Joseph Smith was the first, great restorer of lost light in this Dispensation. He restored doctrine, authority, ordinances, scriptures and the organization for the Church. His ministry was one of the greatest among men in any age.
The second great restorer was, in my view, Hugh Nibley. He shed light on antiquity using the scholar’s tools while calibrating the recovery of ancient truth using the restored doctrine, authority, ordinances and scriptures which Joseph had bequeathed him. Hugh Nibley’s legacy as a restorer of lost truth from the past is second only to Joseph Smith’s.
Joseph’s genius was unique and inspired. So was Hugh Nibley’s. In the case of Hugh Nibley, he inspired a whole generation of students and produced a small army of those who intended to follow his example. It is not as easy as it seems, however. From scholarly disciples, to FARMS to now the Maxwell Institute, the effort has produced some good fruit. but you cannot institutionalize genius. The great contribution of Brother Nibley is simply something that cannot be replicated or continued.
Genius will always be (as Will Durrant put it while intending to be derisive): “isolated and unruly.” It could not be tamed in the schools of Greece, nor can it be captured in the halls of BYU. Credentials will never become a substitute for inspiration.