The Essential Nibley

Book Review This nonfiction paperback book is a compilation of some of the writings of Hugh Nibley, a highly-esteemed LDS scholar. Let’s here focus on the eighth chapter of The Essential Nibley, “The Jaradite Epic.” Part One: “The Book of Ether: A Perfect Organic History”

Individually, I find the parallels between the Jaredites and the early Asiatics very impressive, but taken together their value increases as the cube of their number. In the Book of Ether they are woven into a perfect organic whole, a consistent picture of a type of {epic} society the very existence of which has come to be known only in recent years. The only alternative to Joseph Smith’s explanation [of the origin of the Book of Ether and the Book of Mormon] is to assume . . . the existence of a forger who at one moment is so clever and adroit as to imitate the archaic poetry of the desert to perfection and supply us with genuine Egyptian names, and yet so incredibly stupid as to think that the best way to fool people and get money out of them is to write an exceedingly difficult historical epic of six hundred pages. . . . As with the Lehi story, if {the book of Ether} is fiction, it is fiction by one thoroughly familiar with a field of history that nobody in the world knew anything about in 1830. . . .

Part Three: “The Jaredite Epic”

. . .  The book of Ether takes us back thousands of years before Lehi’s time to the dawn of history and the first of the great world migrations. A vivid description of {the} Volkerwanderungszeit concentrates on the migration of a particular party—a large one, moving through the years with their vast flocks and herds across central Asia . . . and then undertaking a terrifying crossing of the North Pacific. Totally unlike the rest of the Book of Mormon, this archaic tale conjures up the “heroic” ages, the “epic milieu” of the great migrations and the “saga time” that follows, describing in detail the customs and usages of a cultural complex that Chadwick was first to describe in our own day.

Part Five: “Fierce and Bloody-Minded men out of Asia”

Though {the Book of Ether} comes to us a digest and an abridgment, stripped and streamlined, it is still as intricate and complex a history as you can find; and in its involved and tragic pages nothing is more challenging than the sinister presence of those fierce and bloody-minded “men out of Asia” known in their day as Jaredites. The whole structure of Jaredite history hangs on a succession of strong men, most of them rather terrible figures. Few annals of equal terseness and brevity are freighted with an equal burden of wickedness. The pages of Ether are dark with intrigue and violence, strictly of the Asiatic brand. . . .

. Excerpts from the writings of Hugh Nibley - LDS nonfiction book

The Essential NIbley

. ###