on September 12, 2014
Whenever someone claims to have had a personal visitation by Jesus Christ, they deserve courtesy and thoughtful consideration (some of the other one-star reviews of this book seem a lot like reactions by the public to Joseph Smith's report of being visited by Jesus Christ and God the Father: hateful and full of vitriol). I have two LDS friends who claim to have such experiences, and whenever I prayed for validation of their claims, the answer was always, "Don't worry about them; you need to get your own witness." Alas, I have not yet had such a divine experience. So what I'm presenting here is an opinion limited by my own spiritual maturity. Several "flags" came to my mind as I read John Pontius' account of his mysterious Spencer (we don't know the real name of this individual, and Brother Pontius has since died). You must determine whether or not these so-called "flags" are meaningful to you. Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Secrecy of "Spencer's" real identity: Whenever someone in the Church claims the necessity of keeping a secret (not the sacred, but a secret), my antennae start to vibrate. God doesn't do anything in secret. We don't have secret societies. We don't have secret organizations in the Church. I know the so-called Spencer wanted to keep his privacy, and didn't want to get excommunicated for developing a following, but I'm still put off by his secrecy. He should at least have made arrangements with his attorney, and publicized it, to make his identity known upon his death.
2. Spencer's description of Jesus just didn't compute. On page 58 he describes him as having "a dark beard that was closely trimmed." Not a big deal, although my personal preference would be for glorious white, like Joseph Smith's vision of the angel Moroni. However, on page 148, I sincerely take issue with Jesus Christ coming to General Conference "...dressed in a plain, black business suit and white shirt and red tie..." Not impossible, given the author's reason for the disguise, but...a big flag for me.
3. The "translated Spencer's" method of travel was through portals. Paraphrasing the not so immortal words of either Cheech or Chong, "We don't need no stinking portals." In the Book of Mormon, prophets travelled from congregation to congregation "conveyed away and travel by the Spirit," escaping from various malefactors who wanted to kill them.
4. His contention on p. 23 that "...a spirit who has never been mortal has no definite spiritual shape..." doesn't even correlate with his vision of an unborn son on page 26. Now it wouldn't kill me if this turned out to be true, that unborn can shape shift, but it doesn't stand my test of reasonableness.
5. His description of demonic possession (page 106) has evil spirits competing for possession of a body viewing pornography. He indicates that only one at a time can inhabit a porn-addicted human. This contradicts Mark 5:9 when Christ asks the demon possessing a man his name, and the reply was: "My name is Legion; for we are many." Am I wrong, or doesn't this imply multiple demons possessing a single individual, especially since Jesus sent them into a herd of swine who subsequently self destructed?
So what is my considered opinion? Where did Spencer get his visions? Let me tell you a story from my own experience. I once supervised all the Wednesday veil workers in the Jordan River Temple. Once a year, I interviewed each worker, and asked them to share with me (so I could write a report to the temple president for the temple history) any miraculous visions they had while fulfilling their temple responsibilities. Of course, I told them that if they were personal and not to be shared, that they should keep them to themselves. I heard a few specific incidents which I reported with humility and awe. But one of my veil workers said, "Oh yes, every time I come to the temple I see many things far beyond the veil." I thought to myself, WOW! However, upon a little probing I discovered this individual was on anti-psychotic medication. No doubt about it, this individual was a good guy, dealing with his problems as best he could. This is my opinion of Spencer.
Nothing in VISIONS OF GLORY is in stark disagreement with the teaching of the Church or our leadership. Spencer isn't trying to gain a following. He's just sharing a rather detailed vision, and he successfully convinced the late John Pontius to write about it. But Spencer's vocation is as a psychological counselor. That's just a bit of a flag, since we all tend to compensate in our careers for personal issues (I once had a club-footed doctor as my podiatrist). While it would be unfair to make a generalization, I've known many psychiatrists and psychologists who were...well...just a bit looney. Hence, like my interview of the above-mentioned veil worker, it is my opinion that Spencer may have had a self-created psychotic episode. That said, and Spencer if you ever read this review please accept my comments for what they're truly worth (in other words, just an opinion), forgive me if I'm wrong. In the title of this review, I used the Douglas Adams phrase "mostly harmless." I said "mostly," because the horrifically specific vision you presented kind of put a damper on my personal optimism. I'm an optimistic guy, trying to follow President Hinckley's example, and I'd rather take on each day's problems with honor and courage. Your vision of the near future is a real downer. Having done the 200+mile Logan-to-Jackson (LoToJa) bicycle race six times, I realize that life is a "head game" where you have to keep the faith and keep going, not thinking too far ahead. It's much easier to ride in 50-mile chunks than to say, "Yikes, I have 150 miles to go, and I don't think I can handle that." So I'm looking ahead for another 50 miles, but seeing the whole disintegration of life as we know it is a little much for my tender spirit. I'll take my medicine with...a spoonful of sugar, please.
on September 3, 2013
I could not finish this book. I felt like I was reading things that, if true, I should not be learning in this way, like sacred things were being desecrated. I agree with one other reviewer that the scariest thing about this book is how many 5 star reviews it has. I started reading the 5-star-reviews, too, and one reviewer said she'd been a member of the church for 40 years and before this book, she had learned nothing of value. YIKES! That is such a red-flag to me. Another one said it was the best book just under the scriptures. Come on people. My experience was I felt sucked in, it was hard to put down even though it was scaring me, and I eventually went to my husband in tears of confusion and fear. And I didn't even get to the end!!!!!! It brought for me a spirit of fear, and it wasn't because of the visions of destruction, because like I said, I didn't really get to the gory stuff, but because I felt like I was gossiping behind the Savior's back, learning wrong things from a source He did not approve of and in a wrong manner. So, I take it back, it didn't bring a spirit of fear, instead I felt the strong terrible feeling of the absence of the Holy Ghost in my heart. It made me want to run for my life toward the Brethren, the Temple, and the scriptures! Stay away from this book. It will confuse you, and God is not the author of confusion, but of a sound mind.
on August 14, 2013
If I could give the book zero stars I would. I know there are many people, mostly LDS, who have read this book and just loved it. If it had been presented as a work of fiction, I could have tolerated it. However, the author who related the story to Mr. Pontius, claims this was his real experience. He does add some disclaimers to his story saying that he doesn't pretend to say that the events in the future will happen exactly as he "saw" them, but that hasn't kept many of the readers from believing his account as gospel truth, which it most certainly is NOT! In fact, the book is full of false doctrine. I know there are those out there who read the book who will consider my statement almost blasphemous, but I can back my claims. If you care to read the very lengthy explanation about my many problems to this book, read on. Much of what follows comes from an LDS doctor's review on the FAIRLDS.com site.
Visions of Glory is written by John Pontius and recounts several visions and spiritual manifestations. Their recipient is an anonymous informant called “Spencer” in the book. It includes an account of visions of the spirit world, a series of vignettes of apocalyptic last-days scenarios, and describes Spencer’s foretold role in preparing the world for the second coming of Christ. It concludes with an appendix containing other visions which may provide parallels or points of comparison to Spencer’s claims.
The Saints should always be seeking for further light and knowledge. Experience has shown, however, that an anxious interest in such light and knowledge can lead to being deceived, misled, and manipulated if we are not sufficiently grounded in true principles relating to revelation and learning. Prior to teaching the endowment, Joseph Smith warned the Saints: “Let us be faithful and silent, brethren, and if God gives you a manifestation, keep it to yourselves.” Of this remark, Elder Dallin H. Oaks wrote:
"By and large, Latter-day Saints observe this direction. They do not speak publicly of their most sacred experiences. They seldom mention miracles in bearing their testimonies, and they rarely preach from the pulpit about signs that the gospel is true. They usually affirm their testimony of the truthfulness of the restored gospel by asserting the conclusion, not by giving details on how it was obtained." (The Lord's Way)
1. Visions of Glory’s portrayal of Jesus Christ and His method of interacting with the Saints is not consistent with scripture.
2. Visions of Glory teaches doctrines that contradict LDS scripture and prophets.
Prophets and apostles have repeatedly taught that it is inappropriate for members to publicize such material without permission from the President of the Church.
3. Spencer claims he will receive authority independent of the Church and its leaders.
Anonymous accounts cannot be verified.
In vision, Spencer attends a meeting for which he is given a ticket to a specific session of general conference—not everyone is chosen to attend. This final session is attended by a resurrected Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other Church leaders. The keynote speaker at the conference is the risen Jesus Christ: “Now in this unexpected moment, seated before resurrected beings from past dispensations, I had finally reached the beginning of my latter-day mission” (118):
When our Savior spoke, the first word from His lips was my name! I was extremely startled until I also realized that every person present had heard his or her own name. As He spoke, I could hear and fully understand the words He was saying to me, but I was also seeing a vision of His description of my future mission. I saw my entire life from that moment forward, everything that I would do, everywhere I would go, every person to whom I would minister, and how it would all be. I later talked to everyone I could who had been in that glorious event, probably several hundred people, and everyone I talked to had heard their own name and seen a vision of their own life (119).
Such an event would be of surpassing sacredness; it is unfortunate that Spencer chooses to reveal and discuss it, if true. There is much about it, however, that does not ring true.
In Spencer’s account, Christ speaks to each individual separately, and lays out their mission and assignments. He is thus again placing himself in a spiritually elite company in the future, which may incline the reader to trust what he says now.
We can only judge such claims by comparing them to the scriptures. There is much about Spencer’s account that does not match the scriptures. For example, in the scriptures the resurrected Lord always begins by teaching about His mission and gospel (Luke 24:25–27, 32; 3 Nephi 11:14–16, 31–41). In scripture, Jesus gives authority and assignments openly so all can bear witness, instead of privately in each mind as Spencer claims (Luke 24:49–50, John 20:21–22; 3 Nephi 11:21–28; 18:36–37). The true Jesus Christ opens the scriptures and teaches from them, and typically bears witness of the Father (Luke 24: 39–48; John 20:17,21; 3 Nephi 11:11). Spencer’s Jesus “bless[es] everyone silently” (120) by looking at them, rather than kneeling and praying aloud to the Father (3 Nephi 17:12–25; 19:16–36; 26:1). Spencer’s account simply does not match the Jesus of scripture.
Ironically, the entire focus of Spencer’s account in the tabernacle seems to be on Spencer and what he is to do, rather than Jesus and what he has done and will do.
Much of Spencer’s account seems calculated to cause fear, induce worry, and promote a preoccupation with terrible events of the future, from which no one is safe.
Pontius assures the reader that:
in some cases we have understated some horrific events to keep this book readable by general audiences. We have removed anything that we deemed could incite fear or panic if it were read by someone not able to understand by the Holy Ghost the greater story of hope and deliverance (19).
Thus, his account claims to downplay the suffering and disaster, and to exclude anything that could predispose even the uninspired to fear or panic. Despite this, the reader is soon given a litany of horrific events:
“the financial structure of the world had completely collapsed” (99).
“Every bank had closed down and money was worthless” (99).
“Factories and global businesses shut down overnight” (99).
“Almost all water was not fit to drink because of acts of war against this country” (99).
“People suffered everywhere” (99).
“a biological attack” against the United States occurs (100).
“I saw bodies stacked in town squares and cities abandoned because of the stench of death. There were marauding bands of people plundering and stealing in every major city. They were murdering everyone they found to preserve remaining resources for themselves….It was a gruesome scene” (100).
a “plague” arrives and kills “billions” in three successive waves, killing perhaps “25 percent” of the pre-disaster population. This plague is a bioweapon, and foreign troops who arrive in the United States as rulers disguised as a rescue mission “were inoculated against it” (107).
“atomic weapons [were] deployed to take out major defense installations around the nation and in Utah. There had been a first strike against the United States, and it came without provocation” (109).
“The devastation [from plague in Europe, Africa, and Asia] was far more severe than in the Americas. The result over time was a complete collapse of society” (111).
“great natural disasters [were] now taking place all around the world. There were hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, and disease” (111).
“many of the nuclear explosions across the country were a result of sabotage rather than a missile attack” (126)
In contrast to these claims, modern leaders have assured us that a long future awaits and that we need not be fearful of such calamities. Said President Boyd K. Packer:
Sometimes you might be tempted to think as I did from time to time in my youth: “The way things are going, the world’s going to be over with. The end of the world is going to come before I get to where I should be.” Not so! You can look forward to doing it right—getting married, having a family, seeing your children and grandchildren, maybe even great-grandchildren. (Counsel to youth, October 2011 General Conference)
In conclusion, Spencer’s account contradicts revealed scripture and doctrine. Any true visions about many of these matters should not be disclosed publicly without the President of the Church’s approval.
Despite efforts to paint Spencer as humble and spiritual, there is a thread of elitism that runs through his account. He portrays himself on intimate terms with apostles, prophets, and the Lord himself. He receives special assignments directly from Jesus. He has a temple office right next door to Jesus’ office in the Holy of Holies. He retrieves lost peoples and new scripture. He personally fulfills scripture. He sees and understands what others do not.
If he truly believes these things, he has been deceived, or he has let pride blind him. Brigham Young gave a caution that all would do well to heed:
Should you receive a vision of revelation from the Almighty, one that the Lord gave you concerning yourselves, or this people, but which you are not to reveal on account of your not being the proper person, or because it ought not to be known by the people at present, you should shut it up and seal it as close, and lock it as tight as heaven is to you, and make it as secret as the grave. The Lord has no confidence in those who reveal secrets, for He cannot safely reveal Himself to such persons….
This is the case with a great many of the Elders of Israel, with regard to keeping secrets. They burn with the idea, “O, I know things that brother Brigham does not understand.” Bless your souls, I guess you do. Don’t you think that there are some things that you do not understand? “There may be some things which I do not understand.” That is as much as to say, “I know more than you.” I am glad of it, if you do. I wish that you knew a dozen times more.
When you see a person of that character, he has no soundness within him. ( Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 4:288 (15 March 1857)
If Spencer did have true visions, his decision to publish them means he has forfeited God’s confidence, according to President Young.
It can be a spiritual strength to wish to be an instrument in God’s hands to accomplish his will. It can be a strength to wish to understand more. But, as Elder Dallin H. Oaks warns us, such strengths can be our downfall if we violate the principles which govern the disclosure of divine knowledge or the order and government of the Church of Jesus Christ:
Satan will also attempt to cause our spiritual downfall through tempting us to misapply our spiritual gifts. The revelations tell us that “there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God” (D&C 46:11). All of these gifts “come from God, for the benefit of the children of God” (D&C 46:26). Most of us have seen persons whom the adversary has led astray through a corruption of their spiritual gifts. My mother shared one such example, something she had observed while she was a student at BYU many years ago. A man who lived in a community in Utah had a mighty gift of healing. People sought him out for blessings, many coming from outside his ward and stake. In time, he made almost a profession of giving blessings. As part of his travels to various communities, he came to the apartments of BYU students, asking if they wanted blessings. This man had lost sight of the revealed direction on spiritual gifts: “always remembering for what they are given” (D&C 46:8). A spiritual gift is given to benefit the children of God, not to magnify the prominence or gratify the ego of the person who receives it. The professional healer who forgot that lesson gradually lost the companionship of the Spirit and was eventually excommunicated from the Church…
A desire to know is surely a great strength. A hunger to learn is laudable, but the fruits of learning make a person particularly susceptible to the sin of pride. ( “Our Strength Can Become Our Downfall,” BYU fireside address (7 June 1992)
Sad to say, a similar fate seems to have befallen either Pontius or the anonymous Spencer. Rather than dwelling upon this, readers can simply pray that they will be more wise.
On top of all this, the book is very poorly written.