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Lesson Plan on 2 Nephi 11-19


In a few lessons, I have noted that Nephi plainly tells us which portion of his writings are his most sacred. To illustrate plainly, let's look at Nephi's words:

1 NEPHI 19:3 & 5
"3 And after I had made these plates by way of commandment, I, Nephi, received a commandment that the ministry and the prophecies, the more plain and precious parts of them, should be written upon these plates; and that the things which were written should be kept for the instruction of my people, who should possess the land, and also for other wise purposes, which purposes are known unto the Lord.

5 And an account of my making these plates shall be given hereafter; and then, behold, I proceed according to that which I have spoken; and this I do that the more sacred things may be kept for the knowledge of my people."

Nephi tells us that these small plates have the more plain and precious parts of what he wrote on either plates. He tells us in verse 5 that he will give an account of how he made the small plates sometime hereafter upon the small plates. He says once he does that then he will proceed to do what he said in verse three; namely, give an account of the more plain and precious parts of his ministry and prophecies. In verse 5 he calls these things the "more sacred things".

Where does Nephi give this account of how he made the small plates? This is important because, according to Nephi, that will signal a transition into the most plain and precious parts of his writings.

Nephi finally gives this account in 2 Nephi 5:30-32.

2 NEPHI 5:30-32
"30 And it came to pass that the Lord God said unto me: Make other plates; and thou shalt engraven many things upon them which are good in my sight, for the profit of thy people.

31 Wherefore, I, Nephi, to be obedient to the commandments of the Lord, went and made these plates upon which I have engraven these things.

32 And I engraved that which is pleasing unto God. And if my people are pleased with the things of God they will be pleased with mine engravings which are upon these plates."
Nephi doesn't really give a large account of how he made the small plates, but this is the only place after 1 Nephi 19 where Nephi discusses his small plates at any length. The brevity of this account of their creation might reflect the pivot Nephi makes in 2 Nephi 4:15. Namely, Nephi is going to include the more sacred portions of his writings but they really won't be about his reign and ministry anymore; they will be about "the things of [Nephi's] soul." As pointed out in the previous class, this might suggest that Nephi's separation from his brothers and other things really did a number on Nephi's soul.

Given Nephi's words from 1 Nephi 19:3-5, therefore, Nephi is signaling that he is transitioning to the more sacred part of his record in 2 Nephi chapter 6. This more sacred part revolves completely around the words of Isaiah. One Scholar, Joseph Spencer, has noted the chiastic structure this more sacred part has and how they revolve completely around Isaiah:
Jacob’s words about Isaiah (2 Nephi 6–10)
        Isaiah’s words themselves (2 Nephi 11–24)
Nephi’s words about Isaiah (2 Nephi 25–30)
(An Other Testament, p. 53)

Why is the chiastic structure important? Last week we read Jacob's words which were probably given during some ancient Israelite festival the Nephites still choose to observe. Jacob, arguably the greatest theologian we have in The Book of Mormon (1), gives, arguably, the greatest sermon on the Atonement of Christ and uses Isaiah a lot in his comments. This week, we are introduced to the middle portion of this chiasmus, which, to an ancient Hebrew, would have signaled that this is the most holy of the more sacred parts of Nephi's writings. In other words, Nephi, through ancient literary devices, has Isaiah as the "Holy of Holies" of his writings.

With that said, it is very interesting how Nephi begins the Isaiah portion (AKA "The Holy Of Holies" portion).

READ 2 NEPHI 11:2-6

"2 And now I, Nephi, write more of the words of Isaiah, for my soul delighteth in his words. For I will liken his words unto my people, and I will send them forth unto all my children, for he verily saw my Redeemer, even as I have seen him.

3 And my brother, Jacob, also has seen him as I have seen him; wherefore, I will send their words forth unto my children to prove unto them that my words are true. Wherefore, by the words of three, God hath said, I will establish my word. Nevertheless, God sendeth more witnesses, and he proveth all his words.

4 Behold, my soul delighteth in proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ; for, for this end hath the law of Moses been given; and all things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world, unto man, are the typifying of him.

5 And also my soul delighteth in the covenants of the Lord which he hath made to our fathers; yea, my soul delighteth in his grace, and in his justice, and power, and mercy in the great and eternal plan of deliverance from death.

6 And my soul delighteth in proving unto my people that save Christ should come all men must perish."


Notice in these verses that Nephi uses the phrase "my soul" 5 times. This is Nephi projecting back onto what he said in 2 Nephi 4:15 where he will write the "things of [his] soul." What are the things of your soul and how can we align ourselves more closely with what Nephi's soul delights in?

Elder Neal A. Maxwell has observed:

"Th[e] process of [spiritual] emancipation and fortification is made possible by applying Jesus’ Atonement to ourselves and to those we teach. We should regularly apply the Atonement for self-improvement, while enduring to the end. If we choose the course of steady improvement, which is clearly the course of discipleship, we will become more righteous and can move from what may be initially a mere acknowledgment of Jesus on to admiration of Jesus, then on to adoration of Jesus, and finally to emulation of Jesus. In that process of striving to become more like Him through steady improvement, we must be in the posture of repentance, even if no major transgression is involved."(2)

Nephi begins the holiest of the most holy portion of his record with a triad witness of the Savior (Jacob, Isaiah, & himself). Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has commented on this:

"After reading these three witnesses from the small plates of Nephi, the reader knows two things in bold relief: that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and that God will keep this covenants and promises with the remnants of the house of Israel. Those two themes constitute the two principal purposes of the Book of Mormon, and they are precisely the introductory themes addressed by Nephi, Jacob, and Isaiah... Standing like sentinels at the gate of the book, Nephi, Jacob, and Isaiah admit us into the scriptural presence of the Lord." (Christ and the New Covenant (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1997), p. 35-36) 


A key interpretive lens for these Isaiah chapters is how they reflect Nephi's vision from 1 Nephi 11-14. In other words, Nephi is likening these chapters of Isaiah to his own visionary experience as a witness of what the Lord is doing with His covenant people. The diagram below, from Scripture Central, organizes it for easy understanding:

Stage 1: Christ’s coming (1 Nephi 11);
Stage 2: his rejection and the scattering of the Jews (1 Nephi 12);
Stage 3: the day of the Gentiles (1 Nephi 13); and
Stage 4: the restoration of Israel and the ultimate victory of good over evil (1 Nephi 14).

Stage 4: 2 Nephi 12-14/Isaiah 2-4 - the law goes forth and victory over evil
Stages 2 & 3: 2 Nephi 15/Isaiah 5 - Jews taken into captivity and ensign is raised
Stage 1: 2 Nephi 17/Isaiah 7 - A virgin conceives a son
Stage 3: 2 Nephi 18/Isaiah 8 - Gentile powers have success over Israel
Stage 1: 2 Nephi 19/Isaiah 9 - "Unto us a son is given"
Stage 4: 2 Nephi 20-24/Isaiah 10-14 - Lord sets his hand the second time to recover a remnant (3)

How do we see Christ in all this? Dr. Robert L. Millet most aptly summarized what Nephi, Jacob, and Isaiah understood:

"... the scattering of Israel is a type of the fall of Adam and Eve. The gathering of Israel is the type of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. All things bear witness of Him, including the scattering and gathering of Israel."(4)

Put another way, it appears that Isaiah, Jacob, and Nephi all understood the Atonement of Christ through the lens of the scattering and gathering of Israel. Perhaps that is an avenue we all could explore to not only better understand Isaiah, but to better understand the Savior.

Quickly, Nephi gives us several tips for understanding Isaiah in 2 Nephi 25:1-7. Some of these tips require us to be a little more studious than we might sometimes like to be:

1. Understand the “manner of prophesying among the Jews” (v. 1)

2. Do not do “works of darkness” or “doings of abominations” (v. 2)

3. Be filled with the spirit of prophecy; "Liken the scriptures" (v. 4)

4. Be familiar with the regions around Jerusalem; (v. 6)

5. Live during the days that the prophecies of Isaiah are fulfilled (v. 7)

For fun, this meme might give us a sigh of relief (see 2 Nephi 25:7):

Let's begin with an easier passage of Isaiah to understand; one with obvious Messianic themes.

 READ 2 NEPHI 19:2-7

"2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

3 Thou hast multiplied the nation, and increased the joy—they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.

4 For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor.

5 For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire.

6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

7 Of the increase of government and peace there is no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this."


Matthew quotes the first few of these verses in Matthew 4:15-16 as a prophecy of Christ. We also get several name titles for the Savior here. What of the many names for the Savior, here or elsewhere, are meaningful to you?

President Russell M. Nelson has said:

"Study everything Jesus Christ is by prayerfully and vigorously seeking to understand what each of His various titles and names means personally for you... If you proceed to learn all you can about Jesus Christ, I promise you that your love for Him, and for God’s laws, will grow beyond what you currently imagine. I promise you also that your ability to turn away from sin will increase. Your desire to keep the commandments will soar. You will find yourself better able to walk away from the entertainment and entanglements of those who mock the followers of Jesus Christ. To assist you, refer to the Topical Guide for references under the topic “Jesus Christ.”" (5)

Verse 5 here has a large application for us because it is a reference to when the Lord will return in red apparel during the day of heat (see Isaiah 63:3-4 & Malachi 4:1). The Lord himself gives greater comment to these verses in D&C 133:46-52.

"46 And it shall be said: Who is this that cometh down from God in heaven with dyed garments; yea, from the regions which are not known, clothed in his glorious apparel, traveling in the greatness of his strength?

47 And he shall say: I am he who spake in righteousness, mighty to save.

48 And the Lord shall be red in his apparel, and his garments like him that treadeth in the wine-vat.

49 And so great shall be the glory of his presence that the sun shall hide his face in shame, and the moon shall withhold its light, and the stars shall be hurled from their places.

50 And his voice shall be heard: I have trodden the wine-press alone, and have brought judgment upon all people; and none were with me;

51 And I have trampled them in my fury, and I did tread upon them in mine anger, and their blood have I sprinkled upon my garments, and stained all my raiment; for this was the day of vengeance which was in my heart.

52 And now the year of my redeemed is come; and they shall mention the loving kindness of their Lord, and all that he has bestowed upon them according to his goodness, and according to his loving kindness, forever and ever."


Here is a little bit harder passage that might also be troubling for many. Isaiah appears to place a lot of blame on the women of the covenant in his day and our day.

READ 2 NEPHI 13:16-17, 24-26, & 2 NEPHI 14:1-4

"16 Moreover, the Lord saith: Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched-forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet—

17 Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will discover their secret parts...

24 And it shall come to pass, instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle, a rent; and instead of well set hair, baldness; and instead of a stomacher, a girding of sackcloth; burning instead of beauty.

25 Thy men shall fall by the sword and thy mighty in the war.

26 And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she shall be desolate, and shall sit upon the ground.

1 And in that day, seven women shall take hold of one man, saying: We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel; only let us be called by thy name to take away our reproach.

2 In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious; the fruit of the earth excellent and comely to them that are escaped of Israel.

3 And it shall come to pass, they that are left in Zion and remain in Jerusalem shall be called holy, every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem—

4 When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning."

According to various scholars and The Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual, "in the Joseph Smith Translation, Isaiah 4:1 is moved to become the last verse of Isaiah 3."(6) Therefore, it isn't appropriate to use these verses as a prophecy of divinely sanctioned Polygamy returning at some point. I bring this up to help us see more clearly the mastery of Isaiah's prophecies here.

This is one of the areas where understanding Hebrew helps a bit. For example, Israel in Hebrew is masculine. The words Zion and Jerusalem are feminine. (7) Zion and Jerusalem are used in these verses and not the masculine, Israel, for a reason. Isaiah is using a metaphor that, to an educated ancient Hebrew, would have echoed the oft-used symbol that the Lord's covenant people are His covenantal bride. We can see Jesus Christ in these verses as the bridegroom being rejected by the bride.


What warning does this hold for those of the covenant? As the Lord's covenantal bride, how might we guard against the pride of the world and become "the branch of the Lord [that will] be beautiful and glorious"?

These verses sandwich the sometimes controversial Isaiah 4:1, as already noted, but Isaiah was performing literary brilliance. While Joseph Smith might have moved that verse to the end of chapter 3 of Isaiah, chapter breaks were a moot point for Isaiah who wrote these words almost 2 millennia before his words were given chapter breaks. 

One scholar has summarized how ancient Christian Church Fathers understood the first 4 verses of Isaiah chapter 4: 

"Let's see those seven women as sort of the seven churches from the Book of Revelation, as representing God's covenant people and the one man is the Lord...  The seven women are the seven churches nourished by the bread of the Holy Spirit enclosed in the garments of immortality. To me, that has a much more immediate and broad application that as God begins to restore us, we begin to turn to the Lord and say, "Give us your name to take away our shame."(8)


Isaiah also says a lot about the temple in His writings. Isaiah is not mysterious in the way many want to make him. It is my opinion that he becomes plain (Nephi's word, not mine) once we start to tie the gathering of scattered Israel to the temple. Naturally, we will also see Christ abundantly in his writings as it is His House and to His Power His covenantal Bride is being gathered into. For the sake of time, I simply quote the words of some prophets, seers, and revelators with the same vision as Isaiah.

President Nelson said in his first worldwide message as President of the Church:

"Your commitment to follow the Savior by making covenants with Him and then keeping these covenants will open the door to every spiritual blessing and privilege available to men, women, and children everywhere... The ordinances of the temple and the covenants you make there are key to strengthening your life, your marriage and family, and your ability to resist the attacks of the adversary. Your worship in the temple and your service there for your ancestors will bless you with increased personal revelation and peace and will fortify your commitment to stay on the covenant path." (9)

The Prophet Joseph Smith once said:

"What was the object of gathering the … people of God in any age of the world? … The main object was to build unto the Lord a house whereby He could reveal unto His people the ordinances of His house and the glories of His kingdom, and teach the people the way of salvation; for there are certain ordinances and principles that, when they are taught and practiced, must be done in a place or house built for that purpose."(10)


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