I promise not to make Beck's book the focus of discussion too much. But I know it has generated a lot of controversy and interest. What I want to make comment on is a few of the recent controversies about people writing about the book. The first regards an email that has been making the rounds the last couple of weeks. This is for a write-in campaign to Oprah Winfrey regarding Beck's book. People have been writing in and apparently the Church would appreciate it if people will stop. The word is that Oprah has no intention of promoting the book. [CG March - note this isn't true. She has now promoted the book and may have Beck on her show. But it isn't a part of her bookclub.] Probably, given its controversial claims, possible lawsuits, and the fact Beck is an employee, make it problematic for the show. So pass the word around to stop the writing campaign. (I tend to think such campaigns are counter-productive anyway - it would irritate me if people told me not to discuss something) There was some worry that Oprah would help promote Beck's book because Beck works for her. Further in the 90's she promoted an other, somewhat similar "expose," Secret Ceremonies by Deborah Laake.
That book was all the talk back in the mid 90's. Excerpts were even published in Cosmopolitan. However it also illustrates something I think we ought keep in mind. How many of you remember Laake? How many peopled do you know who read the book? More importantly how many people have you talked to has it made them think oddly of you? Probably not a whole lot. I think most people could tell from the book that Laake has some serious emotional problems and simply blamed the church for her life. Further some of the more bizarre stories in that book (i.e. washing used condoms and hanging them on a clothesline to dry) can hardly be attributed to Mormonism. I think Beck's book will, for all its controversy, end up with about the same effect. At best it will strengthen the beliefs of those who already dislike Mormons. But I doubt it'll really lead to too much prejudice.
I should also note a study I heard on my mission. Places with anti-Mormon attacks where there is at least a reasonably sized Mormon community tends to have more converts than other areas. I suspect the reason is that when people hear these weird bizarre charges and then see the nice neighbors they start asking questions about religion. When we explain what we actually believe, rather than the caricatures of these sorts of books, people become interested. So if anything, Beck's book may end up as a net positive. At least for Mormons. I can't imagine the pain and anguish it is bringing to the family.
The second controversy this week regarding Beck's book was Peggy Fletcher Stack's article for the Salt Lake Tribune last weekend. Stack wrote,
Her book makes many exaggerated claims about Mormons and Mormonism: that the governing First Presidency maintains a "death squad . . . to deal with malcontents. . ."
Unfortunately the quote in question was from an email going around about Beck's book rather than Beck's book itself. Quite a few people contacted the newspaper and they printed a retraction. However the fact is that Stack's point isn't really inaccurate. Having said that I will say that a lot of well meaning defender's claims regarding "death squads" are exaggerated. Given that Beck's book includes so many fabrications about life in Provo along with many, many exaggerations, I don't think people defending Nibley ought engage in any exaggeration at all. The best approach is to be cautious. I thought I'd provide a few quotes from the book to show some of the paranoia that Beck includes in it. That way you can make up your own mind. (Sorry, my copy of the book doesn't have any final page numbers in it yet - so I can't provide the page for the quotes)
One day I picked up our clicking phone to hear a strange, rasping male voice, "Now here's what I think," said the voice. "I think that people who speak out against the Gospel shouldn't be Church members. They should be dis-membered." The voice paused to let this clever word play have its full effect. "I'd be happy to dismember you," it concluded. There was a click (I presumed that was Strengthening the Membership hanging up) and then an other click (that was the caller bidding adieu)
Beck claims that her phone was bugged and that according to a phone company worker it was done at the local church. While the above doesn't explicitly link the Church with the death threat, it does insinuate it. Further the description above is tied to other parts of the book where she claims a culture of violence within the church. The above quote was only a few paragraphs after talking of people praying for protection from LDS General Authorities. It's hard not to connect them. While she doesn't come out and talk about Danites, she certainly portrays with her imagery a culture of violence. Further she basically argues that what she believes drove her Father insane is common in the church. (She's not consistent on this point. Sometimes her father's purported combat stress is to blame, sometimes what she sees as the impossibility of defending the Book of Abraham drove him insane, sometimes it is church culture in general) For instance a couple pages after the above quote she writes:
But I did believe that our culture had trapped us, that many Latter-day Saints lived in mental and social prisons that perpetuated precisely the kind of insanity with which I'd grown up. It wasn't slavery, but it was a powerful form of bondage: the belief that God had ordained a pattern of secrets and silence, that religious authority always trumped one's individual sense of right and wrong, that the evidence of the senses must bow to the demands of orthodoxy, no matter how insane. It was a kind of institutionalized maddness, and its shackles were all the more confining for existing almost entirely in the human mind.
To be fair this is all wrapped up in a discussion of academic freedom along with the refusal of tenure from a few BYU employees in the early 90's and the so-called September Six where several intellectuals were excommunicated. But she portrays through the book constant referrals to various quacks and crazy people she meets. The strong insinuation is that the church did it to them. What comes across is that she blames her own confessed mental problems to this as well - at least as much as her claims about her father.
Later on in the last couple chapters she does mention death threats, but nothing tied explicitly to the church. She usually refers to it as the "lunatic fringe of my father's fan base."
Having said that, while she doesn't make any direct accusations of the church regarding her life, she does have others do so. This lets her avoid the appearance of claiming the church is out to kill here while allowing it to have a similar rhetorical force.
Growing up in the midst of ultra-Saints, with a solid foundation of posttraumatic stress disorder from my own childhood. I had a feeling of unease about the volativity of the whole central Utah community, which, it seemed to me, was probably sprouting new Danites all the time.
A few lines later she writes:
I could - and would - continue hanging out with my "dissident" friends. But I couldn't do it without fear. I wasn't sure exactly what there was to be afraid of. I was just consumed with a vague anxiety that some anonymous representative of the Mormon Church would soon do Something Bad to contain me an my treasonous stories.
Even years later, writing this, I can feel the twinges of that old terror. I've read too much about the Danites, seen too many religious fanatics worship at my father's fee, taken too many death vows to think that Mormonism has no dark side. I don't think most people realize how much the Latter-day Saint's history of quietly perpetrated violence still resonates throughout the community, what a powerful agent of social control it still is. Just after deciding to write this book, I confessed my fears to a non-Mormon friend from New York. She thougt it was hilarious that I was scared of the Latter-day Saints. "It's like having a Bambi-phobia," she said. "What are they going to do, kill you?" I felt so braced and grounded by this conversation, so free from paranoia, that I called an other friend, an ex-Mormon from Utah and described what I planned to write. "They'll kill you," she said immediately, without a trace of levity." (Capitalization as in the original)
Danites, for those not familiar with them, were a kind of guerilla organization from the 1838 Missouri war between Mormons and non-Mormons. An important context to those events is that even after extermination orders were given by the governor against the Mormons and the Mormons left the state, other (non-Mormon involved) guerilla wars continued up through the Civil War. Indeed the guerilla fighting in the Missouri area was particularly brutal in the Civil War. (Yes - extermination orders were given in the United States and were actually only officially rescinded in 1976) In the later Utah War between federal armies and the Mormons various similar activities reportedly took place against Federal spies. The war was largely averted when the Mormons were able to scatter most of the horses and supplies of the invading army. An uneasy peace with occasional outburst of violence continued until 1894 when under threat of destruction, the Mormons gave up polygamy and communitarian economic systems and submitted to federal control. The Danites were the supposed secret society involved in guerilla activities - often in Utah under gunfighter Porter Rockwell who became a rather famous Federal Marshall. (Rockwell was also Joseph Smith's bodyguard and involved in the incidents in Missouri, including an accusation that he tried to shoot the governor)
Beck brings up the Danites as a kind of shadowy imagery in the book. They are the supposed death squad (my word not hers) that will punish her for what she says. It's rather silly of course. Further most stories of Danites are myths since they captured the imagination of 19th century Protestant attacks on Mormonism. (They even pop up in the very first Sherlock Holmes novel involved in some shadowy conspiracy) They became a part of American mythology of secret societies and conspiracies. Sort of a 19th century version of the X-Files. The actual history, while still very interesting doesn't quite live up to the myths. That's not to say there weren't excesses. However such violence, such as some of Porter Rockwell's actions, can't be understood independent of the context of the times. For instance the attempts at genocide against Mormons in the eastern United States. Also the sending from California of a General who wanted to end by genocide both the Indian problem and Mormon problem in the region of Utah, Nevada, and Idaho. While Mormon discussions of such incidents tends to whitewash their faults, presentations by critics tends to ignore the persecution and violence against Mormons that contributed to the actions.
The point is that Beck is tying her status to a history of guerilla war. It is about akin to saying Al Queda is out to get her. Even today, in a web page about her book, she brings up these same insinuations. Once again conveniently told so as to merely report someone else's views.
Non-Mormons discuss the subjects and themes of the book. Ex-Mormons tend to express worry about my physical safety.
I may be posting on this topic from time to time. Especially as controversies pop up. Although to be honest, now that some time has passed since I've read it, the controversy of it all seems much less that I thought it would. It truly seems like a woman with mental problems that perhaps a publisher has taken a bit of advantage of so as to earn some money through the controversy. The more I think about it, the sadder I am for Beck. In any case I've put up a single page that'll include links to all the stories I do on the book.
"Godmakers" didn't wreck the church, and this newest addition to the "Perils of Pauline" brand of Anti-Mormon Lit isn't about to, either.
No worries, mate.
Also, I did read the Nibley biography, and - based solely on that reading, so I'm certainly not someone who can claim authority on the subject - ol' Nib was a tad goofy from the crib.
Not sex-crime goofy, though. Frankly, I'm surprised he ever had kids in the first place.
Something to keep in mind. This was from the FAIR forums by Beck's sister.
This is no lady, this is my sister. The family is very worried about her. She has a long history of mental illness and is setting herself up for criticism we are not sure she is emotionally equipped to handle. Her book is breathtakingly unkind and untrue, but her health is more important to us. Please don't attack any of us right now; we are in a very vulnerable spot. All of us. And no I am not smearing her; there are records of her hospitalizations etc. to verify that she is a mental patient. Not that any of it is any one's business. But she has made falsehoods about our family into a huge business, and for this we are very sorry, both apologetically sorry (in the other sense of the word) and sorry with enormous regret for her pain, both actual and impending.
Suffice it to say that so far, none (not one) of people whom she "records" conversations with in this book have verified that her representation of their words is accurate. Some "characters" and conversations are harder to pin down than others, because she changes names. But changing the names means that the entire burden of proof is on her. She is not going to be able to withstand or bear that burden.
My father is innocent, completely, of her charges.
Zina Nibley Petersen
I need to clarify right now that in my post I indicated that there are hospital records for Martha's mental illness; I should have been more specific in noting that her hospitalizations were for *physical results* of her mental illnesses. I had not realized (until my family corrected me) that her hospital stays were not recorded as psychiatric admissions, but for the physical symptoms relating to her mental illnesses.
I apologize for any confusion, but I sort of resent her for making me be so legalistically careful.
Something to keep in mind as we discuss this. As much as Beck's acts have hurt the family they are apparently still worried about her and her state of mind. So let's be careful about how we discuss it.
Wow. That is is quite a find Clark. Thanks.
Oprah is promoting the book...although I've no idea whether she is planning to do a book club segment on her show.
Just a note that the following is a nice writeup on the Danites from a pro-LDS perspective. Note that he is focusing only on the Danites proper and not the later issues in the Utah War with Porter Rockwell, Bill Hickman and others. Also note a somewhat relevant paper in Mormon Historical Studies. It is "A Victim of the Mormons and The Danites: Images and Relics from Early Twentieth-Centruy Anti-Mormon Silent Films" It's mainly about some of the movies of the 20's that really do represent the whole Danite myth along with anti-Mormonism. In a very real sense all the Danite tall tales are sort of akin to the anti-Semetic conspiracy theories that one finds. The difference is, I suppose, that it isn't acceptable to spout anti-semetic conspiracy theories while anti-Mormon conspiracy theories of the same calibre are promoted by Oprah.
I personally having grown up in the morman church. I know how the church takes care of their own. As long as you do everything they say. Isn't our Heavenly Father about forgiveness? But, yet the morman church choses to excommunicate members for their sins. As in other churches they love the sinner not the sin. As I have struggled with the faith I was taught growing up and coming to the realization through prayer and study. That the mormanism is not true. I thank the people of the church for helping instill the values. But, one must remember that religion does not save you. You don't have to be a member of a church to go to heaven. You just have to ask Jesus into your heart. Admit that you are a sinner and that you are nothing without him. This is one thing that the morman church never taught me. All religions have good points and bad points. I am so thankful though that religion and works don't save you. Only the blood of Christ does. But, yet the morman church will argue that. I also think that it is awful how her family has turned their back on Beck. The truth of the matter is. I grew up in a house where my sister was sexually assaulted by my father. Yet, for years I denied it. But, the thing is as you get older, God helps you deal with the nightmares of your past. Once you as Jesus into your heart. He starts clearing out all the bad stuff. Helping you face your worst fears so that his light may shine through you for others to see. Most of my family are still mormans. I pray for their salvation. The one thing that I love about my family. Is we have been working through all the family secrets and we are healing. And that is what Martha Beck is trying to do. She is trying to heal. I am so thankful that God is with Beck helping her through this time. God will never leave you. All you have to do is ask him for help. Not a religion. But, the actually Living God.
Sara, you are assuming that what Beck says is true. Isn't that a large presumption? Further is doing this to her siblings really what is necessary to heal? To go on TV and publish a book? That's the only way to heal? Further, to do this only when her father was near death so he couldn't publicly answer the charges?
Clark, You are assuming that Beck is making up the accusations. You are acting like the majority of the world acts when someone does come forward and say they were sexually assaulted. The victim is not a victim until she can somehow prove it. I can tell that you don't know the nightmares that come with being sexually assaulted. The fear that grips and you and you have to fight everyway to break that grip. Then when you finally find a way to break it. No one believes you or worse they make you sound like some kind of mental case. This is a great man, there is no way he could of done this. The thing that most people are forgetting is this. God knows the truth. IF she is lying, then she will have to answer to God for that. As much as we want to speculate what is true or not. Well we can only ask God to bring the truth. I think that Beck is a person who is trying to heal and help others who have gone through the same thing. That I would think is her reason to write the book. To break the chains, to let others know that they are not alone. When secrets like this come out it is hard on the family. But, should she stop her healing process so the family can keep a secret. Or would you rather her keep that grip of fear hold onto her. Fear is from Satan. I will continue to pray for her that God gives her the strength to overcome all of this. I will pray for her family to find their way of healing. You and I don't know what happened behind those closed doors. I chose to believe the victim. You chose to believe the accused. So we will have to agree to disagree.
No. I'm not. I have no idea what happened. I am saying that Beck, given her book, is not trustworthy. That's quite a bit shy of claiming she made it all up.
I also strongly feel that this is not about healing.
"I personally having grown up in the morman church."
I'm not sure I believe this claim, because people who have been raised as Mormons generally know how to spell the word.
Veritasliberat, I did grow up in the mormon church. Of course, you would not believe it. You would look at a typo error, instead of the message. Why do you believe your faith is real? Why do you believe Joseph Smith? Where is your proof? And if the Book of Mormon is true, then why did it have to be re-written. Why were things taken out? I know where I stand with my salvation. I know the road I walked. I know that Jesus is by my side. The Bible holds all the answers. It has never needed a companion. I think the reason most mormons will not look at the facts. Is because then they would have to come to the realization that they were lied to.
Veritas, It's kind of poor etiquette to critique someone's point on the basis of their typing or grammar. I've been on various forms of internet discussions for a long, long time. Inevitably spelling or grammar critiques lower the standard of discussion. I like to think of email and blogs as more approximate to the spoken word. And we all recognize that in dialog (as opposed to prepared speeches) that the rules of communication are far more lax. Few of us speak grammatically.
Sara, I would ask that this discussion not turn to a discussion regarding the truthfulness of Mormonism. This blog is primarily oriented around careful philosophical discussion of Mormonism. I'd say that the Bible has all the problems the Book of Mormon has, with the same kind of solutions to the problems. Further I'd say that the reason you know as opposed to merely belief in Jesus as God is likely the same reason Mormons claim the same. A bit of charity in public discussions is in order. Accusing people of lying, while a popular past time of certain ex-Mormons, doesn't exactly raise the level of dialog. However I suspect that such a comment does contextualize your comments regarding Beck.
Sorry, Clark. I guess that a misspelling is not much evidence for anything ... although anti-Mormons do often use the spelling "morman."
Thanks Clark, for your comments on good etiquette here and what the focus should be. It's easy to get pulled into arguments about who's right and who's wrong, but that almost always leads in circles as each side tries to convince the other without stopping to consider that the other person might actually have a valid point in something they are saying. I know it's happened to me enough times that I should know better, but I almost started doing it again.
Sara, you are certainly right that a lot of abuse victims have to go through the pain of not being believed, that they have to fight just to pull themselves through it and come to a point where they can have peace in their lives. On behalf of all of those people, our society shoud take all allegations of abuse seriously and never jump to conclusions too quickly, even if the victim does not have much evidence of abuse.
It truly is tragic for an abuse victim to spend a lifetime feeling isolated and alone because no one will believe them.
However, I do not believe that anyone should assume that everyone claiming abuse is automatically right. Occasionally there have been cases where (for one reason or another) someone has claimed abuse falsely, whether that person really believed what they were saying or not. However rare those cases may be, it is wise to remember that it is possible that they can occur. An innocent person falsely accused can also have their life ruined, and that is also tragic.
This from a recovering-Catholic agnostic who spent a lifetime one year living in a heavily Mormon town. (For those who need a definition, an agnostic is one who says, "I don't know and I can't know if there is (or isn't) a god or many gods or no god though I do think I know what you mean when you say god(s). And, I can live a good, wholesome and complete life without knowing." It is not the same thing as agnostic, which is a belief (unprovable/un-disprovable)system in the same category as any religion.
It seems to me from reading the book and from what I know of life that the book rings true. Clearly the author took pains to communicate her story without 'outing' living persons whose outing might bring them harm (Cynics would say, 'bring her lawsuits.') Curiously, I did not know her father's name until I read this blog, she clearly did not use it.
I note that most of the critiques I read here pick and choose 'facts' from the book that cannot be proven or disproven and use those to disparage the book. That is, if this one thing I have carefully picked out looks suspicious then the whole book is suspicious. Not really cricket.
But there is one statement in the book that should be easily knocked down if it is untrue or supported if it is true by other writers here who have complete access to 'correlation committee' approved works (as I do not.)
Ms. Beck makes it perfectly clear that the numerous footnotes in virtually all of her father's works are in large part either ficticious or fallacious. Pick a book at random, pick at random ten or twenty footnotes in a row, investigate and do a report. The world awaits.
Most of the things I brought up are either things that are simply hard to believe or else are demonstrably false. Admittedly some of the hard to believe things might be true - but I rather doubt all of them. Further even if some are true then she errs in taking something exceptional and portraying it as usual. The point is she distorts the community into something unrecognizable - and I say that as someone who moved here from the east coast.
As for the footnotes, many people have investigated the footnotes. While people sometimes disagree with their use (i.e. interpretation), most are extremely accurate. According to one survey the accuracy in his peer reviewed professional scholarship aren't as good as his other footnotes. So Beck's claims here are demonstrably false, as are the claims about deletion of news stories about feminists, as are several other points.
Clark - "The point is she distorts the community into something unrecognizable."
me - As a non-Mormon it is completely recognizable to me.
Clark - "According to one survey the accuracy [of the footnotes] in his peer reviewed professional scholarship aren't as good as his other footnotes. "
me - This is exactly the kind of general, unsupported, misleading stuff I'm talking about. 'According to one survey' - who did it? A GA? 'his peer reviewed professional scholarship aren't as good as his other footnotes.' Meaning his other footnotes are awful and his peer reviewed footnotes are complete trash?
Clark - 'Further even if some are true then she errs in taking something exceptional and portraying it as usual. ' and with regard to the footnotes "...most are extremely accurate."
Me - Extending the same arguement to Nibley, if one of his footnotes does not exist then all of his scholarship is trash. He wasn't writting a novel. The standards were and are much higher. Misleading and missing footnotes from someone in his position, especially someone with his acknowledged skills are beyond troubling.
Don't you think it a bit odd to attack me for not specifying the name of who looked at the footnotes while simultaneously defending Beck for not using names and refusing to use names yourself?
In any case I've done a sample study of footnotes that were available to me, a few years back. I was only able to find a few errors and they were relatively minor. (i.e. small typos) The only major errors I could find weren't technically footnotes but errors in attribution in the body text. In one place the dialog of Socrates and (by memory) I think Protagoras were reverse. However that was in a text never intended for publication. (FARMS, in publishing the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley also published talks and notes that were never intended for publication - so holding those to the same standard as something published isn't quite fair) The only other significant error I'm aware of was one brought to my attention by Brent Metcalf where Nibley read the some papers incorrectly, apparently missing a line.
With respect to more systematic and comprehensive checking of footnotes, I actually knew many of the people doing his footnotes and my business partner did all the scriptural references. They never mentioned problems when the books were being published - something I'd have expected if there were an unusual number of typos.
Boyd Peterson in his review of Beck's book wrote the following:
Other events described in the book are disputed by the facts. For example, in Chapter 24 of Leaving the Saints, Martha asserts that she met a man who "had a job for [her] dad's publisher" as "one of the flunkies who checked his footnotes" (165). This "Man in Tweed" told Martha that her father "makes [his footnotes] all up," that "conservatively 90 percent of them" are not real. "I helped cover it up," he says (166). She asserts that this man gave her a list of other note checkers and that she "contacted them all and heard unanimous confirmation that a great many of the footnotes in his works were splendiferously fictional" (169). I have contacted many of the note checkers and editors of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley (I cannot contact "Tweedy" since I have no idea who he is), and they all confirm that, while Hugh has been sloppy--at times mistranslating a text or overstating his case--he does not make up his sources.
In the footnote for the above paragraph Peterson wrote the following:
Personal e-mail, Todd Compton to Boyd Petersen, 8 January 2005; Glen Cooper to Boyd Petersen, 25 December 2004; William Hamblin to Boyd Petersen, 24 December 2004; Stephen Ricks to Boyd Petersen, 9 January 2005; John Gee to Boyd Petersen, 27 December 2004.
Likely the most damning review of Hugh's scholarly work has been Kent P. Jackson's review of Old Testament and Related Studies, Volume 1 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, which appeared in BYU Studies 28.4 (1988): 114-118. In that review, Jackson critiques Nibley's "tendency to gather sources from a variety of cultures all over the ancient world, lump them all together, and then pick and choose the bits and pieces he wants" and to read into these sources things that "simply don't seem to be there" (115). He says Hugh takes phrases out of context, didn't provide sufficient documentation for some sources, provides documentation "overkill" on others, and doesn't give sufficient evidence for some of his assertions. Additionally, Jackson took Nibley to task for his sarcasm and name-calling, "which have no place in serious scholarship" (116). But in all of this, Jackson never hints that Nibley simply "made up" his sources.
John Gee recently completed a statistical analysis of one of Hugh's articles chosen at random to establish the accuracy of the footnotes. In looking at Hugh's essay, "Victoriosa Loquacitas: The Rise of Rhetoric and the Decline of Everything Else" as it appeared in its original form in Western Speech 20 (1956): 57-82 (reprinted in The Ancient State [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company and FARMS, 1991]: 243-286) Gee discovered that "87% of the footnotes were completely correct, 8% of the footnotes contained typographical errors, 5% were wrong in some other way (e.g. frequently right author, right page, wrong title). In no case could I determine that any of the errors in the footnotes was intentional or that any of the footnotes were fabrications" (personal e-mail, John Gee to Boyd Petersen, 13 January 2005).
In a later study Gee analyzed the footnotes in one of Hugh's Egyptian works, Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1975). Selecting a chapter from the book at random (Chapter 3, the second-longest chapter in the book), Gee found that "94% of the citations were correct, 4% were typographical errors, and 2% were wrong." It was Gee's determination that "the results seem to show that Nibley was more accurate when dealing with a Mormon topic, that his Egyptian work was more accurate than his classics work, and that his work on Message was better than normal, not worse." Further, Gee stated that "I have never seen any case where Hugh Nibley ever fabricated or made up a source. After looking up thousands of citations, I have seen him make just about every mistake I think one could make, but I have never seen him make up anything" (personal e-mail, John Gee to Boyd Petersen, 14 March 2005).
Todd Compton wrote me that he "was very disillusioned with Nibley's scholarship when I checked his footnotes carefully. However, I believe he was misinterpreting, not making things up. Furthermore, I believe that saying that 90% of his footnotes were wrong is a wild overstatement, based on my experience editing Mormonism and Early Christianity." As William Hamblin has pointed out, "sloppiness is not dishonesty; it is not good, but it is not fraud" (personal e-mail, William Hamblin to Boyd Petersen, 12 January 2005).
Now I don't agree with a lot of Nibley's writings - either his apologetics or his more political writings. I think they are valuable, but very dated, and frequently I disagree with his interpretation of data. The school of scholarship he belongs to largely adopts a methadology I disagree with: structuralism. By the same measure I disagree with Eliadi, Campbell and others who come from that same basic approach to scholarship. But the issue isn't whether I agree with Nibley or not. The question is Beck's claims.
Here, as in nearly every other place she makes a claim that can be evaluated, she is either lying, is tremendously confused or else egregiously exaggerating.
I confess I had to look up "structuralism". I'm not sure that's the same thing as picking and choosing references to prove a predetermined point while leaving out references from the same author/text that disprove the point. Perhaps.
A simple Google search finds numerous non-Mormon (and some Mormon) references that severely question both Nibley's scholarship and methods as indeed you have. Ms. Beck may have been wrong in quoting "Mr. Tweed" to the effect that 90% of the footnotes were made up. Indeed, "Mr. Tweed" may have been overwrought and done the exaggerating himself.
But Nibley is the foremost Mormon apologist (theologist sounds much less pejorative) of his time. THE representative of the Mormon Church to the world. Anything less than pristine scholarship is just unthinkable. At the very least, according to both "Mr. Tweed" and conventional practice, he had fact checkers. Gee whiz, give him a break, the guy's footnotes were right most of the time!
I noticed you've completely changed the topic now. So you agree that Beck was lying or repeating a deception she could easily have checked on this matter?
Just to add, all books have typos and errors in footnotes. Especially back in the days before computers. The issue is how well Nibley compares to other typical scholarship and what the nature of the errors are. Also note that if there are errors, it isn't necessarily the error of the author. It can be an error of the fact checker, the editor and the typist.
As I said, I don't see that Nibley's scholarship is worse than other major figures of that era. I disagree with a lot of it, but primarily on philosophical grounds. I also think it was typical of that period of classics that while looking for underlying structures to stories and myths to sometimes divorce them too much from their context. However in my opinion Campbell, Eliadi or other famous scholars do this to. To complain about Nibley as a scholar one must compare him to his non-Mormon contemporaries. Otherwise you really aren't making much of a point at all. If you are comparing him to some perfect divine scholar, then I'm afraid I don't see the point. He's a human being with biases, errors, and blind spots. So are all other scholars.
BTW - claiming someone makes up most of their footnotes is a rather serious charge. Don't you think Beck should have at least investigated this charge (and many of the others)? Don't you think this has a bearing on Beck's trustworthiness?
I'd also say that no apologist is the representative of the Church to the world. They are simply defenders using their reason and thinking as best they can. And frankly, on many issues, apologists differ. While Nibley has ended up with an iconic status in the church, I don't think that has any bearing on his scholarship. (Or at least it shouldn't) Further, as I said, changing the subject to Nibley's scholarship rather avoids the issue of Beck's claims.
Scholarship being what it is, we all disagree with each other and attempt to build on each others work. Most of what Nibley wrote was 40 - 50 years ago or more. Further he was the trailblazer, trying out new hypothesis and models. I'm not sure of your background, but if it is scholarship, you'll be aware that in many cases the work of the trailblazer is important for starting understanding. It is quite rare that the work survives to be the dominant paradigm. Although, to be frank, I think Nibley's work has survived being dated better than one might expect. But overall, especially in the details, I think many of his models haven't proved as plausible as he would have thought.
I knew nothing of LDS or what they belived in until I read "Under the Banner of Heaven" by Jon Krakauer. My impression of Mormans in general had been, Clean cut, attractive people who for some reason were very secretive about their religion. This book was shocking to me and altered my opinion from viewing Mormanism as a religion to the status of a cult and a nasty one at that. Murder was a tool readly used to accomplish their mission. You could almost substitute "Taliban" for Morman and be talking about the same philosophy. What a disappointment.
Most of the groups Krakauer was discussing are not Mormon. They are a fundamentalist offshoot that most Mormons have deep problems with. And most would consider his book when it does discuss Mormons to be highly problematic. (Although as I understand it Krakauer's views apply to Christianity in general) It would be analogous to saying all Baptists are like David Koresh.
So I don't think we're anything like what some portray us as. I don't mind in the least when people disagree with us. But I am a bit sad when they misportray us so as to fit some preconceived thesis about religion.