Question: Does Isaiah prophesy about a latter-day division in the church or people of God?
Answer: Because Isaiah “spake as touching all things” concerning God’s people (3 Nephi 23:2)—more particularly about the end of the world and Jehovah/Jesus’ coming to reign on the earth—he prophesies an irrevocable division that occurs among God’s people. Indeed, that very division is one of the signs of his coming. And to be sure we understand his message, Isaiah predicts it several different ways so we can be left in no doubt about his intent. Contributing to this division is that few people take warning, unwilling to apply Isaiah’s words to themselves.
At the root of many people’s disbelief in the words of Isaiah is their inability to deal with them holistically; that is, to apply them simultaneously on the several levels intrinsic to the Jewish “manner of prophesying.” Never having been taught more than a prooftexting approach to the scriptures—of finding “proof” for a particular doctrine or interpretation—they forgo the trouble of searching and putting the pieces together and instead resort to cherry-picking what appeals and rejecting what doesn’t. By their own wilful ignorance, therefore, they damn themselves.
The Book of Isaiah doesn’t lend itself to picking and choosing. Nor does “searching” Isaiah’s words involve merely reading or studying them. Jesus’ commandment to search Isaiah’s words “diligently” (3 Nephi 23:1) was a deliberate challenge—not only to apply them to ourselves for our profit and learning but because they cannot be understood any other way or as relating to the time in which we live. Predictably, persons who fail to interpret the words of Isaiah holistically are the same ones who gloss over world events, blind to the grave threats facing humanity.
First, the political and ecclesiastical establishments of God’s end-time people as Isaiah presents them are inextricably on a par. God judges the one as he judges the other. Second, Ephraim’s leaders’ “covenant with death” typifies their response to a “scourge” or pandemic and occurs in the context of a lack of divine revelation and reliance on human counsels and schemes or arm of flesh. Replacing revelation is an entrenched pulpit narrative of “line-upon-line” as a principle of learning that parrots back what a leader says instead of teaching how to search the scriptures.
Third, in response to the “covenant with death”—a course that ultimately leads to death—God offers a “covenant of life” vested in his end-time servant, a “stone” or seer whom he appoints to restore the house of Israel—the Jews, Lamanites, and Israel’s Ten Tribes of today. That servant, however, is “marred” or disfigured by those who ought to support him, causing the gospel to turn from the Ephraimite Gentiles to the house of Israel and precipitating God’s worldwide Day of Judgment. These events epitomize the Isaiah and Book of Mormon scriptures narrative.
They also parallel the Lord’s people “in Zion” subscribing to “precepts of men,” which in the end cause them to deny him; his current wife’s becoming a harlot, her people’s indulging the sins of Sodom, leading to the Lord’s remarrying his first wife—the house of Israel—in their place; the olive tree of Zenos’ allegory bearing all kinds of fruit—none of it any good—causing the Lord of the vineyard to appoint his end-time servant to call other servants to help him graft the natural branches back into their mother tree, to cut off the bad and cast them out of the vineyard.
At once tragic and glorious, the scriptures narrative that is based on a holistic interpretation of Isaiah and Book of Mormon prophecies presents a coherent picture of events that precede the coming of the Lord to reign on the earth. Tragic is that those Ephraimite Gentiles who are unable to perceive this holistic view of end-time events are the same who end up fighting against Zion. Glorious is that those who assist in restoring the house of Israel—though tried through the fire of persecution—are the same who welcome the Lord at his coming and reign with him in Zion.