Question: Our gospel doctrine teacher, a BYU professor, told us he can’t understand Isaiah’s symbolisms. He said he also heard a general authority say it isn’t necessary to understand Isaiah. Why then did Jesus command we should search his words diligently?
Answer: Isaiah’s symbolisms are an important part of his prophecies and teachings about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus said Isaiah spoke about “all things” concerning his people Israel and, therefore, also concerning their relationship to the Gentiles (3 Nephi 23:2). Although “All things” means past, present, and future, Isaiah’s prophecy specifically relates to the end of the world as we know it. In order to show this, he used historical events as an allegory of the endtime.
“All things” further means the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the covenants the great and abominable church took away from the teachings of the Lamb of God. Isaiah has thus embedded into his prophecy a ladder to heaven on which we may ascend, each rung of which signifies a spiritual level belonging to a higher or lower law of God’s covenant. To teach about the endtime and the gospel of the Lamb of God, Nephi and his brother, Jacob, drew principally on the prophecies of Isaiah.
Rather than giving up on trying to understand Isaiah, we can use the literary tools I discovered after many years of analyzing Isaiah’s literary devices. They can help us recognize prophecy as it is being fulfilled and help us better understand all the scriptures. A good place to begin is with the Isaiah Institute translation which is available at www.IsaiahExplained.com. It was translated from ancient texts into modern English and formatted in Hebrew verse form.