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.)
September 12-18, 2022
Isaiah 13-14; 24-30; 35
“A Marvellous Work and a Wonder”
President Bonnie H. Cordon taught, “Scriptures enlighten our minds, nourish our spirits, answer our questions, increase our trust in the Lord, and help us center our lives on Him” (“Trust in the Lord and Lean Not,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2017, 7).
I agree with Ms. Cordon if she didn’t say (and mean) “scriptures,” which in Mormonism is the standard works involving three additional scriptures not accepted by Bible-believing Christians who far outnumber the LDS population.
One of the things the Lord asks prophets to do is to warn about the consequences of sin. In the case of Old Testament prophets, this often meant telling the powerful rulers of mighty kingdoms that they must repent or be destroyed. It was a dangerous task, but Isaiah was fearless, and his warnings to the kingdoms of his day—including Israel, Judah, and surrounding nations—were bold (see Isaiah 13–23).
However, Isaiah also had a message of hope. Even though the prophesied destructions eventually did come upon these kingdoms, Isaiah foresaw a chance for restoration and renewal. The Lord would invite His people to return to Him. He would make “the parched ground … become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water” (Isaiah 35:7). He would perform “a marvellous work and a wonder” (Isaiah 29:14), restoring to Israel the blessings He had promised them. Neither Isaiah nor anyone else alive at that time lived to see this marvelous work. But we are seeing its ultimate fulfillment today. In fact, we are part of it!
This “marvelous work and a wonder” is supposed to be about the Book of Mormon itself. This is what one author had to say about it:
While the Book of Mormon is a witness to the authenticity of the Bible and the divine calling of Joseph Smith, the Bible is a witness to the restoration. The Bible predicted the scattering of Israel, declaring that the descendants of Joseph would run over the wall (ocean) (Genesis 11:9 and 49:22-26.) Ancient prophets also predicted that the writings of Judah (the Bible) and the writings of Joseph (the Book of Mormon) would be one in the hands of others (Ezekiel 37:15-20 and 2 Nephi 3:12), that a book would be delivered to one who was unlearned, and that the unlearned would bring forth a marvelous work and a wonder (Isaiah 29:11-14, 18, 24) (Milton V. Backman, Jr., Eyewitness Accounts of the Restoration, 34-35).
This passage in Isaiah has nothing to do with Mormonism or the Book of Mormon. Instead, it refers 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.
BYU professor Charles Harrell disagrees with the church’s interpretation, conceding that “Isaiah isn’t talking about a literal book, much less one that would come forth in the future” (This is My Doctrine, 92). Pointing out that the wording used in Isaiah 29 (“as of one that hath a familiar spirit” in verse 4) is “an archaic way of referring to a necromancer or medium who communicates with the dead,” he writes on page 51:
Non-LDS Bible commentators make two observations that preclude the “one that hath a familiar spirit” from having direct reference to Joseph Smith. First, they point out that Isaiah 29 is specifically addressing the current situation of wickedness in Jerusalem or “the city where David dwelt” (Isa. 29:1). There is no mention of any other people or place. Second, it doesn’t say that this nation will speak through some actual person, such as Joseph Smith. Rather, the voice of the nation would be “as” (v. 4) a person who has a familiar spirit. This is, the voice of Jerusalem’s inhabitants will be no more than a peep and mutter.
He then explains:
The other verse in Isaiah 29 presumed to be a reference to Joseph Smith speaks of a “book [that] is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee and he saith, I am not learned” (v. 12). Latter-day Saints tend to interpret the “book” as the gold plates and the one “not learned” as Joseph Smith. This interpretation derives from a rewording of this passage in the Book of Mormon which speaks of the gold plates coming forth in the latter days as a sealed book that “shall be delivered unto a man [i.e. , Joseph Smith]” (2 Ne. 27:9; JS-H 1:63-65). The problem with this interpretation is that Isaiah is not prophesying of an actual book delivered to a real person. Rather he is reprimanding the Jews for their spiritual blindness–“For the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep” (Isa. 29:10–and likens the nations to an unlearned person trying to read a sealed book. . . . When read at face value, Isaiah seems to be merely comparing Israel’s inability to discern the word of God to an unlearned person’s inability to read a book.
Early Mormon leader Orson Whitney even claimed that this was a prediction for the forthcoming of Mormonism as a religion:
Seven hundred years before the birth of our Savior, a prophet of God upon the eastern hemisphere predicted the coming forth of “a marvelous work and a wonder.” “Mormonism,” so called, according to the faith of its adherents, is the fulfilment of that ancient prediction (Conference Reports, October 1916, 51).
Are we really to believe that Isaiah, who was writing in the 8th century BC, was aiming his prophecy at a religious movement that would take place 2800 years later. The answer is no. It would be worthwhile for the church to eliminate this type of reasoning to be honest in biblical interpretation. The fact that this passage is still being used in 2022 is troublesome. For more on this, visit Isaiah 29:4-12: Prophecy about the Book of Mormon
The teachings of Isaiah often refer to the Savior’s mission, including His atoning sacrifice, Resurrection, and Second Coming. What aspects of His mission come to mind as you read the following verses: Isaiah 24:21–23; 25:6–8; 26:19; 28:16? What other passages do you find that remind you of the Savior?
Certainly there is a lot of prophecy in Isaiah about Jesus.
This review of Isaiah was poorly done. Passages in this important Old Testament book were used to support LDS teaching, such as supposed prophecy about the Book of Mormon and an upcoming apostasy. Yet even an LDS professor says these verses have been taken out of context. The Latter-day Saint people are being misled with old, tired interpretations given in 2022. It is wrong and I wish the church would be more honest with using these pet passages to support their teaching.