To those faithful followers left in the Land of Bountiful, the Savior commanded “search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah” (3 Nephi 23:1). In that commandment, the Lord implies that understanding Isaiah will help you understand the gospel of Jesus Christ; they go hand in hand.
5 experts that will help you finally understand Isaiah:
- Ryan Gardner
- David Edwards
- Victor Ludlow
- David Ridges
Sadly many of us find the writings of Isaiah quite hard to understand, even daunting. Worse, our surveys show that less than half of church members try to understand Isaiah; they either shun, skip our skim the Isaiah chapters all together in the Book of Mormon.
Knowing that this might be the case, Nephi, in 2 Nephi 25, left us five keys to help us understand Isaiah’s words. He used these same keys to help his brothers understand the prophet better. These keys include having the spirit with us as we study his prophecies, living as righteously as we can in a dark world, understanding the middle-eastern geography of the time, and coming to know the literary style and rhetorical tradition of the Jews.
Ryan Gardner and David Edwards
The New Era Offers This to the Question How Can I Understand Isaiah?
Ryan Gardner and David Edwards wrote, “to help you have some confidence as you study, here are five basic keys to focus on that can help you understand Isaiah’s writings.”
See the Savior in Isaiah: “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. … He was wounded for our transgressions, … and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4–5).
- Realize you already know a lot from Church attendance and other places like seminary and institute.
- Know that Isaiah’s main topics include not just the history of his day, but prophecies about the last days and Jesus Christ. Look for these ar you read
- Take advantage of the words of latter-day scriptures and prophets from conference talks. These are easily found by chapter and verse at the LDS Scripture Citation Index: Isaiah
- Get to know Isaiah’s world by studying how the Jews prophecied using symbolism, a unique literary style, local themes and idioms. And, it helps to know where things are going on, so use the maps in the back of the Bible to learn about the geography of that day.
Commit to studying by the Spirit. Gardner and Edwards concluded with, “As the Apostle John learned, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). So Nephi is saying, in other words, that Isaiah is easier for people to understand if they have a testimony of Christ. Deepen that testimony and you’ll deepen your understanding of Isaiah.”
Ludlow says that if we first read all the 66 chapter headings of Isaiah, somewhere in that overview we will find a chapter of interest. Then he suggests that you read that chapter, not just once but two times and if it is in the Book of Mormon, read it a third time.
Then he recommends we select a section that seems to be the main message to examine the footnotes and any terms, names, places, etc. that might be in the Bible Dictionary. Then write your own summary of the major ideas or keywords of that section in just one brief sentence.
Finally read that chapter again, listing other major ideas. Then put your study aside for hours or days, letting it foment in your head.
After a break, read the chapter and your notes all over again. Pause to follow Moroni’s admonition on how to study the scriptures as you read, remember, ponder, and pray. (See Moroni 10:3-5.)
Read a more in-depth version of Ludlow’s Complete Isaiah Study Guide
First, turn to 1 Nephi 19:23-24 to discover two reasons Nephi thinks Isaiah is so valuable for us. (Answers include – Isaiah persuades us to more completely believe in Christ and gives us hope that we can make it back to Him in the end)
Second, Isaiah is deliberately symbolic which gives several possible levels of meaning. To understand these symbols our SearchIsaiah team has offered infographics under our lab’s tab.
Third, make notes right in the margins of your scriptures. To help you with that effort, try my column “Discover With Darryl.” Try one of these outlines I have done, where I have listed marginal notes you may want to reference:
For more on this topic, read “Ten Keys to Understanding Isaiah,” by Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–1985) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
and “Ten Ways to Boost Your Study of Isaiah” by Darryl Alder
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