SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Hugh Nibley, an outspoken Mormon historian, professor and defender of the faith, died Thursday at 94.
Nibley, who according to a family spokesman died of natural causes after being bedridden for the two years, was widely known in the Mormon world for his teachings and writings, but his legacy became clouded recently when one of his children accused him of molesting her as a child.
Martha Beck made the allegations in a book due in stores next month called “Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith.” She said memories of the abuse were recovered in therapy sessions.
Nibley adamantly denied the accusations, family members said. “We are saddened by the book’s countless errors, falsehoods, contradictions and gross distortions,” Nibley’s seven other children said in a statement this week.
Nibley was a professor at Brigham Young University. His writings were marked by “brilliance, unbelievable erudition,” said Daniel Peterson, a BYU professor.
In his work as a defender of Mormon doctrine, he made critical observations of the church and its faithful that, if they had been said by an outsider, would have made people angry, Peterson said.
“He was a real critic of materialism and greed, and social status,” Peterson said. “And on more than one occasion, he rebuked church members for doing that when they shouldn’t.”
Peterson added: “He was not only a scholar, but something of a social gadfly, very outspoken.”