Purposes for quoting Isaiah in the Book of Mormon

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The importance of quoting Isaiah in the Book of Mormon

The prophets Nephi, Jacob, Abinadi, and the resurrected Savior all cite Isaiah’s words as they teach in the Book of Mormon. Their primary use of the Isaiah passages is threefold:

  1. to instruct the house of Israel about her covenant promises
  2. to emphasize key events and prophecies relating to the latter days, and
  3. to highlight significant messianic prophecies of Isaiah.

The first primary purpose of the Book of Mormon is to teach Israel about her covenants and prophecies (see title page, second paragraph). Isaiah’s passages especially fulfil this purpose. As examples, Isaiah 48 contains the elements of a covenant contract, and Isaiah 49 includes some great covenant promises for the house of Israel. Nephi cites these chapters shortly after his people arrive in the new world, and he then teaches them about their covenant promises (1 Ne 22:7-12). Later, after Jacob has quoted Isaiah 50 and 51, he states that he has read these things that they “might know concerning the covenants of the Lord that he has covenanted with all the house of Israel” (2 Ne 9:1). Centuries later, the resurrected Savior uses Isaiah 52 and 54 as he delivers his law and covenant teachings (3 Ne 15-16) and his covenant people discourse (3 Ne 20-22). Jesus promises that as the words of Isaiah are fulfilled, “then is the fulfilling of the covenant” (3 Ne 20:12; cf verse 46). Thus, one major purpose of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon is to teach about the Lord’s covenants and promises to the house of Israel.

A similar major role of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon is to enlighten readers about key prophecies associated with God’s kingdom in the last days. The significance of temples and priesthood leadership (Isa 2 & 2 Ne 12), God’s judgements of his children in Zion (Isa 3-5 & 2 Ne 13-15), an invasion of armies from the north towards Jerusalem (Isa 10 & 2 Ne 20), the impact of key servants and prophets (Isa 11 & 2 Ne 21), the downfall of spiritual Babylon (Isa 13-14 & 2 Ne 23-24), and the impact of the Book of Mormon and other sacred records coming from the dust (Isa 29 & 2 Ne 27) are all quoted by Nephi before he provides additional, inspired commentary in 2 Nephi 25-33. These prophecies of Isaiah highlight many significant events in different parts of the world. With Nephi’s insights, they help us to understand the fulfilment of God’s work in the latter days so we can know we are not forgotten by God (BM title page).

The second major purpose of the Book of Mormon is “to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ” (title page, second paragraph). Abinadi and Nephi quote Isaiah as they deliver their important witnesses of Christ and his atonement. The most powerful messianic passage of Isaiah is the “suffering servant song” of chapter 53. The prophet Abinadi cites this chapter as he teaches King Noah and his priests (Mosiah 14). Abinadi’s inspired commentary helps us understand how Christ can make intercession for his followers, as promised by Isaiah (Mosiah 15). Additional messianic prophecies of Isaiah, chapters 6-9, are quoted by Nephi as a prelude to his great testimony about Christ (2 Nephi 25, 31-33). Isaiah is used to strengthening prophetic witnesses about Christ in the Book of Mormon.

Presented by Victor L. Ludlow at BYU Education Week 2006

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Dr. Victor L. Ludlow is a scholar of Isaiah and Judaism. He graduated with high honors from BYU and was a Danforth Fellow at Harvard and Brandeis Universities, where he received a Ph.D. in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. Professor Ludlow's scholarship explores the areas of Bible studies, the Middle East, Jewish history and theology, and comparative Latter-day Saint theology. He has authored numerous articles and the books: Unlocking the Old Testament; Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet; Principles and Practices of the Restored Gospel; and Unlocking Isaiah in the Book of Mormon. His most recent audio lecture is “Latter-day Insights: The Middle East.” Courses Taught: Writings of Isaiah, Judaism and the Gospel, Book of Mormon, Old Testament Areas of Expertise: Professor Ludlow's scholarship explores the areas of Bible studies, the Middle East, Jewish history and theology, and comparative Latter-day Saint theology, with a special emphasis upon covenants. Areas of Research: Isaiah, Covenants, Judaism, History of the House of Israel, Agency, Gospel Principles Languages: German (fluent), Hebrew (reading), some Arabic, French, and Latin

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