By Marvin W. Cowan
Mormons believe Isaiah 29 contains two prophecies about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon (B. of M.). Our last article discussed the first ten verses of Isaiah 29 where LDS believe the first “prophecy” is located. LDS believe the second prophecy about the Book of Mormon is found in Isaiah 29:11-14 in the King James Version (KJV) which says: (11) “And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this I pray thee; and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: (12) And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned. (13) Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near to me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men; (14) Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.”
The LDS interpretation of Isaiah 29:11-14 does not come from that text in the KJV or any other real translation of the original Hebrew text. It comes from Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism. His interpretation of Isaiah 29:11-14 is found in the Book of Mormon in II Nephi 27:6-35. It was later put verbatim (except for a few words) into the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) of Isaiah 29:11-32. So, the LDS interpretation of Isaiah 29:11-14 is in two LDS books of scripture that Smith wrote and which LDS accept without any evidence to support them! Smith said he “translated” the B. of M. from “Reformed Egyptian” by 1830 and he “translated” the JST of Isaiah by 1833. But Isaiah was originally written in Hebrew, and Smith said the B. of M. was originally written in “Reformed Egyptian,” so how did Smith “translate” two different books from two different languages into the KJV English of 1611 AD with identical words and content? He must have copied II Nephi 27:6-35 into the JST of Isaiah 29:6-26 since the B. of M. was published first. But why would an omniscient God have Smith “translate” those two books into the archaic KJV English of 1611 AD instead of the English spoken in America in 1830? Since those texts are quite long we will only quote a few verses with the LDS interpretation.
Both II Nephi 27:6-7 in the B. of M. and Isaiah 29:11-12 in the JST say, “And it shall come to pass, that the Lord God shall bring forth unto YOU the words of a book; and they shall be the words of them which have slumbered. And behold, the book shall be sealed; and in the book shall be a revelation from God, from the beginning of the world to the ending thereof.” II Nephi 27:9-10 and Isaiah 29:14 in the JST also say, “But the book shall be delivered unto A MAN, and HE shall deliver the words of the book, which are the words of those who have slumbered in the dust; and HE shall deliver these words unto another, but the words that are sealed HE shall not deliver, neither shall HE deliver the book.” And both II Nephi 27:15-20 and Isaiah 29:20-22 of the JST say, “But behold, it shall come to pass, that the Lord God shall say unto HIM to whom he shall deliver the book, Take these words which are not sealed and deliver them to another, that he may show them unto the learned, saying, Read this I pray thee. And the learned shall say, Bring hither the book and I will read them…And THE MAN shall say, I cannot bring the book for it is sealed. Then the learned shall say, I cannot read it. Wherefore it shall come to pass, that the Lord God will deliver again the book and the words thereof to HIM that is NOT LEARNED; and the MAN that is NOT LEARNED shall say, I am NOT LEARNED. Then shall the Lord God say unto HIM, The learned shall not read them, and I am able to do mine own work; wherefore THOU shalt read the words which I shall give THEE.” Notice that the subject in these texts is “the words of a book” instead of the vision as it is the KJV and real translations. In that vision in Isa. 29:11-12 of the KJV and all real translations the words of a sealed book are delivered to an educated man first and then to an uneducated man and neither of them read the words. But Smith’s scripture says the UNLEARNED MAN (Smith) did read them! Smith claimed that he copied some words in the Reformed Egyptian language from the gold plates and had Martin Harris take them to Prof. Anthon, the learned man, who couldn’t read them. Smith said HE was the UNLEARNED MAN enabled by the Lord to translate the B. of M. from the gold plates. And Smith’s “scriptural” accounts indicate that is the way it was to happen! LDS say the “marvelous work and a wonder” in the KJV of Isaiah 29:14, and in II Nephi 27:26, and Isaiah 29:26 in the JST is the “coming forth of the Book of Mormon.” Words in CAPITAL LETTERS in this paragraph refer to Joseph Smith and words in bold type are the subjects in these two LDS texts. Smith wrote both LDS books of scripture and HE fulfilled his own “prophecy.” Does that raise any questions about this “prophecy?” There is no evidence that Smith’s scriptures ever existed before Smith wrote them nor does any other evidence exist to support them!
Bible verses must be interpreted in the contexts where God put them to correctly understand them. The KJV of Isaiah 29:1-10 and all other real translations is clearly about the impending destruction of Jerusalem and the unstableness of her enemies. It did not change in Isaiah 29:11-12 which says: “And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed.” The subject is “the VISION of ALL” (all that was revealed in Isaiah 29:1-10) became to YOU (Jerusalem) “as a book that is sealed” (can’t see what is in it). The original Hebrew word for “book” literally means a “letter” or “writing,” not a book like those in a library. Isaiah told Jerusalem that his message to them was like a sealed letter they couldn’t see or understand because of their spiritual blindness. In the vision, the writing was given FIRST to a learned (educated) man who was told to read it. He replied “I can’t, because it’s sealed.” The writing was then given to a man who was not learned (illiterate) who was also told to read it. He replied, “I can’t read.” So, neither man read the writing which was the vision that Isaiah revealed to Jerusalem. Because Jerusalem was spiritually blind, the Lord said in Isaiah 29:13, “This people (the Jews) draw near to me with their lips but their hearts are far from me” which is why they couldn’t read or understand Isaiah’s message. Verse 14 continues, “Behold, I will do a marvelous work and a wonder among this people (Jerusalem)…The wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding (discernment) of their prudent (discerning) men shall be hid” (concealed). That, and Jerusalem’s destruction mentioned in Isaiah 29:3-4, is the “marvelous (or amazing) work and wonder” (astonishment). So, the Lord did not foretell the coming forth of the B. of M. while He was telling Jerusalem about their impending destruction!