I want to give Laman and Lemuel the benefit of the doubt as I read through 1 Nephi. But then I go and read Isaiah and he is so clear that there will be destruction and scattering and then a restoration. He is so clear: how could you miss it?
That makes me wonder how much access everyone had to scripture. Lehi apparently didn’t know exactly what would be on the brass plates until he got them. Had he ever touched them before? Were they only read out loud to the people, and if so, how much of it? Who decides what to read? My brain has images of scrolls being read in synagogues. Could everyone copy passages on to scrolls or was that a priest’s job? I know so little! I have conatations but those are probably all from Church videos in seminary so that’s probably not a great source for information! 🙂 I should do some research on that.
At any rate, I can see why Nephi wants to read Isaiah over and over and over again to his brothers. And, I see part of his task in his book to convince us, the future readers, that Isaiah was right that there would be a destruction but also a return. We are sort of like Laman and Lemuel (we, as in, the general modern population of the world). We can believe Jerusalem was destroyed because we know from historical documents and artifacts that there was indeed a time where Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon. Laman and Lemuel knew that the Northern Kingdom had been destroyed, just as Isaiah had said. But, we modern readers (like Laman and Lemuel) won’t necessarily believe the prophet about the future. Even if a modern reader has the Bible and believes it, it has been reinterpreted so that the covenants to Abraham have been obscured (as Nephi points out). Isaiah has been reused as only or mainly prophesying of Christ’s life, and perhaps some ending final battle that sounds really exciting and scary. But the work of the covenant to Israel, the gathering in, the peaceful yielding up of weapons, the recognition by the nations that the truth lies with Israel; that’s not the part that is held on to and looked forward to. I think Nephi has a big job to convince us future readers — Gentiles! — that Isaiah’s prophecies of the covenant are going to be fulfilled literally.
Sp Nephi has a similar task with us that he did with his brothers: convincing us that Isaiah is clear, very very clear, about a future restoration of the House of Israel.