During the 2010 BYU Campus Education Week, Terry B. Ball shared his thoughts on Isaiah as a Messianic prophet. As he opened his remarks, by quoting the Savior in 3 Nephi 23:1 when He commanded:
“Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah.”
Then Brother Ball confessed that he had not always been good at following that command. Finally some years ago he decided to change his attitude and try harder to understand why Isaiah is so essential. “That has proven to be a life-changing decision for me,” he said. “I have come to gain a great love for this prophet—so grateful his words have been preserved for our use. I love what he wrote; I love the way he said it; I love his doctrine. It has become part of who I am. It made me a better person, a better father, a better husband, a better student, a better saint and come to my rescue in some of my most difficult times; so grateful for this prophet.”
He reminded listeners that Nephi loved Isaiah too, quoting him in 1 Nephi 20-21 and 2 Nephi 12–24. In 2 Nephi 25, Nephi tells us how to understand Isaiah. Quoting verse 4 in Nephi 25, Brother Ball read:
2Wherefore, hearken, O my people, which are of the house of Israel, and give ear unto my words; for because the words of Isaiah are not plain unto you, nevertheless they are plain unto all those that are filled with the spirit of prophecy.
Then he reminded his listeners that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Rev 19:10). He said that Isaiah had that testimony of the Savior too. Isaiah wrote of the premortal Messiah as Jehovah, the mortal Messiah as Jesus and the Millennial Messiah as the Prince of Peace.
In his remarks, Brother Ball divided his favorite chapters of Isaiah into two parts: the mortal Christ followed by the Millennial Messiah. He began with Isaiah 7:14:
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
He followed this with Isaiah 9:2:
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
Referencing maps in our LDS Bibles, he explained that on the one hand Christ’s ministry mostly centered in and near Capernaum, Nazareth and Cana, all places of darkness. “But on the other, it tells us what He will do, as He will bring light to people that are in darkness and hope, I believe, to people who live in the fear of death.”
As he wrapped up his remarks on the mortal Christ, Brother Ball cited Isaiah 53, which is a favorite of his. Reading of Christ’s lowly beginnings and painful suffering, Brother Ball described how personally he has pondered how that shaped the Savior’s mission and wondered if He could have enjoyed more regal conditions. “I think you and I know that the answer has to be no, He couldn’t have,” he said. “We know that He came not only to die for us, but also to live for us — to show us how to go through all the hardships and difficulties and trials in life and still do the will of the Father.”
Turning to the Millennial Messiah, he chose three chapters of Isaiah. First was Isaiah 2, he said, “When the millennial Messiah comes, there is an end to violence.” In this chapter Isaiah describes a peaceful time where all nations will have access to “the mountain of the Lord’s house” (temples). It will be a time where Christ shall judge the nations, “and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”(Isaiah 2:4)
Next, in Isaiah 11, which prophesies that Christ will reign in righteousness and equity, Brother Ball suggested there will be peace extended to all creatures. “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, or the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”(Isaiah 11:2)
Lastly, Brother Ball taught that “we must become millennial individuals,” as described in Isaiah 33, eschewing “violence and evil if you want to be part of the millennial people.” He read verse 15 as a description of those who will abide Christ’s coming: “He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from the holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil.”
He closed with, “How grateful I am for Isaiah, for his testimony of the mortal and millennial Messiah.”
Dr. Terry B. Ball was the Dean of Religious Education when he delivered this address. He served in this position from 2006 to 2013. He is now a professor of religious education at BYU. His degrees include a BS in botany and education from BYU, an MA in ancient Near Eastern studies, and a Ph.D. in archaeobotany with an emphasis in the ancient Near East. He has taught and traveled extensively in the Holy Land, including at the BYU Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies. He and his wife, DeAnna, have six children.