Ok, so I’ve read Visions of Glory, by John Pontius, twice. I often read books twice. I read Andrew Skinner’s “Gethsemane” 3 times. I read Hugh Nibley’s “Approaching Zion” twice – all 650 pages of it. I read Denver Snuffer’s “The Second Comforter” and John Pontius’ “Following the Light of Christ…” twice. But this was different.
For any who aren’t familiar with this book, it is presented as the account of “Spencer’s” visions. Spencer has had multiple near-death experiences in his life, including being still born. He is gifted, or “sighted” in that he has had several profound visions in his life. According to the foreword, he was instructed to keep these visions to himself until a man named John would ask him about them. Obviously, John did, and we are blessed with the results.
I have become aware of some controversy as to whether or not Spencer actually had these visions. One person posted on Facebook that the book is “…carefully crafted fiction”. I myself wondered concerning the veracity of what is written. I came to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter. Nowhere in the book is it suggested that the visions are intended for anyone but Spencer. Nowhere in the book is it suggested that the visions are prophecy, or that they will come true. Spencer, through John, is careful to simply relate the visions as he remembers them, leaving the reader to take what he or she will from them.
And that is the real point of the review. The point is not that the book, as written by John Pontius, is absolutely captivating. It is not whether or not the visions are true or accurate or prophetic. (I strongly suspect that they are true and accurate, that Spencer really had them, but I do not think they are necessarily prophetic.) The point has nothing to do with the amazing accounts of the workings of spirits around us in our everyday world; or with the stirring accounts of his journey during the last days from an earthquake and flood-ravaged Salt Lake City to the New Jerusalem; of multiple appearances of the Savior; or even of an Earth in its final stages before becoming a Urim and Thummim.
Instead, the point is how the book made me feel. To that end, I offer the following:
- Spencer’s ability to see and know a person’s history, loves, passions and fears engendered in me great compassion for all of God’s children. The effects of the fall were never made so clear or so profound to me. His account of instantly recognizing the challenges faced in the lives of those he encountered during his out-of-body experiences drew waves of charity mixed with admiration and respect for every brave soul who ventured in faith from the comfort of the pre-existence to take on the challenges of moral life.
- His description of the doings of spirits – good spirits, desperate spirits, and malevolent spirits – provided insights into our existence that somehow rang of truth. The depiction of the young LDS man viewing internet pornography in the darkness of the wee hours is never to be forgotten.
- The narrative of his first encounter with the Savior Himself – his receiving of the Second Comforter – will surely make even the most hardened individual yearn for the fullness of the Savior’s love.
- The visions of the last days were especially powerful, frightening, and yet ultimately inspiring. It became clear to me that, in order for a new society, a millennial society, to be born, the old society must be destroyed. The earth is depicted as a living organism whose method of cleansing herself of mankind’s evil deeds is through earthquakes, floods and storms. But it is his account of the journey from Salt Lake City to Cardston, Alberta, and ultimately to the place formerly called Jackson County, Missouri that proved most incredible. It is his account of gradually being stripped of everything except his faith in preparation for entering Zion that bears what is probably the most powerful message in the book.
In short, after reading this book, my heart yearned to be closer to the Lord. I was filled with a burning desire to strip myself of the effects of the fall, to shed any and all reliance upon earthly things, and to stand before the Lord naked but cleansed. The ordinances of the temple – and our own work there – took on new and greater meaning. I could more readily see the Lord’s hand in my life, and was even more desirous to lose my jealousies and fears (D&C 67:10) and present myself before Him in complete gratitude and love.
Is “Visions of Glory” a true account of Spencer’s visions? I choose to take his and John’s word that it is. Will everything that he saw come true? I honestly don’t know, and I honestly don’t care. What I do know is that reading this book made me want more than ever to personally experience my Savior’s love, to receive and exercise the fullness of the priesthood in the blessing of all of God’s children, and to dedicate my life to the building of Zion. Lastly, it was Christ Himself who said, “Wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20)