Obstacles to Receiving Greater Truth

This is a follow up post to “Don’t Let Knowledge Make You Bitter.”

I came home from school one day in second grade and announced to my parents that I no longer had a need for school. With curious grins, they asked me why. I told them I had learned the life cycle of a bird, and the life cycle of a frog, and so I was pretty much set for the rest of my life. In my mind, I had hit the peak of human discovery – surely anything else at this point was irrelevant.

As humorous and innocent as this memory is, it actually represents an interesting tendency in human nature: when we learn something new, we assume we know everything – and when we assume we know everything, we prevent ourselves from learning further truth. It’s sort of a negative feedback loop that can stunt our growth.

Because this is human nature, it happens all the time. For years, astronomers believed the universe was geocentric. When further discoveries and evidence suggested the universe revolved around the sun, it was met with a lot of controversy (and this wasn’t a “science vs. religion” issue – scholars of the day generally rejected Galileo and Copernicus’ work).

In the scriptures, the Lord commented on how the Gentiles would react to the coming forth of further truth and scripture: “And because my words shall hiss forth—many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible” (2 Nephi 29:3).

A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. As the prophet Jacob noted, “When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves” (2 Nephi 9:28).

Experience teaches us that one need not be a scholar to “think they are wise,” and suppose “they know of themselves.” This can apply to anyone who lets any amount of new information make them prideful – great or small. My observation is that we’re especially prone to this when learning something that doesn’t appear to be widely-known or understood.

I’ve seen this in atheists, Jews, Christians, Mormons, anti-Mormons, political activists, scholars, and more. They learn a thing and are quick to assume they have learned everything. It is the same pattern in all because it is the same natural man.

Like authority, as soon as they get a little knowledge (as they suppose), they immediately begin to lift themselves up. Like Priesthood authority, as soon as pride enters into their hearts “in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved,” and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the [light, knowledge, and understanding] of that man. Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God” (D&C 121:37-39).

The Nature of Condemnation

When our actions, beliefs, and values are aligned to the truth and light God shines on us, we live in the light. We submit our entire will to the Lord’s. This is a state of justification.

When we align ourselves to God, His Spirit flows to us freely.
When we are not aligned with God, we are cut off from His light and Spirit.

When we turn away from any degree of light, we cut off our connection to heaven. This is what happens when we ignore promptings, or try to “rationalize” them away. This is what happens when we’re proud, selfish, or act in any way contrary to what the Spirit tells us is good and right. This is what happens when we knowingly avoid repentance, because we fear the light. This is a state of condemnation.

The Savior observed to Nicodemus “And this is the [world’s] condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth  cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” (John 3:19-21).

When we resist the Spirit, or gratify the natural man, we turn ourselves away from God’s light. Without God’s light, everything turns into chaos. We do not necessarily forget what we’ve previously learned, but our understanding becomes distorted with time.

Truth is information when it is properly structured by light. When we are in a state of justification, the Holy Ghost will begin to do the work of structuring all of the information we have.

Like all things, our knowledge is “created” as it’s ordered by God’s light. Like all things, our knowledge decays back into chaos as the light withdraws; we begin losing truth, and eventually end up with a bunch of puzzle pieces that we can’t seem to piece together.

Most people still try their best to piece things together without the Spirit, by their own strength and reasoning. This is generally a terrible idea. It’s why the world is divided by a million opinions. When we are not enlightened by the Spirit, our efforts to piece things together will always fail. This is why it is so deeply important that our hearts be set right before we pursue greater truth.

The Thoughts of the Heart

The scriptures frequently describe thoughts as coming from one’s heart. The reason for this is because ancient Israelites understood that the state of one’s heart will affect their thought patterns.

Consider, for example, how being angry or depressed influences your ability to reason. When we allow anger to overtake us, we can’t think as clearly. Our view becomes narrowed in that moment – hence the advice that sometimes it’s good to let things cool off before saying anything too severe, or making any major decisions. When we find ourselves overtaken by depression, our thought patterns will reflect those feelings back to us – we’ll highlight evidence to craft a narrative that supports those feelings. But in fact, Christ (who has suffered all), knows that things are not as hopeless as they seem.

These same principles come into play when pride, resentment, fear, etc., are in our hearts. If these things are present, they create conditions for self-deception. Fear could make us impatient, and impatience would cause us to focus and reason in a way that tended towards those things. Hatred might cause us to overlook the needs and inherent value of others, which would spiral into something much worse. People under the influence of any kind of drug or alcohol think they’re acting logically – until they’re sober and look back on the decisions they’ve made with regret.

The only way we can ensure our sense of justice is aligned with reality is if we ourselves are aligned with reality.

For years I believed the whole battle for truth was in the mind – that I simply needed to find (or have) the most logical and comprehensive argument, and it’d be settled. I’ve since learned that it’s not that simple, as one’s ability to even register and discern truth is inseparably connected to the degree that they live according to it. An unjust person cannot discern true justice (which is the heart of political corruption).

No, the battle for truth is not in fact in the mind, as I once supposed, but in the heart. When we seek to do good and be good above all else, truth distils upon our souls like the dews from heaven.


We must learn to observe and discern the spirit in all things, ideas, and people. This is why Christ taught us to test teachers by their fruits.

A lie might be cunning and compelling, but a lie nonetheless.

We need not live in fear that someone will come along with an argument we haven’t heard or considered, collapsing everything we thought was true. If our desire is to be good, then we will recognize those with truth are those who bear good fruit, are filled with light and the Spirit, and whose works evidence such. We will desire what they have, and seek to learn more.

By the same token, we will know that those who carry a spirit of pride, hatred, or cynicism, are not inspired by a spirit of truth. It may not be that they are entirely wrong – Satan’s greatest deceptions typically consist of some portion of truth mingled with error – but if the spirit that animates their conclusions is not one of love, but resentment, pride, or fear, we can know it is not structured by the Spirit of Truth, and therefore is a well-crafted lie.

If it bears bad fruit, it is a bad tree – and all bad trees are eventually “hewn down and cast into the fire” (3 Nephi 27:11).

We must learn to pay attention to whether teachings and ideas enliven us, or cause us to decay. Do they set us free, or shackle us in the chains of hell? Do they expand our world, or make it more narrow? Do they deepen our love for others, or cause us to think less of them? Do they fill us with spiritual light, or merely stimulate our intellect?

We must learn to think about things spiritually rather than only logically. Reason has a place in the revelatory process, but it is wholly inadequate if not given over to the principles of discernment, repentance, and revelation. If you can discern a lie spiritually, but can’t yet break it down logically, wait upon the Lord for further light and knowledge. Continue to trust Him more than yourself, and in time, His light will shine upon your life so as to expel all darkness.


The heart matters above all else in these matters. The search for truth is a pursuit fit for our whole souls, not just our minds. Any number of distractions can serve as obstacles on the path God has ordained for us to receive greater truth. As we turn to Him with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy, He will teach us greater and greater truths for the purpose of our personal sanctification, development, and joy.

The Lord Himself instructed us on this matter in these words:
“Wherefore, I the Lord ask you this question—unto what were ye ordained? To preach my gospel by the Spirit, even the Comforter which was sent forth to teach the truth.

“And then received ye spirits which ye could not understand, and received them to be of God; and in this are ye justified? Behold ye shall answer this question yourselves; nevertheless, I will be merciful unto you; he that is weak among you hereafter shall be made strong.

“Verily I say unto you, he that is ordained of me and sent forth to preach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the Spirit of truth, doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way? And if it be by some other way it is not of God.

“And again, he that receiveth the word of truth, doth he receive it by the Spirit of truth or some other way? If it be some other way it is not of God.

“Therefore, why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth? Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.

“And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness. That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (D&C 50:13-24, emphasis added; see also 2 Nephi 9:42; Alma 12:9-10; Alma 26:21-22).

The Woman and Her Child

This is a follow up post to “Great are the Words of Isaiah.”

It was previously mentioned that Isaiah speaks of several themes and patterns throughout his book, all of which will repeat in a climactic finale immediately preceding the Savior’s return. It will feel like a story right out of the scriptures, and in fact, will be the most scriptural thing that has ever happened.

Almost all major patterns in the Book of Mormon serve as a type or shadow of what will take place in this endtime scenario. From prophets crying repentance, to a wilderness journey to the promised land, to wars and rumors of wars, to the conversion of many Lamanites, and much more. All of these things will fit inside a sequence of events in the last days.

There are a lot of pieces to the picture. As we search the words of Isaiah diligently, and seek greater light, the Spirit will help us to put the pieces together.

Laying the Foundation of a Great Work

When it comes to studying the scriptures, it’s important we identify and understand how the scriptures define their own terms. Otherwise, we risk twisting their intended meaning and getting a less-clear picture.

One such example of this is the scriptural term, “Great and Marvelous Work,” which has come to commonly be defined as “the restoration of the priesthood,” or the missionary effort currently underway in the Church. However, these things do not actually match the scriptures’ definition and use of this phrase, but are more accurately defined as “laying the foundation of a great work” (D&C 64:33; cf. D&C 4:1; 6:1; 11:1; 14:1; 3 Nephi 21:7).

If you trace the use of this term(s) (also “great work,” or “marvelous work”) throughout the scriptures, including the Doctrine and Covenants, you will see that it consistently points to the great culmination of the Lord’s work in the last days (Isaiah’s endtime scenario). The restoration of the gospel, priesthood, and coming forth of the Book of Mormon all serve as a foundation upon which the Lord will do a work in the last days, which is yet future.

In some sense, we are still laying the foundation for this work. The Lord is currently putting all of the pieces in place to accomplish it. Gentile-Ephraimites are being gathered now to perform the gathering of the Jews, Lamanites, and lost tribes later – which is the essence of the “Great and Marvelous Work.”

“A People Out of This People”

We are currently the beneficiaries of the work accomplished through Joseph Smith. We enjoy the revelations, scripture, covenants, and knowledge of the priesthood restored through him. His life and ministry opened a dispensation by which we have been blessed for almost 200 years. It is upon this foundation that the Lord can and will work a great and marvelous work in the last days.

In this, there is a pattern in which we can see a general work started among the Saints in the days of Joseph Smith, and a more specific work which will come out of it in the last days. Consider the imagery depicted in the book of Revelation:

“And the woman being with child, cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up unto God and his throne” (JST Revelation 12:2-3).

In verse 7, the woman is defined as “the Church of God,” and the man child as the “kingdom of our God and his Christ.” Bringing forth a child represents maturation, like when a tree brings forth fruit. In other words, the Church in maturity will bring forth the Kingdom in the last days.

We say the restoration is incomplete, and that is true enough. A general foundation has been restored, which will allow some to bring about the restoration of all things (D&C 86:10; Acts 3:20-21; cf. Matt. 17:11). This will include restoring the Kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6), the fulness of the priesthood, and the presence of God to the earth.

Another way of thinking about this is to put these ideas on par with the Book of Mormon itself. We received the Book of Mormon through Joseph 200 years ago, but there will come a day when full use is made of the Book of Mormon, and the sealed portion comes forth (Ether 4:5-7; 3 Nephi 26:9).

On a similar note, many of the early brethren made remarks such as these:

Brigham Young: “God will preserve a portion of this people, the meek and the humble, to bear off the kingdom to the inhabitants of the earth and will defend his priesthood; for it is the last time, the last gathering time.” (The Contributor Vol. 10, p362).

Heber C. Kimball: “The day will come when the Lord will choose a people out of this people, upon whom he will bestow his choicest blessings…” (JD 11 p145 & Des News 9 Nov. 1865).

Daniel Wells: “… the kingdom will not be taken from this people and given to another, but a people will come forth from among us who will be zealous of good works…”  (JD 18:99). And again, “There will come up from the midst of this people that people that has been talked so much about…”  (JD 23:305b, & Des News Dec. 9 1882).

George Q. Cannon: “There will be a people raised up, if we will not be that people – there will yet be a people raised up whose lives will embody in perfection the revelations contained in this book [probably the D&C], who will live as the doctrines here taught require, as the laws here revealed show  unto us, and they will be raised up, too, in this generation, and such a  people will have to be raised up before Zion can be fully redeemed…”  (JD 24:144).

As has been noted previously, the Gentile Church will be split two ways in the last days – either to become “saviors unto Israel” or “salt that hath lost its savor” (D&C 103:9-10; cf. D&C 86:11), “which is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of my people” (3 Nephi 16:15 [10-15]; cf. D&C 112:23-26). It will be in this context that woman will be “travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.” As the Gentile Church is increasingly divided, those lifted up in pride will persecute “the more humble part of the people,” who will be purified in the refiners fire as they turn to Christ (Helaman 3:34-35).

The Savior Himself taught, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:47-50; emphasis added).

We have a few types of this in the Book of Mormon. Lehi brings his entire family into the wilderness to escape the destruction of Jerusalem. As time passes on, the wheat (Nephi &co.) and the tares (Laman &co.) mature in their respective ways until there’s need for a second sifting from among them. An exodus within the exodus (2 Nephi 5). Another partial example of this is among the people of Zeniff who went to reclaim the land of Lehi-Nephi, who are later sifted by the ministry of Abinadi/Alma the Younger. These make a return exodus to Zarahemla to be with the people of God.

The Rod and the Root

Yet another dimension to this is the principle of “the one and the many.” For every group or idea, there is always a prototype. For instance, Satan (the one) rebelled against the Father , but also led a following who did the same thing (the many). This applies to our last days context as well. As the woman bringing forth the child represents the Church bringing forth the Kingdom, so also does it mark the emergence of the endtime servant (who is a prototypical citizen in that Kingdom).

The distinctive roles of these groups/individuals is delineated in Isaiah 11. This verse has been translated in a few ways. The King James Version renders it: “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem [i.e. stump] of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots” (Isaiah 11:1). A more accurate translation states, “A shoot will spring up from the stock of Jesse and a branch from its graft bear fruit” (Isaiah 11:1, Gileadi Translation).

Jesus the Holy One of Israel in the midst of Isaiah 12 – Jesus Centred

To briefly define some of the symbolism: When a tree is cut to stump, a watersprout (or shoot/rod) will grow out of it. The watersprout is wild in nature, and not a replacement for the actual tree – it doesn’t bear fruit. It’s only purpose is to provide a space into which other living branches can be grafted that will hopefully bear fruit.

This verse identifies three key personalities who bring about the Messianic age: The Stem (Stock), the Rod (Shoot), and the Root (Branch). The Lord gives us interpretations for each of these terms in D&C 113:

Q: Who is the Stem of Jesse spoken of in the 1st, 2d, 3d, 4th, and 5th verses of the 11th chapter of Isaiah?
A: Verily thus saith the Lord: It is Christ.

Q: What is the rod [shoot/watersprout] spoken of in the first verse of the 11th chapter of Isaiah, that should come of the Stem of Jesse?
A: Behold, thus saith the Lord: It is a servant in the hands of Christ, who is partly a descendant of Jesse as well as of Ephraim, or of the house of Joseph, on whom there is laid much power.

Q: What is the root [branch] of Jesse spoken of in the 10th verse of the 11th chapter?
A: Behold, thus saith the Lord, it is a descendant of Jesse, as well as of Joseph, unto whom rightly belongs the priesthood, and the keys of the kingdom, for an ensign, and for the gathering of my people in the last days.
(D&C 113:1-6; compare to 2 Nephi 3)

In other words: the stump is Christ, and the watersprout and branch represent two significant servants – one providing a foundation for the other. And so goes the pattern:

ChurchKingdom of God
Joseph SmithEndtime Servant
Book of MormonSealed Portion
Gentile-EphraimitesLost Tribes of Israel

As is made clear in Zenos’s allegory of the Olive Tree, the branch(es) being grafted into the main body represents the restoration of the house of Israel; namely, the Lamanites, Jews, and lost 10 tribes. This work will be attended to by the Lord of the vineyard’s “servant,” and the other “servants” he recruits (Jacob 5:70-71). This is when and how the kingdom will be restored to Israel (Acts 1:6). I hope the consistency in these examples shed light on this pattern unfolding in the last days.

Don’t Let Knowledge Make You Bitter

Have you ever wondered why people become cynical, bitter, or resentful? It happens quite frequently, and I think understanding its cause (whether in others or ourselves) will help us know how to best approach it.

Here’s my best estimation:

As I covered in a previous video, we can overlay each spiritual journey in 2 or 3 major phases, mirroring the “three pillars of eternity”: Creation, Fall, and Atonement.

The first phase is akin to the Garden of Eden, or childhood. We exist inside the circle, where everything we’re aware of makes sense (as we understand it). We feel safe inside our bubble, not generally aware of all the evil and complexity of the outside world. This is Simba as a cub at Pride Rock, or Luke Skywalker living a casual life on Tatooine. It’s care free, and perhaps a bit naïve.

This first phase does not last forever, and at some point (sooner or later), every person is forced out of the Garden. Within Adam and Eve’s context, they partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and their eyes were “opened.” Increased knowledge opened their eyes, or made them aware, to the fact that their world is not all they thought it was. Mufassa is killed in a conspiracy more complex than Simba could even comprehend, and Luke similarly finds himself in the middle of something he wasn’t prepared for. Because their eyes have been opened, they can no longer remain in Eden; their world is spinning, everything seems like chaos.

This is a probationary state.

The journey is essentially complete when the hero conquers the new chaos. Simba defeats Scar and reclaims Pride Rock; Luke defeats the Emperor and frees the galaxy, etc. Greater peace and prosperity is enjoyed by all as the hero connects with his true identity.

The at-one-ment phase brings all things into order and harmony. This is a state of rest.

Whether or not people directly involve God, this process is always spiritual at its core. Peace of mind, security, order, chaos, and reconciliation are all spiritual concerns. We enjoy movies and books for the same reason the ancients were enthralled by myths – something about them resonates with the deep truths of our soul.

This three-act pattern can be found on many different levels. On perhaps the most general scale, these three states represent our pre-mortality, morality, and resurrection. Our imperfect, mortal, bodies separate us from God. As we submit the flesh to the Spirit, we are reconciled to Him and will come forth triumphant in the first resurrection.

On a smaller scale, this can happen when a child enters adolescence and becomes “self-conscious” about how they look to their peers, or when someone encounters the pain of a personal trial, like betrayal, or losing a loved one. It can happen when someone encounters information that causes them to question their faith, or even when receiving a commandment they don’t want to keep. Whatever it is, the result is the same: we become aware of something that we didn’t know, and it temporarily separates us from God.

There are, in reality, only two states of being: harmony with God, and disharmony with God. In a “Fall” stage we’re in disharmony, cut off from His presence (spiritually and physically), and in a state of death. When we are reconciled to His light, we are in a state of life. The end of one cycle is the beginning of another (note the similarity between “Creation” and “Re-Creation”).

Bitterness, Arrogance, and Resentment

The reason anyone becomes bitter or resentful is because they learn something that they don’t know how to reconcile. In other words, they get stuck in a fall state, which causes them to gradually lose greater and greater light.

Sometimes this happens because someone is exposed to too much chaos at a young age. Before they can even get their bearings in the world, their parents get divorced, a family member dies, or they suffer abuse from the very people they’re counting on for security.

Sometimes it happens because, even later in life, they don’t know how to reconcile severe trials. Sometimes they discover cracks in the foundations of their values and beliefs. Their eyes are opened. In some sense, they learn that Eden isn’t everything they thought it was; there are snakes in the garden.

Our response to greater knowledge and awareness is crucial. We must not allow the chaos to make us bitter or arrogant. Many people who do become cynical grow in hatred for those who seem happy and full of faith. They see them as naïve, and believe that the only reason they’re not miserable is because they’re ignorant of reality. They want to pop everyone’s “bubble,” and sometimes make it their life mission to do so. Like Satan, they seek that “all men might be miserable like unto [themselves]” (2 Nephi 2:27). This hatred for life and faith is the spirit of the Devil.

If you find that new knowledge (or awareness) has made you resentful to people who don’t have it in any way, you are being influenced by an evil spirit. If you allow that knowledge to lift you up in pride, or to cause you to think you are better than others, you are under an influence contrary to life. In short, if you use that knowledge for anything other than increasing your faith in Christ, it will work against you.

To those who increase in learning, Jacob warns: “O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish” (2 Nephi 9:28).

We must at all times maintain a spirit of humility and love. It is often our tendency to judge or criticize ourselves or others when we learn we have erred in something. This can be good if our criticism drives us to repentance, but we must guard against the temptation to use our new knowledge as sledgehammer to condemn those who have not learned what we have; to play the role of accuser is to play the part of Satan.

It is often the case that until we repent and reconcile our hearts back to light, love, and the Spirit, that we cannot even properly understand what we have been made aware of. As is depicted in the “Fall” diagram above, just because our awareness expands does not mean that we have made sense of it all. Only when we surrender to the light will everything be put in order.

The Remedy

The Savior descended below it all so that He could stand as a witness and comforter for every single person, no matter how severe their pain. He experienced all of these things in the flesh so that we could have faith in His ability to heal us. He has overcome the world.

“And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:11-12; cf. D&C 88:6).

We can have perfect faith in Him knowing that He knows the depth of our pain and alienation, and can bring us back into a state of reconciliation.

As time passes in a “Fall” state, our alienation from life and love grows from a smaller degree to a greater one. Time can make many people bitter and resentful: we get set in our ways, become hardened, and lose the joy and inspiration of childhood. The Savior’s injunction to become as a little child becomes especially meaningful in this context (Mosiah 3:19; 3 Nephi 9:22). He invites us to return to that place of childlike trust, assuring us that He has all of the light and truth pertinent to our reality. There is nothing He has not experienced and conquered. He has put all things under His feet, emanating love and life still. He is worthy and deserving of all of our faith.

The only real remedial course in these situations is to come unto Him with our whole heart and soul, in light of the things we’ve learned/experienced. He is the one that puts us into these situations, precisely so that we may learn to align ourselves with Him, and from Him become empowered to overcome the world. As we surrender all things to His will, His greater light will heal that which is broken in us, be it heartache, confusion, fear, doubt, cynicism, anger, or pride. He will order our chaos.

As we repeat this cycle with intentionality, we will find that the interval between each “Fall” and subsequent “Re-Creation” phase gets shorter and shorter, until at we arrive at the point where there is nothing God can reveal that would cause our faith to waiver; we will be immediately reconciled to His light. When we arrive at this point, our faith is perfect, and we are prepared to inherit the kingdom of God (or, all that He has) (2 Nephi 9:23; cf. D&C 84:38).

Nephi so testified: “Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life” (2 Nephi 31:20).

Great are the Words of Isaiah

When the Savior ministered to the Nephites, He said the Book of Mormon would come forth in the last days to try the Gentiles’ faith:

“And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them. And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation” (3 Nephi 26:9-10).

Christ spelled out the conditions: if they believe these things, they will receive the greater (sealed) portion; if they do not, it will be withheld unto their condemnation. This resembles the pattern described by Alma concerning the mysteries of God; he who hardens not his heart will receive the greater portion until he knows the mysteries in full, but he who does harden his heart will receive a lesser portion until he knows nothing concerning his mysteries (Alma 12:9-11; D&C 50:24).

The principle is this: When God speaks, there is no longer middle ground. We must either repent and reconcile ourselves to His light and word, or come under condemnation for sinning against it. We will either move into greater light, or greater darkness.

An example of this in the scriptures is when the Lord invited Israel (in the wilderness) to come into His presence. They had an invitation to receive the “greater” blessings of the high priesthood, but “hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence,” and so the Lord took Moses and the Holy Priesthood out of their midst, and they were left with a “lesser” portion (D&C 84:23-26).

When Nephi was shown in vision the events of our day, he saw a short period of time when the gospel would go to the Gentiles in the last days. At “that day,” the angel told Nephi, the Gentiles would either harden their hearts against His word, or they would not (1 Nephi 14). This is the question on heaven’s mind in our day. Will we harden our hearts, like the children of Israel before? Or will we receive the word of God with gladness?

In 1832, only two years after the Gentiles had received the Book of Mormon, the Lord told the Church they had come under condemnation for “vanity and unbelief,” because they had treated lightly the things they had received (most notably the Book of Mormon). He declared that this condemnation would remain until they “repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written” (D&C 84:54-58).

This condemnation remains for as long as we continue to harden our hearts. If we repent and remember the Book of Mormon individually, greater things will be made manifest to us. When the Gentiles come together “that they shall repent of their iniquity, and become clean before the Lord,” the Lord will reveal the sealed portion (Ether 4:6-7).

Though most people understand the sealed portion will not come forth until we make full use of the Book of Mormon, some may still be surprised at the idea of condemnation. However, the two ideas go hand-in-hand, as the scriptures indicate.

This sobering truth ought to give us pause and cause us to wonder, “In what ways have I hardened my heart against the Lord’s words in the Book of Mormon? How can I repent and receive more of what He wants to give me?”

The answer to this question will largely be personal because repentance is an individual matter. However, there is one thing that I believe applies almost universally that adds to our condemnation, resulting in our minds being darkened.

The Savior’s Commandment

Jesus Christ Visits the Americas

When Jesus ministered to the Nephites following His resurrection, He gave us the following commandment regarding the prophecies of Isaiah: “And now, behold, I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah” (3 Nephi 23:1).

Isaiah is the only book of scripture we’ve been directly commanded to study by Christ Himself, and unfortunately, it is the only one we make fun of.

We joke in quasi-hushed tones about “the Isaiah chapters” in the Book of Mormon, or talk about how we normally skip them, or don’t get much of out of them. There’s of course the joke of the soldier who was shot, but the bullet stopped in about 2 Nephi of his pocket Book of Mormon; “nothing gets through Isaiah.”

Of course, the jokes aren’t inherently immoral, but I believe the attitude we have towards Isaiah, both in and out of the Book of Mormon, is reflective of the Savior’s rebuke for “treating lightly” the things we have received, and contributes to our unbelief about its message.

Why does understanding Isaiah matter so much to the Savior? He tells us: “For surely he spake as touching all things concerning my people which are of the house of Israel; therefore it must needs be that he must speak also to the Gentiles. And all things that he spake have been and shall be, even according to the words which he spake” (3 Nephi 23:2-3; emphasis added).

All things that he speak have been (in the past) and shall be (in the future). In other words, he selectively prophesied of events in his day that would also come to pass in the latter-days. When he speaks of the destruction of wicked cities anciently, they serve as a precedent (or mirror image) of future wickedness and destruction. When he prophesies of Assyria’s world conquest in his day, he is also speaking of a latter-day superpower that will play the same role.

There’s an apocryphal quote attributed to Mark Twain that my US History teacher would read at the start of every class: “History does not repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” In other words, the same events may not transpire again, but similar events played by different actors will.

In Hebrew thinking history is not linear, but cyclical. Solomon noted, “What has been will be again… there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). People follow patterns, and everything that will happen in the future has happened before in the past.

Consider what is commonly referred to as “the pride cycle,” as such a pattern. Whether its the Jews, the Nephites, or the United States, the pattern is the same:
1) Righteousness and prosperity
2) Pride and wickedness,
3) Destruction and suffering
4) Humiliation and repentance
As Isaiah carefully structured his writings, he used ancients events to predict future ones.

“Great are the words of Isaiah, ” said Jesus Christ.

As we keep the Savior’s commandment to “search these things diligently,” we are filled with a clearer understanding of how God interacts with His people, and what things will inevitably comes to pass again – as history repeats itself, and God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

By keeping this commandment, we will also gain greater light regarding the Book of Mormon and its purpose.

The Backbone of the Book of Mormon

One can know the Book of Mormon is true by a witness of the Spirit, but they will come to know why it’s true as they study the words of Isaiah.

The prophets of the Book of Mormon were very fluent in Isaiah’s prophecy, and its meaning was plain to them. They would apply or “liken” Isaiah’s words to their own events that fit the same patterns. It’s actually not dissimilar to how modern meme culture will take quotable lines from a movie and apply them to everyday life.

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Isaiah is more or less the quotable movie you have to have seen in order to get the references. For instance, Isaiah 29 speaks of a sealed book coming forth. In Isaiah’s own context, he is referring to the book of Isaiah. However, Nephi likens this prophecy to his own people, and uses the same language as a meme to talk about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon in 2 Nephi 27.

By becoming fluent in Isaiah’s concepts and phraseology, the Book of Mormon opens up in an entirely new way. Every time a Book of Mormon author prophesies of the last days, they quote or nuance some aspect of Isaiah’s prophecy. As you become familiar with the themes and phrases from Isaiah in their own context, you will begin to recognize and understand their significance in the Book of Mormon.

Furthermore, Mormon himself states a handful of times that he was including less than 1% of his people’s history. This of course begs the question, what was the criteria by which events were included or excluded? The answer is: that which typifies the endtime. Nephi and Mormon both craft their history to highlight the themes and events spoken of by Isaiah.

As just one example, consider this sequence of events:
1) A people is wicked and ripe for destruction
2) God sends a messenger to preach repentance
3) The righteous are gathered out and separated from the wicked
4) The wicked are destroyed
5) The righteous are preserved and begin a new people

We see this pattern unfold in the story of both Noah (the flood) and Abraham (Sodom and Gomorrah). This is a theme that Isaiah prophesies will repeat in the endtime. Consequently, the Book of Mormon records a similar sifting of the righteous and wicked in the story of Lehi (Jerusalem), Abinadi (the people of Nephi), and others.

Isaiah speaks of several such patterns that we see throughout scriptural history, but perhaps the most astonishing part is that he indicates that every pattern and theme he speaks of will repeat in the endtime – almost simultaneously. Within the span of a handful of years, everything Isaiah has prophesied will repeat in a grand crescendo. The historical events spoken of by Isaiah, and those included in the Book of Mormon, are all types and shadows of a great work to be accomplished within a single generation preceding Christ’s second coming.


There’s a price to be paid to unlock the message of Isaiah, but every person who does so will learn things that cannot be known or understood in any other way.

There are some great study tools that have been provided by Avraham Gileadi and the Isaiah institute. If you are interested in learning Isaiah, IsaiahExplained.com and IsaiahInstitute.com are great places to start.

For as long as we neglect this commandment, we risk hardening our hearts against the Lord’s words. This is a dangerous place to be, as “they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries” (Alma 12:11). Our minds are turned to the parable of the talents, wherein Christ remarked, “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath” (Matthew 25:29).

Isaiah is required reading for every Latter-day Saint. If you have made a covenant to obey Christ, you are under covenant to “search these things diligently.” I testify that there is greater power in understanding Isaiah, and that the Lord has not given this commandment to be a burden, but a blessing. Your faith will be increased and renewed, your understanding enlightened, and your soul enlarged. Like the fruit of the tree of life, it will be delicious (Alma 32:28).