Dr. Hugh Nibley’s opening remarks in his earthshaking address, “Leaders to Managers: The Fatal Shift,” given at the BYU commencement ceremony on August 19, 1983, would have fit even more perfectly in an Oxford setting. In refering to his statement in a commencement prayer he gave in 1960 in which he said, “We have met here today clothed in the black robes of a false priesthood,” he took this opportunity to explain:
Why a priesthood? Because these robes originally denoted those who had taken clerical orders; and a college was a “mystery,” with all the rites, secrets, oaths, degrees, tests, feasts, and solemnities that go with initiation into higher knowledge.
But why false? Because it is borrowed finery, coming down to us through a long line of unauthorized imitators. It was not until 1893 that “an intercollegiate commission was formed . . . to draft a uniform code for caps, gowns, and hoods” in the United States. Before that there were no rules. You could design your own; and that liberty goes as far back as these fixings can be traced. The late Roman emperors, as we learn from the infallible DuCange, marked each step in the decline of their power and glory by the addition of some new ornament to the resplendent vestments that proclaimed their sacred office and dominion. . . . [Read more…]