If you have ever ventured to discuss some aspect of Isaiah’s prophecies with someone who was unacquainted with it, you may have inadvertently provoked the sometimes hostile response of “That’s controversial!” or “That isn’t in the manual!” or “I haven’t heard that before!”—as if what they haven’t heard before can’t be true, or that the manual contains everything there is to know about a scripture, or that nothing of Isaiah’s words can possibly be controversial. Today, it seems, the prophecies of Isaiah are acting as a divider.
But if I were to put myself into the mind of someone who responds that way, I might be thinking to myself, “For years now, I have wrapped my head around the church’s teachings. I have a good handle on the gospel. I have taught it in the classroom, in seminary, and I know the scriptures. So why are you telling me things that are totally outside the reality I have grown up in? Why are all these uncomfortable ideas suddenly surfacing? Can’t you see I’m dealing with a lot of current things that need my attention and not this freaky stuff?”
On the other hand, if I was an honest person to my core, and a friend took the trouble to acquaint me with more about the scriptures than I was familiar with, my love of the truth would overcome the inconvenience of looking into it until I had determined for myself whether it was true based on the scriptures. Even if the new truths I held fast to divided me from the majority opinion, I would still know I was on the right path and would still love others the same. Didn’t Jesus warn his disciples that division would mark the time of his coming?
“Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother” (Luke 12:51–53). Didn’t Nephi and Jesus predict a great end-time division between the Ephraimite Gentiles who repent and those who harden their hearts (1 Nephi 14:7; 2 Nephi 30:10; 3 Nephi 21:6, 22)?
Why indeed haven’t we been taught from the scriptures that hardening our hearts and sliding into idolatry and apostasy are the very things that precipitate the rise of a world military alliance from the North whom God empowers to conquer the world and cleanse it of wickedness? Or that those events precede Jesus’ second coming—the coming of Israel’s God Jehovah to reign on the earth according to the prophecies of Isaiah? Or that God has revealed Isaiah’s prophecies so his people might prepare for these events and not be caught unawares?
We would then know, for example, that Isaiah predicted many things we are currently dealing with. That the pandemic “scourge” won’t end until the Lord comes because even at this critical point in time we haven’t moved beyond the line-upon-line or “milk” mode of learning to the meat of the gospel—to relying on personal revelation. That we “have treated lightly the things you have received” and turned from God’s word to “precepts of men” (Isaiah 28:9–19; 29:13; Hebrews 5:12; Doctrine & Covenant 45:28–32; 84:54–58; 97:22–23).
Instead of the Ephraimite Gentiles’ assuming their role of restoring the house of Israel according to the prophecies of Isaiah, a majority will reject their truth, saying, “We need no more of the word of God for we have enough” (2 Nephi 28:29). Comparatively few—the Ephraimite Gentiles’ spiritual kings and queens—will in the end “shut their mouths at him, for what was not told them they shall see, and what they had not heard they shall consider” and fulfil their end-time missions (Isaiah 49:22–23; 52:15; 2 Nephi 10:7–10; 3 Nephi 21:8).
If the prophecies of Isaiah are controversial, then God’s truth is controversial, not the messenger of his truth. So what if Isaiah’s words require a complete reorientation of our thinking in order for us to understand them? Why would it not be a good thing for us to comprehend his many words quoted in the New Testament, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine & Covenants without our having known that they originated with Isaiah? In what way would it not benefit us spiritually to comprehend all scriptures in one once we understand Isaiah?