It takes me years from the moment I feel a spiritual prompting to write a book, to actually have a printed book in my hands. It is a long process of writing, editing, editing and editing, submitting to multiple publishers, and then when accepted, editing again, proofing, proofing again, and then waiting. By the time a book comes out I may have worked with a half-dozen editors.
When I was working through this process with The Triumph of Zion (TTOZ), in addition to the process above, I worked with two additional editors to review and verify doctrinal matters. The first brother was a fellow author whom the Lord just sent into my life. He helped me to say things in a way that people would not take offense. It was a very interesting process. I would usually say something like, “Because of this, you need to study the scriptures every day,” which didn’t seem offensive to me at all. He would propose I change it to “Because of this, we all need to study the scriptures every day.” You get the idea.
The second editor was provided by CFI to work on doctrinal matters. If I said his name you would recognize it. He’s published over 100 LDS books. He’s over 80 years old, but very kind and doctrinally solid. He would read a few pages, mark them up, and email them to me. I would call him if I had questions, then edit the manuscript and send it back. Most of his changes dealt with saying things in such a way that they could not be misunderstood. We worked together for months. This stage was exhausting for both of us. If he found something he didn’t agree with, we would discuss it. He would most often say, “Well, when you describe it that way I agree with you.” So, I would adjust the language to make it clear and unambiguous.
When we had finally completed the last page and I had returned it with my markups, he paused, and then introduced himself. Before that moment, I only knew his first name. I was surprised at who I had been talking to. It was an interesting moment for me.
He said, “John, my last name is _________ and you probably know that I have published over 100 LDS books. I have been on the Church publication committee and on the board of directors at several publishing companies over the years, including having been senior editor of the Ensign years ago. When I first read The Triumph of Zion, I found myself not in agreement with you on some doctrinal matters at first. Then as I read further, and even discussed these things with you, in every single instance of disagreement, I decided you were right. It was just that I had never thought of these things, or read them anywhere. But, you have over 800 quotes in this book, and I must say, that I am convinced by the Spirit of the Lord that what you have written is true.”
I thanked him very much. I knew that it had been his job to be skeptical so that we could purify the language and the doctrine. Then he made this statement that I will never forget.
“But,” he said very slowly, “I am 83 years old, and I have spent my whole life pursuing a specific goal, which is to live my life faithfully, go to the temple often, and endure to the end. I just can’t allow myself at this stage in my life to believe that I missed the mark, or that there was something more I should have done. I think if I allowed myself to think that way, I would go insane.”
I am of course paraphrasing his words from my memory, but the impact of his words struck me forcefully. I told him that I was sure that the Lord was pleased with his life of service, and we said goodbye.
I have considered this matter now for several years, trying to understand why someone would flatly reject something they know is true, especially being a lover and writer of truth all his life.
I presently believe the reason is merely this: The scriptures testify to us that cities full of people have sought and obtained these vast blessings – and the same blessings have been specifically promised to this dispensation for us to use to build Zion and prepare the world for Christ’s return. These principles are so precious, and so profound, and so much a “mystery of godliness” that no person will be able to accept them until they have been purified and prepared by a long pilgrimage in righteousness.
The other reason appears to be that the reemergence of these truths has just happened. By that I mean, the Holy Spirit has just recently begun to bear living witness to the virtue and avilability of these blessings. Ten years ago the idea of a living person being translated was unthinkable. Now, the thought process, and people who believe it, are common. It is an idea which did not originate with me – nor did I cause this reemergence to occur – it simply is time. I have met maybe a thousand people so far who simultaneously to my own understanding, heard the same Spirit-born message. I was just the lucky one who got to write it down.
My dear 83 year old editor had one foot on either side of the line, and it was probably just not his ordained life mission to seek and obtain these things at this stage of his life – even though he believed them. In helping to publish TTOZ, and in 83 years of other righteous works, he did build his part of Zion.
And so must we. The difference being, by knowing these things, we have a steeper and much higher mountain to climb. But, the view from the top is breathtaking.
© June 2011, John M. Pontius, all rights reserved. Non-commercial reproduction permitted.