1. Nephi testifies of Isaiah’s writings and gives keys for understanding them.
1 Nephi 19:23 I did liken all scriptures unto us
“In reading any of the standard works of the Church it is well to ascertain the literal meaning of the passage read first, and the lesson it was intended to convey to those to whom it was first communicated. And then it might be well to ask, What lesson does it convey to my time and age? To my nation? My community? My family? Or to myself?” (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon,vol. 1, p. 206)
2 Nephi 11:2-8 for my soul delighteth in his words
‘Nephi quoted Isaiah because he delighted in “proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ” (2 Nephi 11:4). This provides an important insight into the particular passages Nephi chose to quote. Scholars call such passages “messianic” because they center on the Messiah. Watching for such messianic meanings helps an individual better understand Isaiah.
Nephi taught that the law of Moses and many other things were given by God to typify Christ. The word type has a peculiar scriptural meaning. It means that an object or event carries symbolic significance as well as a literal meaning. Thus, Alma says that the Liahona was a type (shadow or symbol) of how one comes to the true promised land (see Alma 37:38–47). To find out how profoundly symbolic the law of Moses was, see Mosiah 3:14–15, 13:29–31, Alma 25:15–16, 34:14, and Galatians 3:21–24.
Nephi quoted Isaiah for at least three major reasons: Nephi delighted in the words of Isaiah (see 2 Nephi 11:2), the words of Isaiah prove the truthfulness of the coming of Christ (see vv. 4, 6), and Nephi felt that readers “may lift up their hearts and rejoice” (v. 8) because of Isaiah’s words.’ (Book of Mormon Institute Manual)
2 Nephi 25:1 Isaiah spoke many things which were hard for many of my people to understand
“The prophets sometimes speak of future events as present, because they are present to them in their visions. For instance, ‘Unto us a Child is born.’ (Isa. 9:6)
“Similarly, they sometimes speak of the future as already past. For instance: ‘He hath borne our grief and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.’ (Is. 53:4)
“Another peculiarity is that the prophets sometimes group together future events very much as one combines stars into constellations in the wide expanse, according to their apparent position to an observer on earth, rather than their actual distance from each other.” (Reynolds and Sjodahl,Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, p. 370)
2 Nephi 25:4 my soul delighteth in plainness
‘The Book of Mormon contains the fulness of the Savior’s gospel and is the only book the Lord Himself has testified to be true (see D&C 17:6 see also Russell M. Nelson, “A Testimony of the Book of Mormon,”Liahona, Jan. 2000, 84; Ensign, Nov. 1999, 70). Indeed, the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion.
The convincing and converting powers of the Book of Mormon come from both a central focus upon the Lord Jesus Christ and the inspired plainness and clarity of its teachings. Nephi declared, “My soul delighteth in plainness unto my people, that they may learn” 2 Nephi 25:4 The root word plain in this verse does not refer to things that are ordinary or simple; rather, it denotes instruction that is clear and easily understood.
The Book of Mormon is the most correct of any book on earth because it centers upon the Truth (see John 14:6 1 Nephi 13:40) even Jesus Christ, and restores the plain and precious things that have been taken away from the true gospel (see 1 Nephi 13:26, 28–29, 32, 34–35, 40) The unique combination of these two factors—a focus on the Savior and the plainness of the teachings—powerfully invites the confirming witness of the third member of the Godhead, even the Holy Ghost. Consequently, the Book of Mormon speaks to the spirit and to the heart of the reader like no other volume of scripture.
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that abiding by the precepts found in the Book of Mormon would help us “get nearer to God” than any other book (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 64). Regular reading of and talking about the Book of Mormon invite the power to resist temptation and to produce feelings of love within our families. And discussions about the doctrines and principles in the Book of Mormon provide opportunities for parents to observe their children, to listen to them, to learn from them, and to teach them.’ (David A Bednar, General Conference, April 2010)
2. Isaiah sees the latter-day temple and the gathering of Israel.
2 Nephi 12:2-3 The Mountain of the Lord’s House
‘Isaiah locates his prophecy in time as occurring “in the last days.” Of course, the “last days” are undated; but grouped with similar prophecies in Isaiah, they indicate the distant future prior to the final days of the earth.
Anthropology: In the prophetic future, Isaiah says, the “mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains.” What does it mean to establish a “mountain” in the “tops of the mountains?” For the ancients, the temple was a sacred location that acted as a bridge between this world and the next. Sometimes a building was erected at that location and acquired sanctity from its location, but the structure was secondary to the location. Mircea Eliade, the premiere analyst of comparative religions, comments:
Every sacred space implies a hierophany, an irruption of the sacred that results in detaching a territory from the surrounding cosmic milieu and making it qualitatively different. When Jacob in his dream at Haran saw a ladder reaching to heaven, with angels ascending and descending on it, and heard the Lord speaking from above it saying: “I am the Lord God of Abraham,” he awoke and was afraid and cried out: “How dreadful is this place: this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” And he took the stone that had been his pillow, and set it up as a monument, and poured oil on the top of it. He called the place Beth-el, that is, house of God (Gen. 28:12–19). The symbolism implicit in the expression “gate of heaven” is rich and complex; the theophany that occurs in a place consecrates it by the very fact that it makes it open above—that is, in communication with heaven, the paradoxical point of passage from one mode of being to another.
It is no coincidence that Jacob sees the location of his experience not only as a “gate of heaven,” but even more importantly, as “beth-el—house of God.” For Jacob, the experience of his visionary dream made the location into the house (abode) of God even before he erected a monument to commemorate the location.
For the ancient world in which Israel and Judah participated, the correlation between sacred space and temple was paramount. Jacob’s vision on a stony plain was somewhat anomalous, since typically a mountain was seen as a suitable site for sacred communication between Yahweh and man. Yahweh put himself in Moses’s way through the medium of the burning bush: but when Moses deliberately met with Yahweh, he went to a mountaintop.
John M. Lundquist, a professor of religion and anthropology at Brigham Young University, has constructed a nineteen-point profile of the ancient Near East’s concept of a temple, using data from the Near Eastern religions in Egypt, Babylon, Israel, and Sumer from 3000 B.C. to at least 600 B.C.:
The temple is the architectural embodiment of the cosmic mountain.
The cosmic mountain represents the primordial hillock, the place which first emerged from the waters that covered the earth during the creative process. In Egypt, for example, all temples are seen as representing the primordial hillock.
The temple is often associated with the waters of life which flow from a spring within the building itself—or rather the temple is viewed as incorporating within itself such a spring or as having been built upon the spring. The reason that such springs exist in temples is that they were perceived as the primeval waters of creation. . . The temple is thus founded upon and stands in contact with the waters of creation. These waters carry the dual symbolism of the chaotic waters that were organized during the creation and of the life-giving, saving nature of the waters of life.
The temple is associated with the tree of life.
The temple is built on separate, sacral, set-apart space.
The temple is oriented toward the four world regions or cardinal directions, and to various celestial bodies such as the polar star. As such, it is, or can be, an astronomical observatory, the main purpose of which is to assist the temple priests in regulating the ritual calendar. The earthly temple is also seen as a copy or counterpart of a heavenly model.
Temples, in their architectonic orientation [architectural symbolism] express the idea of a successive ascension toward heaven. The Mesopotamian ziggurat or staged temple tower is the best example of this architectural principle. It was constructed of three, five, or seven levels or stages. Monumental staircases led to the upper levels, where smaller temples stood. The basic ritual pattern represented in these structures is that the worshippers ascended the staircase to the top, the deity descended from heaven, and the two met in the small temple which stood at the top of the structure.
The plan and measurements of the temple are revealed by God to the king or prophet, and the plan must be carefully carried out. The Babylonian king Nabopolassar stated that he took the measurements of Etemenanki, the temple tower in the main temple precinct at Babylon, under the guidance of the Babylonian gods Shamash, Adad, and Marduk, and that “he kept the measurements in his memory as a treasure.”
The temple is the central, organizing, unifying institution in ancient Near Eastern society.
The temple is associated with abundance and prosperity.…
The destruction or loss of the temple is seen as calamitous.…
Inside the temple, images of deities as well as living kings, temple priests, and worshippers are washed, anointed, clothed, fed, enthroned, and symbolically initiated into the presence of deity, and thus into eternal life. Further, New Year rites held in the temple include the reading and dramatic portrayal of texts which recite a pre-earthly war in heaven; a victory in that war by the forces of good, led by a chief deity; and the creation and establishment of the cosmos, cities, temples, and the social order. The sacred marriage is carried out at this time.
The temple is associated with the realm of the dead, the underworld, the afterlife, the grave. The unifying features here are the rites and worship of ancestors. Tombs can be, and in Egypt and elsewhere are, essentially temples.…
Sacral, communal meals are carried out in connection with temple ritual, often at the conclusion of or during a covenant ceremony.
The tablets of destiny (or tables of the decrees) are consulted in the cosmic sense by the gods, and yearly in a special temple chamber, the ubshukinna in the temple of Eninnu in the time of the Sumerian King Gudea of Lagash. It was by this means that the will of deity was communicated to the people through the king or prophet for a given year.
God’s word is revealed in the temple usually in the holy of holies, to priests or prophets attached to the temple or to the religious system that it represents.
There is a close interrelationship between the temple and law in the ancient Near East. The building or restoration of a temple is perceived as the moving force behind a restating or “codifying” of basic legal principles, and the “righting” and organizing of proper social order. The building or refurbishing of temples is central to the covenant process.
The temple is a place of sacrifice.
The temple and its ritual are enshrouded in secrecy. This secrecy relates to the sacredness of the temple precinct and the strict division in ancient times between sacred and profane space.
The temple and its cult are central to the economic structure of ancient Near Eastern society.
The temple plays a legitimizing political role in the ancient Near East.
Scripture: Isaiah covers three items in this verse, a time, a place, and an action. The time is the last days. The place is a temple built in the mountaintop, but not just an ordinary temple. It is a temple of temples, a mountain on mountains. It will be the preeminent location for sacred communication between Yahweh and man. And the action is that “all nations will flow unto it.” The divine communication will be so powerful that it will attract notice from all nations. Isaiah is being both literal (representatives of faraway nations will come to the temple) and figurative (they will receive, even afar, the word that Yahweh communicated in the sacred location).’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon)
2 Nephi 12:3 He will teach us of his ways
“Let us be a temple-attending people. Attend the temple as frequently as personal circumstances allow. Keep a picture of a temple in your home that your children may see it. Teach them about the purposes of the house of the Lord. Have them plan from their earliest years to go there and to remain worthy of that blessing.
“…As we become more removed from the lifestyle of the world, the Church becomes more the welcome refuge for hundreds of thousands who come each year and say, ‘Let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem’ (Isa. 2:3).” (Howard W Hunter, “Exceeding Great and Precious Promises,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 8-9)
2 Nephi 12:4 Shall rebuke many people
“There will be wicked men on the earth during the thousand years. The heathen nations who will not come up to worship will be visited with the judgments of God, and must eventually be destroyed from the earth.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], 268.)
2 Nephi 12:5 walk in the light of the Lord
‘As you appropriately seek for and apply unto the spirit of revelation, I promise you will “walk in the light of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:5 2 Nephi 12:5) Sometimes the spirit of revelation will operate immediately and intensely, other times subtly and gradually, and often so delicately you may not even consciously recognize it. But regardless of the pattern whereby this blessing is received, the light it provides will illuminate and enlarge your soul, enlighten your understanding (see Alma 5:7 32:28) and direct and protect you and your family.’ (David A Bednar, General Conference, April 2011)
3. Isaiah prophesies that the Lord will raise an ensign and gather Israel.
2 Nephi 15:26 lift up an ensign to the nations
“Over 125 years ago, in the little town of Fayette, Seneca County, New York, the Lord set up an ensign to the nations. It was in fulfillment of the prediction made by the Prophet Isaiah, which I have read [Isaiah 11:11–12]. That ensign was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which was established for the last time, never again to be destroyed or given to other people [see Daniel 2:44]. It was the greatest event the world has seen since the day that the Redeemer was lifted upon the cross and worked out the infinite and eternal atonement. It meant more to mankind than anything else that has occurred since that day” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:254–55).
2 Nephi 21:12 He shall set up an ensign for the nations
‘Rising above the Salt Lake Valley is a dome-shaped peak. Brigham Young saw it in a vision before the Saints left Nauvoo. He saw an ensign descend upon the hill and heard the voice of Joseph Smith say, ‘Build under that point … and you will prosper and have peace.’
“When Brigham Young first arrived in the valley, he immediately recognized the peak. On the morning of July 26, 1847, the men who would eventually comprise the new First Presidency, along with several members of the Twelve, climbed its slopes.
“This small group of priesthood leaders gazed out upon the valley below. ‘This is where we will plant the soles of our feet,’ President Young said, ‘and where the Lord will place his name amongst his people.’
“As I now stand at Ensign Peak and see the valley below, I marvel at the foresight of that little group. These prophets, dressed in old, travel-worn clothes, standing in boots they had worn for more than a thousand miles, spoke of a millennial vision. It was both bold and audacious. It was almost unbelievable.
“Here they were, almost a thousand miles from the nearest settlement to the east and almost eight hundred miles from the Pacific coast. They were in an untried climate. They had never raised a crop here. They had not built a structure of any kind.
“They were exiles, driven from their fair city on the Mississippi into this desert region of the West. But they were possessed of a vision drawn from the scriptures and words of revelation: ‘And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth’ (Isa. 11:12).” (Gordon B Hinckkley, “Faith in Every Footstep: The Epic Pioneer Journey,” Ensign, May 1997, 64 as taken from Commentaries on Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, ed. by K. Douglas Bassett, [American Fork, UT: Covenant Publishing Co., 2003], 184-185)
4. Isaiah and Nephi testify of Jesus Christ’s redeeming power.
2 Nephi 16:1 I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne
‘Earlier, Nephi had remarked that he, Jacob and Isaiah had all seen their redeemer (2 Nephi 11:2–3). Here we see that Isaiah was given the privilege of seeing the throne of God. This is a helpful scripture if one is faced with the common Christian doctrine that man cannot see the face of God. This is based on erroneous interpretations of the passage in John, ‘No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declaredhim’ (Jn 1:18). The Joseph Smith translation makes a condition on this all exclusive statement, adding, ‘except he hath borne record of the Son.’ Later in John’s record we get another, less exclusive statement, ‘Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father’ (Jn 6:46).
In the Old Testament, there is ample evidence that the righteous saw God. Seventy of the elders of Israel were privileged to see God, ‘And they saw the God of Israel: and there wasunder his feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness’ (Ex 24:10). Moses spoke with the Lord, ‘face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend’ (Ex 33:11). In this instance, it is apparent that Isaiah also was given the same privilege, ‘for mine eyes have seen the King’ (v. 5). Modern scripture helps us understand that this is only possible if one has become sufficiently purified and has exhibited sufficient faith. See DC 88:68, DC 93:1, and DC 97:16.’ (gospeldoctrine.com)
2 Nephi 16:2 Seraphim
“Seraphs are angels who reside in the presence of God, giving continual glory, honor, and adoration to him. ‘Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts.’ (Ps. 148:2.) It is clear that seraphs include the unembodied spirits of pre-existence, for our Lord ‘looked upon the wide expanse of eternity, and all the seraphic hosts of heaven, before the world was made.’ (D. & C. 38:1.) Whether the name seraphs also applies to perfected and resurrected angels is not clear. While petitioning on behalf of the saints, the Prophet prayed that ‘we may mingle our voices with those bright, shining seraphs around thy throne, with acclamations of praise, singing Hosanna to God and the Lamb!’ (D. & C. 109:79.)
“In Hebrew the plural of seraph is seraphim or, as incorrectly recorded in the King James Version of the Bible, seraphims. Isaiah saw seraphim in vision and heard them cry one to another, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ (Inspired Version, Isa. 6:1-8.) The fact that these holy beings were shown to him as having wings was simply to symbolize their ‘power, to move, to act, etc.’ as was the case also in visions others had received. (D. & C. 77:4.)” (Bruce R McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, pp. 702-3)
2 Nephi 16:4 the house was filled with smoke
‘“The posts of the door moved … , and the house was filled with smoke” (2 Nephi 16:4). The shaking and the smoke are symbols of the presence of the Lord (see Revelation 15:8).’ (Institute Book of Mormon Student Manual)
2 Nephi 16:5 I am a man of unclean lips
“I’ve been stuck by the fact that when Isaiah received his charge from the Lord, he bemoaned that he was ‘a man of unclean lips’ (Isa. 6:5). This sin too had to be purged from Isaiah if he was to bear the word of the Lord….
“We need to eliminate from our conversations the immodest and the lewd, the violent and the threatening, the demeaning and the false.” (Robert S Wood, Ensign, Nov. 1999)
2 Nephi 16:6 a live coal
‘According to Hoyt Brewster, the “live coal” (2 Nephi 16:6) was a symbol of God’s cleansing power. Through its touch, Isaiah’s sins were “purged” and he was sanctified to perform God’s work… . The Hebrew word for “live coal” is ritzpah, translated as a “glowing (incandescent) stone.” (See Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet, 131) [ Hoyt W. Brewster, Jr., Isaiah Plain & Simple, p. 46]’ (Alan C Miner, Step by step through the Book of Mormon)
2 Nephi 16:8 Whom shall I send?
‘At the moment of purification, Isaiah hears and responds to Yahweh’s call for a messenger. This scene is eerily similar to the Savior’s response to the premortal call for a redeemer: “And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first” (Abr. 3:27).
Yahweh’s call is not a lack of knowledge about who his special messengers will be. Rather it is an affirmation of the principle of agency. Yahweh so fully respects agency that such calls are not commands but invitations. The prophet’s acceptance is his free-will offering of service.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon)
2 Nephi 25:23 after all we can do
“At first glance at this scripture (2 Ne 25:23), we might think that grace is offered to us only chronologically after we have completed doing all we can do, but this is demonstrably false, for we have already received many manifestations of God’s grace before we even come to this point. By his grace, we live and breathe. By grace, we are spiritually begotten children of heavenly parents and enjoy divine prospects…The grace of God has been involved in our spiritual progress from the beginning and will be involved in our progress until the end.
“It therefore belittles God’s grace to think of it as only a cherry on top added at the last moment as a mere finishing touch to what we have already accomplished on our own without any help from God. Instead the reverse would be a truer proposition: our efforts are the cherry on top added to all that God has already done for us.
“Actually, I understand the preposition ‘after’ in 2 Nephi 25:23 to be a preposition of separation rather than a preposition of time. It denotes logical separateness rather than temporal sequence. We are saved by grace ‘apart from all we can do,’ or ‘all we can do notwithstanding,’ or even ‘regardless of all we can do.’ Another acceptable paraphrase of the sense of the verse might read, ‘We are still saved by grace, after all is said and done.’
“In addition, even the phrase ‘all we can do’ is susceptible to a sinister interpretation as meaning every single good deed we could conceivably have ever done. This is nonsense. If grace could operate only in such cases, no one could ever be saved, not even the best among us. It is precisely because we don’talways do everything we could have done that we need a savior in the first place…
“Thus, the correct sense of 2 Nephi 25:23 would be that we are ultimately saved by grace apart from whatever we manage to do. Grace is not merely a decorative touch or a finishing bit of trim to top off our own efforts-it is God’s participation in the process of our salvation from its beginning to its end.” (Stephen E. Robinson, Believing Christ: The Parable of the Bicycle and Other Good News, p. 91-2)