Thanks to Meridian Magazine for some of the thoughts in this video above.
Now, I have noticed over the years—as I’m sure you all have—that when we get to the edge of this section of 2nd Nephi—which has been fallaciously labeled sometimes: ‘the sandbars of Isaiah’—many don’t even know where to start in their thinking. Some of my students have just said, “I just read it to get through it. And then I go on with the things I can understand.” Others have said, “I don’t have a clue what Isaiah is saying.” Let’s look at some simple things to start with.
First of all, there are one thousand three hundred and thirteen verses that comprise the 66 chapters of Isaiah in the Old Testament. And a full 433 of those verses have been included in the Book of Mormon text. That’s nearly 1/3 of all of Isaiah.
There is a message right there. Remember what Nephi said early on? “I do not write anything upon plates save it be that I think it be sacred.” (1 Nephi 19:6) Nephi obviously feels very strongly that Isaiah’s words are sacred and extremely important for our time. And Jesus Himself, when He visited the Nephites said, “And now, behold, I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah.” (3 Nephi 23:1). There is the law of witnesses yet again. And the Savior actually gave us a commandment to search the words of Isaiah.
Elder McConkie called Isaiah the “prototype, pattern, and model for all the prophets.” (The Joseph Smith Translation—The Restoration of Plain and Precious Things; edited by Monte S. Nyman and Robert L. Millet. Talk by Bruce R. McConkie, The Doctrinal Restoration, p. 17). Make no mistake: Isaiah is a witness of the promised Messiah all through his writings. Oh, and I think it’s interesting that in all the discoveries of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran in Israel, they found 19 copies of the Book of Isaiah—some of them completely intact with all 66 chapters. Isaiah was very important to this group. Nephi preserves the words of Isaiah. The Lord commands us to study the words of Isaiah. Moroni says to “search the prophecies of Isaiah.” (Mormon 8:23) The faithful of Qumran copied and wrote the words of Isaiah multiple times to show their regard for his words.
So, here’s a little key for us to start with—to understand Isaiah in our day. And the key is right from Nephi himself: “Hearken, O my people, which are of the house of Israel [that’s us—are you listening?], and give ear unto my words: for because the words of Isaiah are not plain unto you, nevertheless they are plain unto all those that are filled with the spirit of prophecy.” (2 Nephi 25:4) To begin your studies of Isaiah then—pray for the spirit of prophecy to be given to you. Have you ever prayed for the spirit of prophecy in your personal, couple or family prayers? President Nelson is encouraging us to “stretch beyond [our] current spiritual ability to receive personal revelation.” (Nelson, Russell M., Revelation for the Church, Revelation for our Lives, General Conference, April 2018) So, again, let’s not be lazy, let’s do what the Prophet is asking us to do and what Nephi is encouraging us to do—pray for the spirit of prophecy. This will help us begin to understand his words.