Sunday, November 4, 2012

Nibley's Four Approaches to Learning I

I mentioned previously Nibley's 1960 survey of the intellectual issues involved in "meeting the challenge of the learned world." I thought it would be worth looking at each a little more closely.

1. We can ignore them. This is often a good idea, since the two greatest nuisances in the Church are (a) those who think they know enough to disprove the claims of Joseph Smith, and (b) those who think they know enough to prove them. Actually, nobody knows nearly enough either to prove or disprove the gospel—"Man cannot by searching find out God" (see Job 11:7). If we ignore the learning of the world, then of course we will have no need for institutions of higher learning. (Hugh Nibley, "Nobody to Blame," in Eloquent Witness: Nibley on Himself, Others, and the Temple, Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 17, ed. Stephen D. Ricks (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 2008), 130-31.)

I find it telling that Nibley, one of the most learned Latter-day Saints of his generation, considered ignoring the learning of the world as a legitimate option. There should be something sobering about that fact.

Thousands, if not millions, of Latter-day Saints live good decent lives without giving a thought to intellectual issues or the fads of academia. There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing so. One can, for example, be a nurse using her mind to the utmost in serving God by helping other people. When one is racking one's brain for information that will save a person's life, squabbles over hermeneutics can seem petty by comparison.

Saints who build shelters, cook meals, comfort children, change bed pans, and mourn with those who mourn can be involved in Christian service and serving God and their fellowmen with all their heart, might, mind, and strength without worrying about the concerns of those who are ever learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. No minimum amount of study is a prerequisite to serve in the Kingdom of God.

Besides, Jesus mentioned feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick as things that let one enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 25:31-46). Degrees, blogging, and intellectual posturing are unmentioned. "For what shall it profit a man if he gain his degree, and lose his own soul?" (see Mark 8:36).