Saturday, February 15, 2014

Why I Believe: Evidence Four: Isaiah 2 In 2 Nephi 12

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Was A Prophet

Evidence Four: 
Isaiah 2 in 2 Nephi 12© 

Second Nephi chapter 12 is an interesting chapter for a number of reasons.  For one, it is the beginning of Nephi’s quotations from the book of Isaiah in this portion of the Book of Mormon starting with Isaiah 2. Isaiah 2 is famous in its own right, but especially among Mormons.  Verses two and three are Isaiah’s famous prophecy about the temple in the last days. 
2.  And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. 
3.  And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and 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.
This prophecy was also copied almost verbatim by the prophet Micah (see Micah 4:1-2), so it is not particularly unusual for other prophets to show interest in this passage.   In addition to the important and interesting subject matter of a temple in the last days, a recent article by Jeffrey Chadwick*, professor of religion at BYU has brought to light another tidbit that gives one pause in respect to Joseph Smith and the origin of the Book of Mormon.

I start off with an observation and a question.  Chapter 12 of 2 Nephi is the first of a dozen chapters from Isaiah excerpted into the Book of Mormon.  They run from Isaiah 2 through 14.  Why did Joseph Smith start with chapter two instead of chapter one?  Well, it turns out that the possible answer is very interesting.  Dr. Chadwick points out that some scholars believe that chapter one is out of chronological order.  Section 1 of our Doctrine and Covenants is a “preface” to the book and it too is out of chronological order.  Sequentially it fits between Sections 66 and 67, but the Lord instructed Joseph to put it in the front of the book.  Chadwick believes that something similar is involved with Isaiah chapter 1.

The story is a bit involved, but here is my simplification.  Isaiah chapters 2-35 are a prophetic section which was probably composed by Isaiah prior to the Assyrian invasion of the Holy Land in 701 BC.  Isaiah 36-39 relate the story of the invasion and form a historical bridge between this first section and chapters 40-66 which were likely composed after the Assyrian attack and treat very different themes than the first part.

So what about chapter 1?  Chadwick argues that it too was written after 701 B.C., in fact, right after chapters 36-39, but is placed at the beginning of the book as an introduction to the entire work.  Here Isaiah “addresses the aftermath of the destruction of all the kingdom of Judah but Jerusalem.  This was the conclusion of a disaster that had started with the total destruction of the kingdom of Israel two decades earlier.” (p. 368)  Thus, chapter two is chronologically the first of Isaiah’s writings, which significantly, begins with  a prophecy about a new temple in Jerusalem. 

If all of this is correct, and I don’t know of any serious reasons why it isn’t, then it makes sense that Nephi would not include chapter 1 in his excerpt, because theme-wise it was considerably different than the twelve chapters he excerpted into 2 Nephi.  This leaves me wondering, as things like this so often do, how did Joseph Smith know this? It seems like he always gets the detail right!  But of course he did not write this book, he translated it by the “gift and power of God.”  That is the real key to all the correct details we encounter in his work.

Thank God for Joseph Smith.  Lets think together again, soon.

*See: Jeffrey R. Chadwick.  “The Great Jerusalem Temple Prophecy: Latter-day Context and Likening unto Us.”  In Ascending the Mountain of the Lord: Temple, Praise, and Worship in the Old Testament, edited by David R. Seely, Jeffrey R. Chadwick, and Matthew J. Grey, 367-83.  The 42d Annual Brigham Young University Sidney B. Sperry Symposium.  Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2013.


  1. I love little things like this that confirm my testimony as well as anything scientific can. God, being perfect, has guaranteed two things, our agency and our dependance on faith. He will not allow Satan to take away our agency nor will he allow our faith to be destroyed by having things be proven and thus preventing us from living by faith. If we know something with a perfect knowledge (see Alma 32:21) we no longer need faith and would be prevented from growing. Tidbits like learning that Joseph Smith could not have known this detail and incorporated it into the Book of Mormon by himself, doesn't prove anything, but it does strengthen my faith that he translated the Book of Mormon by the "gift and power of God."

    1. Thanks Dan. I had never thought about the results that follow when something is proven. Now I have something to think about today!