Sunday, October 26, 2014

Why I Believe: Evidence Nineteen: Explaining the Existence of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Was A Prophet

Evidence Nineteen:  
Explaining the Existence of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon©

In our ward I teach the Old Testament in Gospel Doctrine with two other teachers.  Today I taught the fourth of five lessons this year on the book of Isaiah.  It was on chapters 50-53, the last of which is the greatest of all Old Testament prophecies about the Savior’s atoning sacrifice.  The teacher’s manual referred teachers to the Book of Mormon story in Mosiah 14-15 where the great prophet Abinadi is brought before king Noah and his merry old priests.   In the course of Abinadi’s hearing one of the priests asked Abinadi the meaning of Isaiah 52:7-10.  After some explanation, including a recital of the entire 53rd chapter of Isaiah, Abinadi answered the question.

While contemplating that episode an important thought struck me, which I believe is a subtle evidence that Joseph Smith was a prophet.  What I am about to relate, I believe almost every active Latter-day Saint has encountered at some time in the Church.  This will be familiar.

Nearly everyone in the Church knows that understanding Isaiah is quite difficult.  In fact, during the three previous Sunday lessons at least a part of each instructor’s discussion was given over to a consideration of this difficulty.  Everyone also knows about several injunctions found in the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, to study Isaiah because of his great importance.  Most knowledgeable Mormons also know that significant portions of the book of Isaiah are quoted within the Book of Mormon, much like the story about Abinadi referred to above.  A large section of 2 Nephi–chapters 7-8,12-24, which are entirely quotations from Isaiah–sometimes prove to be a roadblock for young readers and new converts in reading the Book  of Mormon.  It was so for me at age seventeen when I first read the book.  In my ward, which is an extremely active, committed and interested ward, the people are well educated and prosperous for the most part.  We have lots of experienced and seasoned people.  Among the men we have a large room full of as many as seventy-five High Priests, many former bishops (quite a few serving as bishops of student and YSA wards), a number who have served as stake president or in a stake presidency, and at least four former mission presidents.  Many of the women have similar experience.  Yet, it is these people who are discussing the difficulty of reading and understanding Isaiah.  

So here is my point.  When the Book of Mormon came off the press in March of 1830, Joseph Smith was not yet twenty-five years old!  He received the plates when he was twenty-one and worked with them for those years, with some significant setbacks as we all know, to produce the book in the spring of that fateful year.  Let me ask you a question.  If you were going to make up a religious history of the early peoples of America with the centerpiece of the story being a visit of the resurrected Christ to them, would you have woven into the narrative repeated and significant references to and quotations from the prophet Isaiah?  How  much could Joseph Smith have known about Isaiah at his age?  Given its difficulty, would not the better part of wisdom suggest to leave it alone–to leave it out?  How much did you know about Isaiah and what he meant when you were twenty-four years old?  Most would say, even those who have been through four years of high school seminary and four years of college institute courses, not much!  Could it have been much different for young Joseph Smith?

It seems to me that given this background the options to explain the presence of the prevalence of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon are not numerous. With the aid of our critics here are the ones that come to mind:
1. Joseph Smith in his ignorant naivete was extremely audacious, over-confident, and foolhardy.  He rushed in where angels fear to tread.
2. He was extremely creative, if not a religious genius, despite his lack of education, so he knew if he was to make his book credible he must include the difficult as well as the easy.  Nevertheless, he was an impostor guilty of transparent plagiarism.
3. He was not the author of the Book of Mormon, but its translator from ancient plates, by the gift and power of God. 
The presence of the difficult writings of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, with commentary and explanation which demonstrates not only comprehension but deep understanding of the work, is to me another important evidence of the prophetic status of Joseph Smith. 

Thank God for him!

Lets think together again, soon.


  1. Thank you for your testimony of the Book of Mormon and how the writings of Isaiah in its pages are yet another witness of the Prophet. The subject of your blog reminded me of a different reason why those writings are there. Many years ago, friend told me the conversion story of a friend of hers who was formerly an Orthodox Jew. She said it was the Isaiah passages that brought this daughter of Israel to a knowledge of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and that Jesus was the Messiah. Ipondered a long while on why that might be the case, because it is certainly different from most conversion stories. Rereading the title page of the Book of Mormon gave me an insight. Moroni said the book was to be a witness to Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God. Most converts to the church are "Gentiles" and most have great difficulties with Isaiah, as you mentioned. However, those passages brought light to a devout Jew. The Book of Mormon is true and exactly what it professes to be - a witness of Jesus Christ. And, also, there is not much chance that Joseph could know that those passages would fulfill that purpose.
    After making this connection, I realized that there are a lot of symbolic references to the Feast of Tabernacles in the passages in 2 Nephi 12-25 - light, water, name, temples. It is the Feast of Tabernacles that celebrates the Harvest - when the Messiah would come. I am still studying this feast, but it makes sense to me as to why those chapters, combined with Nephi's following commentary on the Savior, would help the tribe of Judah recognize that Jesus is the Christ. - Maralee Kmak

    1. Thank you for your insightful comments. I have not looked at the Book of Mormon from the perspective of someone from the tribe of Judah, but as your last comment suggests, if we keep our eyes open there may be many such things. I know the same thing to be true if you read the scriptures, including the Book of Mormon, with "temple eyes"-- that is looking for possible temple-related material there is much more there than meets the eye. Thanks again!

    2. Dan, as you know I spent some time with Isaiah. You are spot on with this assessment. When one "searches" Isaiah, he is forced into all the other scriptures. If Joseph were a fraud, he is one of the best the world has known, to weave Isaiah into all the other scriptures, and be consistent at the same time. Rich Anthony