Isaiah for Airheads by John Bytheway

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Bytheway Isaiah for Airheads
Isaiah for Airheads by John Bytheway

Last weekend I attended the Book of Mormon Central Conference in Provo. Among the speakers, John Bytheway was the most animated. Like his book Isaiah for Airheads, this man is a speaker that captivates audiences and one who will help you find entry into the Book of Isaiah quickly.

Isaiah for Airheads is a fairly easy read and once you understand his four guides to the Book of Mormon Isaiah chapters, you will find his forest metaphor a fun way to dig into this often confusing material. Deseret Book explains, “If you think understanding the passages from Isaiah is like trying to find your way through a dense dark forest, then you’ll appreciate the enjoyable Isaiah for Airheads.”

Bytheway’s use of trees, guides, keys, highways and off ramps delights the reader, as he asks us to image the words of Isaiah as a thick forest. “You know,” he says, “where you can’t see the forest for the trees.” He explained, “We use that expression to describe someone who’s so caught up in the details that they miss the larger picture.”

We asked John how got into this project, that’s when he explained that he was motived to write this book when he was asked to teach a Book of Mormon class at BYU. “Oh no,” he thought, “that means teaching the Isaiah chapters.”

That’s when he grabbed several translations and even more commentaries and began a verse by verse study of those chapters in the Book of Mormon, because as he said when it came to Isaiah, “I felt like a complete airhead,” (which he said is a commentary on him and not us a readers).

He explained that after teaching the Isaiah chapters a several times, he began to notice some prominent themes which lead him “to see the forest of Isaiah, and it was beautiful. I began to notice grand, important, and recurring themes that helped me better understand the words of this great prophet. I noticed what may have prompted the Book of Mormon prophets to quote Isaiah passages, and why. Now, after a decade of teaching, I look forward to these chapters, and I love watching my students experience ‘a-ha!’ moments as we ‘get through’ Second Nephi.”

Of course, this eventually lead to organizing Isaiah for Airheads around ‘four guides, four trees, and four keys’ as basically listed by Nephi in 2 Nephi as the tools for understanding Isaiah’s words. His “guides” are the Book of Mormon writers Nephi, Jacob, Abinadi and Jesus Christ, each of whom used the words of Isaiah in their own way.

Isaiah for Airheads by John Bytheway
Bytheway’s four types of trees in Isaiah Nationa Forest

In addition, he uses four trees to build his metaphor. Each begins with the letter C:

And finally, he offers four keys to understanding Isaiah:

  1. Know the manner of prophesying among the Jews
  2. Have the spirit of prophecy yourself
  3. Know the geography of the middle east in 700 BC
  4. Live in the last days.

Bytheway, then explains his “Airhead Approach”  reading each chapter’s synopsis slowly, identifying the “trees (four Cs)’ in that chapter and which keys he will help us use as he takes us verse by verse in the Book of Mormon Isaiah chapters.

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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.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Today we filmed John as he explained his process for writing Isaiah for Airhead. He explained that as he completed reviewing the translations and commentaries for each verse, he would turn to his computer and ask himself, “How can I explain this to mom,” which makes his book is so very approachable. But, you do not need to be his mom to understand his very clear way of explaining Isaiah. I love my Kindle edition and use it often.

    • In the Ensign, Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote:”If our eternal salvation depends upon our ability to understand the writings of Isaiah as fully and truly as Nephi understood them—and who shall say such is not the case!—how shall we fare in that great day when with Nephi we shall stand before the pleasing bar of Him who said: ‘Great are the words of Isaiah’”? (3 Ne. 23:1.) This is a tall order. I believe that our desire to search Isaiah will say more about where our hearts are than our actual understanding of Isaiah. I pretty sure I am not where Nephi is, but I am trying! (I would also like to be large in stature.)

  2. I have felt that I need to study the words of Isaiah, as admonished by Jesus himself. I am studying them with your Isaiah for Airheads book. As I am taking notes of Covenant Israel, and Christ, I marked the title page and last chapter of the Book of Mormon, as you so excellently pointed out that like bookends, they clearly explain the mission of Isaiah and purpose of the Book of Mormon. On my way to the Bible Dictionary to study Israel, I saw the story of President Nelson’s worldwide tour, specifically his visit to Israel. There he testified of his two-fold mission: “As the new president to the Church, I felt that there were two messages that I would like to convey to our people,” President Nelson said. “One is that Jesus is the Christ and He has a message for all of God’s children. And the second is that His is a global invitation. We invite all of God’s children to come unto their Savior.” The two themes again. Thank you for helping me penetrate the important chapters from Isaiah. You have a cheerful, but profound gift.

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