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).
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:
|Church||Kingdom of God|
|Joseph Smith||Endtime Servant|
|Book of Mormon||Sealed Portion|
|Gentile-Ephraimites||Lost 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.