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.
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:
- Know the manner of prophesying among the Jews
- Have the spirit of prophecy yourself
- Know the geography of the middle east in 700 BC
- 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.
Click here to download your free study guide to Isaiah from John Bytheway.