(Note: I enjoyed re-reading this post because it reminded me that I need to study the words of Isaiah more! It’s interesting how many people talk about how hard it is to understand Isaiah. His words really are plain and precious. The symbolism is sometimes hard to understand, but only if you aren’t familiar with symbols. I had great teachers (both religious teachers and secular teachers) who really helped me to understand symbolism. One of my favorite classes in high school was Art History, and we learned a lot about symbolism in that class.)
In the Book of Mormon, the prophets quote Isaiah several times and often will give their own interpretation of Isaiah’s prophecies. Nephi is not only no exception, but he alone quoted Isaiah more often than any other writer in the Book of Mormon. Nephi explained himself several times, often stating how he read Isaiah to “more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer,” (1 Nephi 19:23) or for the “proving unto [his] people that save Christ should come all men must perish.” The words of Isaiah are often hard to comprehend and can cause frustration instead of enlightenment. How, then, is one supposed to read the words of Isaiah so that he may believe more fully in Christ? Isaiah himself states that man must “understand with their hearts” (2 Nephi 16:10) in order to understand and be converted. After one has begun to understand with his heart, the treasures of Isaiah may be enjoyed and stored up in burning testimony.
In a vision described by Isaiah, he is called to testify and prophesy of Christ. After overcoming feelings of self doubt, removed by the atonement of Christ, Isaiah offers himself as a witness. (2 Nephi 16:5-8) However, Isaiah was informed that, although men would hear his words, they would misunderstand and perceive not. (2 Nephi 16:9) The things of Isaiah are simple and plain truths of the gospel; they are words which, if received in the correct spirit and mind, can enlighten and enlarge the soul. Man is continuously instructed throughout the scriptures to experiment on the word and plant the words in their heart with faith. (Alma 32) If one will but follow that counsel, the plain and precious truths contained in Isaiah will begin to change the lives of those they touch.
Isaiah was called as a special witness of Christ. Words which testify of Christ are important to one’s own understanding of the Redeemer, and there is no better way to come to know the character of Christ than to read of Him through the prophesies and witnesses of those called to testify of Him. The words of Isaiah may be hard to understand, but if approached in the correct spirit and mind, within Isaiah’s words may be found plain and precious truths that will strengthen and enlarge the testimonies of those who read them.
How do you approach the words of Isaiah?