Within a few months, the soldiers were all moved from Camp Okazaki to Osaka. He first met Mormon soldiers on Thursday evening, 15 November 1945. There is speculation of whether they talked about the church then or not, but regardless of this fact, they met. Two servicemen were so impressed with Tatsui—probably because he was very intellectual and spoke English well—that they invited another guy, Davis, to come along when the went back the following week. Tatsui Sato recorded that he saw them outside the shop, apparently waiting for transportation back to the base. In reality, unbeknownst to him, they had come with the purpose of seeing him.

After knowing the members for a month or two he was taught the discussions—or at least given lessons about the church. Finally Elliot Richards met him. Elliot Richards and Tatsui Sato became close friends quickly. The army relocated, however, in February 1946. This did not disrupt letters that were sent between the Sato Family and Elliot. In May 1946, the Satos wished to join the church, but the servicemen had all left. One of the servicemen visited the Sato family and set up an appointment for baptism at a conference that was scheduled for early July. Without knowing about the baptismal date, Elliot wrote a letter to his friend that was back in the United States. He mentioned that, “Ray, I wish that before I leave here, I could see the Sato’s baptized in the Church…They are a humble people, and have a mission to perform here among their own people.”

Elliot Richards was impressed by the letters from the Sato family, and he shared them with his friend, Boyd K. Packer. Elliot Richards and Boyd K. Packer felt that they should say a prayer for the Sato family after reading a few of the letters one night. Richards says after praying, “As we were leaving Boyd felt impressed to say that it would come about and that we would see it! At the time there was absolutely no outward indication of such a possibility.”

After they had this experience, Boyd K. Packer was transferred to Osaka. Upon transfer, however, Brother Packer was able to meet W. Richard who had just seen the Sato family and invited them to be baptized. Because of this, when Elliot Richards called Boyd K. Packer to see how he was doing, he found out that the Sato family would be baptized on the 7th of July. Elliot Richards was being casualized the 3rd of July, so he was going to be able to attend. It took some effort to work around all the details, and it looked as if he wouldn’t be able to go. Elliot Richards was able to miraculously talk his commanding officer into letting him go there instead of being shipped off on another earlier day.

The Sato family was baptized on July 7, 1946. In 1957, Tatsui Sato completed a second and much needed translation of the Book of Mormon in more modern Japanese.

This is not all, however. Another ancestor, LeGrand Richards, our Grandmother’s uncle, set apart the first patriarch in Asia–a member from Japan.

(LeGrande Richards)

Thus, it seems, not only Jordan, Adam, and I, who served in Germany where Franklin D. and George F. Richards had labored, had ancestors intrigally involved in our future mission fields. Aaron, who served in the Japan Sendai mission, also has ancestral ties to his mission field, as foreign as it was to this Anglo-Danish family.

I think that Jordan might be onto something with his speculation that our ancestors can or are pulling strings for us. If that is not the case, then perhaps it is just evidence of how we fit into God’s overall plan for the progress of his Church and our own paths to eternal life.]

O Magazine Supports Beck

February 17, 2005

So much for the hype in the Bloggernacle that supposedly dispelled any notions that Oprah would support Beck’s outlandish anti-Mormon claims and false accusations that Hugh Nibley sexually abused her as a child. The March 2005 page for Oprah’s books sponsors Beck’s book. (This might be the one and only time that this blog ever links to Oprah’s sensationalist, pop-psychology website.)

The endorsement of the book, as unfortunate as it is, didn’t have to be as bad as it is. However, Oprah’s site uses language that presents Beck’s controversial, spurious, and religiously bigoted work as undisputed and established fact:

Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith (Crown) is Beck’s uncensored account of her chilling discovery that her father—a famous apologist for the Mormon Church—molested her as a child, and of how confronting that holy terror, now in his 90s, helped her complete her arduous journey “out of religion and into faith.”

Notice the language of this description of the book. It presents Beck’s allegations as fact (“uncensored account,” “chilling discovery,” “molested her as a child”). There is no hint in any of this that these are unproven, and, frankly, outrageous allegations.

Melissa Proctor, in the comments over at this BCC thread, has such a high level of faith in the American reading public that she doesn’t see much of a threat to the Church from Beck’s work. Apparently, she believes that the average American reads critically enough to see that Beck’s allegations are unfounded and stem from pop-psychological “recovered memories” from psycho-hypnotic procedures.

My earlier post about Beck’s book, on the other hand, pointed out where the danger lies for the Church in these allegations. Beck is able to erase her father’s career of dedicated and sound scholarship into the historical and cultural setting for the Book of Mormon and other aspects of Latter-day Saint faith by simply alleging that he sexually abused her and then adding unsupported and discredited anti-Mormon criticisms in the same paragraph as such allegations. Thus, she avoids the pesky detail that mountains of subsequent scholarly debate about the very anti-Mormon points that she dredges up has occured since these anti-Mormon criticisms against the plausibility of Latter-day Saint faith first surfaced in the nineteenth century. She doesn’t have to address any of the “apologetics” that defends the Church with sound research against her very accusations; rather, she plays the new anti-Mormon trump card: allegations of sexual abuse.

The American public is going to love this. It sets up an easy target–the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–for ridicule for an audience all too eager to find reasons to denigrate the Church. This audience is made up of a blend of Evangelicals and secular atheists, neither of which want to see the Church portrayed in a good light by any forum. This audience also reads the National Enquirer and hungers and thirsts after the newest “drama” and sensationalist reporting. Regardless of how inaccurately and absurdly the book portrays the Church and life in Utah, as well as the outlandish accusations against the Church’s greatest scholarly apologist, and despite the role that a discredited pop-psychological procedure of hypnotically recovering “lost memories” plays, Oprah and Oprah’s audience are going to receive it very well and take it as truth.

Welcome Ebenezer Orthodoxy

February 17, 2005

Jonathan Max Wilson, aka Ebenezer Orthodoxy, has accepted an invitation to be the first ever guest blogger at a bird’s eye view. He was gracious enough to come help with a template issue and we wanted him to stay on for a while to lift us up with his unique perspective and insights.

Jon has been a friend of mine and Allison’s for close to ten years now. I first met him as an undergraduate at BYU while living in the BYU Foreign Language Student Residence. My wife Allison met him there a year before I did. He and I both met our wives there. I was in the German House, Allison in the French House; Jon was, I believe, in the Portuguese House and Chastity was in the Spanish House. It was a wonderful experience to live there.

Jon is fluent in both Spanish and Portuguese and has a background in literature, computer programming, and drama. I think he’s good at math too. . . .

Welcome Ebenexer Orthodoxy! We look forward to your input.

Do Nazis Have Free Speech Too?

February 16, 2005

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, a social democrat, has recently in the wake of the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and also of the Allied firebombing of Dresden on February 13-14, 1945 reiterated promises to make neo-Nazi demonstrations more difficult. He has also suggested more severe punishments for certain aspects of neo-Nazi ideology, e.g. which downplays the Holocaust and portrays German civilian dead in Dresden and other German cities destroyed in the war as victims of the “bombing Holocaust.”

It is true that the German civilians who endured Allied firebombing of German cities in an effort to bring Hitler’s war machine to its knees suffered tremendously and tragically. But Chancellor Schröder put it well when he said, with reference to neo-Nazi appellation of the tragedy as the “bombing Holocaust,” that “We will use all means to counter these attempts to re-interpret history. We will not allow cause to be confused with effect. . . . This is our obligation to all the victims of the war and Nazi terror, especially and also the victims of Dresden.

I generally like Chancellor Schröder’s point of view of things.

In spite of this very important observation that cause should not be confused with effect in remembering the civilian dead of German cities firebombed by the Allies, my heart breaks for the ordinary Germans, especially the innocent children, who died horribly in the fiery furnace of a fire-bombed city or who were orphaned very young by this tragedy. Dresden is a stark example of this, but Berlin and Hamburg, among others, were also reduced to rubble.

Dresden, untouched by bombing just months before the end of World War II, was 85 percent destroyed by two waves of British bombers on the night of Feb. 13, 1945. U.S. planes blasted the city the next day.

The official death toll is put at around 35,000, but many survivors believe the actual number was higher as bodies were reduced to ashes in the ensuing firestorm.

The “burning” question, however, is to what extent should the rights of present-day neo-Nazis or other such extremists be curtailed in an interest (1) not to profane the memory of the millions killed by the Nazi Holocaust as well as German civilians who were the collateral damage necessary to break Hitler, and (2) to prevent a neo-Nazi rise to power that could threaten the peace and/or the safety of minorities? All things explicitly Nazi are already outlawed in Germany, such as the swastika, the Heil Hitler, the first verse of von Fallersleben’s Hymn to Germany, and other Nazi marching songs and regalia. But neo-Nazis use the Imperial Flag rather than the swastika flag to mean the same thing, and likewise avoid the other illegal Nazi things in public. The German Parliament is debating to what extent neo-Nazi-related demonstrations and ideology, even if devoid of direct and illegal Nazi references and symbols, should be illegalized. They wish to do so without unconstitutionally abrogating free speech and freedom of expression rights. It is a tricky question.

Today, there was some movement on this question as a proposal is being debated that would add a paragraph to the criminal and sentencing codes that would make glorifying or down-playing Nazi violence and dictatorship a punishable offense if such behavior is meant to disrupt the public peace:

Streitpunkt in der Koalition ist die in dem von Schily und Zypries am Freitag vorgestellten Entwurf vorgesehene Änderung des Paragraphen 130 des Strafgesetzbuches. Ein neuer Absatz 4 sollte das Verherrlichen und Verharmlosen der nationalsozialistischen Gewalt- und Willkürherrschaft unter Strafe stellen, wenn dieses dazu geeignet sei, den öffentlichen Frieden zu stören. Darauf wird in dem Entwurf von SPD und Grünen zunächst verzichtet. Beck begründete dies mit verfassungsrechtlichen Bedenken. Die Formulierung sei zu unklar und habe daher „verfassungsrechtlich nicht ganz unheikel erschienen“.

Der Gesetzentwurf der Koalitionsfraktionen soll am Freitag in erster Lesung vom Bundestag beraten und in den darauf folgenden Beratungen durch Änderungsanträge der Koalition ergänzt werden. Schmidt sagte, nach Möglichkeit solle das Gesetz bereits in der kommenden Woche vom Bundestag beschlossen werden.

But so far, this proposal has not been able to pass precisely because of the constitutional concerns it raises for free speech.

I myself am conflicted; on the one hand, it is repugnant to me that these people, however despicable their views, be disallowed from expressing their views while others with nearly as despicable views (such as communists or others with questionable social agendas) are allowed or even encouraged to express their views. On the other hand, I personally don’t want neo-Nazis to have a bully pulpit every time there is a celebration or commemoration of the victory over Nazi aggression and atrocity. Germany doesn’t have the same exact constitutional framework in place as we do in the United States, so a US First Amendment analysis would be inapposite. It is also likely what causes me to question the appropriateness of abridging these neo-Nazis’ free speech rights (even though I don’t agree with their viewpoint). Luckily for Germany, their constitutional framework mandates the state to respect the dignity of human life (which has also played a role in Germany’s approach to abortion) while at the same time outlawing direct Nazi references based on the public interest and the unique history of Germany. My feeling is that this new law criminalizing expression sympathetic to the Nazi period will pass. Although it would and should never pass in the American democratic process, the Germans have their own democratic process and public needs that are determined at least partially by this unique history. In that sense, I hope that the Germans will do the right thing for their own situation.

The Times

February 14, 2005

Well, today was the official first day of the Bloggernacle’s very own new online journal The Bloggernacle Times. The site really looks great. They also have a great line-up of contributors. I am really looking forward to this new endeavor. Congratulations to you newsies!

Two things though:

(1) There isn’t a list of Bloggernacle links, which it seems like the Times would naturally have.

(2) There isn’t a recent comments list so we can’t see the action right away when stopping by.