Does Isaiah 29 predict the coming forth of the Book of Mormon?

Shorter answer:

Mormon apologists say that the “sealed document” mentioned in verse 11 prophesies the Book of Mormon, one of four sacred scriptures used by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. According to the Book of Mormon, Jesus came to the American continent sometime after His Ascension (Acts 1:9-11) in order to teach the Israelites who had emigrated there earlier. Mormon founder Joseph Smith is said to have “unsealed” the Book of Mormon document when he was given the ancient plates by the angel Moroni in order to translate and print the scripture in 1830. However, the passage in Isaiah has nothing to do with Mormonism or the Book of Mormon. It is really referring to the nation of Israel, with God criticizing the Israelites for their hard hearts. Their lack of judgment, Isaiah writes, is like attempting to read a document that is sealed.

 Longer answer:

By Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson

In a 2007 general conference address, Apostle Russell M. Nelson insisted that the Bible predicted the coming forth of the Book of Mormon:

How do scriptures of the Restoration clarify the Bible? Many examples exist. I will cite but a few, beginning with the Old Testament. Isaiah wrote, “Thou 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.” Could any words be more descriptive of the Book of Mormon, coming as it did “out of the ground” to “whisper out of the dust” to people of our day? But Isaiah was not the only Old Testament prophet who foretold the Book of Mormon. Ezekiel wrote: “Take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel . . . : then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel. . . : And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.” Today, Saints living in many nations of the earth gratefully hold the Bible (the stick of Judah) and the Book of Mormon (the stick of Ephraim) bound as one in their hands. (“Scriptural Witnesses,” Ensign, November 2007, 44)

Those who were listening to Nelson’s talk would have been at a disadvantage had they not had their Bibles opened to Isaiah 29. Since Mormons are taught that Joseph Smith retrieved the gold plates from a stone box hidden in the ground, Nelson assumes that the “voice” whispering from the dust or out of the ground must be a reference to the Book of Mormon. According to Brigham Young University professor Charles R. Harrell, Latter-day Saints go beyond the traditionally accepted allegorical meaning of this passage and its fulfillment in ancient Israel to see a literal book that came to light in the latter days through the “unlearned” prophet Joseph Smith.

“The vision of all” is spoken of in the Book of Mormon as a literal vision of all things—a revelation from God, from the beginning of the world to the ending thereof” (2 Ne. 27:7)—that would be recorded in a sealed book (i.e.,the sealed portion of the gold plates) to come forth in the latter days. The “learned” individual is interpreted as being Charles Anthon, a professor of Greek and Latin languages at Columbia College (later Columbia University), who reportedly said he could not read the book “for it is sealed” (2 Ne. 27:15–20; Isa. 29:11). (This is My Doctrine, 92)

Harrell disagrees with the traditional LDS understanding of these passages and concedes that “Isaiah isn’t talking about a literal book, much less one that would come forth in the future.” (Ibid. On page 52, Harrell traces this misinterpretation to Joseph Smith who saw the bringing forth of the Book of Mormon as a direct fulfillment of Isaiah 29.) Nelson, like many LDS leaders before him, ignores the key passages in Isaiah 29 that set the historical stage for what follows. While he began his conference message with verse 4, verses 1–3 state,

“Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt! add ye year to year; let them kill sacrifices. Yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be  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.”

It can be readily seen that God is going to distress Ariel, which is another name for Jerusalem, or the City of David, where God had commanded sacrifices be made unto Him. Whether Isaiah had in mind an actual military assault on the city or was speaking metaphorically regarding Jerusalem’s spiritual blindness has been a matter of debate. However, no non-Mormon scholar sees Isaiah’s warning as a prediction regarding a future book.

Also see “Does Ezekiel 37:15-20 predict the coming forth of the Book of Mormon?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a 2007 general conference address, Apostle Russell M. Nelson insisted
that the Bible predicted the coming forth of the Book of Mormon:
How do scriptures of the Restoration clarify the Bible? Many examples
exist. I will cite but a few, beginning with the Old Testament.
Isaiah wrote, “Thou 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.” Could any words be more descriptive of
the Book of Mormon, coming as it did “out of the ground” to “whisper
out of the dust” to people of our day? But Isaiah was not the only
Old Testament prophet who foretold the Book of Mormon. Ezekiel
wrote: “Take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for
the children of Israel . . . : then take another stick, and write upon
it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel
. . . : And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall
become one in thine hand.” Today, Saints living in many nations of
the earth gratefully hold the Bible (the stick of Judah) and the Book
of Mormon (the stick of Ephraim) bound as one in their hands.2
If Nelson’s analysis is correct, it would appear that God expected the Book
of Mormon to be a scriptural companion to the Bible in these latter days. But
is this a proper understanding of the Isaiah and Ezekiel passages?
Isaiah 29
Those who were listening to Nelson’s talk would have been at a disadvantage
had they not had their Bibles opened to Isaiah 29. Since Mormons are
taught that Joseph Smith retrieved the gold plates from a stone box hidden
in the ground, Nelson assumes that the “voice” whispering from the dust or
out of the ground must be a reference to the Book of Mormon. According to
Brigham Young University professor Charles R. Harrell,
Latter-day Saints go beyond the traditionally accepted allegorical
meaning of this passage and its fulfillment in ancient Israel to
see a literal book that came to light in the latter days through the
“unlearned” prophet Joseph Smith. “The vision of all” is spoken
of in the Book of Mormon as a literal vision of all things—“a revelation
from God, from the beginning of the world to the ending
254 Answering Mormons’ Questions
thereof” (2 Ne. 27:7)—that would be recorded in a sealed book (i.e.,
the sealed portion of the gold plates) to come forth in the latter days.
The “learned” individual is interpreted as being Charles Anthon, a
professor of Greek and Latin languages at Columbia College (later
Columbia University), who reportedly said he could not read the
book “for it is sealed” (2 Ne. 27:15–20; Isa. 29:11).3
Harrell disagrees with the traditional LDS understanding of these passages
and concedes that “Isaiah isn’t talking about a literal book, much less
one that would come forth in the future.”4 Nelson, like many LDS leaders
before him, ignores the key passages in Isaiah 29 that set the historical stage
for what follows. While he began his conference message with verse 4, verses
1–3 state, “Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt! add ye year to
year; let them kill sacrifices. 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.”
It can be readily seen that God is going to distress Ariel, which is another
name for Jerusalem, or the City of David, where God had commanded sacrifices
be made unto Him. Whether Isaiah had in mind an actual military
assault on the city or was speaking metaphorically regarding Jerusalem’s
spiritual blindness has been a matter of debate. However, no non-Mormon
scholar sees Isaiah’s warning as a prediction regarding a future book.