How FTL Came to Be


Dear Friends of the Un-Blog,

My whole day has been absorbed with editing FTL. The publisher wants it back all finished by Monday. My wife and I are trying very hard to meet the deadline. So, I’ve been face down in the Holy Spirit. I bet you thought I was going to say something else . . .

It is quite interesting to read words I wrote 18 years ago, words that are still in print, still being read, still affecting people’s lives. I was not relishing this task, uncertain what kind of mess I might find in FTL.

Just between you and me, it has been a dozen years since I read FTL. Here is what I found – my understanding has enlarged significantly, but it has not changed in all of those years. The things I was given to understand in 1993, believe and write down, are still true, still valid and still vital. I found some unsophisticated language, lots of grammatical errors, too many commas, lots of repeated reasoning, but the message is still fresh. I am greatly relieved.

Back in December of 1993 I was walking down the hall of my home one afternoon when I was interrupted by a vision. I don’t recall what I was thinking about, but it was a very spiritual time in my life. The vision was of the major events of my life, kind of like the newsreel of your life you’re supposed to see upon your death. I was watching from behind and slightly above as my life progressed through many turns and twists. I was aware of each decision, what I was thinking, what the Holy Spirit was prompting me, and whether I chose to obey or disobey. I watched myself traverse many years with slow forward progress. It was crystal clear to me why. I had not learned to hear and obey.

Just a few days before this sudden vision, I had had a marvelous spiritual event that lasted all through the night. I saw in this newsreel that most of the progress that had brought me to this marvelous event had occurred quite recently, after I had learned to recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit and to be obedient.

The Spirit then said, “Write it down and publish it.”

I was shocked. I had tinkered with writing now and then, but I wasn’t very good at it, and I had never considered writing an LDS doctrinal book. I was dabbling with science fiction (I’m a little embarrassed to admit). I literally said to the Lord, “are you sure you have the right person?” I’m pretty sure I heard Jesus Christ laugh. I didn’t know He had a sense of humor until that moment.

All I knew was what I had seen in this vision. I had no idea how to write it down, what to say, how to say it or how to get it published. The whole vision had occurred midstride, in a microsecond. No time had elapsed even though I had seen all of my life.

That evening I sat down at my computer and began to write. From the first moment on the Holy Spirit swept through me, lifted and enlightened and warmed me. I wrote furiously for hours. The next day I called my manager at my business and told him I was going to take a few months off – don’t call me unless the place burns down. He just said OK.

I remember writing so full of the Spirit that I would forget to eat, forget to take breaks, forget to breathe practically. I would stand up dizzy from not eating. I would weep tears into the keyboard and worry about shorting it out. When I went back to read what I had written, there were scriptures, quotes from Joseph Smith and many other authorities – and I couldn’t remember looking them up. The words I used felt like somebody else had written them. Prior to this I had never spoken or written this way. The most beautiful passages I did not remember writing. I’m sure I did, but I just don’t remember doing it.

After the book was finished and edited as well as I could, I found that it was almost impossible to publish it. Every imaginable obstacle arose to stop me. Every publisher turned me down. I became discouraged and worried that I would let the Lord down. I wondered if this was just a test. Perhaps I wasn’t supposed to publish it – just try my heart out.

Some months later I was walking out of a High Council meeting praying about the book. I was asking Heavenly Father “how am I ever supposed to publish this?” It seemed impossible. The Spirit said to me, “Two years”. It had already been 18 months. I resigned myself to another two years of struggling.

At that moment Evan, a friend who was also on the High Council, saw me standing in the hall. He approached and said, “The Spirit has been telling me for days to offer my help to you. Whatever you are working on, the Lord wants me to assist you. What’s going on?”

I told him of my experience so far of writing FTL and trying to get it published. I apologized that it wasn’t something he could help me with.

He laughed. “You apparently don’t know that I own a publishing company.”

I was floored – completely speechless. He said “give me your manuscript and I will publish it. I will also edit it, design the cover and distribute it. Apparently this is important to the Lord. We will talk later about money if that needs to come up. Right now, I’m being commanded by the Lord to get your book printed and distributed.”

To make the story much shorter, in mid-December of that same year I found myself sitting in the LDS bookstore in Anchorage, Alaska, pen in hand, just about to autograph the first book of the first edition of FTL. A line of a hundred or more people extended out the door and into the mall. I was almost immobilized by the wonder of it all. The first person in line was my Sister Cecile. I smiled up at her and opened her copy to sign it. The Spirit stopped me and repeated in my mind, “Two Years.”

I had assumed the Lord meant two years from the moment I had prayed and asked how long, and how it could ever be done, just before my friend Evan offered his help.

My vision changed and I saw myself in my mind’s eye standing in my hallway, midstride, having just seen the vision of my life. That vision had occurred on December 17, 1993 at 10:00 in the morning. I was sitting in that bookstore on December 17, 1995 at 10:00 in the morning – two years to the day, hour, minute and probably second.

I just thought you might enjoy knowing how FTL came to be.

Brother John

© May 2011, John M. Pontius, all rights reserved. Non-commercial reproduction permitted.

About John Pontius

I am a lover of truth.
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19 Responses to How FTL Came to Be

  1. Randall says:

    John,

    I first heard about your book when somebody used it in a talk in sacrament meeting and discussed the ‘3 voices’. It took me a few weeks to find my own copy of it and I ended up getting it by mail from the publisher (in March of this year).

    It looks like I will need to get another copy and mark it up with another highlighter. I do have a suggestion though. There are a few chapters in the book where you have a section that goes on for pages and pages without a ‘topic break’. I really like it when I can grab your book and read a section/topic before work or after work, etc. without having to stop in the middle …. I can see I am going to write a long paragraph describing what I mean… anyway, there are a few sections that could be broken up into two sections.

    I loved the honeymoon chart too. I have experienced the same thing and was glad to see it on paper. Do you have any more charts, drawings, or pictures?

    One last comment. In Chapter 3 on the topic of Faith, it took me a while but it hit me like a ton of bricks and I have even had fun with it ever since. I was at lunch with a couple of missionaries (a senior missionary and a brand new missionary). I said to them “Joseph Smith didn’t have Faith in God or Jesus Christ”. The junior missionary went blank and the senior missionary didn’t lose a beat and told him to read Alma 32:21. He still looked blank. His senior companion then told him to read Ether 3:19. Joseph Smith, like the Brother of Jared, had faith no longer, for he knew, nothing doubting.

    I suggest Ether 3:19 will be a great reference to add to Chapter 3 as well.

    Anyway, I can’t wait to see the new edition. An electronic edition would be nice as well so I can keep it on my iPad…

    Best Regards,
    Randall

    Like

  2. Amber says:

    This was fabulous to read. I wonder about you including this story in a preface?? Love ya!

    Like

  3. Mckay says:

    Dear John
    I thought I might share something with your blog-followers that I shared earlier with. I first encountered FTL at a time in my life when I was hungering and thirsting, trying to learn everything I could about the process of “coming unto Christ”. I found much light in TPJS, McKonkies writings and an occasional conference talk, I.e. Marion G Romney, to inform and supplement the standard works but could find little among the Deseret Book and BYU religion professors works to fill my hunger and slake my thirst. Years before the spirit Had told me to read books from time to time which were from authors of no reputation and as a result I have read some unusual stuff. The thing that caused me to look at FTL was the title and the thing that caused me to buy and read the book was that John Pontius was a name of no reputation. So often the Lord chooses as his mouthpieces men and women of no reputation.

    I love the spirit. It is so sweet. FTL more than anything else I have read tells me HOW to keep the spirit. I add my thanks to your other readers.

    God bless all who teach by the spirit

    McKay

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  4. darrell brashear says:

    I always wondered what led up to the writing of FTL. Thanks for sharing it with us 🙂 I learned by reading that book that the key to spiritual growth came by following the voice of Christ. I hope you don’t mind my asking you this question, but what was it that led you to discover that spiritual key? Many of us discovered it by reading your book, but you didn’t have an FTL. book to go by. I’ve always wondered since the first time I read it. Darrell

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    • John Pontius says:

      I learned the main concept of listening to the Spirit through my life’s experience, but I didn’t realize how powerful and important it was until I saw that newsreel of my life.

      Like

  5. Lance says:

    John,
    I first read FTL last December. It is no exaggeration to say that it was a life changing experience for me. I can only wonder why it took me so many years to discover your book. I have no doubt that you were inspired to write that book, and I thank you for all of your efforts in seeing it through to publication.
    Lance

    Like

    • John Pontius says:

      Thank you for the kind words, Lance. I believe that the Holy Spirit leads people to whatever can bless them most at that time. You just found my book at the best possible time in your life. It was only a strategically placed stepping stone.

      Like

  6. alicia says:

    With all of my heart I thank Heavenly Father that you were prompted to write that book. It is because of your obedience that great blessings have come into my life and the lives of our family members. I love you with all of my heart.

    Alicia

    Like

  7. Steve says:

    Brother Pontius, we met at a fireside in Riverdale in March. I want to let you know, although I’ve never edited a manuscript or book, per se, I’m good with grammar, spelling, punctuation, proofreading, and all that. If you would like, I’d be happy to help with the editing. You should have my e-mail.

    Like

  8. Juli says:

    So very grateful for your willingness to heed the Spirit. This book has blessed the lives of countless many and will continue to do so.

    We never tire of hearing of the workings of the Spirit by those that obey!

    Bless you forever!

    Like

  9. Pam says:

    The spirit touched me as I read your story this morning and confirmed to me the miracle of this book. You have changed the lives of so many I know in profound ways and even though I haven’t commented before, know that my prayers have been with you and your family and will continue. I’m sure I speak for a great many who are not that comfortable with the computer. Your daily positive attitude in the face of trial and obstacle is strengthening to me in my obstacles. You are doing a marvelous work. A million thanks.

    Like

  10. Donald says:

    Thank you for writing this book. It has blessed my life.

    Like

  11. Kim says:

    I loved this, John. I didn’t know this part of the story.
    I seem to remember your having said your Dad also came into it somewhere, didn’t he tell you that it had been written backwards, with the beginning at the end, and the end at the beginning? Something like that…it’s been a while since I’ve heard it. I’d like to hear that story again, if you’ve got a mind to share =).

    Like

    • John Pontius says:

      Hi Kim. How are you doing?

      My Dad was an essential part of editing and rearranging the book. I left those details out to shorten the Un-Blog. Yes, I did write it backwards. The last chapter ended up first, and so on. But, the Lord says, the first shall be last, and the last shall be first. Don’t ask me why, it just worked out that way.

      Blessings, John

      Like

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