I Have a Question


Questions of general gospel interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy

Many non-LDS scholars claim that the second half of the book of Isaiah was written after the time Lehi left Jerusalem, Yet the Book of Mormon contains material from both halves. How do we explain this?

L. La Mar Adams, author of several books, biblical researcher, and assistant professor of statistics, Brigham Young University. What creates the problem for you is that most biblical scholars claim that the book of Isaiah is a compilation of the work of several authors who lived over an extended period of time. 1 This theory originated as early as A.D. 1100 when Moses ben Samuel expressed the belief that Isaiah was not the author of certain chapters. 2 I believe we have reason for our faith that the man Isaiah originally authored the entire book credited to his name. Lehi would therefore have taken the entire book with him when he left Jerusalem.

The problem giving birth to the multiple-authorship theory is the prophecies of Isaiah. For example, Isaiah identifies King Cyrus of Persia by name and indicates that Cyrus will set the Israelites free of Babylon. This event actually occurred—many decades after Isaiah lived. To a person with a testimony of prophecy, such a pronouncement isn’t astonishing. But to a person who lacks that testimony, it’s impossible. Those who reject the existence of prophecy as we know it have no choice but to conclude that the book of Isaiah must have been written by more than one man.

A few years ago, our group of thirty-five specialists in Semitic languages, statistics, and computer science at Brigham Young University devised a literary style analysis to test the claims of these biblical scholars. This study, which spanned several years, in the end used more than 300 computer programs, analyzed several hundred stylistic variables, and obtained more than 4800 statistical comparisons.

Literary style in Hebrew is much more accessible to computer analysis than is English. This is partly because the Hebrew characteristic known as the function prefix can help identify speech patterns of a given author. For example, how an author uses Hebrew function prefixes, such as those that translate into “and in this,” “and it is,” and “and to,” are expected to be unique with him. Thus, comparing parts of an author’s work with other parts, as well as comparing his work with work by other authors, can yield statistical evidence for claims of authorship.

Accordingly, we coded the Hebrew text of the book of Isaiah and a random sampling of eleven other Old Testament books onto computer tape. 3 Then, using a computer, we compared rates of literary usage (such as unique expressions and idiomatic phrases including the function prefix and other such literary elements) from text to text. Since any author varies within himself, depending on context, audience, his own change of style, and so forth, variations for a given author were compared with variations between authors for any literary element.

The results of the study were conclusive: there is a unique authorship style throughout the various sections of Isaiah. The rates of usage for the elements of this particular style are more consistent within the book of Isaiah, regardless of the section, than in any other book in the study. This statistical evidence led us to a single conclusion: based on style alone, the book of Isaiah definitely appears to be the work of one man. The two parts of Isaiah most often claimed to have been written by different authors, chapters 1–39 and 40–66, were found to be more similar to each other in style than to any of the other eleven Old Testament books examined.

Some scholars seem to have a desire to do away with prophecy by placing the second half of Isaiah after the events described, making the mention of those events historical rather than prophetic. But Latter-day Saints, with their testimony of prophecy and with the many evidences given in the scriptures, have long affirmed that Isaiah, son of Amoz, wrote the entire book of Isaiah. In the Book of Mormon, Jacob, Nephi, Abinadi, and Jesus all quote from different parts of Isaiah, and each identifies the prophet by name. In their Gospels in the New Testament, Matthew, Luke, and John the Beloved do the same. 4

No matter what evidence is available in the scriptures or more from secular sources such as computer analysis, there will undoubtedly continue to be those who will try to set the prophecies of Isaiah aside because they feel Isaiah could not know such details in advance. In this they err twice: (1) they err in thinking that Isaiah did not write chapters 40–66, and (2) they err in thinking that prophets do not know such details. The words of God’s prophets invariably come to pass.

    Notes

  1.   1.

    John L. McKenzie, Dictionary of the Bible (New York:The Macmillan Company, 1965), p. 379.

  2.   2.

    Edward J. Young, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdman’s Publishing), p. 199.

  3.   3.

    Random samples of the following Old Testament books were used in the study: Ezra, Nehemiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Amos, Micah, Habakkuk, Zechariah, and Malachi.

  4.   4.

    In 2 Ne. 6:5–6, Jacob quotes from Isa. 49; in 2 Ne. 12, Nephi quotes from Isa. 2 (see also 2 Ne. 11:2); in Mosiah 14, Abinadi quotes from Isa. 53; in 3 Ne. 22, Jesus quotes from Isa. 54 (also see 3 Ne. 23:1); and in John 12:38–41, John quotes from Isa. 53 and then Isa. 6.

As a home teacher, what can I do to encourage and involve my junior companion?

H. Kent Rappleye, Institute director, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. If Aaronic Priesthood home teaching companions are taught well, they will grow up looking forward to the home teaching experience. To be sure this happens, experienced Melchizedek Priesthood holders need to help junior companions become an important and effective part of the home teaching program.

Here are some suggestions on how to help Aaronic Priesthood holders grow through meaningful participation. In the process of helping your junior companion, you may find that relationships with the families you teach have improved measurably.

1. Ask your junior companion to give part of the presentation. Of course, you can’t just toss the Ensign at him when he gets in the car and say, “It’s your turn to give the message.” Make the presentation a partnership in which you both participate. Since no two families are alike, talk about the ways you will adapt your message to each situation. Then ask the Lord for assistance in presenting it.

2. Ask your junior companion to be in charge of birthdays and other special occasions, such as holidays, graduations, and anniversaries. The possibilities here are limitless: cards, treats, inexpensive gifts, etc. Perhaps the two of you could take the birthday child to the park, a game, or a movie. For a single parent or an elderly person, perhaps coupons promising your help with specific tasks would be most meaningful.

3. Of course, special occasions aren’t the only times to render assistance to home teaching families. Show your junior companion how to help in meaningful ways. For example, no widow or single parent should have to pay for yard work they cannot do for themselves. Together, the home teachers could mow a lawn weekly or shovel a driveway after a storm. You could also offer to help inside the house or apartment; for large jobs, your junior companion could involve his priesthood quorum in a service project. If he has a driver’s license, perhaps he could take a widow or elderly couple to the grocery store on Saturday.

4. Many young men have had good training at home caring for younger brothers and sisters. If you home teach a family with small children, perhaps your junior companion could offer to tend the youngsters (at no charge, of course) while Mom and Dad go to the temple or to do genealogy or missionary work. This may even be something he would like to do on a monthly basis to help the family attend the temple regularly or achieve some other goal.

5. Encourage your junior companion to share his talents and hobbies with the families. Perhaps he likes woodworking and could help a family member learn to make a piece of furniture. Perhaps he loves sports or music or art and could help the children develop skills and self-confidence.

6. When you are asked to administer to a member of one of your families, sometimes you may want to call your junior companion and take him along with you. If he holds the Aaronic Priesthood, he won’t be able to take part in the actual ordinance. But he could be asked to offer a prayer before the anointing takes place, if this is appropriate. He can learn much from the experience by observing the faith and prayers of others, and by having the opportunity to develop his own faith. (Be careful, however, not to put him on the spot without warning.) He may also gain great spiritual growth through fasting and praying with you when your home teaching families, or individuals in them, have specific needs.

7. Help your junior companion see the importance of his example for the children of the families you visit. By his appearance and actions, he can show the benefits of maintaining proper grooming, avoiding fads and peer pressures, and selecting appropriate movies and other entertainment.

Can you help me see the significance of the account of Peter walking on the water?

F. David Lee, a stake high councilor in the Annandale Virginia Stake. To more fully understand the event of Peter walking on the water, we must first look at the setting in which it took place.

Following the occasion of the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus instructed his disciples to board a ship and cross the Sea of Galilee while he remained behind to send away the multitude and to pray. A windstorm arose on the sea during the voyage, and the small ship was tossed about by the waves. To add to their distress, the disciples were confronted with what they thought was a spirit, and they cried out in fear. What they saw was Jesus walking on the water. Although the Savior announced that it was he, that they need not fear, some on the ship were skeptical. Peter challenged, “If it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.” And Jesus responded, “Come.” (Matt. 14:28–29.)

Peter left the boat and, like Jesus, walked on the water. But when Peter’s attention was diverted from his Master to the buffeting winds and waves around him, his faith began to weaken, and he began to sink helplessly into the water. He cried out, appealing to Jesus for help. After clasping Peter’s hand and assuring his safety, the Master mildly chastised Peter: “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” Then, “when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.” (Matt. 14:31–32.)

This was indeed an impressive event, once again demonstrating to the Lord’s disciples his power over the elements of nature. A year earlier he had stilled a storm on the same Sea of Galilee. (See Matt. 8:23–27.) If his purpose now was to implant within the hearts of his disciples an even stronger conviction that he was indeed the Chosen One sent with power and authority from the Father, he succeeded; for we read, “Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying: Of a truth thou art the Son of God.” (Matt. 14:33.)

I like to think, too, that he was teaching an important concept concerning our relationship with him as our Savior. Jesus spent much of his ministry teaching through parables: “And he spake many things unto them in parables … and without a parable spake he not unto them.” (Matt. 13:3, 34.) Perhaps we can learn much by treating the experience of Christ and Peter walking on the water as a kind of dramatized parable. As in Christ’s spoken parables, there is more than one level of meaning in this incident. At the surface we have an exciting adventure at sea, where the Lord with supernatural power saves a disciple from drowning and also possibly saves the ship from capsizing.

At another level we contemplate authority, power, and the nature of miracles. We stand in awe of the Son of God as he commands the responsive forces of nature.

At still another level we may see additional significance in what took place that day on the Sea of Galilee, a symbolism that can teach us much about our own experiences in life.

Peter and the other disciples embarked upon their journey in response to their master’s request. We, too, embarked upon our journey through mortality in willing response to divine will. And, like the disciples on the ship, who were aware of the dangers of traveling on the Sea of Galilee, with its sudden storms, we began our journey with an understanding that there would be perils along the way.

Like Peter, we in this life learn that temporal supports sometimes crumble—or sink—in the face of life’s tempests. We find that there are forces capable of upsetting our most carefully improvised plans. But we, like Peter, can discover that our Savior stands nearby, though perhaps dimly seen, ready to help us if we will but reach out to him and accept his divine assistance. We need not struggle alone.

Envision Peter leaving the boat alone and walking by faith on the water. He is successful in this “impossible” endeavor because his eyes are fixed steadfastly upon Christ. If we would come to Jesus, we also must forego an inviting reliance on worldly supports. We must determine whether our best opportunity lies in the storm-tossed—though still floating—ship or whether it lies out on the waves with the Savior.

The scriptures speak of the “trial of faith” (Ether 12:6) through which we must pass, indicating that the faith-building process is not automatic. Instead, it is a learning process—a mandatory sequence for all who would inherit eternal life. Each step Peter took away from the ship was a trial of his faith; each step toward Jesus took him a step farther from his accustomed means of survival. And each step was a voluntary one; he was under no compulsion to leave the ship and respond to the Lord’s call to “Come.”

At one point Peter’s attention was drawn from Jesus, the object of his faith, to the boisterous wind and waves around him. In a moment of confusion, fear overpowered his faith, and Peter started to fall.

So like our lives! As we learn the gospel and develop our faith, we reach the point where we feel strong enough to leave the boat; we determine to stand free from worldly supports and voluntarily walk by faith through the tempest toward our Savior. Each step for us may be a trial. The waves around us are as real in their way as Peter’s waves were to him. And, like Peter, we may slip! We may feel the awful descent toward destruction and, in confused desperation, consider the safety of the ship.

But wait! Our efforts to meet the trials of our faith—our footsteps over life’s treacherous waters—have somehow re-oriented us, and we reach out for safety, not to the boat, as we would have done in earlier times, but to the outstretched hand of the Savior. Hand grasps hand, and we are pulled to the Master of wind and water. No more is he seen vaguely through the storm; no more is his voice indistinct in the roar of the gale. Now we are home; now the trial is over.

And Jesus calms the storm.