Recently I visited with Travis Patten, proprietor of Pioneer Book for advice on good reads to help me understand Isaiah. He knew that I had already purchased Ludlow’s Unlocking Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, but I was ready for more. He suggested The Vision of All: Twenty-five Lectures on Isaiah in Nephi’s Record, by Joseph Spencer.
Published in 2016, The Vision of All was written as if Spencer is giving classroom lectures on Nephi’s treatment of Isaiah. For me, this was very appealing, especially because it felt at my level and seemed very personal.
There is a fun twist at each chapter’s conclusion, he gives readers the impression he is out of time and class is over, but of course, all you have to do is turn the page to move on. Still, it generates a kind of urgency that pushed me quickly through the book, which is something other commentaries don’t do—come to think of it, this is probably not a traditional commentary in the sense it does Isaiah down to each verse. Instead, his approach is quite fresh; different from other scholars, as he moves out from verses to whole chapters and sometimes sets of chapters. It is unique in its approach.
Another thing I came to enjoy, was that this felt scholarly without the clutter of footnotes. The few references he uses show up in his bibliography making this a set of free-flowing thoughts about how Nephi might be using Isaiah in the Book of Mormon.
The book is published by Greg Kofford Books, a publisher seems to be catering to a more academic culture that most LDS publishers. They describe the book this way:
“Make no mistake: this book is remarkable. We’ve never seen anything quite like it in the history of Mormonism. And once you’ve seen it, you’ll wonder what on earth we have been doing for the past 200 years.” — Adam S. Miller, is a professor of philosophy at Collin College in McKinney, Texas.
“In The Vision of All, Joseph Spencer draws on the best of biblical and Latter-day Saint scholarship to make sense of the so-called “Isaiah chapters” in the first two books of the Book of Mormon. Arguing that Isaiah lies at the very heart of Nephi’s project, Spencer insists on demystifying the writings of Isaiah while nonetheless refusing to pretend that Isaiah is in any way easy to grasp. Presented as a series of down-to-earth lectures, The Vision of All outlines a comprehensive answer to the question of why Nephi was interested in Isaiah in the first place. Along the way, the book presents both a general approach to reading Isaiah in the Book of Mormon and a set of specific tactics for making sense of Isaiah’s writings. For anyone interested in understanding what Isaiah is doing in the Book of Mormon, this is the place to start.
When I started, I wasn’t sure The Vision of All was what I wanted, so I tried a Kindle version of the first half of the book. I wasn’t ten pages in, and I knew that I wanted the book on paper. The publisher, Greg Kofford Books, listed it for Black Friday and I got it for less than the two Kindle books from Amazon and what a treasure it is—with my highlighter handy the book already looks well read and I am glad for it!