Question: In preparation for Isaiah, I read the following from the Come Follow Me manual: “For the most part, people today aren’t the primary audience of the Old Testament prophets. Those prophets had immediate concerns they were addressing in their time and place—just as our latter-day prophets address our immediate concerns today.” Does prophecy from the Old Testament apply to us today? What should I expect when I read from it?
Answer: Jesus’ commandments to “search the prophets” and “search. . . the words of Isaiah” (3 Nephi 20:11; 23:1, 5), rather than dating Old Testament prophets, makes them relevant long after they lived. Because the Hebrew worldview is typological—not necessarily purely logical as in western culture—it is wise to “liken all scriptures unto us. . . for our profit and leaning” (1 Nephi 19:23). When the Lord says he gives us “a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived” (Doctrine & Covenants 52:13), that pattern appears in the scriptures, specifically in the prophets.
Because we are to “live by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4; Doctrine & Covenants 84:44), if we fail to comprehend the sum total of God’s words in the scriptures that we currently have, we won’t be fit to “receive more of my word” (2 Nephi 29:8). That includes Jesus’ words on the large plates of Nephi, called “the greater things,” that are still withheld from us (3 Nephi 26:6–11). Instead, we will remain “under condemnation” for having “treated lightly the things you have received” (Doctrine & Covenants 84:54).
Such condemnation stems from the self-sufficient attitude, “We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!” (2 Nephi 28:29). It is typified by people mostly relying on the pulpit narrative or “line-upon-line, precept-upon-precept” mode of learning which the Lord condemns (Isaiah 28:9–13). Of such, he says, “From them shall be taken away even that which they have” (2 Nephi 28:30), leading many Latter-day Saints “in Zion” to ultimately “deny” the Lord (2 Nephi 28:24–32) and be “cut off” (3 Nephi 21:11).
Jesus’ personally provides the Nephites with the words of Malachi, and also explains them (3 Nephi 24–25). That testifies of their pertinence to the end-time, when Malachi’s prophecies are fulfilled: “These scriptures, which ye had not with you, the Father commanded that I should give unto you; for it was wisdom in him that they should be given unto future generations” (3 Nephi 26:2). Jesus’ quoting the words of Micah in the context of the Ephraimite Gentiles’ apostasy and house of Israel’s restoration (3 Nephi 16:13–15; 20:16–19) similarly affirms their significance.
Most importantly, the Book of Mormon’s use of the words of Isaiah details their relevance to our day. Whenever Jesus and Nephite prophets speak of us—the Ephraimite Gentiles—they quote Isaiah’ words and interpret them. Nephi predicts us that “in the days that the prophecies of Isaiah shall be fulfilled men shall know of a surety, at the times when they shall come to pass” (2 Nephi 25:8). Jesus’ key that “all things that he [Isaiah] spake have been and shall be” (3 Nephi 23:3) informs us that even the historical events Isaiah describes serve as an allegory of the end-time.
End-time events such as the house of Israel’s exodus out of Babylon, and the Assyrian wars Nephi cites that are a type of our day (1 Nephi 20–21; 2 Nephi 12–24; cf. Isaiah 48–49; 2–14), apply to us. They tell us that in the end we will divide into those who harden their hearts and end up fighting against Zion and those who serve as spiritual kings and queens who restore the house of Israel—Jews, Ten Tribes, and Lamanites—at the time God’s judgments come upon the world (1 Nephi 14:1–17; 15:20; 2 Nephi 6:5–18; 10:7–19; 3 Nephi 20:11–12, 21–46; 21:6–11, 20–29).