The book Visions of Glory by John Pontius, based on the near death experiences of “Spencer,” has been the cause of much division and condemnation from people who find it incredulous or who feel threatened by its graphic depictions of the earth’s endtime phase we have now entered. Because of that, soon after its publication, I compared it with the prophecies of Isaiah and discovered there were no points of conflict between it and Isaiah’s endtime scenario. In fact, Visions of Glory filled in many details in Isaiah’s broader vision of the end from the beginning.
What a pity, then, that in the very hour Visions of Glory has been proving helpful in preparing people’s minds and hearts for the events now upon us, it is receiving renewed condemnation. Didn’t the Lord warn Isaiah against this happening? “Write on tablets concerning them; record it in a book for the endtime, as a testimony forever. They are a rebellious people, sons who break faith, children unwilling to obey the law of Jehovah, who say to the seers, See not! And to those with visions, Predict not what is right for us: flatter us; foresee a farce!” (Isaiah 30:8–10).
Another irony is that the worst opposition to Visions of Glory has come from academia, persons who most come under condemnation from Isaiah and Book of Mormon prophets: “Because these people approach me with the mouth and pay me homage with their lips, while their heart remains far from me—their piety toward me consisting of precepts of men learned by rote—therefore it is that I shall again astound these people with wonder upon wonder, rendering void the knowledge of their sages and the intelligence of their wise men insignificant” (Isaiah 29:13–14);
“Because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men. O the wise, and the learned, and the rich that are puffed up in the pride of their hearts and all those who preach false doctrines and all those who commit whoredoms, and pervert the right way of the Lord, wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell!” (2 Nephi 28:14–15).
The saddest part of this is that those on whom the humble followers of Christ have relied have been the very source of “precepts of men,” ”false doctrines,” and perverted ways of the Lord. They themselves have been in error and not come out from under the condemnation the Lord had earlier pronounced on them: “Your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation” (Doctrine & Covenants 84:54–55).
In such a situation, it is almost inevitable that the conjoining of the academic and ecclesiastical arms of God’s people (as when the Sadducees joined forces with the scribes and Pharisees against the teachings of Jesus) compounds the problem to the point of persecution of the humble followers of Jesus by their own institution: “We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion” (Doctrine & Covenants 121:39).
Didn’t Jesus speak of the validity of NDEs and about those who would reject them? “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:31). And didn’t Ammon, Lamoni, and Lamoni’s servants all “declare unto the people that they had seen angels and had conversed with them” while they lay on the ground as if dead (Alma 19:33–34)? Could envy of visionaries lie at the root of the problem? “What is that thou hast testified? Hast thou seen an angel? Why do not angels appear unto us?” (Alma 21:5).