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Adding insight to 'The Revelation'

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 7 2010 7:30 a.m. MST

"The Book of Revelation: Things Which Must Shortly Come to Pass," G. Erik Brandt, Granite Publishing, 588 pages, $29.95

It is one of the great puzzles of history that a book intended to "reveal" — named "The Revelation of Jesus Christ" — should be masked in such mysterious symbols. Who can make their way among the beasts, seals and candles, and not feel just a bit dizzy? Make no mistake. There is no shortage of commentaries on this puzzling book.

The most puzzling question is how so many people can read the same text and derive such different lessons.

G. Erick Brandt comes to his task with decades of service to the LDS Church on his résumé. Although his professional background is not in theology or history but rather in engineering, his keen mind and a desire to map out the scriptures as one would map out a circuit board show through in this systematic and clear exposition of the Book of Revelation.

Brandt isn't interested in breaking new ground in this book. He has no innovative approaches or sparks of inspiration as to the meaning of the biblical text, at least as far as I can tell. Instead, he brings together many of the church's best and brightest teachers as a consistent witness to the meaning of the text. Of course, he adds his own insights to those who came before him, but they are consistent with church teaching and the historic understandings of the Mormon church.

Of course, he is not shy about bringing in commentators from other traditions. Their observations buttress our knowledge of Revelation from a non-LDS perspective. It is sometimes amazing how they all weave together into an understandable whole. Brandt has done a bravura job of bringing it all together.

Where Brandt succeeds best, in my opinion, is in his integration of all the standard works of the church, demonstrating common threads and amplifications that bring the Book of Revelation to life. I was delighted that he had taken the time to scour the scriptures to find correlations and illustrations. What a fine job he's done in this respect!

A complete index, a list of sources and a fine glossary of terms used in Revelation round out this impressive effort. Charts and illustrations likewise bring the subject alive.

I have in my personal library several works by LDS authors on the Book of Revelation. In fact, in consulting his list of sources, I was amused to find that I own many of these volumes. I've read a few of them.

Each has positive aspects. They seem to take on a sameness, although there's always a new thought here and there. Brandt brings it all together in one, convenient place.

If I had to have only one LDS commentary on Revelation, it would be this book. Accessible, readable and heartfelt in every respect, here is a really good book, affordably priced, that should find a happy home in every student's library.

Jeffrey Needle is the book review editor for the Association for Mormon Letters.

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