Question: If we are living in the last days, how should we account for the apparent discrepancy between how Isaiah severely censures God’s people and today’s faithful members of the church?
Answer: By the “last days,” do you mean (1) since the time the gospel was restored; (2) the present time; or (3) the time Isaiah is speaking of—the end of the world? Isaiah’s words which say, “Alas, a nation astray, a people weighed down by sin, the offspring of wrongdoers, perverse children: they have forsaken Jehovah, they have spurned the Holy One of Israel, they have lapsed into apostasy” (Isaiah 1:4), for example, suggest at least two generations of spiritual decline before the final phase that brings about God’s worldwide judgment.
Isaiah’s emphasis on the spiritual blindness of God’s people, moreover, tells us that they—his collective “servant”—seem unaware of their spiritual regression: “O you deaf, listen; O you blind, look and see! Who is blind but my own servant, or so deaf as the messenger I have sent? Who is blind like those I have commissioned, as uncomprehending as the servant of Jehovah—seeing much but not giving heed, with open ears hearing nothing?” (Isaiah 42:18–20). As a consequence, the Lord sends his individual “servant” to dispels their darkness:
“Who among you fears Jehovah and heeds the voice of his servant, who, though he walk in the dark and have no light, trusts in the name of Jehovah and relies on his God? But you are lighters of fires, all of you, who illuminate with mere sparks” (Isaiah 50:10–11). The light they have been walking by resembles “sparks” compared to the full light of truth. The Lord therefore appoints his servant as a “light” to the Ephraimite Gentiles “to open eyes that are blind” (Isaiah 42:6–7) and to teach them “the true points of my doctrine” (3 Nephi 21:6–11).
In short, it is the Ephraimite Gentiles’ rejection and “marring” of the servant that seals their condemnation. Their being “cut off from among my people who are of the covenant” is the turning point in Isaiah’s end-time scenario that leads to the gospel’s turning back to the house of Israel (Isaiah 52:13–14; 3 Nephi 20:28–35; 21:10–11). The Gentiles’ spiritual kings who “shut their mouths at him,” on the other hand—who learn what “had not been told them”—are the ones who bring to pass Israel’s restoration (Isaiah 49:22–23; 52:15; 3 Nephi 21:8–9).