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Dear Gramps,

In the Book of Mormon, Nephi and Jacob heavily quote Isaiah. However, modern Bible scholars hold that parts of Isaiah weren’t actually written by the Old-Testament prophet, and maintain passages after Isaiah 40 were written after Nephi had left Jerusalem. I would like to know if the Church has an official stance on this, and your personal opinion.  Personally, it would seem to me that Isaiah was speaking prophetically, or his many references to Babylon actually refer to Assyria.

Ben

 

Answer

 

Ben,

The Church doesn’t spend a whole lot of time comparing the truths of the gospel to the latest historical theories that come and go.  The Church’s position has always been that its purpose is to bring about the immortality and Eternal Life of man.  We are to spread the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.  We are to perform the four missions of the Church – perfecting the saints, redeeming the dead, proclaiming the gospel, and serving those in need.  None of those goals includes piecing together history from bits and pieces and theoretical methodology.  So, no, there is no official position on this.  They tend to leave that to the sciences and whatever methods man can come up with.  And we try not to raise our eyebrows too much with each passing fad theory.

But I’m sure you’d like a thoughtful opinion on this, so I’ll give it a go.

It is really difficult for historians to piece together history from thousands of years ago.  We can only go off of what we see.  And what we see is often very little.  While it is tempting to jump to conclusions based on partial information, it is often not wise to do so.  This is, however, exactly what these Bible scholars have done.

Try to understand that everyone wants to make a name for themselves.  So, they come up with a pet theory that challenges the way we look at things.  While the practice does wonders for stretching our minds, the facts of history require more than theory.  The facts of history are to be determined by physical evidence.  There simply is none.  These scholars depend on theoretical methods, not physical evidence.  What’s worse, they discount any revelation — in ancient times as well as modern.

In the branches of science and history, physical evidence must trump theoretical methods.

Enter the Book of Mormon.  It is a book of scripture that is the spiritual history of a people who came from Jerusalem prior to the Babylonian captivity up to about 1000 years later.  Within that spiritual record are found some tidbits of history.  The primary thing is that they had an intact book of scripture carrying all the writings of Isaiah prior to 600 BC.  This is physical evidence.  To them this is simply evidence that the Book of Mormon is false.  To us it is evidence that their theories are flawed.  There also could have been some editing (ancient and modern) going on that we are all unaware of.  Or perhaps, the truth is something else that we have not yet considered.

It is easy to simply say X or Y happened in history.  But the Book of Mormon is not supposed to be a historical textbook.  Its purpose is to convince the Jew and the Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting Himself unto all nations.  So, let history determine whatever it can, and let the Lord guide you on your spiritual journey.

 

Gramps

 

 

 

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