As we learned in the previous chapter, Isaiah was shown that the Northern Kingdom of Israel would not return until after the “great forsaking” had taken place. We refer to this event as the Great Apostasy. Given the relevance of the apostasy to Israel, it should come as no surprise that Isaiah covered both it and the restoration in great detail. He discussed the apostasy among Judah, the Ten Tribes, and also among the Nephites.
In these next verses, Isaiah uses the term Ariel to describe what would happen to the seed of the House of Joseph. The term Ariel has been translated as “the altar of the Lord”.[i] There was but one temple among the Jews, and for a while there was another among the Samaritans. However, from the Book of Mormon, it appears that there were many temples among the Nephites.
Furthermore, in the last days, it would be to the House of Joseph that the Lord would restore temples once again. Therefore, the House of Joseph, even more so than the tribe of Levi, is associated with the holy altars of the Lord. The name “altar of the Lord” is therefore uniquely fitting to the House of Joseph. But the House of Joseph also fell into apostasy and broke their covenants with the Lord, so according to the terms of the covenant, the Lord scattered them.
Yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be heaviness and sorrow: and it shall be unto me as Ariel. And I will camp against thee round about, and will lay siege against thee with a mount, and I will raise forts against thee. And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust.[ii]
Nephi provides a perfectly clear and easily understood interpretation of Isaiah’s words. He explains them thus:
But behold, I prophesy unto you concerning the last days; concerning the days when the Lord God shall bring these things forth unto the children of men. After my seed and the seed of my brethren shall have dwindled in unbelief, and shall have been smitten by the Gentiles; yea, after the Lord God shall have camped against them round about, and shall have laid siege against them with a mount, and raised forts against them; and after they shall have been brought down low in the dust, even that they are not, yet the words of the righteous shall be written, and the prayers of the faithful shall be heard, and all those who have dwindled in unbelief shall not be forgotten.
For those who shall be destroyed shall speak unto them out of the ground, and their speech shall be low out of the dust, and their voice shall be as one that hath a familiar spirit; for the Lord God will give unto him power, that he may whisper concerning them, even as it were out of the ground; and their speech shall whisper out of the dust.[iii]
Although Nephi saw that his seed would fall, he also saw that the record of his people would be preserved. His witness that the Lord’s covenants would be remembered and taught once again, even by a voice whispering from the dust of the earth. Accordingly, Isaiah testifies to the importance and veracity of the record. Isaiah foresaw that the Nephite record would be translated by an unlearned man, while the Jaradite record would remain sealed, until the righteousness of those on earth would justify its opening. Isaiah’s vision is remarkable and unmistakable for those familiar with the story of the translation of the Book of Mormon.
And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men [Martin Harris and Joseph Smith] deliver to one that is learned [Charles Anthon of Columbia University], saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: And the book is delivered to him that is not learned [Joseph Smith], saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.[iv] And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness. [v]
For those to whom Isaiah’s words are not clear enough, Nephi, after transcribing them, offers this very plain interpretation of the process in which the Book of Mormon would come to light. Nephi also saw the sealed Jaradite portion of the record, as well as the three witnesses and the eight witnesses of The Book of Mormon. He also saw Martin Harris taking the characters of the book to Charles Anthon, a scholar in ancient languages from Columbia University.
And it shall come to pass that the Lord God shall bring forth unto you the words of a book, and they shall be the words of them which have slumbered. And behold the book shall be sealed; and in the book shall be a revelation from God, from the beginning of the world to the ending thereof.
Wherefore, because of the things which are sealed up, the things which are sealed shall not be delivered in the day of the wickedness and abominations of the people. Wherefore the book shall be kept from them. But the book shall be delivered unto a man, and he shall deliver the words of the book, which are the words of those who have slumbered in the dust, and he shall deliver these words unto another;
But the words which are sealed he shall not deliver, neither shall he deliver the book. For the book shall be sealed by the power of God, and the revelation which was sealed shall be kept in the book until the own due time of the Lord, that they may come forth; for behold, they reveal all things from the foundation of the world unto the end thereof.
And the day cometh that the words of the book which were sealed shall be read upon the house tops; and they shall be read by the power of Christ; and all things shall be revealed unto the children of men which ever have been among the children of men, and which ever will be even unto the end of the earth. Wherefore, at that day when the book shall be delivered unto the man of whom I have spoken, the book shall be hid from the eyes of the world, that the eyes of none shall behold it save it be that three witnesses shall behold it, by the power of God, besides him to whom the book shall be delivered; and they shall testify to the truth of the book and the things therein.
And there is none other which shall view it, save it be a few according to the will of God, to bear testimony of his word unto the children of men; for the Lord God hath said that the words of the faithful should speak as if it were from the dead. Wherefore, the Lord God will proceed to bring forth the words of the book; and in the mouth of as many witnesses as seemeth him good will he establish his word; and wo be unto him that rejecteth the word of God!
But behold, it shall come to pass that the Lord God shall say unto him to whom he shall deliver the book: Take these words which are not sealed and deliver them to another, that he may show them unto the learned, saying: Read this, I pray thee. And the learned shall say: Bring hither the book, and I will read them. And now, because of the glory of the world and to get gain will they say this, and not for the glory of God. And the man shall say: I cannot bring the book, for it is sealed. Then shall the learned say: I cannot read it.
Wherefore it shall come to pass, that the Lord God will deliver again the book and the words thereof to him that is not learned; and the man that is not learned shall say: I am not learned. Then shall the Lord God say unto him: The learned shall not read them, for they have rejected them, and I am able to do mine own work; wherefore thou shalt read the words which I shall give unto thee.
Touch not the things which are sealed, for I will bring them forth in mine own due time; for I will show unto the children of men that I am able to do mine own work. Wherefore, when thou hast read the words which I have commanded thee, and obtained the witnesses which I have promised unto thee, then shalt thou seal up the book again, and hide it up unto me, that I may preserve the words which thou hast not read, until I shall see fit in mine own wisdom to reveal all things unto the children of men.
For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and I work not among the children of men save it be according to their faith.[vi]
This is a remarkable prophesy from Nephi, and must have been part of the vision that he originally saw but could not then expound upon further. Indeed the phrases used here are the same as the phrases used in Nephi’s preamble to his vision.[vii] It speaks to the fact that we will have the golden plates once again, and all will one day read the sealed records.
Isaiah also saw God the Father visit Joseph Smith and heard the message that the Father would deliver to the young boy. Isaiah went as far as quoting the Lord’s words to the boy prophet. We know this because Nephi prefaced the transcription of the following verses from Isaiah with these words: “And again it shall come to pass that the Lord shall say unto him that shall read the words that shall be delivered him”.[viii]
Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.[ix]
The Lord’s words to Joseph Smith in the grove are a perfect description of the type of christianity practiced by many of our day. Lip service is given to the Lord, but the weightier matters of brotherly love, charity, kindness, and patience are often set aside. Again we hear the reference to a “marvelous work and a wonder”, the same phrase used by Nephi in his vision associated with the events of the latter-days. The bringing forth of the Book of Mormon, is certainly part of the “marvelous work and a wonder”. The story of its preservation in ancient times, and its discovery and translation are miraculous. However, the Book of Mormon and corresponding restoration represents only a part of this work, not its sum and substance. There still remains the portion that will cause the wisdom of the wise men to perish…
It is interesting to note the order of events as they are presented by Isaiah regarding this topic. The order and events themselves can be found in either Isaiah chapter twenty-nine, or Second Nephi chapter twenty-seven. The events happen as follows:
- The book of Mormon whispers from the dust
- Isaiah sees the marvelous work and a wonder
- The wisdom of the wise perishes
After these three things have happened, Isaiah states the following:
For assuredly as the Lord liveth they shall see that the terrible one is brought to naught [Satan and the stout horn], and the scorner is consumed, and all that watch for iniquity are cut off; therefore, thus saith the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the House of Jacob: Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale. But when [Zion] seeth his children [the Remnant of Jacob], the work of my hands, in the midst of [them], they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel.[x]
To me, this last part appears to be the main element of the marvelous work and a wonder to which Isaiah is referring. The same work that Nephi said would either lead to peace and life eternal or both temporal and spiritual destruction.[xi] Isaiah comes out and links this marvelous work and a wonder with the return of the Remnant of Jacob. Isaiah speaks of the whole earth being awed by this event.
Lets face it, while the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rightfully view the Book of Mormon as a marvelous work and a wonder, the world at large perceives the book as a hoax and a fraud. Our religion is mocked and ridiculed. The coming forth of the Book of Mormon and the restoration of the gospel has not yet confounded the wisdom of the wise. In their eyes these things only give them more material with which to mock and scorn us.
It appears to me that the undeniable “work and a wonder” in the world’s eyes will arrive with the children of Jacob – the return of the Lost Ten Tribes. This event will not only be glorious in the eyes of the church, but in the eyes of the world at large. At this hosts’ presence, the world shall both praise and fear the Great God of Israel. We must not forget, that the restoration is ongoing, and will not be complete, not until the Lost Tribes of Israel have also been restored.
Isaiah continues to expound on his vision of the restoration by commenting on the temple built in the top of the mountains.
And it shall come to pass in the last days, when the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the House of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.[xii]
This verse has long been associated with the building of the Salt Lake temple. To some degree, all nations have begun to trickle unto it. Yet, no one could reasonably argue that this prophecy has been fulfilled to the degree Isaiah described above. To date, the members of the church still account for essentially 0% of the world’s population. Isaiah’s vision speaks of a scope far beyond this. Isaiah is describing the day when the church will be recognized for what it is – the Church of God. That time has not yet come, for as Nephi foresaw, the dominion of the Church of God was small compared to the hordes belonging to the great and abominable church. I suggest that after the gathering of Israel has been competed, such will not be the case.
[i] Hitchcock’s Bible Names Dictionary
[ii] Isaiah 29:2-4
[iii] 2 Nephi 26:14-16
[iv] Isaiah 29:11-12 – See 2 Nephi 27
[v] Isaiah 29:18 – See 2 Nephi 27
[vi] 2 Nephi 27:6-23
[vii] 1 Nephi 10:18-19
[viii] 2 Nephi 27:24
[ix] Isaiah 29:13-14 – See 2 Nephi 27
[x] 2 Nephi 27:31, 33 & 34
[xi] 1 Nephi 14:7
[xii] 2 Nephi 12:2&3