3 Ne 23:1-5 search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah
Of the importance of the prophecies of Isaiah, the Bible Dictionary states:
"Isaiah is the most quoted of all the prophets, being more frequently quoted by Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John (in his Revelation) than any other O.T. prophet. Likewise the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants quote from Isaiah more than from any other prophet. The Lord told the Nephites that 'great are the words of Isaiah,' and that all things Isaiah spoke of the house of Israel and of the gentiles would be fulfilled (3 Ne 23:1-3).
"....The reader today has no greater written commentary and guide to understanding Isaiah than the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. As one understands these works better he will understand Isaiah better, and as one understands Isaiah better, he more fully comprehends the mission of the Savior, and the meaning of the covenant that was placed upon Abraham and his seed by which all the families of the earth would be blessed."
Great words cannot be fully appreciated without great effort: "The command to search diligently the words of Isaiah is plainly intended to mean something other than an emphasis upon the necessity of reading them. It implies that without a concerted inquiry one cannot properly understand the words of Isaiah, and ultimately that nothing less than an all-out, investigation will yield the desired results. It means that Isaiah's words are too 'great' to be comprehended by a surface reading only. His book exhibits all the characteristics of a great literary masterpiece and, as such, requires serious effort to be understood. The Savior's recommendation assures us that the knowledge to be gained is worth the effort." (Monte S. Nyman & Charles D. Tate, Jr., Isaiah and the Prophets, p. 128)
Those of us struggling to better understand Isaiah must not allow ourselves to be too discouraged. Nephi loved the words of Isaiah, but readily admitted that he was not easy to understand without a knowledge of the manner of prophesying among the Jews, and, more importantly, without the spirit of prophecy (2 Ne 25:1-5). Nephi knew that the words of Isaiah would be of great worth to the latter-day saints, but only because we would understand them. Thanks in large part to the Book of Mormon, the latter day saints, he said, would actually comprehend his complex message, for in that day shall they understand them; wherefore, for their good gave I written them (2 Ne 25:8).
Furthermore, Nephi explains that Isaiah is easy to understand in retrospect, in the days that the prophecies of Isaiah shall be fulfilled men shall know of a surety, at the times when they shall come to pass (2 Ne 25:7). This is certainly true of his Messianic prophecies. Those passages which speak of Christ's mortal sojourn are frequently quoted and clear in their meaning. After the events of the Second Coming transpire, his Millenial prophecies will seem just as clear.
Without the Book of Mormon, we can only imagine how much important Isaiah doctrine we would be missing. Not only would we lack a host of priceless Isaiah commentary, but the many chapters of Isaiah contained in the Book of Mormon seem to be re-recorded because of our weakness. The Lord knew that there would be precious few who would read the Old Testament with the same diligence as they would study the Book of Mormon. His prophets have even had to chide us for our weakness in neglecting this plain and precious witness. Therefore, he included Isaiah's most important chapters and passages in the Book of Mormon for our benefit. If he had not done this, the writings of Isaiah would be just as foreign to most latter-day saints as are the prophecies of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, and others. Thus we see the mercy of the Lord in making provision for us-even in our weakness.
"We are all here today in fulfillment of the words of the prophets, and I love the prophecies of Isaiah because it seems to me that he lived almost more in our day than when he was actually upon the earth, because the Lord gave him to see so many of the things that would transpire in the latter days" (Conference Report, Oct. 1956, p. 23)
"(quoting 3 Nephi 23:1-3.) That quotation alone spares us the trouble of an apology for Isaiah. The book of Isaiah is a tract for our own times; our very aversion to it testifies to its relevance. It is necessary to remind us of its importance, however, because Isaiah's message has not been popular, and he tells us why. The wicked do not like to be told about their faults...says Isaiah, the people of Israel want to hear smooth things: 'Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things.' (Isaiah 30:10.) And ever since, the process of interpreting Isaiah has been one of smoothing him out." (Old Testament and Related Studies, pp. 215-6)
3 Ne 23:5 whosoever will hearken unto my words...the same shall be saved
"Jesus further declared that those who would hearken to his words (which included the commandment to search Isaiah) -- and would repent and be baptized--would be saved (see 3 Nephi 23:5a). Is our salvation dependent upon our diligence in heeding the commandment to search Isaiah? This possibility has been suggested by Elder Bruce R. McConkie:
"'If our eternal salvation depends upon our ability to under stand the writings of Isaiah as fully and truly as Nephi understood them--and who shall say such is not the case!-- how shall we fare in that great day when with Nephi we shall stand before the pleasing bar of Him who said: Great are the words of Isaiah?' (Ensign, Oct. 1973, p. 78.)" (Monte S. Nyman, Great Are The Words of Isaiah, p. 1)
3 Ne 23:6 other scriptures I would that ye should write, that ye have not
The brass plates of Laban contained all the ancient records up to the time of Jeremiah. This includes most of the Old Testament as we now have it. It also included the works of prophets whose records are now lost-Zenoch, Zenos, and Neum. It is doubtful that they had the writings of Zephaniah, Obadiah, or Nahum. By chronology, they definitely did not have the writings of Daniel, Habakkuk, Ezekiel, Haggai, Zechariah, or Malachi. Of all these prophets, the Lord chose the last two chapters of Malachi to leave with the Nephites. However, before the Savior could introduce these passages, there was something more pressing for him to correct. They had left out an important part of their own history which most assuredly should have been recorded (see v. 9-13). This is the first priority in completing the Nephite scriptural legacy.
"...when [the Lord] came to the Nephites he made a big thing about keeping records. He went through the records himself and made sure that all the prophecies were mentioned. Samuel the Lamanite had prophesied something that was fulfilled. You didn't put it down here, he says to Nephi. Nephi's face turned red and he said, Well, we'll see that it gets put down! (cf. 3 Nephi 23:6-13). It was very embarrassing, believe me, when the Lord himself was there! But he wants those records complete." (Temple And Cosmos, p. 321 - 322)
3 Ne 23:8 when Nephi had brought forth the records...he cast his eyes upon them and said
"A scripture from the Book of Mormon concerning record keeping has had a profound impact on my writing...'Bring forth the record which ye have kept. And when Nephi had brought forth the records, and laid them before him, HE CAST HIS EYES UPON THEM.' (3 Nephi 23:7-8; emphasis added.) I sincerely believe that one day we too will be called to account for what we have written and taught. I want to be able to say to the Savior, when He casts His eyes on what I have written, that I endeavored to build the Kingdom and not tear it down. May we all so write!" (Regional Studies in Church History, New England, "Why Are We Here in New England," by Keith W. Perkins, p. 13)
Spencer W. Kimball
"Your own journal, like most others, will tell of problems as old as the world and how you dealt with them...Your journal should contain your true self rather than a picture of you when you are 'made up' for a public performance. There is a temptation to paint one's virtues in rich color and whitewash the vices, but there is also the opposite pitfall of accentuating the negative.
"...Your journal is your autobiography, so it should be kept carefully. You are unique, and there may be incidents in your experience that are more noble and praiseworthy in their way than those recorded in any other life...What could you do better for your children and your children's children than to record the story of your life, your triumphs over adversity, your recovery after a fall, your progress when all seemed black, your rejoicing when you had finally achieved?
"...Get a notebook, my young folks, a journal that will last through all time, and maybe the angels may quote from it for eternity. Begin today and write in it your goings and comings, your deepest thoughts, your achievements and your failures, your associations and your triumphs, your impressions and your testimonies. Remember, the Savior chastised those who failed to record important events." (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, pp. 350-1)
3 Ne 23:11 How be it that ye have not written...that many saints did arise?
Neal A. Maxwell
"The resurrected Jesus made a special point of ensuring that this glorious event-witnessed alike on two hemispheres, and in which all mortals have an inexpressibly important and personal stake-was likewise carefully recorded. In fact, Jesus, noting the neglect of Samuel's prophecy, commanded that it be written. (See 3 Nephi 23:9-11.) No wonder, for He anticipated the subsequent reactions to the reality of the resurrection, such as those of the Athenians to Paul's preaching: 'And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.' (Acts 17:32.)
"Jesus, the Jehovah of the Old Testament (who had been so careful to see that much lesser facts were carefully established in the mouths of two or three witnesses), insisted that the two central facts of human history, the atonement and the resurrection, be carefully established in the pages of the two great written witnesses of Him and the resurrection.
"Such careful correlation and amplified attesting would surely not surprise previous prophets-nor should it us.
"The above is not recited just to note how reassuringly tidy the restored gospel is, nor how impressively exacting about facts the Lord is. Instead, one should ask, 'What knowledge does the world need to have more than the sure testimony and evidence that Jesus is the Christ and that His atonement actually accomplished God's great plan of redemption, whereby mankind will be blessed with immortality?' In a world filled increasingly with drift, disbelief, and despair, what more welcome 'good news' could be given?" (Plain and Precious Things, p. 30)
3 Ne 23:14 Jesus...expounded all the scriptures in one
Scriptures don't all say exactly the same thing. Different prophets emphasize different principles at different times to different people. But the scriptures taken as a whole paint only one picture. The picture comes to us in many small pieces, as if a puzzle, but they fit together perfectly until they seem inseparable. When the big picture finally comes into view, we see as we have never seen before. Through the spirit, we see the plan of salvation as it was planned in the pre-mortal sphere, as it was foreordained, as it was prophesied, and as it was realized.
Hereby, truth becomes timeless and is circumscribed into one great whole. There are few spiritual experiences which are more powerful than comprehending God's truth in one. We are reminded of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The Lord taught these, beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures concerning himself. We should not be surprised that their increased vision was accompanied by a profoundly spiritual experience, And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? (Lu 24:27,32)
Mormon later records, 'And he did expound all things, even from the beginning until the time that he should come in his glory-yea, even all things which should come upon the face of the earth...And now there cannot be written in this book even a hundredth part of the things which Jesus did truly teach unto the people' (3 Nephi 26:3,6).