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need to address sound scholarship, both by her father and by numerous other meticulous apologists, by simply coupling outdated anti-Mormon arguments with allegations of sexual abuse in the same paragraph, and (2) she is able to erase a lifetime of research and scholarship done by her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.”]