Isaiah 29 and 2 Nephi 27—a Marvelous Work and a Wonder

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Isaiah 29 and 2 Nephi 27; the Marvelous Work and a Wonder

The study material I’ve below is often referred to as the marvelous work and a wonder, but in trying to compare 2 Nephi 27 with Isaiah 29 you may find some confusion. First, Nephi does not keep the verses in the same order as the King James Version (KJV). Then he adds his own commentary and  “‘likened’ or applied passages from Isaiah 29 concerning the destruction of Jerusalem to the destruction of his own people in the Americas…While Nephi applied certain Isaiah passages concerning the inhabitants of Judah to his own people, Isaiah clearly saw events specific to the latter days. In these chapters, Isaiah foretells the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, the visit of Martin Harris to Charles Anthon, the three witnesses, and other events of the Restoration. The prophet Isaiah is a wonderful Old Testament witness of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.”1

Among Latter-day Saints, “very few words of Isaiah are quoted more often than are those from this chapter, which contains detailed prophecies of the Book of Mormon. We frequently hear the words ‘a marvelous work and a wonder,’ ‘a book that is sealed,’ and ‘three witnesses’ in Sunday School classes or from the pulpit. All of these phrases are from Isaiah 29 (JST, KJV). This chapter provides many details about the book of scripture that is the keystone of our religion. Isaiah 29 was written some twenty-seven hundred years ago for us as a witness of the Book of Mormon.”2

 THE BOOK OF THE PROPHET
ISAIAH

CHAPTER 29

A people (the Nephites) will speak as a voice from the dust—Darkness and apostasy will cover the earth in the last days—, A restoration of the gospel and coming forth of a sealed book (the Book of Mormon) are foretold—Three witnesses will testify of the book—The learned man will say he cannot read the sealed book—The Lord will do a marvelous work and a wonder—Compare 2 Nephi 27.

 King James Version

Book of Mormon
2 Nephi 27

Expanded Notes and Commentary

 Joseph Smith Translation (JST)  and  changes in the Book of Mormon are in RED; commentary and notes are GREEN 

aWoe to bAriel, to Ariel, the city cwhere David dwelt! add ye year to year; let them kill sacrifices.

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No Book of Mormon equivalent;

JST 29:1 Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt! add ye year to year; let them kill sacrifices.
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Ariel is the city of Jerusalem. Ariel appears five times in the Old Testament, all in Isaiah 29. The word is commonly translated as “lion of God,” “lioness of God,” or “altar-hearth” of God.3 The lion is a symbol of Judah (Gen. 49:9).—Parry, Donald W., Understanding IsaiahDeseret Book Company. Kindle Edition

Yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be heaviness and asorrow: and it shall be unto me as Ariel.x


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No Book of Mormon equivalent;
JST: 29:
2 Yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be heaviness and sorrow; for thus hath the Lord said unto me, It shall be unto Ariel;
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When Joseph Smith translated the Bible, he made a number of notable changes in this section of Isaiah 29. The King James Version second-person forms, thou, thee, and thy, which refer to Jerusalem, are changed to the third-person singular forms her and she in eight instances in verses 3–5 of the Joseph Smith Translation.—Parry, Donald W., Understanding IsaiahDeseret Book Company. Kindle Edition

And I will acamp against thee round about, and will lay siege against thee with a mount, and I will raise forts against thee.

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No Book of Mormon equivalent;
JST 29:
That the Lord will camp against her round about, and will lay siege against her with a mount, and I will raise forts against her.

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Nephi likened this verse to his people’s destruction: After my seed and the seed of my brethren shall have adwindled in unbelief, and shall have been smitten by the Gentiles; yea, after the Lord God shall have bcamped against them round about, and shall have laid siege against them with a mount, and raised forts against them; and after they shall have been brought down low in the dust, even that they are not, yet the words of the righteous shall be written, and the cprayers of the faithful shall be heard, and all those who have ddwindled in unbelief shall not be forgotten.—2 Ne. 26:15 

And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the adust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the bground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust.x

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No Book of Mormon equivalent;
JST 29:
And she shall be brought down, and shall speak out of the ground, and her speech shall be low out of the dust; and her voice shall be as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and her speech shall whisper out of the dust.x
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Here Nephi applies Isaiah’s words to the departed of his own people who, through the Book of Mormon, speak to those of the last days from the grave with a voice of warning.—McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Deseret Book, vol 1, p 306
5 Moreover the multitude of thy strangers shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the terrible ones shall be as chaff that passeth away: yea, it shall be at an instant suddenly.
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No Book of Mormon equivalent;
JST 29: 
5 Moreover the multitude of her strangers shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the terrible ones shall be as chaff that passeth away; yea, it shall be at an instant suddenly.
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Wherefore, as those who have been destroyed have been destroyed speedily; and the multitude of their aterrible ones shall be as bchaff that passeth away—yea, thus saith the Lord God: It shall be at an instant, suddenly—2 Ne. 26:18
No King James equivalent  But, behold, in the alast days, or in the days of the Gentiles—yea, behold all the nations of the Gentiles and also the Jews, both those who shall come upon this land and those who shall be upon other lands, yea, even upon all the lands of the earth, behold, they will be bdrunken with iniquity and all manner of abominations—
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Nephi paraphrased a few of Isaiah’s words, as recorded in Isaiah 29:2–4, likening the people of Jerusalem to his own people and their destruction (2 Ne. 26:15). The Nephite nation was indeed destroyed according to the words of Nephi in a manner similar to the destruction of Jerusalem.—Parry, Donald W., Understanding IsaiahDeseret Book Company. Kindle Edition

6 [Thou] shalt be visited of the Lord of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring afire.x
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And when that day shall come they shall be avisited of the Lord of Hosts, with thunder and with earthquake, and with a great noise, and with storm, and with tempest, and with the bflame of devouring fire.x
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aD&C 97:26 But if she observe not to do whatsoever I have commanded her, I will visit her according to all her works, with sore affliction, with pestilence, with plague, with sword, with vengeance, with devouring fire.

¶ And [the multitude] of all the nations that fight against [Ariel, even all that fight against her and her munition], and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision.

8  [It shall] even be as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or [as when] a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite: so shall the multitude of all the nations be, that afight against mount bZion

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And all the anations that bfight against Zion, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision;

yea, it shall be unto them, even as unto a hungry man which dreameth, and behold he eateth but he awaketh and his soul is empty; or like unto a thirsty man which dreameth, and behold he drinketh but he awaketh and behold he is faint, and his soul hath appetite; yea, even so shall the multitude of all the nations be that fight against Mount Zion.

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JST 29:7–8 And the multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel, even all that fight against her and her munition, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision.
Yea, it shall be unto them even as unto a hungry man who dreameth, and behold, he eateth, but he awaketh and his soul is empty; or like unto a thirsty man 
who dreameth, and behold, he drinketh, but he awaketh, and behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite. Yea, even so shall the multitude of all the nations be that fight against mount Zion.

The nations that fight against Jerusalem and Zion will, in the end, have no more lasting satisfaction than does a hungry person who only dreams of eating.—Parry, Donald W., Understanding IsaiahDeseret Book Company. Kindle Edition

¶ Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry ye out, and cry: they are adrunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink.

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For behold, all ye that doeth iniquity, stay yourselves and wonder, for ye shall cry out, and cry; yea, ye shall be adrunken but not with wine, ye shall stagger but not with strong drink.
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Isaiah’s words in verses 9–10 refer to the Great Apostasy, which would occur after the deaths of the Savior and His Apostles. Over time, people changed many gospel principles and the organization of the Church. Old Testament Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students, Unit 25: Day 1

10 For the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep asleep, and hath closed your beyes: the cprophets and your rulers, the dseers hath he ecovered.

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For behold, the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep. For behold, ye have closed your aeyes, and ye have brejected the prophets; and your rulers, and the seers hath he covered because of your iniquity.

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People would experience “the spirit of deep sleep,” and the prophets and seers would be covered, or removed from the people… the world would fall into a state of spiritual darkness. This falling away from truth is …the Great Apostasy.— Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual, Lesson 122

11 [And the vision of all is become] unto you as the words of a abook

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 …that is bsealed,

 

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…which [men] deliver to [one that is] learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: 

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…and [he saith],I cannot; for it is sealed:

 

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And it shall come to pass that the Lord God shall bring forth unto ayou the words of a bbook, and they shall be the words of them which have slumbered.

And behold the book shall be asealed; and in the book shall be a brevelation from God, from the beginning of the world to the cending thereof.

15 But behold, it shall come to pass that the Lord God shall say unto him to whom he shall deliver the book: Take these words which are not sealed and deliver them to another, that he may show them unto the learned, saying: aRead this, I pray thee. And the learned shall say: Bring hither the book, and I will read them.

17 And the man shall say: I cannot bring the book, for it is sealed.

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Martin Harris desired proof that the translation Joseph Smith was making was genuine. He obtained permission to carry a copy of several of the “words” from the plates, together with their translation, to some learned men. Martin Harris …state[d] that he took the copy to Professor Charles Anthon of New York City, who certified that the characters were real and correctly translated. But when Professor Anthon discovered that the record from which the characters were obtained was itself received by supernatural means, he retracted his statement by asking for his certificate back and tearing it to bits. …Anthon said that “if I would bring the plates to him he would translate them. I informed him that part of the plates were sealed, and that I was forbidden to bring them. He replied, ‘I cannot read a sealed book.’ I left him, and went to Dr. Mitchell, who sanctioned what Professor Anthon had said respecting both the characters and the translation.” (Joseph Smith—History 1:65.).—Old Testament Student Manual Kings-Malachi, pp. 161–69.

12 [And the book is delivered]to ahim that is not learned, [saying, Read this, I pray thee:] and he saith, I am not learned.x

 

 

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19 Wherefore it shall come to pass, that the Lord God will adeliver again the book and the words thereof to him that is not learned; and the man that is not learned shall say: I am not learned.

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Now in regard to Joseph Smith’s qualifications or attainments in learning, they were very ordinary. He had received a little education in the common country schools in the vicinity in which he had lived. He could read a little, and could write, but it was in such an ordinary hand that he did not venture to act as his own scribe, but had to employ sometimes one and sometimes another to write as he translated. This unlearned man did not make the same reply that the learned man did. For when the book was delivered to this unlearned youth and he was requested to read it, he replied, ‘I am not learned.’ I suppose he felt his weakness when the Lord told him to read this book; for he thought it was a great work.Journal of Discourses,15:186
13 ¶ [Wherefore the Lord said], Forasmuch as this people adraw near me with their bmouth, and with their lips do chonour me, but have dremoved their eheart far from me, and their ffear toward me is taught by the gprecept of men:x 25 aForasmuch as this people draw near unto me with their mouth, and with their lips do bhonor me, but have removed their chearts far from me, and their fear towards me is taught by the dprecepts of men—
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This is how “Jesus quoted Isaiah …as He answered Joseph Smith’s question as to which church to join, during the first vision.”—Ridges, David J., The Book of Mormon Made Easier, Part 1, Cedar Fort, Inc. Kindle Edition.
14 Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a amarvellousbwork among this people, [even] a marvellous work and a wonder: for the cwisdom of their wise [men] shall dperish, and the eunderstanding of their fprudent [men] shall be hid.

26 Therefore, I will proceed to do a amarvelous workamong this people, yea, a bmarvelous work and a wonder, for the cwisdom of their wise and dlearned shall perish, and the eunderstanding of their fprudent shall be hid.

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“Isaiah foresaw that God would do ‘a marvelous work and a wonder’ in the latter days …That marvelous work would include the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and the Restoration of the gospel”—Russell M. Nelson, “Scriptural Witnesses,”
Ensign, Nov 2007

15 Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their acounselfrom the Lord, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who bseeth us? and who knoweth us?

16 Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay: for shall the awork say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?
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27 And awo unto them that seek deep to hide their bcounsel from the Lord! And their works are in the cdark; and they say: Who seeth us, and who knoweth us? And they also say:
Surely, your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the dpotter’s clay. But behold, I will show unto them, saith the Lord of Hosts, that I eknow all their works. For shall the work say of him that made it, he made me not? Or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, he had no understanding?x
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  • them = the wicked
  • counsel = evil plots
  • turning of things upside down = perversion of truth
  • potter’s clay (i.e., claiming they can get along without God, like the situation described in Isa. 45:9 where the potter’s clay tries to tell the potter what to do)
  • them = the wicked
  • the work = the pot)
  • him = the potter
  • the thing framed = the building or whatever
  • him = the carpenter, craftsman
  • framed it = built it
  • had no understanding (he doesn’t know me; i.e., “God doesn’t know us. We can be wicked and successfully hide from God.” or, “You wicked are just as foolish as potters clay that claims it made itself into a pot and has no accountability to its maker.”)—Ridges, David J., The Book of Mormon Made Easier, Part 1, Cedar Fort, Inc. Kindle Edition,  pp. 323-324

17 [Is it not] yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest?


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28 But behold, saith the Lord of Hosts: I will show unto the children of men that it is yet a very little while and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field; and the afruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest.

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Israel will blossom with literal forests and with truth, spiritual growth etc. after the Restoration. This is being very dramatically fulfilled, literally, today, as millions upon millions of trees are being planted in the southern portions of the Holy Land. It appears that significant spiritual growth is yet future.—Ridges, David J.. The Book of Mormon Made Easier, Part 1, Cedar Fort, Inc. Kindle Edition,  pp. 323-324
18 ¶ And in that aday shall the deaf hear the words of the bbook, and the ceyes of the blind shall see out of dobscurity, and out of darkness.
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29 aAnd in that day shall the bdeaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness.
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The spiritually deaf and blind will hear and see the Book of Mormon, and the meek and poor will rejoice in the Lord. This prophecy may be interpreted both symbolically and literally (for example, sophisticated hearing aids, audio recordings, scriptures in Braille, etc.)—Ogden, D. Kelly, Verse by Verse, Old Testament: Volume TwoDeseret Book Company. Kindle Edition.

19 The meek also shall increase their ajoy in the Lord, and the bpoor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.x

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30 And the ameek also shall increase, and their bjoy shall be in the Lord, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.x

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The terms meek and poor seem to refer to disciples of Christ (see Matt. 5:3, “poor in spirit” and Matt. 5:5, “meek”). The number of true disciples of Christ (meek and poor) increases through acceptance and study of the Book of Mormon.—Parry, Donald W., Understanding IsaiahDeseret Book Company. Kindle Edition

20 For the terrible one is brought to nought, and the scorner is consumed, and all that awatch for iniquity are bcut off:30 And the ameek also shall increase, and their bjoy shall be in the Lord, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.

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31 For assuredly as the Lord liveth they shall see that the aterrible one is brought to naught, and the scorner is consumed, and all that watch for iniquity are cut off;30 And the ameek also shall increase, and their bjoy shall be in the Lord, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.x The Book of Mormon retains an opening phrase in verse 20 which attributes to the Lord the action referred to in these verses. The Book of Mormon also retains a more definite identification of those spoken of in verse 21—Nyman, Monte S., Great are the Words of Isaiah  Cedar Fort, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

21 That make a man an aoffender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in bthe gate, and cturn aside the just for a thing of nought.

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32 And they that make a man an aoffender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the bgate, and cturnaside the just for a thing of naught.

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The Lord’s promise is that Satan and his minions will be cut off. They who offend with their words, or who try to entrap those who carry out proper business transactions and legal matters (where such matters were conducted anciently, at the city gate), or who pervert justice for trivial kickbacks will all be cut off.Ogden, D. Kelly, Verse by Verse, Old Testament: Volume TwoDeseret Book Company. Kindle Edition.

22 Therefore thus saith the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the ahouse of Jacob, Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale.

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33 Therefore, thus saith the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob: Jacob shall anot now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale.

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The house of Jacob has been made ashamed, and his face has waxed pale, ever since he was driven away from Lebanon or Canaan, but the Lord has now brought forth out of the ground a book which shall, accompanied by His power, restore the tribes of Jacob from the four quarters of the globe, and establish them in the land of Palestine and Lebanon forever; and His holy name they shall no more profane, but shall be a righteous people throughout all their generations, while the earth shall stand, and they shall possess their promised land again in eternity, never more to pass away; therefore, they shall never again be made ashamed. It is in vain for the Gentiles to seek the conversion of Jacob, and to bring about their great redemption, only in the way that the Lord God of Israel hath predicted and appointed: they may call meetings and conventions to convert the Jews, but let them know assuredly that the book spoken of by Isaiah is to accomplish the salvation of the house of Jacob, and bring about the restoration of all Israel, while the Gentiles who will not receive it and be numbered and identified with the house of Jacob, must surely perish, yea, and they shall be utterly wasted with storm and tempest, with earthquakes and famine, with the flame of devouring fire, and their fruitful lands shall be esteemed as a forest, while Jacob shall dwell in safety for ever.— Elder Orson Pratt, Works, p. 278; (see also 2 Nephi 25:17-18; 29:1-2.) 

23 But when he seeth his children, the awork of mine hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall bfear the cGod of Israel.xx

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34 But when he aseeth his children, the work of my hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel.x

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In a fascinating and ingenious way, Isaiah next portrays Jacob, the father of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, as having been embarrassed over the centuries to admit that the Israelites are related to him. However, in the last days, when Israelites (including us) are strong, faithful saints, Jacob is no longer embarrassed to claim us as his posterity. Rather, he is proud to be our ancestor.—Ridges, David J., The Book of Mormon Made Easier, Part 1, Cedar Fort, Inc. Kindle Edition, p. 325
24 They also that aerred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall blearn doctrine.
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35 They also that aerred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall blearn doctrine.
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The restored gospel is so marvelous that even those who follow wrong paths may repent and come to the hearth of truth—Christensen, Reg. Unlocking Isaiah, Covenant Communications Inc.. Kindle Edition
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1Bytheway, John, Isaiah For Airheads, Deseret Book Company. Kindle Edition.
2Parry, Donald W., Understanding IsaiahDeseret Book Company. Kindle Edition
3 Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon, 72

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I am a retiree from Scouting. There I blogged for VoiceOfScouting.org, a site with more than 250,000 readers. During 42 years in the workplace, I've had many years senior level management with the BSA, professional associations, and high tech user groups. My background includes capital fundraising; outdoor adventure program development; property and construction management; event/conference planning; risk management and safety; lobbying federal, state and local government agencies; public relations; strategic planning; member advocacy and staff/volunteer training. Along the way, I have also taught Gospel Doctrine Classes and been both the ward and stake Sunday School President. In these settings, I have seen teachers and class members minimize Isaiah, a book Christ has commanded us to "search diligently." (3 Ne 23:1) With that in mind, I will do my best to explore and post my discoveries about the book of Isaiah. I am not a Bible scholar; like you, I read Isaiah in the Old Testament cycle of study in LDS Gospel Doctrine Classes and again in the Book of Mormon Cycle, so this is a whole new scripture adventure for me.

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