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Watch: 7 Videos and Tips to Help You Tackle the Isaiah Chapters in 2 Nephi
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Post contributed by BMC Team
February 20, 2020
Image by Book of Mormon Central
Image by Book of Mormon Central

1. Read Isaiah as Poetry

One of the things that can make Isaiah confusing is its abstract and expressive language. Isaiah was both a prophet and a poet, so one of the things you can do to make his prophecies easier to grasp is to read Isaiah as poetry. BYU Professor Donald W. Parry published a book called Poetic Parallelisms in the Book of Mormon (available to read for free online!) that lays out the entire Book of Mormon into poetry verses and stanzas where applicable. For the Isaiah chapters in 2 Nephi, he breaks phrases and sentences into poetic lines, parallelisms, and chiasms to help you better visualize and appreciate the beauty of Isaiah’s poetry.

To learn how to identify and appreciate the Hebrew poetic devices in the Book of Mormon, watch minutes 0:51-3:02 of the video below.

 

Further Reading

Donald W. Parry, ed, Poetic Parallelisms in the Book of Mormon (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2007).

Book of Mormon Central. “Does Chiasmus Prove Anything about the Book of Mormon? (2 Nephi 11:4).” KnoWhy 358 (August 28, 2017).

2. Get an Overview of Isaiah’s Writings

One of the simplest ways to understand Nephi’s use of Isaiah, is to simply understand Isaiah. While that may seem like a daunting feat, there are resources that can help summarize and synthesize Isaiah’s prophecies, such as this summary video below, or helpful charts listed in the further reading. These charts are available for free in the ScripturePlus app and on the Book of Mormon Central Archive.

Further Reading

John W. Welch, and Greg Welch, “Isaiah Passages Listed by Book of Mormon Reference,” in Charting the Book of Mormon: Visual Aids for Personal Study and Teaching (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1999), chart 96.

John W. Welch, and Greg Welch, “Isaiah Passages Listed by Isaiah Reference,” in Charting the Book of Mormon: Visual Aids for Personal Study and Teaching (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1999), chart 97.

John W. Welch, and Greg Welch, “Outlines of Passages Quoting Isaiah,” in Charting the Book of Mormon: Visual Aids for Personal Study and Teaching (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1999), chart 98.

Seely, David Rolph. "Nephi's Use of Isaiah 2-14 in 2 Nephi 12-30." In Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, edited by Donald W. Parry and John W. Welch, 151-169. Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1998.

Book of Mormon Central. “Can Textual Studies Help Readers Understand the Isaiah Chapters in 2 Nephi? (2 Nephi 11:8).” KnoWhy 39 (February 23, 2016).

3. Use Nephi’s 5 Keys to Understanding Isaiah

Nephi provides a number of keys to help better understand the writings of the prophet Isaiah. These are:

  1. Understand the “manner of prophesying among the Jews” (2 Nephi 25:1)
  2. Do not do “works of darkness” or “doings of abominations” (v. 2)
  3. Be filled with the spirit of prophecy (v. 4)
  4. Be familiar with the regions around Jerusalem (v. 6)
  5. Live during the days that the prophecies of Isaiah are fulfilled (v. 7)

By better understanding these keys, readers of the Book of Mormon can come to more fully grasp the writings of Isaiah and why they are quoted so extensively by Nephi.

 

 

Further Reading

Book of Mormon Central. “How Does Nephi Help Us Understand Isaiah? (2 Nephi 25:4).” KnoWhy 47 (March 4, 2016).

Donald W. Parry, “Nephi’s Keys to Understanding Isaiah (2 Nephi 25:1–8),” in Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, ed. Donald W. Parry and John W. Welch (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1998), 47–65.

4. Understand Nephi’s Pattern in Selecting Isaiah Chapters

The books of 1 and 2 Nephi include eighteen chapters of the Book of Isaiah. Nephi included these passages in order to help readers understand important revelations from the Lord regarding his dealings with his children. Why did Nephi choose the specific chapters of Isaiah that he did? Using his vision recorded in 1 Nephi 11-14 as a framework, Nephi chose prophecies from Isaiah that served as a second witness to the vision of the future that the Lord had given him. BYU professor John W. Welch outlined four stages of this “Nephite prophetic view,” including: 1) Christ’s coming; 2) his rejection and the scattering of the Jews; 3) the day of the Gentiles; and 4) the restoration of Israel and the ultimate victory of good over evil. This insight helps readers interpret the words of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon and also provides a paradigm for understanding the prophetic outlook of the Book of Mormon prophets.

Further Reading

Book of Mormon Central. “What Vision Guides Nephi's Choice of Isaiah Chapters? (2 Nephi 11:2).” KnoWhy 38 (February 22, 2016).

Book of Mormon Central. “How Did Nephi Read Isaiah as a Witness of Christ’s Coming? (2 Nephi 17:14).” KnoWhy 40 (February 24, 2016).

Book of Mormon Central. “Why Do Early Nephite Prophets Speak about the Scattering of the Jews? (2 Nephi 15:13, 25).” KnoWhy 42 (February 26, 2016).

Book of Mormon Central. “What is the Day of the Gentiles? (1 Nephi 21:22),” KnoWhy 44 (March 1, 2016).

Book of Mormon Central. “What Do Nephi and Isaiah Say about the End Times? (2 Nephi 23:6).” KnoWhy 46 (March 3, 2016).

John W. Welch, “Getting through Isaiah with the Help of the Nephite Prophetic View,” in Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, ed. Donald W. Parry and John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1998), 19–45.

5. Look for Prophecies of the Restoration

Through the “Isaiah Chapters,” we’re not really just learning about Isaiah. We are also learning about Nephi and his people. Nephi likened Isaiah’s prophecies to his people and he made the prophecies his own in 2 Nephi 25–30. For example, In 2 Nephi 27, Nephi borrowed extensively from the language of Isaiah 29 to describe the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. In doing so, he was not quoting from Isaiah but re-appropriating his words for a different purpose. Look for ways that Isaiah’s words can be applied to the Nephites and the future restoration of the gospel.

Further Reading

Book of Mormon Central. “Why Does Nephi Use Isaiah 29 as Part of His Own Prophecy? (2 Nephi 26:16).” KnoWhy 52 (March 11, 2016).

Book of Mormon Central. “What is the Day of the Gentiles? (1 Nephi 21:22),” KnoWhy 44 (March 1, 2016).

Book of Mormon Central. “Has the Prophecy of the Lord's House Established in the Mountains been Fulfilled? (2 Nephi 12:2).” KnoWhy 41 (February 25, 2016).

Book of Mormon Central. “Why Did Moroni Quote Isaiah 11 to Joseph Smith? (2 Nephi 21:10).” KnoWhy 50 (March 9, 2016).

Book of Mormon Central. “How Are the Words of the Book of Mormon Like “One That Hath a Familiar Spirit”? (2 Nephi 26:16).” KnoWhy 491 (December 6, 2018).

Book of Mormon Central. “How Important was Oliver Cowdery in Bringing Forth the Book of Mormon? (2 Nephi 27:9).” KnoWhy 270 (February 3, 2017).

Book of Mormon Central. “Why Would a Book Be Sealed? (2 Nephi 27:10).” KnoWhy 53 (March 14, 2016).

Book of Mormon Central. “Is It Possible That a Single Author Wrote the Book of Mormon? (2 Nephi 27:13).” KnoWhy 399 (January 16, 2018).

Book of Mormon Central. “Who Are the "Few" Who Were Permitted to See the Plates? (2 Nephi 27:12–13).” KnoWhy 54 (March 15, 2016).

Book of Mormon Central. “What Does Mary Whitmer Teach Us About Enduring Trials? (2 Nephi 27:14).” KnoWhy 455 (August 2, 2018).

Book of Mormon Central. “How Can We Be Strengthened by Lucy Mack Smith's Testimony of the Book of Mormon? (2 Nephi 27:14).” KnoWhy 379 (November 7, 2017).

Book of Mormon Central. “Why Did Martin Harris Consult with Scholars like Charles Anthon? (2 Nephi 27:15).” KnoWhy 514 (May 7, 2019).

Book of Mormon Central. “How Did Martin Harris Help Bring Forth the Book of Mormon? (2 Nephi 27:15).” KnoWhy 291 (March 24, 2017).

Book of Mormon Central. “Why Would God Choose an Uneducated Man to Translate the Book of Mormon? (2 Nephi 27:19).” KnoWhy 397 (January 9, 2018).

Book of Mormon Central. “Why Did the Book of Mormon Come Forth as a Miracle? (2 Nephi 27:23).” KnoWhy 273 (February 10, 2017).

Book of Mormon Central. “Did a “Magic World View” Influence the Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon? (2 Nephi 27:26).” KnoWhy 538 (October 31, 2019).

Book of Mormon Central. “Why Is the Timing of the Book of Mormon’s Translation So “Marvelous”? (2 Nephi 27:26).” KnoWhy 506 (March 15, 2019).

6. Know that Both Nephi and Isaiah Testify of Jesus Christ

In 2 Nephi 11, Nephi declared that he would “for he verily saw my Redeemer, even as I have seen him. And my brother, Jacob, also has seen him as I have seen him; wherefore, I will send their words forth unto my children to prove unto them that my words are true” (2 Nephi 11:2–3). Ultimately, Nephi’s greatest purpose in using Isaiah is to testify of Jesus Christ.

Comparing Nephi’s vision of Christ’s coming in 1 Nephi 11 with prophecies found in Isaiah 2–14 (quoted in 2 Nephi 12–24) suggests that Nephi may have recognized his own prophecies in Isaiah’s words. Having the clarity of Nephi’s vision of the Savior helps us more easily recognize the Messianic allusions in Isaiah’s writings. As you read Isaiah, look for ways you can liken Isaiah’s prophecies to Jesus Christ.

Further Reading

Book of Mormon Central. “Who Are the Witnesses of Christ in 2 Nephi? (2 Nephi 11:2–3).” KnoWhy 37 (February 19, 2016).

Book of Mormon Central. “Why Did Nephi Use Chiasmus to Testify of Christ? (2 Nephi 11:3).” KnoWhy 271 (February 6, 2017).

Book of Mormon Central. “Why Is the Book of Mormon So Focused on Jesus Christ? (2 Nephi 25:26).” KnoWhy 484 (November 13, 2018).

Book of Mormon Central. “How Did Nephi Read Isaiah as a Witness of Christ’s Coming? (2 Nephi 17:14).” KnoWhy 40 (February 24, 2016).

Holland, Jeffrey R.. ""More Fully Persuaded": Isaiah's Witness of Christ's Ministry." In Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, edited by Donald W. Parry and John W. Welch, 1-18. Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1998.

7. Always Strive to Learn More

Studying the scriptures is a life-long pursuit. There is no need to get discouraged when we don’t understand difficult topics at first. As long as we are always looking to improve our knowledge and understanding of the gospel, we are on the right track.

See below for all the KnoWhys Book of Mormon Central has produced on the Isaiah chapters. There are 28 in total! Also check out Book of Mormon Central’s Resource Guide on this section, for a thorough bibliography of resources, so that you can dive deep into Isaiah.

Further Reading

Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, Edited by Donald W. Parry and John W. Welch. Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1998.

Book of Mormon Central. “What Vision Guides Nephi's Choice of Isaiah Chapters? (2 Nephi 11:2).” KnoWhy 38 (February 22, 2016).

Book of Mormon Central. “Who Are the Witnesses of Christ in 2 Nephi? (2 Nephi 11:2–3).” KnoWhy 37 (February 19, 2016).

Book of Mormon Central. “Why Did Nephi Use Chiasmus to Testify of Christ? (2 Nephi 11:3).” KnoWhy 271 (February 6, 2017).

Book of Mormon Central. “Does Chiasmus Prove Anything about the Book of Mormon? (2 Nephi 11:4).” KnoWhy 358 (August 28, 2017).

Book of Mormon Central. “Can Textual Studies Help Readers Understand the Isaiah Chapters in 2 Nephi? (2 Nephi 11:8).” KnoWhy 39 (February 23, 2016).

Book of Mormon Central. “Has the Prophecy of the Lord's House Established in the Mountains been Fulfilled? (2 Nephi 12:2).” KnoWhy 41 (February 25, 2016).

Book of Mormon Central. “Why Do Early Nephite Prophets Speak about the Scattering of the Jews? (2 Nephi 15:13, 25).” KnoWhy 42 (February 26, 2016).

Book of Mormon Central. “How Does Nephi Use Isaiah to Teach Us to Avoid Pride? (2 Nephi 15:21).” KnoWhy 48 (March 7, 2016).

Book of Mormon Central. “How Did Nephi Read Isaiah as a Witness of Christ’s Coming? (2 Nephi 17:14).” KnoWhy 40 (February 24, 2016).

Book of Mormon Central. “Why is the Lord's Hand "Stretched Out Still"? (2 Nephi 19:12).” KnoWhy 49 (March 8, 2016).

Book of Mormon Central. “Why Did Moroni Quote Isaiah 11 to Joseph Smith? (2 Nephi 21:10).” KnoWhy 50 (March 9, 2016).

Book of Mormon Central. “Where Did Joseph Smith Get His Ideas about the Physical and Spiritual Gathering of Israel? (2 Nephi 21:11).” KnoWhy 290 (March 22, 2017).

Book of Mormon Central. “How Thomas B. Marsh was Led to the Book of Mormon Without Knowing It (2 Nephi 21:12).” KnoWhy 485 (March 15, 2018).

Book of Mormon Central. “What Do Nephi and Isaiah Say about the End Times? (2 Nephi 23:6).” KnoWhy 46 (March 3, 2016).

Book of Mormon Central. “Did Interactions with "Others" Influence Nephi's Selection of Isaiah? (2 Nephi 24:1).” KnoWhy 45 (March 2, 2016).

Book of Mormon Central. “Why Did Lehi "Suppose" the Existence of Satan? (2 Nephi 24:12).” KnoWhy 43 (February 29, 2016).

Book of Mormon Central. “How Does Nephi Help Us Understand Isaiah? (2 Nephi 25:4).” KnoWhy 47 (March 4, 2016).

Book of Mormon Central. “Why Does Nephi Quote a Temple Psalm While Commenting on Isaiah? (2 Nephi 25:16).” KnoWhy 51 (March 10, 2016).

Book of Mormon Central. “How Do the Psalms Quoted in the Book of Mormon Teach about the Temple? (2 Nephi 25:16).” KnoWhy 437 (May 29, 2018).

Book of Mormon Central. “Why Did Nephi Connect Isaiah’s Prophecies with Joseph Who Was Sold into Egypt? (2 Nephi 25:17).” KnoWhy 375 (October 24, 2017).

Book of Mormon Central. “Why Did Nephi Say an Angel Had Revealed the Name Jesus Christ? (2 Nephi 25:19).” KnoWhy 304 (April 24, 2017).

Book of Mormon Central. “Why Does Nephi State that We Are Saved by Grace “After All We Can Do"? (2 Nephi 25:23).” KnoWhy 371 (October 10, 2017).

Book of Mormon Central. “Why Is the Book of Mormon So Focused on Jesus Christ? (2 Nephi 25:26).” KnoWhy 484 (November 13, 2018).

Book of Mormon Central. “Why Do Certain “Treasured Words” Appear So Repeatedly in General Conference Talks? (2 Nephi 25:26).” KnoWhy 69 (April 2, 2016).

Book of Mormon Central. “What Can We Learn from 10 of the Best Chiasms in the Book of Mormon? Part 1 (2 Nephi 25:26).” KnoWhy 349 (August 7, 2017).

Book of Mormon Central. “Why Does the Book of Mormon Say We Must Worship God with Our Whole Soul? (2 Nephi 25:29).” KnoWhy 467 (September 13, 2018).

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