Monday, August 18, 2014

Stories of Glory

"There are among us many loose writings predicting the calamities which are about to overtake us. Some of these have been publicized as though they were necessary to wake up the world to the horrors about to overtake us. Many of these are from sources upon which there cannot be unquestioned reliance. We need no such publications to be forewarned, if we were only conversant with what the scriptures have already spoken to us in plainness." - President Harold B. Lee

There has been a lot of buzz lately among certain members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about a strange book that was published not too long ago, a book that recounts one man's out of body experiences and his visions of apocalyptic events.  The book itself is quite fascinating, but the most curious thing about the book might be how it has been received.  I have spoken with those who come close to esteeming Visions of Glory as another volume of scripture, and with others who consider it to be a dangerous tool of deception.  My first inclination was to ignore the book, since those who were eager to present it to me seemed to be lacking in judgment, but then I stumbled across an article in Meridian Magazine that, for all intents and purposes, excoriated the book.  Naturally, this further piqued my curiosity.

The reports that I received of this book came from three main sources: 1. eccentric individuals who had read the book and considered it to be a sacred new record, 2. less eccentric individuals who had read the book and considered it to be misleading, and 3. even less eccentric individuals who had not read the book, but who did not need to read it in order to have a negative opinion of it.  None of these sources seemed right to me, so I decided to go directly to the original source to find out for myself.

Fortunately the FAIR Mormon website contains a much more exhaustive review of John Pontius' controversial book.  I admit that I was less troubled by the eccentric individuals who revere the book as scripture, and even less troubled by the fantastic claims made in the book itself, than by those who discouraged a reading of Visions of Glory altogether.  Although I wouldn't necessarily recommend this book to others, I certainly hope that the average member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is intelligent and perceptive enough to discern between truth and error, and to judge for himself or herself if there is anything of value to be drawn from it.

While translating the Old Testament, the Prophet Joseph Smith arrived at the portion of ancient writings called The Apocrypha, and he inquired of the Lord what was to be done.  The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that it was not needful to translate The Apocrypha, but that those who were enlightened by the gift of the Holy Ghost could obtain benefit therefrom.  Visions of Glory is not the same as The Apocrypha, but at least those who are enlightened by the gift of the Holy Ghost won't be deceived by anything it contains, nor will they be intimidated by the varying reports of the book. The Book of Mormon clearly teaches that "by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things." (Moroni 10:5)  Think of that.  The truth of all things.

Of course Jesus Christ is "the way, the truth, and the life."  But such understanding does not release us from the duty of seeking out truth where ever it may be found.  Elder Orson F. Whitney, an early apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was fond of repeating the couplet: "Truth is truth where'er 'tis found / On Christian or on heathen ground."  "Mormonism is truth," declared the Prophet Joseph Smith, "The first and fundamental principle of our holy religion is, that we believe that we have a right to embrace all, and every item of truth, without limitation or … being … prohibited by the creeds or superstitious notions of men."

With an understanding that Jesus Christ is the Truth, and that the gift of the Holy Ghost as manifest through the teachings of his prophets and apostles, both ancient and modern, constitutes the bedrock of truth, it is not difficult to discern that which may be of value in John Pontius' Visions of Glory.  I particularly enjoyed the first portion of the book, as well as the peculiarly descriptive details throughout the book.  There were many thought provoking passages, especially in the beginning of the book, but I found that the author's increasingly dizzying and questionable depictions of the last days actually made the simple, correct doctrine of the Standard Works and the living prophets all the more appealing.

In sum, Pontius' stories of glory should be neither feared nor revered.  And should any of us be granted our own true visions of glory, I hope that we will have the good sense to keep such things sacred.  As the Prophet Joseph Smith once taught:

"The reason we do not have secrets of the Lord revealed unto us is because we do not keep them but reveal them; We do not keep our own secrets, but reveal our difficulties to the world, even to our enemies, then how would we keep the secrets of the Lord? I can keep a secret till Doomsday."


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