Is Salt Lake City Isaiah’s "Mountain of the Lord"?

By Ed Mellott

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that 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…. “O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.” Isaiah 2:2-3,5

According to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism (p.1255) ” … the LDS presence in the Salt Valley was compared to a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy of the Latter-days, the City of God, established in the top of the mountains where people from all nations could gather to the House of the Lord to learn his ways.”

Mormon President Gordon Hinckley, speaking in conference on October 1, 2000, concurred with this statement when he quoted Isaiah 2:2-3,5 and remarked: “I believe that prophecy applies to the historic and wonderful Salt Lake Temple. But I believe also that it is related to this magnificent hall [the new conference center located north of Temple Square]. For it is from this pulpit that the law of God shall go forth, together with the word and testimony of the Lord.”

It is not uncommon for biblical names to be applied to other entities, such as churches or ministries, but there seems to be more to the intent of Hinckley’s words. It appears that he does not see the new Conference Center merely as an application (though he does use the word ‘applies’ in his comments) but as a fulfillment of the prophet’s words. This much is apparent from the second part of his comment, that “from this pulpit … the law of God shall go forth.”

From the very text quoted it is obvious that the place is Jerusalem and not Salt Lake City, Utah. A study of the Isaiah’s book of prophecy reveals that the city of Jerusalem was a primary focus. Forty-six times he refers to the city in the course of his writing. Since it was the political and religious center of Judah, the southern kingdom, this should be no surprise. It would seem that this has been overlooked in Hinckley’s comments. There is, however, another explanation for making such an application. His statements stem from a belief embraced by every Mormon. Integral to every Mormon testimony is the declaration that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church on the face of the earth.

One can see this implied by the writer of the Church News article. Drawing upon the account in John’s Gospel in which many disciples departed from following the Lord, Jesus turned to the twelve and asked if they would depart also. To this Peter replied, “Lord to whom else shall we go. You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). This text that represents the uniqueness of Jesus’ teaching and ministry is made to apply to the LDS Church.

In a pattern seen even in Joseph Smith, Jr., claims rightly belonging to Jesus Christ alone are appropriated to apply to the LDS Church and/or its leaders. An example of this pattern can be seen in the Joseph Smith History segment of the Pearl of Great Price. Numerous Messianic texts of the Old Testament, such as Joel 2, Isaiah 11, and Malachi 3-4, are quoted by a visiting angel identified as Moroni but are applied to Joseph Smith (Joseph Smith – History 1:36ff). At a later time in his life Smith even boasted that he did more for the Church than anyone, even Jesus Christ. “I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet” (Documentary History of the Church 6:408).

Hinckley’s use of the passage in Isaiah 2 is in keeping with the pattern. That the prophecy refers to Jerusalem is obvious in verse 3. There is more to the error than one of relocation. The passage cited is Messianic – it looks forward to the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jerusalem had been the spiritual center of Israel but had fallen upon evil times. The content of chapters 1 and 2 depict a people who have strayed far from God, despite their outward religiosity.

In the midst of these words of censure and judgment, Isaiah looks ahead to the time when the Lord will speak again. The author of the letter to the Hebrews recognized this when he wrote, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1-2).

The Lord lived and moved among us in the days of his flesh, ministering primarily from Jerusalem. In fact, it was at Jerusalem that he gave himself a ransom for many. His words and teachings are contained in the books of the New Testament. Those words have echoed forth into all the world and from many pulpits. They beckon us to look to Jesus Christ and live. The writer to the Hebrews warned that we must pay close heed to the words of the Son, lest we drift away (Heb 2:1).

Is Salt Lake City Isaiah’s “Mountain of the Lord?” Only if you want “another Jesus whom we have not preached, or … a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted” (2 Corinthians 11:4).

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