This is one in a series of reviews of the weekly lessons found in the Come, Follow Me for Individuals and Families published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To link to all of the 2022 teachings, click here. Bold face type in this article comes from the Church’s curriculum. (Note: Not every sentence written in the curriculum is being reviewed.)
Even if this is your first time reading the book of Isaiah, you might find passages that sound familiar. That’s because, of all Old Testament prophets, Isaiah is the one most often quoted in other books of scripture, including by the Savior Himself. Isaiah’s words also appear often in hymns and other sacred music. Why is Isaiah quoted so often?
Surely part of the reason is that Isaiah had a gift for expressing the word of God in vivid, memorable language. But it’s more than that. Isaiah has inspired prophets for generations because the truths he taught transcended his own generation—the Israelites living between 740 and 701 BC. His role was to open our eyes to God’s great work of redemption, which is much bigger than one nation or one time period. From Isaiah, Nephi learned that he and his people, though separated from the rest of Israel, were still part of God’s covenant people. In Isaiah, New Testament writers found prophecies about the Messiah that were being fulfilled right before their eyes. And in Isaiah, Joseph Smith found inspiration for the latter-day work of gathering Israel and building Zion. When you read Isaiah, what will you find?
This lesson takes a long look at a single book, with more lessons dedicated to Isaiah than any other book covered in Come, Follow Me this year. For the most part, there is no problem with these first two paragraphs…except in the last two sentences. Smith may have believed he found “inspiration” in Isaiah, but there is nothing in this Old Testament prophetical book that ever taught for the need for a “restoration” and the need of “gathering Israel and building Zion.”
Isaiah 1; 3; 5
“Cease to do evil.”
Isaiah continually warned the Kingdom of Judah about their spiritual condition. After reading Isaiah 1, 3, and 5, how would you describe the spiritual condition of the people? What warnings do you find that feel applicable to our day?
Isaiah 2:22 says: “Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he?” Unfortunately, faith in Mormonism requires trusting in man, including Joseph Smith and the general authorities. The religion is completely man-centered, with the goal for the faithful person to become exalted made possible only by keeping all of God’s commandments. Latter-day Saints need to get their eyes off the leaders of the church and instead place their total devotion on Jesus.
Isaiah 2; 4; 11–12
God will do a great work in the latter days.
Many of Isaiah’s writings are prophecies that have specific meaning for our day. Which of Isaiah’s descriptions of the latter days in chapters 2; 4; 11–12 are especially inspiring to you? (Doctrine and Covenants 113:1–6 provides helpful insights about Isaiah 11.) What do you learn about the gathering of Israel and redemption of Zion? What do you feel inspired to do after reading these chapters?
The problem is that these prophecies have absolutely nothing to do with Joseph Smith and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Take Isaiah 11, for instance. It is talking about Jesus, not a restored church in the 19th century. Verses 12 says He would “raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel. D&C 113:2 confirms that. Yet, D&C 113:4 says that what emanates from the “Stem of Jesse” is understood to be Joseph Smith. This is merely Joseph Smith’s personal interpretation. Why should anyone outside the church believe this is true? A Latter-day Saint will point out how Joseph Smith is a prophet and therefore he must know how to interpret the Bible. To read Joseph Smith into this passage is a classic example of what is called “eisegesis,” or reading one’s own preconceptions into a text. This is a classic example of circular reasoning (i.e., Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God and therefore his interpretation is correct. The interpretation is correct since Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God). Verse 1 says that there “shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse,” which is another way of referring to Jesus whose line was David’s. This type of interpretation ought to be rejected 100% of the time.
Prophets are called of God.
In chapter 6, Isaiah recounted his call to be a prophet. As you read this chapter, what impresses you about what Isaiah experienced? How does this chapter influence the way you think about the Lord, His prophets, and the work they are called to do?
Of course, the LDS reader is supposed to take this to mean that their “modern-day prophets” are just as inspired as the leaders from Bible times. Again, this is eisegesis.
Isaiah prophesied of Jesus Christ.
Early in Isaiah’s ministry, the Kingdom of Israel (also called Ephraim) formed an alliance with Syria to defend itself against Assyria. Israel and Syria wanted to force Ahaz, the king of Judah, to join their alliance. But Isaiah prophesied that the alliance would fail and counseled Ahaz to trust in the Lord (see Isaiah 7–9, especially Isaiah 7:7–9; 8:12–13).
As Isaiah counseled Ahaz, he made several well-known prophecies, such as those found in Isaiah 7:14; 8:13–14; 9:2, 6–7. While it’s not completely clear what these prophecies meant in Ahaz’s time, they clearly apply to Jesus Christ (see also Matthew 1:21–23; 4:16; 21:44; Luke 1:31–33). What do you learn about the Savior from these verses?
I agree that these prophecies have to do with Jesus. This is the common interpretation made by commentators.
Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Home Evening
To help family members understand these verses, you could read the section “Some of Us Feel We Can Never Be Good Enough” from Sister Sharon Eubank’s message “Christ: The Light That Shines in Darkness” (Ensign or Liahona, May 2019, 75). Or you could demonstrate how stains can be removed from clothing. How is the Lord’s message in these verses different from what Satan wants us to believe?
The Bible certainly explains that our “hands are full of blood” and that we need to remove evil deeds from His sight. The question is, how do we do that?
Mormonism teaches that the onus is on the individual Mormon’s back as they are taught to keep God’s commandments “continually.” D&C 1:32 says that “he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven.” Yet how is it possible to do this that since we are imperfect? Mormonism teaches that it by “forsaking” all sin (D&C 58:43). When we sin the same sin again, then, it shows that we were not truly repentant. D&C 82:7 says that our former sins come back into account. This means that there was no true forgiveness in the first place!
The Bible teaches that keeping God’s commandments is what we do to show that “we have come to know him” (1 John 2:3). Verse 6 adds that “whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” Thus, we are not Christians because of what we do. Rather, being a Christian is a reflection of who we are in Christ. That’s the beautiful thing that God does when He forgives sin because it totally is His work, or His righteousness, that atones for sin. It is not what we did, or are doing, or will do. It is only through what He did the cross, as the work was “finished.” We have nothing else we can add to that work. Jesus is enough.
Family members could pick one of these verses and draw what it describes. What does the temple teach us about the Lord’s ways? How are we blessed as we “walk in the light of the Lord”? (Isaiah 2:5).
One thing about proper interpretation is that context is key. In Mormonism, there are multiple temples–172 at the time of this writing–scattered all over the earth. In the Bible, only one temple was known: the temple in Jerusalem. Verse 2 says that, in the “last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains.” There is no semblance to the temple talked about here and Mormonism’s many “temples.”
What does the Lord promise us in these verses? What might these promises mean? How is He fulfilling them? (See also Exodus 13:21–22.)
This is a Messianic passage again, written in the same way as Isaiah 11. Jeremiah also referenced the “righteous Branch” or the “Branch of Righteousness” originating from David (Jer.23:5; 33:15); Zechariah used “Branch” as a Messianic reference (Zech. 3:8; 6:12). My former professor Ronald Youngblood wrote this in a layman’s commentary:
After the Babylonian exile of the people of Judah, David’s descendant Zerubbabel would fulfill the role of the Branch in a preliminary way, but ultimately Jesus Christ, David’s greatest descendant (Matt. 1:1), would be the Messiah and Savior of all the world’s people (John 3:16). Zechariah’s “Here is the man” (Zech. 6:12), referring to Zerubbabel, would be answered by Pontius Pilate’s “Here is the man” (John 10:5), referring to the Lord Jesus (Themes from Isaiah, 36).
Isaiah 7:14; 9:1–7.
Using drawings or pictures from Church magazines, you could make a poster illustrating some of the things we learn about Jesus Christ from these verses.
Prophecies about Jesus are included in these verses. “Immanuel” means “God is with us,” which is exactly what John 1:14 says: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” In Mormonism, Jesus is not God in the sense of being fully God; instead, He is considered to be the “firstborn” in a literal sense, or merely a created being.
Jesus was required to keep God’s commandments in order to attain the status as God, as Seventy Milton R. Hunter reported:
Jesus became a God and reached His great state of understanding through consistent effort and continuous obedience to all the Gospel truths and universal laws (The Gospel Through the Ages, 51).
According to 17th President Russell M. Nelson,
Jesus attained eternal perfection following his resurrection is confirmed in the Book of Mormon. It records the visit of the resurrected Lord to the people of ancient America. There he repeated the important injunction previously cited but with one very significant addition. He said, “I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” This time he listed himself along with his Father as a perfected personage. Previously he had not (“Perfection Pending,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 1995, 87).
This is not the of Jesus as provided in the Bible. Indeed, Jesus was “very God of very God, begotten, not made,” as one ancient creed puts it. The Jesus of Mormonism is not the Jesus of Christianity.
For more, visit Crash Course Mormonism.
As is often the case, Mormon leaders force their presuppositions onto the biblical text and thus incorporation errors. No matter how church leaders insist that these passages in Isaiah are a reflection of their religion, a careful reading will show that these interpretations miss the mark.