So if you ever want to understand scripture, just read it out loud every day to a 5 year old. I can’t believe how much I am learning from studying with Jacob. Just the act of reading it out loud, without any chance of daydreaming, and thinking about how to make sense of this to a kid, has opened up so many passages of scripture to me. The most amazing of them, to me, is Isaiah. I am finally getting that coveted feeling that Isaiah is clear! It is reading 3 Nephi, where Christ expounds on Isaiah, that has made him so much more clear to me. There I see a basic framework of what the covenant is, who it is for, and how it works with different groups over time. Once I got that framework, I realized that I could probably enter into Isaiah at any chapter and at least see the basic framework there.
So, what am I seeing as the basic framework? God gave a covenant to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Over time, those of this covenant forgot the Lord, and over more time many forgot that they were Israel at all. God took many groups away from Jerusalem. Because of the wickedness of those at Jerusalem, says Christ in 3 Ne, they don’t even know about these groups or where they are.
Of all these “lost” groups, the Nephites have a very, very unique and crucial role to play. Their record is the one moment that will turn everything around. After Israel forgets the covenant, the Nephites are still writing. The words that Christ tells them are written down for a special, important moment in time. After Israel has all forgotten the covenant, the Book of Mormon comes–not to Israel–to the Gentiles! Israel has forgotten the covenant, and so it is made available to the Gentiles. This is sort of the “hourglass” of history. The Gentiles now have a chance to embrace the covenant. If they repent, they will be numbered among Israel and become part of that covenant family. If they reject the gospel, then as Israel remembers their covenant God will remember them, and Israel will be among the Gentiles “as a lion” in the forest who tramples down, etc. But it is specifically the Book of Mormon that both opens the covenant to the Gentiles, and that which reminds Israel that they are Israel. Both! Incredible!
Then the Gentiles and Israel see the covenant at work, and know that God did not forget his promises that his covenant people would have the blessings of the gospel, the priesthood, ordinances, knowledge, Holy Ghost, etc. Soon all nations, all people, will learn about the covenant and have the opportunity to embrace it or reject it. Then all that are proud will be made low, God will remember Israel and protect them–which of course now includes everyone who has embraced the covenant, and excludes all that have rejected it. The words “Israel” and “Gentile” change meanings, and are less a question of lineage than faithfulness.
And Elijah comes during all of this to turn the hearts of the children (Israel) to their fathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). They will remember who they are and who their fathers were. And the Gentiles have a chance to become Israel.
Now think of the passage in Isaiah where Israel has been “barren” and asks “who are these children?” where did these come from? There will be “children” who forgot they were Israel, who will suddenly return. And there will be Israel who weren’t children, but who are “adopted.” Suddenly a mother who was “barren” – ie, there were very few who were a covenant people through the last 200 years — will find herself with children like the sands of the sea, since everyone who accepts the gospel covenant is numbered among Israel! It will be as if “Israel” was asleep, and woke up to find out that there were Israelite children all over the world in all nations, and even Gentiles had turned into Israelites!
Look again at the title page of the Book of Mormon: “Which is to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.” Two purposes: 1, to show the remnant (the children) that God had a covenant with their fathers and did great things for them, and that they still have a chance to be a part of that covenant, and 2, to convince Jew (through the talk of the law of Moses?) and Gentile (in other ways?) that Jesus is the Christ! The Book of Mormon convinces them that the God they worship is indeed this very Jesus. Those are the two purposes of the Book of Mormon.
And through those 2 purposes, the Gentiles embrace the covenant and take it to the Lamanites. Then we know the work has commenced! And more and more will remember the covenant given to their fathers. And the Gentiles have a chance to accept or reject the covenant. And it goes and goes throughout the world.
Does this help make sense of Isaiah? I think this is the framework that is laid out in 3 Nephi. If anyone wants to read through those chapters and tell me what they think of my summary, I’d love the help!