My Thoughts on Visions of Glory by John Pontius

Visions of GloryThe first time I heard about Visions of Glory was from my father-in-law. I’ll admit, I pretty much dismissed it. My thoughts: It’s about a man’s dream or vision. It’s not prophecy or revelation. That comes from the prophet.

I won’t go into what the book is about as I think that can be covered elsewhere. I’ll simply share my thoughts from having read (listed to) it.

How I came to Read Visions of Glory

My father-in-law had actually recommended a few books by John Pontius. I never took the time to read them though. It wasn’t until he loaned me his copy of Journey to the Veil and I read a few excerpts that I got much more interested in John Pontius and his writings. But that is another story I’ll blog about later.

Ultimately, after getting to know John Pontius better I became far more interested in Visions of Glory and decided to purchase the audiobook.

Initial Thoughts

I thought this whole book was fascinating. I started listening to it alone, but my wife joined in and listed with me on a long trip from Salt Lake City to Boise, Idaho. It took the whole trip there and back to complete the book from the point where I had left off.

While I found it fascinating, I really didn’t want to be deceived. I did more research to hear others’ thoughts on it. The man who had the visions remains anonymous. He is referred to as “Spencer” throughout the book.

After reading the book I could certainly understand why he wanted to remain anonymous and I couldn’t argue with his reasoning.

I found some people take his vision very literally, while others completely dismiss it.

My Current Thoughts

Throughout the book, I didn’t notice very many glaring contradictions to what I have learned throughout my life in the church. I don’t think the book is perfect and I don’t expect it to be. I believe as Joseph Smith stated the the Book of Mormon is the most correct of any book on earth.

But I still find his visions and interpretations of his visions fascinating. Are they literal? I don’t know. I believe they possibly could be. But Spencer reiterates often that this vision was to teach him and was for him. We may gain insights from it, but we should seek our light and knowledge through study and prayer and seeking to learn by the Spirit.

If the events described in the book from Spencer’s visions are literal, then what? Well, it makes me want to be more prepared spiritually and temporally. It makes me want to get things in order. These are good things that the prophets have been encouraging us to do for years.

What bad could come from it? I suppose one could make all their decisions based on the information in this book and ignore the Spirit and the prophets of the church. But it is emphasized by Spencer that this is not what we are to do. So a careful study of this book should not lead you down this path. Instead, if you really believe this book, I can only see it bringing you closer to Christ.

A few scriptures come to mind. First, Mark 9:38-40 where the Savior essential tells his disciples than a man working miracles in His name is on His side.

And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.

But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.

For he that is not against us is on our part.

For as much as Spencer testifies of the Savior and the restored gospel, you would be hard pressed to say he is doing more harm than good.

Second, in the Old Testament as Joel is speaking about the last days, in Joel 2:28-29:

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:

And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.

We are basically told here that it will not just be prophets, seers and revelators that will be allowed to see visions. Yes, they are called as special witnesses to testify of Christ and lead his Church. But they have told us we are all entitled to personal revelation.

So if you find the events leading up the second coming of the Savior a fascinating topic, I highly recommend this book. It deals with more than just that – other stuff that I found very interesting. I still ponder on this book and feel it has brought be closer to the Savior and his teaching. Therefore, I would say this is a good book and I highly recommend it to anyone willing to read it.

Prophesies of Mormons

I recently was looking at comments in a forum of sorts and the question was asked:

“The coming of Jesus was prophesied. Were there any prophecies about Josephs Smith or any of the other Mormon people?”

So off the top of my head I thought of a few that I could write about.

First, one of my favorites is found in Isaiah 29:11-12:

11 And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed:

12 And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.

Then we read the story from Joseph Smith’s history:

63 Sometime in this month of February, the aforementioned Mr. Martin Harris came to our place, got the characters which I had drawn off the plates, and started with them to the city of New York. For what took place relative to him and the characters, I refer to his own account of the circumstances, as he related them to me after his return, which was as follows:

64 “I went to the city of New York, and presented the characters which had been translated, with the translation thereof, to Professor Charles Anthon, a gentleman celebrated for his literary attainments. Professor Anthon stated that the translation was correct, more so than any he had before seen translated from the Egyptian. I then showed him those which were not yet translated, and he said that they were Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyriac, and Arabic; and he said they were true characters. He gave me a certificate, certifying to the people of Palmyra that they were true characters, and that the translation of such of them as had been translated was also correct. I took the certificate and put it into my pocket, and was just leaving the house, when Mr. Anthon called me back, and asked me how the young man found out that there were gold plates in the place where he found them. I answered that an angel of God had revealed it unto him.

65 “He then said to me, ‘Let me see that certificate.’ I accordingly took it out of my pocket and gave it to him, when he took it and tore it to pieces, saying that there was no such thing now as ministering of angels, and that if I would bring the plates to him he would translate them. I informed him that part of the plates were sealed, and that I was forbidden to bring them. He replied, ‘I cannot read a sealed book.’ I left him and went to Dr. Mitchell, who sanctioned what Professor Anthon had said respecting both the characters and the translation.”

The above references verse 11 of Isaiah 29. To understand verse 12 we should know that Joseph Smith was a farm boy who possessed little formal education. He felt inadequate when God asked him to translate the Book of Mormon. When asked to do so “he saith, I am not learned.”

The second prophecy that comes to mind is also found in Isaiah. Isaiah 2:2-3 reads:

2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.

3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

I don’t know of a better fulfillment of this prophesy than the reference to the Salt Lake Temple. Temples are the Lord’s House, where members are taught of his ways. The name Utah comes from the Ute Indian tribe and means “people of the mountains” or “top of the mountains“. Every year people from all over the world come to see and some come to worship in the Salt Lake Temple. Truly all nations flow unto it. Speaking of Salt Lake City, how many nations came to participate in the 2002 Winter Olympics. I wonder how many stopped to see the Temple.

The third prophesy is found in Ezekiel 37:16-20:

16 Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions:

17 And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.

18 ¶ And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not shew us what thou meanest by these?

19 Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand.

20 ¶ And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thine hand before their eyes.

To better understand this scripture, think of how scriptures might have been written and read in Old Testament times. Picture scrolls. Scriptures were written on papyrus and rolled up in “sticks.” The Bible is a record of the Jews. Who are the Jews? Members of the tribe of Judah. The learn in the Book of Mormon that they were descendants of Joseph, through the tribe of Manasseh. The prophesy states that the scriptures written by descendants of these two tribes would be combined into “one stick” or one book. Another prophesy fulfilled.

The last one I want to write about is found in the Book of Mormon. It was a prophesy written by Joseph, the son of Jacob or Israel, who was sold into Egypt. The whole of it can be read in 2 Nephi 3, but I want to point out verse 15 which makes it quite obvious of whom he is speaking.

15 And his name shall be called after me; and it shall be after the name of his father. And he shall be like unto me; for the thing, which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand, by the power of the Lord shall bring my people unto salvation.

Joseph Smith Jr. was obviously named after his father. They shared a name with Joseph in Egypt, who saw the great events that would take place in the last days. Yes, many prophets in the old world new that a great and mighty prophet would come forth in the last days to usher in the dispensation of the fullness of times. Ancient prophets knew that in the last days people would speak good or evil of Joseph Smith. I can see this everywhere.

Joseph Smith Jr. brought forth many great truths concerning our Lord, Jesus Christ that had been lost through the ages. For that we love him. Yet we do not worship him. We worship Jesus Christ, the Son of the Everlasting Father.

The Lord’s Mercy

We all sin and fall short of our own expectations. We can really get down on ourselves. We may pray for forgiveness and feel that because of our sins our prayers do no make it past the ceiling. In these desparate times we may feel like we are unforgivable.

Isaiah 54:7 reads “For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee.” Yes, the Lord may forsake us for a small moment, but we must remember that it is for our good and that it will only be for a small moment if we continue to call upon Him. The next verse (8) reads: “In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.”

After reading verse 8, my mind recalled the words in the previous chapter, Isaiah 53:3 which reads, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

What does this mean that “we hid as it were our faces from him?” Here He is, despised, rejected, in sorrow and grief, and we hide our faces? For what purpose?

I wonder; do we often stop calling on the Lord because we feel He is so grieved and disappointed with us and our sins they we feel unworthy to even ask our Heavenly Father for forgiveness? It often feels that we are the reason for the Savior’s sorrow and grief. He may hide his face from us for a small moment in wrath, because obviously we know better and we have made covenants to keep his commandments, but He will return with everlasting kindness as we return and repent – as many times as we return and repent.

Psalms 30: 5: “For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

Isaiah 43:10, Isaiah 44:6,8

If you do a search on Google for “Isaiah 43:10 mormon” (without the quotes) you will find hundreds of articles explaining why our belief in the nature of God is wrong. In fact, it isn’t until about the 9th page of results that you find anything this it not anti-mormon concerting the topic.

It has been my goal to read the entire Old Testament this year. This morning I came to this verse and also read chapter 44 in Isaiah.

Isaiah 43:10 reads:

Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.

This is Jehovah speaking, in other words, this is Jesus, the God of the Old Testament. I think the keyword to note here is “formed.” Clearly he is speaking of the habitual nature of man to create their old false gods to worship.

What makes this even more clear is the next chapter. Again, these verses are used to portray LDS beliefs in a negative way.

Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.

Isaiah 44:6

Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.

Isaiah 44:8

Here again Jehovah is reiterating the fact that he is the only God the children of Israel should worship. What makes this interpretation so clear is by simply reading the rest of the chapter! Starting from the very next verse it follows:

9 ¶ They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and their delectable things shall not profit; and they are their own witnesses; they see not, nor know; that they may be ashamed.
10 Who hath formed a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing?
11 Behold, all his fellows shall be ashamed: and the workmen, they are of men: let them all be gathered together, let them stand up; yet they shall fear, and they shall be ashamed together.
12 The smith with the tongs both worketh in the coals, and fashioneth it with hammers, and worketh it with the strength of his arms: yea, he is hungry, and his strength faileth: he drinketh no water, and is faint.
13 The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house.
14 He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest: he planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it.
15 Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto.
16 He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire:
17 And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god.
18 They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.
19 And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?
20 He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?
21 ¶ Remember these, O Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art my servant: O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me.

Open Rebuke, Secret Love

Proverbs 27:5 states “Open rebuke is better than secret love.” This passage of scripture caught my interest, but I’m not sure why. What does it mean.

Looking at the footnote it has a reference to Proverbs 28:3 which states, “He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with the tongue.”

After pondering these scriptures for a while, I started to think of times that I may have heard someone talk badly about someone or something. How many of those times would I simply let them talk and criticize and scorn such things. How long would I allow a contentious attitude. Even worst than this, how many times might I join in with my own criticisms and support them in their complains and talk bad about others. I find that I often do this to avoid contention myself and to gain favor in the eyes of those I’m with. It could be a friend or a spouse or even an aquaintance.

How much better would it be to stand up and defend a person or thing. Even if you don’t have to courage to do so, how much better is it to silently show you dissapproval at such talk. Could this be what this scripture might mean?

Waging War

As I was reading Numbers chapter 31 this morning, I was thinking about the first two verses where it was the Lord who commanded them to “Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites.”

I tried to picture this in our day. Would God ever command a people to go to war today? Certainly the Lord has made it clear that there are instances where war may be justified.

Now we all know there is a war going on today. President Bush has declared war on terrorists. Would God have us as a nation avenge ourselves of the deaths that occurred on September 11th, 2001? Would God not have us seek out and destroy those whose desire is to destroy us as a nation? Images of Captain Moroni come to mind. Images of the Lamanites seeking out the Gandianton robbers come to mind.

What are your thoughts?

Old Testament Reading Schedule

After completing our Stake Presidency’s challenge to read the 5 gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, 3 Nephi) by September 1st, 2005, and President Hinckley’s challenge to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the year, I’ve decided to issue myself a challenge. In light of the fact that we are studying the Old Testament this year in Sunday School and the fact that it is the only book of scripture I have yet to completely read, I’m going to challenge myself to read the entire Old Testament by the end of the year. My wife is going to do it with me, which will be a fun experience.

I found it useful to track my daily progress with an excel spreadsheet for the other two goals, so I’ve created this spreadsheet to help me with this goal.

The spreadsheet simply lists the books in the Old Testament with the number of chapters in each book. (I find it easier to track my progress by chapters rather than pages.) In the box next to it, list the number of chapters you have read in each book. The box on the right will display how many chapters you’ve read, how many are remaining, how many days are left, and, most importantly, how many chapters you have to average per day in order to finish by your goal date (you may change the goal date if you wish).

Click the image below to see a larger view:
OT Reading Chart

Click Here to Download the spreadsheet.