If you have created your own sealed portion of the plates comprised of the Isaiah chapters in 2 Nephi 11-24, you’re not alone. They’re admittedly a tough read, even if you think you can sort through the symbolism, geographical and cultural references of a record nearly 3,000 years old. Then again, if Isaiah were among us today, could you explain to him why memes exist, anything about the country of Andorra, or society’s fascination with reality television shows? Trust me, Isaiah wouldn’t understand you any better than you struggle to understand his writings.
This is why 2 Nephi chapters 11 and 25 are so pivotal to the Isaiah chapters they bookend. These are Nephi’s version of modern day Cliff Notes for the Isaiah chapters. He acknowledges that Isaiah is “hard…to understand.” (ch. 25, vs. 1) So in verse chapter 25, verse 7, Nephi essentially says, “Let me be as plain as I can.”
The first thing Nephi outlines in chapter 11 is the commonality that he shares with his brother Jacob and Isaiah: they all saw Jesus Christ during their mortal sojourn.
Why is it important to know that Jesus Christ personally visited Isaiah, Nephi and Jacob?
How does Nephi’s testimony about the importance of 3 witnesses, in verse 3, help your testimony of the 3 witnesses to the Book of Mormon?
Is it any wonder why Nephi’s “soul delighteth in [Isaiah’s] words”? (ch. 11, vs. 2)
How would you feel after a decade of constantly defending your testimony and your personal safety against those who mocked and attacked you, like Laman and Lemuel did to Nephi, only to learn that someone who lived 150 years before you, had the same testimony of the Savior and similar life experiences to yours?
You’d want to be BFFs with that person! Of course Nephi understood Isaiah! They were both prophets of the Lord; they were both “taught…after the manner of the Jews” (ch. 25, vs. 6); and, they were both recipients of visions, visitations, and an abundance of the Spirit.
Both Isaiah and Nephi were committed to “proving unto [their] people the truth of the coming of Christ.” (ch. 11, vs. 4)
For purposes of this article, I want to help you identify six Christ-centered themes that explain why Nephi selected the chapters in Isaiah that are reproduced in 2 Nephi. Let’s look at Chapter 11, verse 5:
“And also my soul delighteth in the covenants of the Lord which he hath made to our fathers; yea, my soul delighteth in his grace, and in his justice, and power, and mercy in the great and eternal plan of deliverance from death.”
Now look in Chapter 25, at verses 9-18.
9 And as one generation hath been destroyed among the Jews because of iniquity, even so have they been destroyed from generation to generation according to their iniquities; and never hath any of them been destroyed save it were foretold them by the prophets of the Lord.
10 Wherefore, it hath been told them concerning the destruction which should come upon them, immediately after my father left Jerusalem; nevertheless, they hardened their hearts; and according to my prophecy they have been destroyed, save it be those which are carried away captive into Babylon.
11 And now this I speak because of the spirit which is in me. And notwithstanding they have been carried away they shall return again, and possess the land of Jerusalem; wherefore, they shall be restored again to the land of their inheritance.
12 But, behold, they shall have wars, and rumors of wars; and when the day cometh that the Only Begotten of the Father, yea, even the Father of heaven and of earth, shall manifest himself unto them in the flesh, behold, they will reject him, because of their iniquities, and the hardness of their hearts, and the stiffness of their necks.
13 Behold, they will crucify him; and after he is laid in a sepulchre for the space of three days he shall rise from the dead, with healing in his wings; and all those who shall believe on his name shall be saved in the kingdom of God. Wherefore, my soul delighteth to prophesy concerning him, for I have seen his day, and my heart doth magnify his holy name.
14 And behold it shall come to pass that after the Messiah hath risen from the dead, and hath manifested himself unto his people, unto as many as will believe on his name, behold, Jerusalem shall be destroyed again; for wo unto them that fight against God and the people of his church.
16 And after they have been scattered, and the Lord God hath scourged them by other nations for the space of many generations, yea, even down from generation to generation until they shall be persuaded to believe in Christ, the Son of God, and the atonement, which is infinite for all mankind—and when that day shall come that they shall believe in Christ, and worship the Father in his name, with pure hearts and clean hands, and look not forward any more for another Messiah, then, at that time, the day will come that it must needs be expedient that they should believe these things.
17 And the Lord will set his hand again the second time to restore his people from their lost and fallen state. Wherefore, he will proceed to do a marvelous work and a wonder among the children of men.
18 Wherefore, he shall bring forth his words unto them, which words shall judge them at the last day, for they shall be given them for the purpose of convincing them of the true Messiah, who was rejected by them; and unto the convincing of them that they need not look forward any more for a Messiah to come, for there should not any come, save it should be a false Messiah which should deceive the people; for there is save one Messiah spoken of by the prophets, and that Messiah is he who should be rejected of the Jews.
What common themes do you see in verse 5 of chapter 11, and verses 9-18 in chapter 25?
Here are the Christ-centered themes I see:
- Prophets always foretell, and wicked generations are destroyed (vs. 9)
- Mercy and Power (vs. 5)
- The House of Israel shall be restored to the land of their inheritance (vs. 11)
- Covenants (vs. 5)
- The Jews will reject Christ when he manifests Himself to them in the flesh (vs. 12)
- Christ will be crucified and then resurrected “with healing in his wings” (vs. 13)
- Great Plan of Deliverance from Death (vs. 5)
- House of Israel will be scattered among all nations after Christ’s death (vs. 15)
- After “many generations”, the House of Israel will be restored again (vs. 16-18)
- Covenants and Mercy (vs. 5)
It’s almost like Nephi is telling us, “Look for these messages in Isaiah’s chapters!”
As you read 2 Nephi 12-24, can you identify verses that fit one or more of those themes?
If you read the Isaiah chapters, with these themes in mind, you’ll discover that you really can understand what Isaiah wrote, and why Nephi selected that portion of Isaiah’s record to duplicate in his own writings.
But even if you’re still confused as you read the Isaiah chapters, remember this: Isaiah, Nephi and any other prophet who has ever written their testimony on plates, papyrus or paper, “labor[ed] diligently to write, to persuade [their] children…to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God.” (ch. 27, vs. 23)
Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught, “Reconciliation is the process of ransoming man from his state of sin and spiritual darkness and of restoring him to a state of harmony and unity with Deity” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 2:422).
Ultimately, the Isaiah chapters are a further invitation to apply the atonement in our life, draw nearer to God, and also believe in, talk of, rejoice in, preach of, and prophesy of the Lord, Jesus Christ. (2 Ne. 25:26)
So unseal those Isaiah chapters, “liken his words unto” yourself (ch. 11, vs. 2), and let your soul delight.
Recommended hymn to accompany this week’s lesson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Tw9HK_0dmk
 Here’s a great 10 step guide to understanding the writings of Isaiah: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/old-testament-student-manual-kings-malachi/enrichment-e?lang=eng
 Short video on the importance of 3 witnesses: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/media-library/video/2012-05-8290-the-testimony-of-the-three-witnesses?lang=eng
 For additional insight into Isaiah’s writings in the Book of Mormon: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1998/09/book-of-mormon-commentary-on-isaiah?lang=eng