Shon D. Hopkin’s interest in Isaiah began in 1996 while studying at the Brigham Young University Jerusalem Center.
“My time studying in Jerusalem lit a fire that eventually led me to a Ph.D. in Hebrew studies; biblical literature has been a love of mine ever since.”
After completing his graduate work at the University of Texas, he taught in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ seminary and institute programs for 14 years. In 2011, Shon returned to BYU to teach religion, including a class specifically on Isaiah.
He wanted his students to have the resources needed to begin to grasp the book of Isaiah. So, he started asking around to his peers on the faculty for resources. His goal was to help students compare the Book of Mormon Isaiah to the biblical version and Joseph Smith translations of Isaiah.
Eventually, he came across a guide Ann N. Madsen had created for her honor students. After receiving permission to use the helpful resource, Shon and Ann realized they had something unique in common, their interest in studying and teaching about Isaiah. One thing led to another and soon after they began working on a project that would take them several years to complete.
In 2017, they finished their extensive comparison of the multiple versions of Isaiah in the book, “Opening Isaiah: A Harmony.”
Shon still loves teaching, reading, and studying Isaiah and says that he especially enjoys learning from and working with his colleague and mentor, Ann.
“I love teaching Isaiah, and I work hard for it to come alive for my students. But, there’s something rich about the way that Ann talks about Isaiah and his writing that helps it come to life for her students. They love her because she loves Isaiah, they love Isaiah because she loves it. It’s a remarkable synergy that happens in her classroom that I don’t know that anyone else creates.”
When asked to describe Isaiah, Shon said,
“Isaiah is like the temple. It feels similar to me. They’re simple enough that symbolism can be understood on an elementary level and it speaks to everyone. But the depths of Isaiah, like the depths of the temple, are not available for those who only visit once or twice. The temple and Isaiah come alive the more you go back to them.”
Shon understands why Isaiah feels intimidating to many members of the Church. He likes to remind his students that the list of those who clearly loved Isaiah are righteous leaders we should aspire to be like. The list includes none other than Nephi, Abinadi, all the New Testament authors, and Jesus Christ.
“Isaiah isn’t the kind of book you read and put a checkmark next to. Isaiah is the kind of book that reveals more, and more and more. You can’t pass it off.”
Isaiah Scholar Skim
- Undergraduate and Masters at Brigham Young University in Near Eastern Studies with a focus on the Hebrew Bible
- Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in Hebrew Studies with a focus on Medieval Hebrew, Arabic, and Spanish literature
Sparked focus on Isaiah
- Studying at the BYU Jerusalem Center with his wife
Isaiah in one word
Peers he admires
- Ann Madsen
- Donald Parry
- Terry Ball
- Joseph Spencer
- Noel Reynolds
- “Opening Isaiah: A Harmony” (2017)
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