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Isaiah 11, Its Meaning


This posting is adapted from a Sacrament Meeting talk. It explains
the importance of Isaiah 11. Why the angel who appeared to tell
Joseph Smith about the gold plates quoted this scripture to 
Joseph Smith. This is a very important scripture on the restoration
of the gospel in our day. What is learned from Isaiah 11 is compared
to Lehi's prayer about leaving Jerusalem; the Church's video on 
Lehi's prayer is compared to the actual meaning intended by
Nephi when he wrote about Lehi's prayer. 

After the conclusion there is a glossary of terms for various
figures of speech and other literary devices used in the scriptures. 
Familiarity with these literary devices enhances one's understanding
of the scriptures.

Isaiah 11

Mountain View Ward
Paradise Valley Arizona Stake
October 20, 2019

There are virtually no Old Testament scriptures about the Holy Ghost, only oblique reverences.1 But the Holy Ghost or references to the Spirit are there. You just have to know what you are reading to see them.

There is a reason you have to read between the lines to discern references to the Holy Ghost in the Old Testament. Judaism changed during the reign of King Josiah from a religion that believed in polytheism, a Godhead with three members, to monotheism, just one god: no Savior and no Holy Ghost.2 Nephi knew about this expurgation, because he identified this change in doctrine as a plain and precious thing lost from the bible. He said,

These last records [meaning the Book of Mormon] . . . shall establish the truth of the first [meaning the Bible] . . . and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them . . . that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved.3

This rewriting of the bible by the Deuteronomists was not accepted by the faithful few at Jerusalem during the fin de siècle of the Seventh Century BC So there were many, like Lehi, who stood up for what was right.4

Those who stood up for what was right were prophets in the biblical sense. The word prophet refers to one who reads and understands the scriptures and preaches what they say. Lehi was one of these. He understood the Lord’s promise of protection if the Jews were righteous and the prophecy of destruction and scattering of the Jews, the Diaspora,5 if they were not.

Lehi’s teaching was not unique. Ezekiel preached against the wickedness of the Jews who were, ironically, with him in and already exiled as a result of their wickedness.. Ezekiel attacked his people, both male and female, because they said the visions and prophecies about the destruction of Jerusalem and its people—their wickedness—were for a time far off in the future, not the then present.6

While Ezekiel proclaimed that the sins of the people were worse than the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah,7 the false prophets pacified the people with flattering words that lulled them into complacency and self-satisfaction. Ezekiel calls these words “vain vision” and “flattering divination,” a characterization that parallels Jeremiah’s preaching.9

Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, [and] not out of the mouth of the Lord.10

Jeremiah, like Nephi, records that there were many prophets preaching to the people, but these prophets were killed for their preaching. But not Jeremiah. He had some political clout11 that kept him alive, but he was tried for his life.12 Here is what the leaders told the king about dispatching Jeremiah:

Therefore the princes said unto the king, We beseech thee, let this man be put to death: for thus he weakeneth the hands of the men of war that remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, in speaking such words unto them: for this man seeketh not the welfare of this people, but the hurt . . . . Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon . . . that [was] in the court of the prison: and they let down Jeremiah with cords. And in the dungeon [there was] no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire.13

Hananiah was one of the false prophets at the time of Jeremiah and Lehi. He mocked Jeremiah and prophesied that Jerusalem would not be conquered.14 The prophetess at the time, the one the leaders of the city/nation sought for counsel was Huldah,15 not Jeremiah or any of the other prophets who were prophesying for the Lord. The Lord’s prophets were not consulted: they were killed.

One of Lehi’s contemporaries was Urijah. He was a righteous prophet, so he was considered a traitorous subversive just like all of the righteous prophets. The king was after him because he was saying the same things Jeremiah said, but he did not have the political clout that protected Jeremiah. He fled for his life. But Urijah fled toward Egypt. He was pursued, caught, taken back to Jerusalem, tried, beheaded, and buried with the graves of the common people.16

Lehi was faced with the same prospects that befell Urijah, so it was not too tough for Lehi to figure out the flee-or-die reality he faced. He had figured out what he had to do before he prayed about it, which is what the Doctrine and Covenants tells use we need to do when we want the Lord’s assistance.17 Lehi knew he would be killed if he stayed in Jerusalem. He prayed about it. Got the confirmation he was right. Packed up and got out of Dodge. Lehi was smarter than Urijah, though, because he did not follow Urijah’s route; rather than heading for Egypt along the main highway, he headed toward the Red Sea, avoiding the Jewish military outposts, Urijah’s mistake.

Lehi’s realization he had to flee or die is an example of a spiritual experience, the first of selected spiritual experiences Nephi chose for his first book. I believe there is a reason Nephi wrote two books. The purpose of 1 Nephi is the presentation of different spiritual experiences in different circumstances. Nephi wanted his readers to learn what it is to have a spiritual experience and, thereby, recognized the spiritual witness of the testimonies of Christ he recorded in 2 Nephi. Make no mistake. First Nephi is not a history. The purpose of 1 Nephi is to teach us what spiritual experiences are, a challenge for us because we do understand the historical setting of Lehi’s Jerusalem, and we do not see the world from the same metaphysical perspective.

The historical setting should be easy for us. But that would require us to read Jeremiah and Ezekiel and books about Israel’s history.18 We can all, if we will, study and understand the historical setting of Lehi’s Jerusalem and the peril of his situation. Why he had to flee or die.

Nephi’s or the Jewish metaphysical weltanschauung or world view is a little more difficult to understand. But we can understand it if we work at it. We can study it out in our minds so we can read the Book of Mormon as Nephi wrote it.

I am going to return to the Hebrew metaphysical paradigm if I have time, but, first, I want to turn to the subject of this talk. I want to give you my views on the important topic of recognizing the Spirit. Not my views, really, but those of Isaiah as found in Isaiah 11. And, then, I want to return to the spiritual experiences recorded in 1 Nephi, Lehi’s get-out-of-Dodge prayer.

Even if we have not thought of it before, we all know that Isaiah 11 is an especially important scripture for us. Why? Because it was quoted and explained to Joseph Smith when the angel appeared to tell him about the gold plates.19 It would be easier to understand Isaiah 11 if Joseph Smith had recorded what was explained to him about this scripture, but he did not. He just said he did not write the “many explanations” given.20 But we know this: Isaiah 11 was quoted and explained to him.21

While the entire chapter deserves analysis, only the first nine verses will be discussed today.

The first nine verses of Isaiah 11 form a Pindaric ode.22 These verses use repetition of exergasia in strophes and repetition of examples via antistrophes to explain what the spirit of the Lord is and its effects. The stanzas of this ode are preceded by a verse declaring that this scripture is about a man by using two metonyms, the rod and the branch.23 The stanzas are followed by an epode summarizing the essence of the stanzas. Parsing this ode illuminates its meaning and, presumptively, the explanation Moroni gave Joseph Smith about something he needed, how to identify the spirit of the Lord, the focus of the first nine verses.24

The first strophe is a series of three hendiadyses forming an exergasia.25 These hendiadyses define the spirit of the Lord. The sense to be gathered from each hendiadys is synergistic. The first hendiadys is wisdom and understanding. Not merely wisdom, but wisdom and understanding. In an almost chiastic way, this wisdom and understanding is balanced by knowledge and fear of the Lord, reciprocal definitions of these terms: wisdom involves knowledge and understanding involves fear of or respect for the Lord. Wisdom, understanding, knowledge and fear of or respect for the Lord bookend the central point of the first strophe,

I particularly liked this statement by Dallin H. Oakes from general conference in October. 2019. He said, speaking of the importance of consensus,

It should be remembered that not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. It is commonly understood in the Church that a statement made by one leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, not meant to be official or binding for the whole Church.27

The central point of the first strophe of Isaiah’s ode is consensus after discussion by knowledgeable, wise, understanding people who respect and follow the Lord. The Spirit as defined by Isaiah does not involve an infusion from the Lord’s mind into another’s; rather, the Spirit is using one’s own mind.28 Improving one’s mind, by reading for example, necessarily precedes the confidence that comes after conferring with others about what one has learned; this confidence is what is meant by the words confirmation of the Spirit.29

One gains wisdom and understanding—improves one’s mind—through experiences like everyday life and reading. However, an everyday life or an experience-only approach limits the breadth of what one can know.30 Likewise, a strictly academic focus ignores the honing effect of experience and the strengthening effect of interaction or counseling with others, which is a reason to attend church. The necessary education31 must be gained from all sources, including the scriptures, while keeping the focus of learning on the purpose of life. Experience and knowledge used for the purposes of the Lord is an essential part of if not the essence of Isaiah’s definition of the Spirit.32

Isaiah gives examples of the effects of spirituality in Antistrophe I. It is a key you can use to determine if someone is spiritual. Does this someone rush to judgment based on what has been seen or heard, or does this someone counsel with the Lord and others. Are the judgments of this someone the same for the poor and the meek, or does this someone treat the wealthy and notable with more deference? Does this someone speak out against the unrighteous and wicked, or just go to the R-rated pictures because it is just a little nudity and a little bad language and little violence?

The couplets in the first Antistrophe are concentric in the sense that they expand from the individual to the world: the first deals with judgment and reproof of a particular individual; the second deals with judgment and reproof of a class of individuals; and the third deals with the mankind in general. Judgment and reproof of the world at large is untempered by individual considerations. The judgment and reproof of classes of people is more tempered. And the judgment of individuals are the least affected by the general rule.33

Strophe II is a couplet. It shifts gears. It turns to the sensitivity and compassion of this imbued-with-the-spirit person. The seat of feelings during the bible era, which includes the Book of Mormon, was the kidneys. The kidneys, usually translated as loins, reins, or bowels (as in the bowels of compassion), is the metaphor for empathy and emotion, sensitivity and compassion.34 These, however, are bounded by righteousness and faithfulness when it involves a Spiritual experience—righteousness and faithfulness are used interchangeably in this couplet.. Thus, unrighteous sorrow or empathy or anger is not consistent with the Spirit of the Lord.

The Spirit of the Lord has a humanizing effect, and that is the tenor of Strophe II. So when someone stands at this pulpit and bears and speaks emotionally with tears out of concern for others among us, we should all recognize that this is a manifestation of the spirituality of that person.

Antistrophe II gives examples that explain the loins/reins exergasia in Strophe II. The essential response of an individual to the Spirit of the Lord is analogous to the interaction one has with a little child; hence, the center of the chiasmus used in this second antistrophe is being led by this little child.35 On either side of this analogy are metaphors for various individuals with different personality types who, invariably, have different interests, attention spans, and patience with certain types of views.36 Nonetheless, the Spirit of the Lord allows these different people to be together as friends: dwelling together, socializing, sharing company, and eating together. The spirit of the Lord, thus, invites the discussion in elder’s quorum or the gospel doctrine class or Relief Society meetings where different ideas and views can be shared about various. The individual who gets angry or accusatory or feels threatened or wants to cut off the discussion of some different idea lacks the girdle about his loins that should hold his passions in check. Unchecked passion or judgment is what contention is. The spirit is talking about it. Discussing. Conference. And eventual consensus after thoughtful consideration..

There is a lot more to be gleaned from Isaiah 11, but you can do that on your own, carefully considering the figures of speech, metaphors and stylistic elements that add dimension and meaning to Isaiah 11 and all other scriptures. Instead of doing that with you, I want to apply Isaiah’s definition to a specific instance, Lehi’s realization that he had to flee Jerusalem or die.

Lehi’s spiritual experience is just a few verses in the Book of Mormon. He sees the wickedness of Jerusalem and the fate of the prophets warning against the wickedness. He understood what this wickedness meant about Jerusalem’s destruction, and he understood he would be killed if he stayed in the city. The first chapter of 1 Nephi says Lehi prayed and “there came a pillar of fire and dwelt upon a rock before him.”

Hopefully, those who read these few verses in the first chapter of 1 Nephi recognize these two metaphors. The pillar of fire and the rock. Metaphors are not actual events. These same metaphors are used in the Old Testament and have the same tenor as the Old Testament metaphors used by Nephi. The tenor is about the Holy Ghost and the Lord.

An aside is important here. When a reader does not understand a figure of speech or a metaphor, the reader gives literal effect to the vehicle. For example, if I say I am as happy as a clam and the person hearing this does not understand the tenor, they wonder whether clams are happy. The person musing over the emotions of a clam does not get it. People living on the seashore do, because they know happy as a clam is a shortened reference to the full statement, happy as a clam at high tide. Clams are exposed at low tide, so the seagulls fly down, they pick them, they fly them above the rocks, they drop them, the clams break open ,and the seagulls swoop down and eat them. If I say I am as happy as a clam, I do not mean that I am happy. Just safe. For now.

The Church has produced a video dramatizing Lehi’s spiritual experience about leaving Jerusalem or dying.

The video takes poetic license with the metaphors Nephi used to describe Lehi’s experience. The movie-makers did not know what to do with the pillar of fire on a rock, so they fictionalize what was written by portraying a light streaming from heaven while Lehi prayed on a rocky crag. Hmmm. The movie-makers did not get it, so they made up what happened, and, in the process, distort what happened and the doctrine.37The video is nice. But it is just a movie. It is not scripture. The video does not to capture the tenor or meaning intended by Nephi’s use of the pillar-of-fire and rock metaphors. We need to look at those metaphors. No, we are not going to look at them. We are going to think about them.

Nephi says that Lehi saw—not really—a pillar of fire. The pillar of fire is a metaphor, not a reality. What meaning did the pillar of fire convey in a world lit only by fire, fire being the only way to be enlightened in the darkness? Which is what the Holy Ghost does when we are in the darkness of the world. And why is this pillar of fire on a rock, the metaphor Isaiah uses for the salvation that comes through the Savior?38

The answers to these two questions is obvious considering what was happening in Jerusalem. The people had abandoned polytheism, belief in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, in favor of monotheism. They had distorted the very nature of God and eliminated the hope of a Savior who would redeem the world.39 Lehi was not buying it, which we know because the tenor of the pillar of fire is the enlightenment of the Holy Ghost of the rock, meaning the rock your and my salvation, the Savior. There is a hymn about that.40

Spiritual experiences are not, using what we learn from Isaiah 11, necessarily or even usually dramatic experiences. Spiritual experiences are akin to normal interaction and exchange of information of what we have learned until we arrive at a realization. Indeed, when the scriptures talk about being told something by the Spirit, they do not mean actually hearing as opposed to reasoning through something in one’s mind.41 Hearing the word of the Lord is not an auditory experience; rather it is thinking about what the Lord would say about what we are working out.

How do we know it is not an auditory experience? Because the Hebrew weltanschauung or view of the world does not differentiate between words and objects like Greek metaphysics.42 So thinking about the word of the Lord is the same as hearing the word of the Lord, what Elijah describes with another metaphor, a still small voice: thoughts. (I hope no one here gives literal meaning to the metaphor and actually thinks Elijah heard a still small voice.) Still small voice, a hapax legomenon in the bible, is found at 1 Kings 19:12 and comes from, transliterating, qowl from (voice of), and from dmamah (pronunced dem-aw-maw´), a feminine word for calm, silence, still, quiet) and daq, which means small or thin.43 What is confusing to the Western ear is the fact that a prophet who says the word of the Lord came to him really means he was thinking about what the Lord would say.


It is time to end. Remember this. Isaiah 11 was important enough that the angel quoted and explained it to Joseph Smith when that appeared to tell him about the gold plates. Joseph Smith needed to understand how the Spirit works: by study, by knowledge, by conferring with others of like regard for the Lord, by reaching a conclusion and, then, conferring with the Lord about it. This ought to sound a whole lot like D&C 6, 8, 9, 11, and 50 where the Lord explains that spiritual experiences do not involve extraterrestrial events. It is, as Isaiah’s epode concludes. The punctuation does not help the epode, and the understood subject and predicate of the second sentence are required to complete this couplet, but the sense is a clear repetition of the first strophe/antistrophe. Knowledge of the Lord, which means the knowledge the Lord has, not knowledge that the Lord is real.44 Knowledge by study and experience and meeting with and discussing what has been learned with others who share our fear of or respect for the Lord in our daily lives. Church is a good place to do that. It is why we need to attend Church.

Helpful Definitions of Various Literary Devices

Allusion. A figure of speech that makes a brief, sometimes oblique, reference to a historical or literary figure, event or object.

Anaphora. Repetition of the same expression (word or words) at the beginning of two or more lines, clauses, or sentences. Use of anaphora with epistrophe together creates a symploce.

Archetype. An image, a descriptive detail, a plot pattern, or a character type that reoccurs in literature, myth, religion, or folklore and is used to evoke an association that legitimizes or makes what is being said or written more fulsome but not necessarily a literal parallel.

Epistrophe. Repetition of the same word or phrase at the end of a line

Exergasia Repetition of a single point made over and over in different ways, as in “preach, teach, expound, [and] exhort” or “the hardness of their hearts, and the deafness of their ears, and the blindness of their minds, and the stiffness of their necks.”

Hendiadys. A single idea expressed by connecting two components as one using the word and.

Metaphor. An analogy identifying one object with another and ascribing to the first object one or more of the qualities of the second. The tenor is the idea being expressed, and the vehicle is how the idea is conveyed.

Metonym. Uses an object closely associated with a word or person for the person or word itself.

Ode. An ode is a single, unified strain of exalted lyrical verse directed at a single purpose and dealing with one theme.

Strophe, A literary unity where the meter and foot are irregular and unrhymed, including couplets where each line repeats the same thing different ways.

Synecdoche. The use of a part of the whole to mean the whole.

Trope. A figure of speech involving a turn or change of senses—the use of a word in a sense other than literal. A metaphor is a species of trope.


  1. For example, the still-small-voice experience of Elijah recorded in 1 Kings 19 is about how the Holy Ghost operates, and this Elijah archetype is used in the Book of Mormon, e.g. 1 Nephi 3:25–ch. 4, 17:45–46. Unfortunately, most readers—actually. very few actually read the account of Elijah hiding in a cave—do not understand the metaphor, so they try to give a literal meaning to this hapax legomenon, which is translated differently in all but the King James version of the bible.
  2. Josiah became king when he was eight years old circa 640 BC. The bible praises King Josiah for making needed reforms to Judaism, see 2 Kings 22–ch. 23, 2 Chronicles 34–35, but the nature of his reforms is debatable based on study of the bible and inferences that can be drawn from the Book of Mormon: King Josiah prostituted the religion; he did not reform it. The basis for this conclusion about King Josiah’s reforms is beyond the scope of this talk. Suffice it to say here that there are scholars who believe the Diaspora solidified a change in Judaism so that proto-Judaism, the religion and priesthood of the first temple period, was lost to a metamorphosed Judaism as preserved in the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew bible, the basis of the King James version of the bible. See, e.g., Margaret Barker, The Older Testament (Sheffield, TN: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2005). Suffice it to say here that King Josiah, who was killed in a battle he should not have fought, was nothing like King Hezekiah, whom Isaiah promised would live longer because of his righteousness. King Hezekiah’s life, indeed was extended because of his righteousness while King Josiah had no protection from the Lord.
  3. 1 Nephi 13:40–41.
  4. 1 Nephi 1:4.
  5. The ritual at Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim recorded in Deuteronomy 28–29 is the source of the word Diaspora. Deuteronomy 28:25 (LXX) says, “thou shalt be a diaspora (or dispersion) in all kingdoms of the earth.
  6. Ezekiel 12:21–28.
  7. Ezekiel 16:48 et seq.
  8. Jeremiah records:

    Then the Lord said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart.8Jeremiah 14;14.

  9. Jeremiah 23:16.
  10. He was an important and notable person even though he was not in the religious hierarchy. So Jeremiah was not a prophet in the sense of occupying some hierarchal office, but he is called the prophet by Daniel. Daniel 9:2.
  11. Jeremiah 26. Jeremiah’s trail is used as an archetype for the trial of the Savior. The use of archetypes by the biblical writers infused their writings with the numinous qualities of the accepted events to which allusion is made.
  12. Jeremiah 38:4-6.
  13. Jeremiah 28.
  14. 2 Kings 22:14.
  15. Jeremiah 26:20–23. Interestingly, there are some letters that were found at Lachish from the 600 bc time period that refer to the turmoil that beset Jerusalem at Lehi’s time, archeological evidence of the pursuit of those who prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem at Nebuchadrezzar’s hand. King Jehoiakim reigned from 609 to 598 bc, and he is the king Jeremiah says was responsible for beheading Urijah. Id. The king’s letters seeking Uriah survived the destruction of the southern outpost at Lachish circa 588, the last of the Jewish cities to fall; it had been burned The Lachish Letters are contain evidence against a military commander who read the king’s letters and warned Uriah the king was after him. The Ensign had an article on the Lachish letters in 1981, Hugh Nibley, “The Lachish Letters: Documents from Lehi’s Day,” Ensign (December 1981). https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1981/12/the-lachish-letters-documents-from-lehis-day?lang=eng
  16. See, e.g., D&C 6, 8, 9, 11.
  17. E.g., John Bright, A History of Israel. 3d ed. (Philadelphia, Westminster Press, 1981).
  18. Common opinion says it was Moroni who appeared to Joseph Smith to tell him about the plates, not Nephi. The 1838 manuscript history dictated by Joseph Smith, which was printed in 1842 and 1852, says it was Nephi, as did Lucy Mack Smith, Joseph Smith’s mother, and Mary Whitmer, David Whitmer’s mother. See Brant A. Gardner, The Gift and Power, Translating the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2011) at 92 n. 7. It would make more sense if it was actually Nephi who appeared because of the extended discussions of Old Testament scriptures, discussed infra, because Nephi would have been more familiar with the stylistic elements of Isaiah, which, as will be seen, are essential to appreciating what is at work in the quoted Isaiah scripture.
  19. JSH 1:36–41. This series of verses includes, “After telling me these things, he commenced quoting prophecies of the Old Testament. . . . though with a little variation . . . . he quoted it thus . . . . he quoted it thus . . . . He also quoted the next verse differently . . . . he quoted the eleventh chapter of Isaiah, saying it was about to be fulfilled He quoted the third chapter of Acts . . . precisely . . . . He said that that prophet was Christ [that the day mentioned] soon would come. He also quoted . . . Joel . . . said that this was not yet fulfilled, but was soon to be. And he further stated . . . . He quoted many other passages of scripture, and offered many explanations which cannot be mentioned here.” The fact that Joseph Smith knew he had been quoted scripture “with a little variation . . . . differently . . . .precisely” and that the reappearance of Moroni resulted in the same instruction “without the least variation,” Id. at v. 41, means one of two things. Either Joseph Smith’s mind and memory were such that he deduced the variances or not in the scriptures quoted and the precise repetition of instruction or he was told about the variations in the scriptures and that he was being instructed with the instructions repeated exactly. More than likely, it was Joseph Smith’s eidetic memory  that explains his ability to remember with such precision.

    Joseph Smith, apparently, never recorded the “many explanations” given him by Moroni, but Oliver Cowdery wrote at length concerning the angel’s explanations in letters written to W. W. Phelps that were published the Latter-day Saints Messenger and Advocate, vol. 1, nos. 5, 7, 10 (Kirtland, OH: 1835). Cowdery characterizes Moroni’s interview with the prophet as lengthy and that the purpose was to increase the prophet’s understanding. Joseph Smith was given knowledge, in other words.

  20. Isaiah 11 provoked questions in the early days of the Church. Indeed, Joseph Smith is recorded as identifying about whom this chapter was written in D&C 113. For reasons beyond the scope of this talk, however, section 113 may be the result of a scrivener’s error by the scrivener, Willard Richards. This probable error is covered my exegesis of the Doctrine and Covenants. Essentially, this conclusion about an error is based on a plain reading of Isaiah 11 and ejusdem generis, which requires the group of scriptures quoted to Joseph Smith to be about the same subject matter, the restoration. If individuals want to see this analysis they should comment on this posting and asked that the analysis be posted.
  21. An ode is a single, unified strain of exalted lyrical verse directed at a single purpose and dealing with one theme. The Pindaric ode is characterized by three strophes where two strophes and antistrophes are alike in form and the concluding epode is different. This was originally a Greek form of dramatic presentation that was sung with the chorus of singers moving up the stage in one direction during the strophe and down the stage during the antistrophe and then stood in place during the epode. William Haron and Hugh C. Holman, C. A Handbook to Literature,7th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ, Prentice Hall, 1996) s.v .ode.
  22. Metonymy—the substitution of the name of an object closely associated with a word or person for the word or person—is a type of metaphor, a literary device used throughout the scriptures. Rod is consistently used in the Old Testament in this manner. See, e.g., Psalms 23, Isaiah 10:5, 15; 11:1; 14:29. Jeremiah 1:11, 10:16, 48:17, 51:19. The New Testament and the Book of Mormon, likewise, use rod as a metonym for leadership. Revelation 2:27; 12:5; 19:15; 1 Nephi 8:24, 30, 11:25, 15:23; 2 Nephi 19:4 (paraphrasing Isaiah 9); 2 Nephi 21:1, 4 (paraphrasing Isaiah 11); 2 Nephi 24:29 (paraphrasing Isaiah 14). Simply put, rod was used to refer to leadership or the leader because the rod or staff was such an incident of leadership that it could not be separated from this office in much the same way a king’s scepter or crown is associated with his regal role. Trees are made up of sticks or rods and represent a people. There is not room in this paper to explicate fully these figures of speech, which, when properly understood, have a dramatic effect on the interpretation, for example, of Lehi’s and Nephi’s visions of the tree of life.
  23. The scriptures quoted to Joseph Smith all deal with the restoration, so, ejusdem generius, Isaiah 11 must. However, D&C 113 says the first five verses refer to Christ. Actually, section 113 says stem of Jesse is the antecedent of the pronouns in verse two through five and a reference to Christ! As treated elsewhere, however, this construction is likly the result of scrivener’s error by the scrivener, Willard Richards. After all, the antecedent of the pronouns has to be the noun of the sentence, not the adjectival prepositional phrase.
  24. Exergasia, which is both singular and plural is a devices of repetition typical of the Old Testament; it is a repetition of the same idea different ways. It is related to the word anaphora, which uses the same phrase repeatedly. For example, Deuteronomy 28:2–6 (those who hearken to the voice of the Lord shall be blessed); Psalms 3 (The Lord is the protector and salvation for David and the Lord’s people); Isaiah 51:1–9 (hearken to the Lord, He is near, lift up eyes to heaven, hearken, awake and put on strength); Jeremiah 4:23–26 (I beheld repeated at the beginning of each verse).
  25. Dallin H. Oakes, “Trust in the Lord” (General Conference, October 2019), quoting D. Todd Christopherson, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2019/10/17oaks?lang=eng.[/efn_note]

    Elder Oakes went on to say that doctrine is announced after consensus among the brethren:

    “[D]octrine is taught by all 15 members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. It is not hidden in an obscure paragraph of one talk.” [Footnote omitted.] The family proclamation, signed by all 15 prophets, seers, and revelators, is a wonderful illustration of that principle.26Id. The omitted footnote is a reference to a talk by Neil L. Andersen.

  26. This is the essence of the explanation to Oliver Cowdery. Indeed, the Lord commanded the early saints to teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom, which He then describes as the knowledge of things one learns in school:

    Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand; Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you.

    . . . .

    And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.

    . . . .

    Appoint among yourselves a teacher, and let not all be spokesmen at once; but let one speak at a time and let all listen unto his sayings, that when all have spoken that all may be edified of all, and that every man may have an equal privilege.

    D&C 88:78–80, 118, 122.

  27. Converts in the early days of the church were baptized before they were instructed in the doctrines of the kingdom, but they had to be taught “all things concerning the church of Christ to their understanding, previous to their partaking of the sacrament and being confirmed by the laying on of hands.” D&C 20:68. Obviously, then, modern-day baptism, unlike the different ordinance before Christ, does not involve a covenant, but taking the sacrament does; indeed, the covenant is expressed in the prayer. A recent article in BYU Studies conflates pre- and post-Christian baptisms while ignoring the new ordinance, the sacrament, adopted after the resurrection See Noel B. Reynolds, “Understanding Christian Baptism through the Book of Mormon,” BYU Studies, vol.51, no. 2 (2012) at 5 et seq.
  28. Benjamin Franklin is reputed to have said, “Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.”
  29. Knowledge is described as the summum bonum of the priesthood in D&C 128:11–14, “This, therefore, is the sealing and binding power, and, in one sense of the word, the keys of the kingdom, which consist in the key of knowledge.” The nature of the priesthood is, again, beyond the scope of this paper, but it is worth noting that everyone has their own priesthood power if the exercise of knowledge is what priesthood is. This explains why there are different orders of the priesthood, like the one after the holy order of the Son of God, which must be different than the priesthood exercised by the Father or even women or, for that matter, the priesthood exercised by the Adversary. However, the performance of certain ordinances for salvation would require the delegated authority of the Lord’s priesthood, the Melchizedek priesthood.
  30. The central point of the chiasmus about Joshua’s calling is an injunction that he study the scriptures daily, Joshua 1:8. Books were delivered to Ezekiel, Ezekiel 2:8–3:3; Lehi was “filled with the Spirit of the Lord” (which means, perhaps, that he gained knowledge and insight) when he read the book delivered to him, 1 Nephi 1:8–13; and John the Revelator had a book delivered to him, Revelation 10. Hyrum Smith, as discussed above, was told, “Seek not for riches but for wisdom; and, behold, the mysteries of God shall be unfolded . . . . Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed . . . you shall have my Spirit.” D&C 11:7, 21. The saints were commanded to “seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith [i.e., experience].” D&C 88:118. This injunction was followed by a commandment to establish a “house of learning,” D&C 88:119, where there would be a teacher, D&C 88:122, a “school [for] the prophets,” D&C 88:127. The Lord even commanded that the study should be about science, history, politics, and nations. D&C 88:78–79. The commandment to seek learning by study and experience was repeated in the dedicatory prayer to the Kirtland temple:

    And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom, seek learning even by study and also by faith; Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing, and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God . . . And do thou grant, Holy Father, that all those who shall worship in this house may be taught words of wisdom out of the best books, and that they may seek learning even by study, and also by faith, as thou hast said . . . .

    D&C 109:7–8, 14.

  31. The two extremes are captured by the interaction of the Savior with the scribes and Pharisees tempting the Lord with the woman caught in adultery. The law said she should be stoned, but the Savior would not apply the general rule to the particular woman before Him. John 8:4–11.
  32. Emotions are the inward man. Cf. Isaiah 16:9–11. Isaiah uses an hendiadys that conjoins bowels with mercy, “ Look down from heaven, and behold from the habitation of thy holiness and of thy glory:/where is thy zeal and thy strength, the sounding of thy bowels and of thy mercies toward me?/ are they restrained?” Jeremiah lamented the condition of his people using bowels to refer to his emotions (tears) and because of what he saw would happen to them (using the metaphor for divination, the liver), “Mine eyes do fail with tears/my bowels are troubled, my liver is poured upon the earth /for the destruction of the daughter of my people;/because the children and the sucklings swoon in the streets of the city.” Lamentations 2:11. Paul understood the metaphor in the following anaphora where he conjoins bowels with mercies, an hendiadys, “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,” Philippians 2:1. Paul wanted the early saints to be full of feelings, using this exergasia with bowels, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” Colossians 3:12–13. Abinadi described why the Savior stands as a hedge for us at the judgment bar with the same metaphor, “Having ascended into heaven, having the bowels of mercy; being filled with compassion towards the children of men; standing betwixt them and justice; having broken the bands of death, taken upon himself their iniquity and their transgressions, having redeemed them, and satisfied the demands of justice.” Mosiah 15:9; accord Alma 7:12; 26:37; 34:15. The Savior, Him said, “Behold, my bowels are filled with compassion towards you. Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy. 3 Nephi:17:6b–7; accord D&C 101:9. Joseph Smith used the metaphor, “let thine heart be softened, and thy bowels moved with compassion toward us.” D&C 121:4c.
  33. What it is to be like a little child is beyond the scope of this essay. Suffice it to say here that a little child is not close-minded or, using the metaphor of the scriptures, hard hearted, the heart being the metaphor in the scriptures for the mind.
  34. Using animal metaphors is common in the scriptures. For instance, wicked lies in wait like a lion, Psalm 10, 17; sheep and the good shepherd, Psalm 23; “So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee,” Psalm 73:22; “Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture,” “As a roaring lion, and a ranging bear; so is a wicked ruler over the poor people,: Proverbs 28:15; Jeremiah 23:1; Pharaoh is the great dragon, Ezekiel 29:3; every fowl and beast to gather for the Lord’s supper, Ezekiel 39:17; sheep scattered and became meat for beasts of the field because they had no shepherd, Ezekiel 34:5–23; Savior has compassion on people “as sheep having no shepherd,” Matthew 9:36; apostles, as sheep among wolves, are to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves, Matthew 10:16; Savior to divide His sheep from the goats, Matthew 25:32-33; Savior compares himself to the good shepherd, John 10:1–27; Lord gathers his children/sheep from the four quarters of the earth, 1 Nephi 22:25; men like a wild flock that flees from the shepherd, Mosiah 8:21; the Lord is the one who said he had other sheep not of this fold, D&C 10:59–60. 
  35. Unfortunately, the videos by the Church about the Book of Mormon are all subject to this same criticism. They are nice, well-done videos, but they distort the meaning of what Nephi wrote. They teach erroneous ideas. The impact will be a regrettable reliance by many or most who view them as to the truthfulness of the things portrayed in these videos, an unfortunate consequence but a witness of the power of a dramatic work–fiction–to obfuscate meaning.
  36. Isaiah uses rock as a symbol for the Savior. Isaiah 17:10; 28:16. And the fire is the enlightenment that comes from the Holy Ghost.
  37. Sherem the anti-Christ was imbued with this nonsense and began teaching it among the Nephites after Nephi’s brother had retired. Sherem was so successful that Jacob came out of retirement to shut him down. That’s the reason we have two ends to the book of Jacob in the Book of Mormon. He tells everyone farewell at the end of Jacob 6. Comes out of retirement to shut up Sherem, concluding his writing, again, at the end of Jacob 7.
  38. “Oh Thou Rock of Our Salvation,” text by Joseph L. Townsend, music by William Clayson, Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (Salt Lake: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985) at 258.
  39. E.g. Nephi’s killing of Laban, 1 Nephi 4:3–18. Nephi leaves his unwilling brothers outside the walls of the city while he, verse six, “was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.” Put another way, Nephi knew he had to get the plates, so he returned to get them, but he did not have a plan. He happens upon Laban in verses seven through eight, examining Laban’s sword a considerable length of time, even taking its heft as he examines it. It occurs to Nephi that he ought to kill Laban with his sword. Nephi characterizes this thought as being “constrained by the Spirit.” 1 Nephi 4:10. But this thought is abhorrent to Nephi, so he wrestles with the idea. Id. Nephi says he “said in my heart” that he had never killed anyone before; heart is a metaphor for the mind. So Nephi thinks about it some more, realizing that Laban, who was wicked and sought to kill Nephi and is brothers and take their property, has been delivered into his hands, verse eleven. Nephi again thinks about it, verse twelve, because Laban is there, Nephi has Laban’s sword in his hand, and Nephi rehearses in his mind the need for the records, “the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.” Nephi then considers the reality that his people would not be able to keep the commandments unless they had them, that the commandments were on the plates Laban had, that Laban was there before him, so he killed him. This experience is ratiocinative.

    Revelation is mostly this type of rational process. Another example is Jeremiah’s calling. The Lord does not tell Jeremiah what is going to happen. He asks him what he sees is going to happen and compliments him on seeing well.

    Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree. Then said the Lord unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it. And the word of the Lord came unto me the second time, saying, What seest thou? And I said, I see a seething pot; and the face thereof is toward the north. Then the Lord said unto me, [Thou seest well:] Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land.

    Jeremiah 1:11–14 (emphasis added).

  40. See Yoram Hazony, The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012) at 206–211. Greek philosophy distinguishes between the reality of ideas and objects, but the philosophy of the bible does not draw this distinction. Rather, a word is inseparable from the object brought to mind by the word; the word is the thing, itself, as understood. Thus, hearing involves more than merely hearing because it is understanding, itself, that is the object. Thus, the following phrases reflect understanding and conclusion as a part of Nephi’s ratiocination prior to killing Laban, not actual talking: “And the Spirit said unto me,” 1 Nephi 4:11, 12, which is followed in verse fourteen by “when I, Nephi, had heard these words,” and, then, in verse eighteen, “I did obey the voice of the Spirit.”
  41. Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon. Accord, Interlinear Scripture Analyzer (ISA basic 2.1.5, 2011) (www.scripture4all.org). The feminine term, dmamah is from a root, damam, which means “to be dumb; by implication, to be astonished, to stop; also to perish.” Id. The literal translation of this scripture, according to the Interlinear Scripture Analyzer, is something like “and after the earthquake fire not in·the·fire Yahweh and·after the·fire voice-of stillness thin and·he-is-becoming as·to-hear-of Elijah.” These words are used in places in the Old Testament but never translated as still small voice. No other translation of the bible uses this unique term either
  42. Knowledge of God is used in the Doctrine & Covenants as a reference to God’s knowledge when addressing the keys to the mysteries of the kingdom, “And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.” D&C 84:19. Knowledge of appears twenty-seven times in the Doctrine & Covenants, eighty-seven times in the Book of Mormon, twenty-two times in the Old Testament, and twenty-three times in the New Testament. Jeremiah can be viewed as a philosophical treatise on the nature of truth or knowledge of reality. Hazony, Yoram, The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012) at 161 et seq. The emphasis on the importance of knowledge found in the Book of Mormon is consistent with knowledge being the essence of priesthood power. Cf. Alma 47:36 (dissenters had same instruction/information as Nephites).

4 thoughts on “Isaiah 11, Its Meaning

    • Author gravatar

      Thank you for including a glossary of terms! And your footnotes are amazing! Each footnote could become its own blog post. Footnote #19 blows my mind. If Joseph Smith said the angel was Nephi, why and how did it get changed to Moroni? Footnote 41 is also interesting, how you take the reader through Nephi’s thinking. The background you provide regarding Lehi leaving Jerusalem and avoiding the same fate as Urijah really enhances the story for me. I want to understand better the metaphysical paradigm used by Nephi. I hope you will go into that further in future posts.

      Your “happy as a clam” metaphor was very good in describing what happens when we don’t understand the metaphor.

      Seeing Lehi’s pillar of fire as a metaphor, not a reality, helps to reassure me that God is the same today as yesterday. If not, I would wonder why there aren’t more pillars of fire happening on a regular basis.

      • Author gravatar

        Most members of the Church do not know about Joseph Smith saying it was Nephi who appeared to him to tell him about the plates. I do not know why that was changed, but it is so chiseled in stone that saying it was Nephi is like heresy. What is important, of course, is that an angel–be it Nephi or Moroni–appeared to Joseph Smith and quoted all these scriptures to him. I can speculate on how the history was changed: the same way the Articles of Faith were changed with the 1921 printing of the scriptures. The consensus among the leadership of the Church at the time was that faith and repentance are not ordinances as originally described by Joseph Smith in the Wentworth Letter, which was published in the Times and Seasons on March 1, 1842 You can read this edition of the Times and Seasons here “Times and Seasons, 1 March 1842,” p. 706, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed November 10, 2018, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/times-and-seasons-1-march-1842/1 is the page where this edition of the Times and Seasons begins, the jump page is: https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/times-and-seasons-1-march-1842/4.

        You will learn a lot more about the Hebrew metaphysical paradigm if you keep reading my blog, but I recommend this book if you do not want to wait as it dribbles out in this blog, Yoram Hazony, The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).

    • Author gravatar

      I would be greatly interested in the analysis mentioned in footnote 21. I look forward to reading it. These posts have been a spiritual and intellectual high-lite for the past few month, Thank you for putting this out there.

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