Why Did Ancient Prophets Quote Isaiah in the Book of Mormon?


The Book of Mormon doesn’t just include Isaiah’s words, it unlocks their deeper meaning. Both Christ and Moroni urged readers to “search them.” Why? By understanding how the Book of Mormon quotes and interprets Isaiah, we gain context, relevance, personal application, and a springboard to delve deeper into his rich prophecies. See Isaiah through the Book of Mormon’s lens and discover new clarity and meaning.

In their teachings, Book of Mormon prophets like Nephi, Jacob, and Abinadi, along with the resurrected Savior himself, frequently drew upon the words of Isaiah. Examining both their justifications for doing so and the chosen passages from Isaiah, we discover four key themes that their use of Isaiah emphasized:

  1. Repentance and Divine Judgment: Isaiah’s warnings about God’s response to sin resonated with these prophets, serving as a call to repentance for their people.
  2. Covenants and Promises to Israel: Isaiah’s prophecies about God’s enduring promises to the house of Israel offered hope and reassurance to these prophets and their communities.
  3. Messianic Prophecies: The Book of Mormon prophets found powerful support for their messianic teachings in Isaiah’s pronouncements about the coming Messiah.
  4. Events of the Latter Days: Isaiah’s visions of the future resonated with the prophets’ understanding of their times as the “latter days,” prompting them to share his insights with their people.

Repentance and Divine Judgment

Prophecy’s core function is to urge repentance and reveal God’s judgments. Nephi, understanding this, included Isaiah’s words in 2 Nephi 12-24. His aim, as he stated in 2 Nephi 25:3, was “that all those that shall receive hereafter these things… may know the judgments of God.”

Isaiah implores Israel and other nations to repent and seek the Lord throughout his book. Nephi incorporated these passages to warn his people, the Lamanites, the Jews, and future Gentiles. He included, for example:

During Isaiah’s lifetime, his prophecies of destruction against Syria, Ephraim, and Assyria came to pass. Jerusalem’s destruction followed in Nephi’s own time, which Nephi saw in his vision after arriving in the promised land. By including these fulfilled prophecies, Nephi likely intended to demonstrate to both his people and future readers the certainty of Isaiah’s remaining pronouncements about the future and his prophetic call to repentance by all people.

Covenants and Promises to Israel

The Book of Mormon, as its title page declares, aims to teach “the remnant of the house of Israel” about God’s covenants. Within its pages, Isaiah’s writings stand out as a powerful voice echoing this theme.

Prophets like Nephi and Jacob urged their people to heed Isaiah’s words, specifically addressed to “all the house of Israel” (1 Nephi 19:24; 2 Nephi 6:55). They saw a mirror reflecting their challenges and destinies in Isaiah’s pronouncements.

For instance, Nephi quoted Isaiah 48 (1 Nephi 20), reminding his people of God’s promise to hold back his wrath and gather them even after their apostasy (1 Nephi 20:9, 11). He also turned to Isaiah 49 (1 Nephi 21) to highlight the glorious future awaiting Israel, including their gathering (1 Nephi 21:8-14). These messages resonated deeply as they embarked on a new journey in a new land (1 Nephi 22:7-12).

Years later, Jacob echoed this focus, citing Isaiah 50 and 51 (2 Nephi 7-8) to illuminate God’s enduring covenants with Israel (2 Nephi 9:1). Centuries later, the resurrected Savior himself quoted Isaiah 52 and 54 (3 Nephi 15:1-17:3; 20:10-23:5) in major discourses about his covenants. He declared, “Then is the fulfilling of the covenant” (3 Nephi 20:12, 46), linking Isaiah’s prophecies directly to the fulfillment of God’s promises.

Messianic Prophecies

Nephi and Abinadi, two powerful Book of Mormon witnesses of Christ, both drew heavily on the writings of Isaiah to bolster their testimonies.

Nephi’s Burning Desire to Witness Christ to His Readers

Driven by a desire to “more fully persuade his people to believe in the Lord their redeemer” (1 Nephi 19:23), Nephi saw Isaiah’s words as a potent tool. Having himself seen the Lord (2 Nephi 11:2-3), he sought to link his testimony with that of Isaiah and his brother Jacob, who had also seen the Savior, fulfilling the principle that “by the words of three, God hath said, I will establish my word” (2 Nephi 11:3). He declared, “My soul delighteth in his words” (2 Nephi 11:2), finding joy in sharing them to prove the coming of Christ and ignite hope in his people (2 Nephi 11:4, 8).

Abinadi’s Powerful Witness of Christ

Similarly, Abinadi, facing King Noah and his wicked priests, employed Isaiah’s profound “suffering servant song” (Isaiah 53) to illustrate Christ’s role as intercessor (Mosiah 14-15). His inspired insights unlock deeper understanding for Book of Mormon readers, revealing how Christ fulfills Isaiah’s prophecies.

Prelude to Nephi’s Grand Testimony

Beyond Abinadi’s specific use of Isaiah 53, Nephi quoted extensively from chapters 6-9 and 11 (2 Nephi 16-19, 21), building a powerful messianic foundation. These passages served as a prelude to His grand testimony of Christ in 2 Nephi 25 and 31-33, leaving no doubt about the Savior’s central role in God’s plan.

Events of the Latter Days

Beyond bolstering their Christ-centered message, Book of Mormon prophets like Nephi saw immense value in Isaiah’s writings due to their relevance for “things that are, and which art to come” (2 Nephi 6:4). “Wherefore,” Nephi declared, “for their good have I written them” (2 Nephi 25:7-8), highlighting the importance of these prophecies for future generations, particularly those in the latter days.

Nephi selected and quoted passages that resonated deeply with his times and foreshadowed momentous events:

Nephi didn’t stop at mere quotes. He provided insightful commentary in 2 Nephi 25-30, illuminating these prophecies and their connection to his people and future generations. This tapestry of Isaiah’s pronouncements and Nephi’s interpretations serves as a beacon for Book of Mormon readers, allowing them to witness the marvelous fulfillment of God’s work in the latter days. As Christ himself affirmed, “And all things that [Isaiah] spake have been, and shall be, even according to the words which he spake” (3 Nephi 23:3).


The Book of Mormon doesn’t simply include Isaiah’s words; it elevates them as a key to understanding the prophet’s broader message. The resurrected Lord himself urged the Nephites to “search them” (3 Nephi 20:11), even calling Isaiah’s writings “great” (3 Nephi 23:1). Later, Moroni echoed this sentiment, urging readers to “search the prophecies Isaiah” (Mormon 8:23).

Why such emphasis? By understanding how the Book of Mormon quotes and interprets Isaiah, we gain valuable insights into the prophet’s message, applicable to our own lives today. Here’s how:

1. Context and Clarity: The Book of Mormon often places Isaiah’s prophecies within their historical context, illuminating their original meaning and significance. This deeper understanding spills over when we read Isaiah independently, enriching our comprehension.

2. Latter-day Relevance: The Book of Mormon highlights specific passages from Isaiah that resonate with our times, the “latter days.” By recognizing these connections, we can identify themes and truths relevant to our challenges and opportunities.

3. Personalized Application: The Book of Mormon prophets often provide personal commentary on Isaiah’s words, offering their interpretations and insights. These interpretations can inspire us to find personal meaning and application within Isaiah’s broader message.

4. Encouragement to Dig Deeper: The Book of Mormon’s emphasis on Isaiah serves as a springboard, encouraging us to delve deeper into the prophet’s entire writings. By understanding how the Book of Mormon utilizes Isaiah, we gain a powerful tool for unlocking the treasures within his prophecies.

So, the next time you pick up Isaiah, remember the Book of Mormon’s invitation to “search them.” You might be surprised at the clarity and meaning that unfold as you see Isaiah through the lens of the Book of Mormon prophets.

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Search Isaiah is a resource for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to dive into the book of Isaiah. By sharing a vast range of resources including study guides, articles, podcasts, and more, we hope to provide readers with ways to search the book of Isaiah. While Search Isaiah strives to support the mission of the Church, it is not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Search Isaiah is supported by Mobaliz, an agency that supports organizations that are hastening His Work.


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