Like Pioneer Day and the Mormon Miracle Pageant, Hugh Nibley is an LDS institution.
And Thursday afternoon at the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies offices in Provo, the scholar was feted by his peers once again. Nibley's "Collected Works, Vols. 1-12," published by Deseret Book and the foundation, was named the recipient of the 1995 Frankie and John Kenneth Orton Award for LDS Literature.Nibley is an emeritus professor of ancient studies at BYU and a legendary LDS firebrand and polemicist.
When Scott Orton handed Nibley the $5,000 check and said a plaque would be forthcoming, Nibley - in classic fashion - slapped his forehead and wondered what he'd do to fill his poor bare walls until then. Perhaps no LDS writer has received more awards and certificates than Nibley.
Several LDS publishers and scholars were on hand, including Cory Maxwell from Bookcraft and Ron Millet from Deseret Book.
Afterward, the guest of honor waxed philosophical.
When asked which of his many books has had the most staying power, he replied, "Sometimes you'd think the only book I ever wrote was `Approaching Zion.' "
As for "No Ma'am, That's Not History," his famous rebuttal to the Fawn Brodie biography of Joseph Smith, he wrote it off as "just a pamphlet. But it's time to do another one. The John Brooks book `Refiner's Fire' trades heavily on Brodie's work. But then Brodie didn't really write a biography. What she wrote was a psychological novel."
Such comments are typical of the man the award committee described as "seldom wrong, always learned, fearless, frank, forthright and witty."
Past winners of the Orton Award are Jill Mulvay Derr, Janath Russell Cannon and Maureen Ursenback Beecher for "Women of Covenant" and Gerald N. Lund for "The Work and the Glory: Thy Gold to Refine."
As for Hugh Nibley, he plans to return to his study, where he still keeps notes in hundreds of shoe boxes.
"I'm going through things from 40 or 50 years ago right now," he says. "And I'm coming up with some valuable findings."
If there's a book to be found in it all, Hugh Nibley will find it.