Adelbert Denaux and Alessia

March 4, 2005

Discussion continues over at the Times and Seasons post about Alessia and Adelbert Denaux in Wilfried’s explanation of Alessia’s case, the failings of the Church to defend its own rights and Alessia’s rights against the Belgian State and Belgium’s infamous “list of cults” on which the Church finds itself. Please read about this problem and offer your assistance, if possible.

I will be speaking with Professor Durham’s International Center for Law and Religion Studies about Kaimi’s idea of creating a pamphlet like those of the ACLU that explain very straightforwardly the rights someone has when the state takes action of this kind. I am hoping that some organization such as the Center would want to sponsor this (I and other LDS lawyers could do the actual work) and provide resources for the printing of this in multiple languages. Then we could use Church channels to distribute it to wards and branches in places like Belgium where Church members need to be defended against biased actions by the state.


Hugh Nibley’s Funeral

March 2, 2005

Hugh Nibley’s funeral today was absolutely wonderful. Professor Nibley boasted two Apostles and four BYU Presidents in attendance. The Spirit was very strong and all the words spoken were very uplifting.

The program was as follows:

Opening Hymn, Congregation: All Creatures of Our God and King

Opening Prayer: Boyd Jay Petersen

Utah Baroque Ensemble, accompanied by Jerri Bearce: Come Sweet Death, Johann Sebastian Bach


Zina Nibley Petersen:

  • She knew HN would want her to put the “fun” back in funeral, so she pulled out his crumpled hat and put it on.
  • As she and her family left the Nibley home last Thursday, the day HN died, they came across a disturbance on 1350 E. in Provo. A group of mule deer were running across the front lawns of houses facing the street. Zina counted nine deer and reflected on HN’s own nine “dears” (eight living children and one dead son).

Rebecca Nibley:

  • When she graduated with an advanced degree from BYU, HN attended the commencement with her, even though he didn’t really go for that kind of thing. Afterwards, he offered to take her picture for her on her big day. Later on, she discovered that he had forgotten to take the lense cap off.
  • HN gave her two things: (1) her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Book of Mormon, and her resulting certainty of the Atonement; (2) her love of nature and her place in nature.

Charles Alexander Nibley:

  • He recited the last few lines of HN’s poem, written at age 16, entitled “Of Birthdays“:

The air is purple now the wind is waiting
A long sigh from the west.
* * * * *
Forgive me, Sun,
I did forget the glory of thy setting!

  • Although HN wrote this for his grandmother, this applied wonderfully to the glory of HN’s final years, months, and days. In his final years, HN once suffered the complete inability to speak for a period of time. He was lucid and knew what he wanted to say, but only gibberish would come out. When Charles visited him in the hospital, HN had great difficulty because of this. He finally was able to make out three words: “you are beautiful.”
  • HN lost faculties one at a time such that by his last few months, he was totally dependent for the basic functions of life. It was amazing to see his patience with this process.

Michael Draper Nibley:

  • He was living on the east coast and communicated with his father through Birthday and Christmas cards, almost exclusively through quotes from ancient writers, in the original languages. At one point, as HN was aging, he was frustrated with his waning years. MDN responded with a quote from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, from the Wife of Bath’s Tale (lines 475-479):

But Lord Christ! When I do remember me
Upon my youth and on my jollity,
It tickles me about my heart’s deep root.
To this day does my heart sing in salute
That I have had my world in my own time.

  • MDN firmly believed that HN was one of the few people of whom it can truly be said that he has had his world in his own time. He led a productive and happy life, doing what he loved to do, and helping people all the while.

Thomas Hugh Nibley:

  • THN reflected on the Book of Abraham and the council of prophets in the pre-mortal existence and conveyed his firm belief that HN was given the assignment to function prophetically through scholarship and that he did so consecrating his life to that calling and has now returned to his Father to receive further callings for our benefit.

Christina Nibley Mincek:

  • She recalled one special occasion when she got to go camping in southern Utah along with HN. She awoke with a start in the morning to find his sleeping bag empty. But HN came running to her and scooped her up in his arms to take her to enjoy the view with him. Later on, she saw a picture he had taken of the arch with her, only a little dot, in her sleeping bag under the arch. It taught her about his love for nature and for her, as part of nature.

Paul Sloan Nibley:

  • He offered his final gift to his father–the coffin in which HN was put to rest. He related HN’s deep love for the woods, going back to his youth in the woods of northern California. He told of the different woods used in the coffin: of the integration of an exotic hardwood that grew on the edge of the Sahara; of a wood called “purple heart” in honor of his service in WWII; and many other aspects of this, PSN’s final gift to HN.

Piano Solo by Reid Nibley (HN’s brother): Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring, Johann Sebastian Bach


John W. Welch:

Violin Solo by Kelly Clark Parkinson, accompanied by Reid Nibley: Vocalise, Sergei Rachmaninoff

Presentation of a Letter from the First Presidency to Sister Nibley and the Family: Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles


Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

  • HN was the first “eccentric” that DHO ever knew–he took HN’s 1954 Winter semester class “The Rise of the Western Church to 600 A.D.”
  • DHO knew HN for more than 50 years and was in the same stake with him in Chicago when HN was studying at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute in the 1960s and was in the same ward during the nine years that DHO was the President of BYU from 1971 to 1980.
  • DHO said that HN was gifted and unique, but not “complete.” That is, even though he forged the path, he was laying foundation upon which numerous later talented LDS scholars would build through FARMS, which they have done so well. By laying this foundation, HN did a great service for the Church. Many have benefited from HN’s work who will never know.

Closing Hymn, Utah Baroque Ensemble (Congregation joined in chorus): The Spirit of God Like a Fire Is Burning, W.W. Phelps

Closing Prayer: Otto Draper (HN’s brother-in-law)

The program was truly wonderful. The closing hymn was powerful as I thought about the life and work of HN. Particularly the last verse struck me:

How blessed the day when the lamb and the lion
Shall lie down together without any ire;
And Ephraim be crown’d with his blessing in Zion,
As Jesus descends with his chariots of fire!

As the congregation sang the chorus after this verse, the Spirit was powerfully present:

We’ll sing & we’ll shout with the armies of heaven:
Hosanna, hosanna, to God and the Lamb!
Let glory to them in the highest be given,
Henceforth and forever: amen and amen.

I looked around the crowd in the Provo Tabernacle as we all added our voices to this chorus. Everyone was singing with conviction. For some reason I focused on a random young man dressed in a suit singing the chorus with gusto. A wave of gratitude for Hugh Nibley’s life came over me. More importantly, a wave of gratitude for the Gospel that he spent his life defending came over me. I felt extremely thankful to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Building Caricature

March 1, 2005

I would like to thank John for inviting me to be a guest blogger and apologize for not having posted sooner. Actually I tried to post almost a week ago, but at that very moment the Blogger system decided that it was time to mind-meld with a lump of asphalt and my post was lost in the process.

As John mentioned, we are old acquaintances from the BYU Foreign Language Housing where I lived for a time in the Spanish House and then in the Portuguese House. I actually met John’s wife Allison before I did John. I wonder if she ever told him about the lollipop-kiss she gave me in the FLHC Laundry Room…? Anyway…

The bloggernacle is so full of smart folks, I always feel a little intimidated when I post or comment. Writing is surprisingly hard for me and I am very self critical. I admire those of you who can so consistently come up with interesting, well articulated posts and comments.

It is interesting how our views of people are warped by cyberspace. John comes across very differently in person than he does in the blogosphere. And I know that blogging seems to artificially magnify certain aspects of my personality, while others are practically invisible. Does the Internet turn us all into caricatures of ourselves, like cartoon drawings that overemphasize certain aspects of our appearance for humorous effect?

Do you like your bloggernacle caricature? If you could start over again in the bloggernacle, would you try to change the perceptions people have of you and build a different caricature than you have now?

–Ebenezer Orthodoxy

Voluntary Religion

March 1, 2005

An interesting story about the growing religious laxness of Iranian youth born and/or raised after the 1979 Revolution provides somewhat of a case study about force in religion.

Religious figures in Iran, including President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist cleric, have noted with dismay that Iran’s disproportionately youthful population, around two-thirds of whom were born after the 1979 Islamic revolution, are increasingly turning away from religion.

Mohsen Kadivar, a mid-ranking cleric and philosophy lecturer whose views have landed him in prison, told Reuters in an interview earlier this month that young people in secular Turkey were more interested in religion than those in Iran.

This shows that religion is voluntary. Forcing it on society has the opposite effect,” he said.

This certainly supports my own beliefs about freedom and religion–and about religious freedom. Religion appropriately belongs in the marketplace of ideas. I don’t believe this denigrates religion in any way. For all the doomssaying in Europe and among the American Left about how America is so (too) religious, it remains a solid fact that America is a secular state that fosters not only religious freedom but also religious pluralism. In this sense, the American way is more conducive to the marketplace of ideas for religion and thus, more people are religious.

European commentators relish quoting with disdain figures about American religiosity and they try to portray it as fanaticism or plain idiocy. Whether this is idiocy or not is beside the point; but it is not automatically fanaticism. In reality, the high religiosity seems like a natural reaction to the religious freedom that exists in the United States. In fact, the American system of religious freedom steers an essential middle course between French laïcité–which, in truth, is hostile rather than neutral toward religion–and state-sponsored religion. America has generally managed to promote religious pluralism through its liberal approach to religious freedom better than European countries have been able to achieve. This might have to do with notions of a secular, post-religious Europe, or it might have to do with the state intereference in matters of religion that exists in most European countries. (In truth, I think it is a mixture of both and not one to the exclusion of the other, but this means that the blame is not solely on the “post-religious” nature of secular European development.)

In many European countries, the state actively sponsors a particular church to the exclusion of other, just as legitimate though perhaps not as old, churches and religions. America, on the other hand, views the freedom of religion as a fundamental human right. That is, one “sect” or religion is just as free to foster its own beliefs as others, from an official standpoint, anyway. (It is true, I firmly believe, that personal biases of individual Americans can impede religious pluralism, but this is not official state action.) If the result of a system that not only protects religious freedom but also promotes religious pluralism by avoiding hostility toward religion is that most Americans are religious or even deeply religious, then this is a good fruit and the tree must be preserved.

[UPDATE: Wilfried Decco has provided an excellent case study of Alessia and Adelbert Denaux of the lack of religious freedom in a country with both a state-sponsored church and a state-sponsored list of all the other churches and religions that are “cults,” since they are not among the few state-sponsored or tolerated churches. Belgium offers the worst of both situations: a state-sponsored church and state-sponsored discrimination against all others combined with a popular espousal of laïcité; that is, the state sponsors a church that most people don’t believe in because of their secular and humanistic biases, which they mistaken believe must necessarily be evidence against religion, particularly others’ religions.]