How many times have you read first Nephi? If you are like me, you’ve probably read it at least twice as many times as you’ve read any other book in the Book of Mormon. Thank heaven Nephi does such a great job in his first book. But then what happens?
You’re reading along, having a wonderful spiritual experience. You’ve finally gotten back into the habit of reading the Book of Mormon every day. You’re so proud… er… uh, pleased with yourself. Then all of a sudden you read a verse that says:
“…kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers; they shall bow down to thee with their faces towards the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet…”
“Uh, okay…” you think to yourself, “I’ll just file that away into the back of my brain and get back to the good stuff.”
So you continue reading. It doesn’t take you long to figure out that the strange Hebrew poetic writing doesn’t go away. It lasts till the end of the chapter, then continues on to the next, and the next, and the next. Before you know it, you’ve lost your daily habit and you’re hating yourself for not being able to work through the Isaiah barrier.
- Take it in stride. Don’t expect yourself to race through it at the pace you’ve been going. It’s not traditional English prose. It’s not even traditional Hebrew prose. It’s okay if your scripture study is only a few verses instead of a whole chapter. Better to read smaller chunks than no chunks
- Get a commentary – I’m not talking about FARMS or Hugh Nibley. They can sometimes be as daunting as Isaiah himself. Just get the Church Publication: Religion 302, Old Testament Student Manual 1 Kings–Malachi. That is the Church’s old testament institute manual for the second half of the old testament. It’s very simple and clear, and believe it or not, it makes Isaiah easy to understand! (I bet you thought that was impossible – au contraire!) Give it a try. By the way, it’s also available to read online for free: http://ldsces.org/inst_manuals/ot-in-2/manualindex.asp
- Pray. Pray hard. You’ll need all the help you can get, and who can help you better than the real author!
- Rewrite it. Okay, so this is a little more involved, and may take some help from tip 2, but give it a try. Re-write each verse in plain English. It’s not interpreting and rewriting the scriptures for publication, it’s putting it in your own words to help you get a grip on what’s going on. Plus it’s kind of fun.
- Get out the maps. Better yet, jump on the computer and goof around on Google Earth (did you know that’s a free download? It’s much cooler than Google maps, too. Trust me) and punch in locations as you come across them. Isaiah’s a real geography buff, and mentions places a lot. Sometimes seeing it visually can help a lot.
- Find scriptural commentary on Isaiah. Isaiah is such a popular topic in the scriptures (especially in the Book of Mormon), that a lot of the verses are mentioned by other prophets and expounded in detail.
- If all else fails, skip it. Oh my heck, did I really just say that? Yeah. It’s a last resort, but if it’s a choice between losing your scripture habit and skipping the chapters, just skip them. If you get really good at your habit, you’ll come back in the future. The Isaiah chapters are more or less done by the end of 2 Nephi 24, so just jump to 2 Nephi 25.
Oh, by the way, here’s a scripture for the day!
And now, behold, I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah