The Prophecy of Isaiah is Fulfilled

“You will indeed see but never perceive.” –Matthew 13:14

In March (2008) Boyd K. Packer, president of the LDS Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke via satellite to Latter-day Saints gathered for a stake conference in Bolivia. Speaking of his love for the Book of Mormon, Mr. Packer related the difficulty he had as a young man as he tried to read the book cover to cover. LDS Church News reports,

“He [Mr. Packer] would begin with the account of Nephi, but then struggle to read past the chapters on the Old Testament prophet Isaiah. [He said,] ‘I would read the Book of Mormon and then, in due time, I ran into Isaiah again. And I would lose interest and start over.’

“Later, as a seminary teacher, he realized that many young people struggle with the chapters on Isaiah… ‘I decided I was going to read the Book of Mormon if all I did was look at the words, whether I understood them or not. And that time I got through. …

“So if you start the Book of Mormon, you young people…and if the Old Testament prophecies of Isaiah seem difficult to you, look at the words and turn the pages. If you think you’re not getting very much, maybe you’re not. But, in due time, you’ll move right on through and you’ll close the book and you have read the Book of Mormon.'” (Church News, week ending March 22, 2008, 3. First ellipsis in this quote is mine for brevity, subsequent ellipses are in the original report)

The Church News article doesn’t make it clear, but I wonder if this is the same advice Mr. Packer gave his seminary students. I find this approach to reading the Book of Mormon quite odd – and unfortunate. The “prophecies of Isaiah” contained in the Book of Mormon consist of whole chapters reproduced from the Bible (with some alterations). Eighteen out of 55 chapters in the first two books of the Book of Mormon (1 and 2 Nephi) are duplications of chapters from Isaiah in the Bible. It’s no small thing for Book of Mormon readers to skip over them.

Surely there is a better solution for young people (or any people) who are having difficulty understanding what they believe to be God’s Word. If they are in seminary classes, wouldn’t it be useful for them discuss their questions with their seminary teacher? Or perhaps ask their parents? Or their Bishop? Or maybe consult Church-produced student manuals? Or ask God for help?

Mr. Packer, an LDS apostle, provides no such practical guidance. He essentially tells Mormon kids that it’s more important to be able to say that they’ve read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover than it is to understand what the book actually teaches.

I don’t believe the Book of Mormon is scripture, but Mr. Packer and his LDS audience do. So the question naturally arises: What is the purpose of scripture? The biblical apostle John provides the answer:

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31)

Furthermore,

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Another question: What is the purpose of reading scripture? Psalm 119 explains,

“How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.” (Psalm 119:9)

“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11)

“I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.” (Psalm 119:15-16)

The psalmist talks about the power of God’s Word. He says it revives (v. 25), strengthens (v. 28), provides answers (v. 42), brings hope (v. 49), life (v. 50), comfort (v. 50), grace (v. 58), wisdom (v. 98), understanding (v. 104), joy (v. 111), truth (v. 142), peace (v. 165), and deliverance (v. 170). Why would anyone indifferently skip over a single word?

Mr. Packer places his emphasis on accomplishing a goal (completing the book) rather than on seeking to understand. I’m not sure just how to take Mr. Packer’s words to the LDS youth of Bolivia. Is it friendly counsel? Apostolic guidance? As one person told me, “Whatever it is, it’s bad advice.”

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.

This entry was posted in Book of Mormon, Jesus Christ, Mormon Culture. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to The Prophecy of Isaiah is Fulfilled

  1. Michael P says:

    I agree this guy’s advise is poor, and it does give some insight into why it seems difficult to get a Mormon to summarize, in their own words, our doctrine (they seem to like to cut and paste and not think about it– and just reading it not for understanding gives insight as to why that is). But I certainly do hope this is isolated. It is but one person.

    The fear I have is that in reality it is not isolated. Reading through the BoM is probably a badge of honor. That said, I know of Christians who would like to simply read through the Bible. A difference is a have a hard time remembering any Christian teacher who says just to read through it.

    But perhaps an argument from our Mormon friends will be that by seeing the words to begin with will only start the process. Each successive reading will give it some more understanding. This is a valid point, but only if you hear the rest of it. Just reading it through does not get one there, and it is important to read with the intent of understanding.

  2. Rick B says:

    My problem is this, If MM’s do not tell us they simply looked at the words and theirfore did not read them, then they lie to us by saying, I read the BoM and know it is true because I had a burning in the bosom.

    That would be like me saying Ralph or Sub is wrong, but I never read what they wrote, so how can I say they are wrong?

    Then another question is, Why do we need word for word prophecies of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon if we have them in the Bible?

    It’s funny, I have said before How can Jesus not quote from so called Mormon Prophets if they existed at the same time, yet the BoM can quote from the Bible. Rick b

  3. gabriota says:

    Hi, there. Let me tell you that my only interest is explain some mormon stuff in a mormon point of view.

    I read the BofM from cover to cover only once. After that I started to read it several times and I got through Isaiah chapters buy I stopped at Alma. Now I decide to start directly from Alma and that s what I m reading now.

    Sometimes, I m so tired that I don t understand of what s going on. So the obvious question is why I keep reading? Why I don t let to read it other day, on a better time?

    “The psalmist talks about the power of God’s Word. He says it revives (v. 25), strengthens (v. 28), provides answers (v. 42), brings hope (v. 49), life (v. 50), comfort (v. 50), grace (v. 58), wisdom (v. 98), understanding (v. 104), joy (v. 111), truth (v. 142), peace (v. 165), and deliverance (v. 170).”

    Because reading ot, even when I m so tired, I feel that revives me, strenghten me, comfort me, gives me peace, etc. Those are feelings that occur to me even on those cases.
    When I m not that tired, the BofM gives me answers, understanding, truth, etc.And of course, strenght, peace, joy,etc.
    Only if you read it, you ll realize about that.
    I tell my students always to do a test: to read every day a little part of the BofM for 2 weeks and after that stop doing it and analize if there is some change. I can say, for sure, that when I do that, when I stop reading it, for whatever reason, my mood changes. And viceversa.

    Because we, the mormon, read the BofM during all our lives, we will find treasures every time we read it. For example, the part of Isaiah that for me may be now is hard to read or even understand can be more clear on the future as I gain life experience or see what s going on the
    world.

    Finally, I know that the BofM is true as I know the taste of salt. Because the only way to know the taste of salt is tasting it, the same with t
    he BofM.

  4. Apollo says:

    Being a Mormon all my life (I’m a 30-something), I understood Elder Packer’s comments to fall in line with the reasoning that at first, you may find it difficult to read the whole book, especially the Isaiah chapters … but give it some time and effort. It will start a process of a life-long love of the scriptures. I don’t think he or any other general authority would advocate reading the scriptures just to say that you’ve read it. If they did, it was in the same context of “get in the groove” or “get in the habit” and the love of the scriptures will follow.

    Personally speaking, I began reading the BoM as a kid. I’ve read it dozens of times. I admit that the Isaiah chapters were hard for me to understand and many times I glossed over them. But in the last year, I’ve finally taken the time to study the words of Isaiah. I do not fully understand all of Isaiah, but I am learning.

    Finally, I’ve been reading your blog and sometimes read your main site for several months now, but only today registered to comment. Honestly, the stuff I read here and on your site is interesting. A lot of it is laughable. People who know nothing about the LDS church can get some really weird ideas about it from this site. I hope to bring some sanity to your misunderstandings and be a voice of a (somewhat) average Mormon to those who may not come in contact with LDS members.

    On the flip side, I’m impressed with how you can dig up the most obscure quotes from LDS prophets. I sometimes learn new things about my religion.

  5. Jeffrey says:

    Apollo said,

    “Finally, I’ve been reading your blog and sometimes read your main site for several months now, but only today registered to comment. Honestly, the stuff I read here and on your site is interesting. A lot of it is laughable.”

    Apollo could you please tell me a few things you find “laughable”?

    Apollo said, “On the flip side, I’m impressed with how you can dig up the most obscure quotes from LDS prophets. I sometimes learn new things about my religion.”

    The internet is pretty amazing, huh?

  6. iamse7en says:

    Wow. This is really funny, actually. C’mon you guys.

    YOUNG PEOPLE. This is fantastic advice to a young person that cannot understand the words of Isaiah. I went through the same problem. I would read through to 2nd Nephi, then there were consecutive chapters of difficult passages; they were hard to understand. You think a 12 year old is going to understand the words of Isaiah? Just read them, even if you won’t understand them. They are very deep and have dual-meanings, much of the time. I just recently took a class on the book of Isaiah. They become a lot more plain (easy to understand) as you get older.

  7. Nay'mo says:

    Now I imagine that many Christians have had similar troubles reading the Bible. I would get through Genesis and Exodus and then dump off in Numbers or Deuteronomy. I used to get lost in the message with all the numbers and names and places.
    A few months back, my church held a discussion forum and breakout sessions based on one of Andy Stanley’s messages on reading the Bible. What he stated in itself wasn’t revolutionary, but his approach to grouping books of the Bible was new to me.
    The Bible isn’t chronological as you move from book to book. It is a compilation of writings from over 40 authors. I learned that I could split up the Old Testament into books on The Law (Genesis, Exodus, …, Deuteronomy), books on History (Joshua, Judges,…, Esther), books on Poetry (Job, Psalms, etc), and books on the Prophets (Isaiah,…, Malachi). Then, you can place the Bible in a timeline from Gen, Exo, Num, Josh, Judges, 1 Sam, etc. with offshoots for the poetry, Prophets, and supplemental law. A similar activity can split the New Testament into the Gospels, History, the Letters, and Prophesy.
    In doing an activity like this, the entire Bible comes into perspective. You can pinpoint verses on history with similar stories from a prophet and correlate them to laws of the time.
    It was an amazing find. Asking someone to just get through the Bible will drive them to either drop it, not pick it up again, or to skip some critical books in the understanding of God’s love and His plan. I understand the comments were raised about the BoM and the ability to get through Isaiah, however much may be loosely transfered from the Bible, but I believe it is critical for Christians and Mormons alike to understand the Bible’s structure. Then, maybe we can learn God’s word together and realize where the truths lie in Scripture. At that point, we as a population of Christians, can lead others into a relationship with Christ and separate out the BoM fallacies.

    What do you think?

  8. Michael P says:

    Nay-mo. I agree, and the critical aspect of your post is critical thinking. If we are to think in a way to understand it, no matter how difficult or what must be done, we will get it. This is contrasted with the advise given by Packer to just read it.

    Sure, we can all just read, and hopefully each time we read we get something new or fresh from it. (Reading the Bible is a process.) But by critically working our way through it, especially the difficult portions, we get so much more out of it.

  9. Rick B says:

    Look at it this way, Jesus said the scriptures speak of him. At that time only the OT was around. Yet we find that the OT is in the NT reveled, and the NT is in the OT conceled. So if We seek out Jesus and see how He is in the NT we will better understand the OT and see him in it. Rick b

  10. eric017 says:

    I agree with Micheal P that the issue here with Packer’s advice is the lack of critical thought. Just read it and, if you read it enough, you will comprehend some of it. I wouldn’t say that lack of critical thought is in any way exclusive to Mormonism, rather I think it is a malidy that affects much of our society.

    As to scripture, there is truth to the idea that if we pick up the Bible, God will lead us to things he wants us to know simply by reading it. However, the Bible didn’t arise in a vacuume in complete form. There is a rich history too it and by seeking to understand why various authors wrote what they did when they did we can gain great understanding and appreciation for the word. We also need to be willing to ask hard questions of why certain parts of the Bible seem to contradict other parts. It is challenging, but worth it, I think.

  11. Tasha says:

    Wow, the part that really stands out to me is that it is all the BIBLE sections he is telling them to skip over. All the Book of Mormon stories are more exciting for LDS to read, but the sections that are out of God’s Word should be put on the shelf?

  12. Lyle says:

    Sharon, Sharon, come on, you can do better than this! Do some more searching and you will find some phenomenal stuff on what Mr. Packer has said on the scriptures. Head on over to lds.org and pull up some Packer talks and read them. You will find more coherence and continuity by doing so.

    Come on, Sharon, be fair!

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