Yet, in spite of my struggles to understand Isaiah’s prophecies, I was even more perplexed as to why Nephi would expend such incredible effort to include these chapters. Remember, etching Hebrew characters in plates of gold with some sort of sharp stylus was not an easy task. Text scratched into these leaves could not be easily deleted, undeleted, or cut and pasted. This was hard work.
So, why would Nephi do this?
By seeking an answer to this question, I gradually got over my anti-Isaiah mindset. My mental block preventing me from seeing the greatness in the words of Isaiah eventually melted away. How could such a simple question remove decades of my anti-Isaiah bias?
The first thing I learned was that Nephi and Isaiah shared a common problem. Both had seen the broad strokes of this world’s complex future. Both rejoiced in their visions of the birth of the Promised Messiah. They delighted in the good news of the atonement. They shouted for joy at the Savior’s triumphant second coming and the peace resulting from His personal reign.
Likewise both saw the tragedy of their own people who willingly rejected their own God and consented to His torture and crucifixion. They both witnessed the scattering of their future generations and the persecution that so many would have to endure because of the sins of their fathers. In Nephi’s case, he saw the total annihilation of his people.
So, if I put myself in their positions, knowing what they knew, what would I say to my present and future audience?
I believe I would have done exactly what Nephi and Isaiah did. I would try to convey the good news of the gospel in a way that my readers may best understand. Nephi chose to use bluntness and plain and simple language to encourage his people to come unto Christ. Isaiah used imagery and symbolism to deliver the same message of hope, mercy and love.
The key to my ability to better understand the Isaiah chapters came when I realized that Nephi included those Isaiah chapters that taught the same concepts he and Jacob taught in 2nd Nephi. These teachings included:
- The scattering of sinful Israel and the gathering of a penitent Israel
- The humble and later glorious arrivals of the Promised Messiah
- The need for the atonement in overcoming the effects of the fall
- The apostasy and the restoration
- The millennial reign of Christ
Nephi, in his more direct way, presented these concepts in an easy to digest sequential order. Isaiah did the same by distributing these vital doctrines across several chapters in a slew of poetic words and vivid imagery. But regardless of their delivery, both prophets are teaching the same doctrine.
Once I understood their common messages, I was able to use the clarity of Nephi’s words as a treasure map to discover those same teachings buried deep in Isaiah’s symbolic poems.