2 Ne 12:2 the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains
Before discussing the meaning of this phrase, it is useful to review Isaiah's use of prophetic dualism. Prophetic dualism means that a scripture is fulfilled in more than just one event. Usually events in Isaiah's day are used as a type of things yet to come. However, sometimes the events described are both in the future. One of the best examples of this is Isaiah's statement, 'Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me' (Isa 29:13). When we hear this phrase, we think of the words given to Joseph Smith during the First Vision. Certainly, this phrase accurately described Joseph's day. However, the same phrase is used to describe the scribes and Pharisees in the days of the Savior (Matt 15:8). Both interpretations are correct. The events of Isaiah's prophecy occurred twice, in the days of Jesus Christ and again in the days of Joseph Smith. Such prophetic dualism is commonly encountered when one interprets Isaiah.
The term "mountain of the Lord's house" refers to the temple. But which temple is Isaiah speaking about? Many of the brethren have interpreted this passage as having reference to the building of temples amongst the Rocky Mountains, specifically, the Salt Lake Temple. Certainly, many have come to Salt Lake from all over the world to learn of His ways and walk in His paths. Elder LeGrand Richards, while speaking of this prophecy said, "Can you go anywhere in the world and find a record of the fulfillment of that promise of Isaiah except in the gathering of the Latter-day Saints here to these valleys of the mountains?" (BYU Speeches of the Year, Feb, 10, 1960, p. 9) If this statement is true regarding the Salt Lake Temple, it must also refer to the many other temples now in use.
The gathering of people to the Salt Lake Temple does not completely fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah. Here is where prophetic dualism comes in. The scripture also has reference to the temples which will be built in Zion and in Jerusalem (v. 3). If Isaiah were speaking only of the temple in Salt Lake, he could have used the phrase, "the Lord's house shall be established in the valley amongst the top of the mountains." Isaiah is making reference to the mountain of the Lord's house. That means that these temples will be built on a hill or mountain to represent the spiritual journey toward God. As Hugh Nibley stated, "And the temple in Jerusalem was on the temple mountain, on Mt. Moriah. We find all the sacred places are the mountains, and they are very important here as the place of pilgrimage." (Ancient Documents and the Pearl of Great Price, Lecture 16, p. 3) Franklin D. Richards explains that the prophecy has reference to both Salt Lake and the New Jerusalem or Zion:
Franklin D. Richards
"For many years there has been a 'House of the Lord' in Salt Lake City, in the top of the mountains, and for more than thirty years, the people of many nations have been saying, 'Come...and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord.'
"That there will be a place called Zion from which 'The law shall go forth,' distinct from Jerusalem, is evident from Isaiah, 'When the Lord of Hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem;'
"How is it that Joseph Smith, Jun., first organized the means for the partial fulfilment of this prophecy, and left, at his death, the authority and instructions necessary to complete its fulfilment, by the building of a great city to be called Zion, in the state of Missouri, which in fulfilment of the prophecy, shall become the capital of this western hemisphere, if he did not obtain his knowledge of the whole matter through Divine inspiration?
"The Jaredite prophet, Ether, some 2500 years ago, foretold 'That a New Jerusalem should be built up upon this land (America), unto the seed of Joseph;' Ether 13. 4, 6." (Franklin D. Richards and James A. Little, A Compendium of the Doctrines of the Gospel, p. 106)
2 Ne 12:3 he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths
Howard W. Hunter
"Let us be a temple-attending people. Attend the temple as frequently as personal circumstances allow. Keep a picture of a temple in your home that your children may see it. Teach them about the purposes of the house of the Lord. Have them plan from their earliest years to go there and to remain worthy of that blessing.
"...As we become more removed from the lifestyle of the world, the Church becomes more the welcome refuge for hundreds of thousands who come each year and say, 'Let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem' (Isa. 2:3)." ("Exceeding Great and Precious Promises," Ensign, Nov. 1994, 8-9)
F. Enzio Busche
"Since our first visit to the temple thirty years ago, we have always revered and cherished the temple as a sacred place-a place of learning and a place of service-but now, after having been permitted to concentrate our minds and hearts for two years solely upon the purposes and holiness of the house of the Lord, it seems as if our souls have come to a new awakening. Our first awakening came when the gospel of Jesus Christ was manifested to us through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, giving us an understanding of faith, repentance, and baptism. This time it is as if a veil has been removed from our spiritual minds and we see the same gospel, but in sharper focus, with clearer colors, and with added dimensions of understanding.
"...It has become my conviction that the temple is the only 'university' for men to prepare spiritually for their graduation to eternal life." ("University for Eternal Life," Ensign, May 1989, 71)
2 Ne 12:3 out of Zion shall go forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem
In this passage, "Zion," refers to the New Jerusalem to be built in Jackson, Co. Missouri, 'this is the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion' (DC 57:2). When Christ comes to reign on the earth, the political administration of his kingdom will come from this Zion. The ecclesiastical direction during the Millenium will come from the Old Jerusalem. These two great cities shall be the world capitals in the Millenium. Temples will be built in both locations and will be built upon the tops of hills or mountains, in fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy.
"He [God] will assemble the Natives, the remnants of Joseph in America; and make of them a great, and strong, and powerful nation: and he will civilize and enlighten them, and will establish a holy city, and temple, and seat of government among them, which shall be called Zion. And there shall be his tabernacle, his sanctuary, his throne, and seat of government for the whole continent of North and South America forever. In short, it will be to the western hemisphere what Jerusalem will be to the eastern. And there the Messiah will visit them in person; and the old Saints, who will then have been raised from the dead will be with him. And he will establish his kingdom and laws over all the land....The city of Zion, with its sanctuary and priesthood, and the glorious fullness of the gospel, will constitute a standard which will put an end to jarring creeds and political wranglings, by uniting the republics, states, provinces, territories, nations, tribes, kindred, tongues, people, and sects of North and South America in one great and common bond of brotherhood....Americans! This mighty and strange work has been commenced in your midst, and must roll on in fulfillment." [originally published Apr. 6, 1845] (Messages of the 1st Presidency 1:239-261 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 130).
Harold B. Lee
"With the coming of the pioneers to establish the Church in the tops of the mountains, our early leaders declared this to be the beginning of the fulfillment of that prophecy (2 Ne 12:3)....Years ago I went with the brethren to the Idaho Falls Temple [dedication], and I heard in that inspired prayer of the First Presidency a definition of the meaning of that term 'out of Zion shall go forth the law.' Note what they said; 'We thank thee that thou hast revealed to us that those who gave us our constitutional form of government were men wise in thy sight and that thou didst raise them up for the very purpose of putting forth that sacred document....We pray that kings and rulers and the peoples of all nations under heaven may be persuaded of the blessings enjoyed by the people of this land by reason of their freedom and under thy guidance and be constrained to adopt similar governmental systems, thus to fulfill the ancient prophecy of Isaiah and Micah that, 'out of Zion shall go forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem'" (Improvement Era, Oct. 1945, p. 564 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 128)
Joseph Fielding Smith
"ZION: THE LAND OF JOSEPH. There are many references in the Bible to Zion, a land or place separate and distinct from Jerusalem. Two such passages are found in the 2nd chapter of Isaiah and the 4th chapter of Micah. It would be foolish to say that these references to Zion were to the hill in Jerusalem where David dwelt.
"...This western continent is known as the land of Joseph and is also designated as the land of Zion. The holy city which is to be built upon this land is sometimes called the City of Zion. We should keep in mind that these terms (City of Zion, and New Jerusalem) have reference to the same sanctified place from whence shall go forth the law, with the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
"....Palestine is to be the gathering place of the tribe of Judah and 'the children of Israel his companions,' after their long dispersion as predicted by the prophets. America is the land of Zion. It was given to Joseph, son of Jacob, and his descendants to be an everlasting inheritance. The children of Ephraim (son of Joseph) and 'all the house of Israel his companions,' will be gathered to Zion, or America.
"...In each land a holy city shall be built which shall be the capital from whence the law and the word of the Lord shall go forth to all peoples. The Savior said to the Nephites: 'Behold, this people will I establish in this land, unto the fulfilling of the covenant which I made with your father Jacob; and it shall be a New Jerusalem. And the powers of heaven shall be in the midst of this people; yea, even I will be in the midst of you.' (3 Ne 20:22)
"Moroni, writing of the Jaredites, has said: 'Behold, Ether saw the days of Christ, and he spake concerning a New Jerusalem upon this land. And he spake also concerning the house of Israel, and the Jerusalem from whence Lehi should come-after it should be destroyed it should be built up again, a holy city unto the Lord; wherefore, it could not be a new Jerusalem for it had been in a time of old; but it should be built up again, and become a holy city of the Lord; and it should be built unto the house of Israel.' (Ether 13:4-5)....
"ZION AND JERUSALEM: TWO WORLD CAPITALS. When Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, he learned that America is the land of Zion which was given to Joseph and his children and that on this land the City Zion, or New Jerusalem, is to be built. He also learned that Jerusalem in Palestine is to be rebuilt and become a holy city. These two cities, one in the land of Zion and one in Palestine, are to become capitals for the kingdom of God during the millennium....
"TEMPLES IN ZION AND JERUSALEM. 'And righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection of all men; and righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, unto a place which I shall prepare, an Holy City, that my people may gird their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming; for there shall be my tabernacle and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem.
"And the Lord said unto Enoch: Then shalt thou and all thy city meet them there, and we will receive them into our bosom, and they shall see us; and we will fall upon their necks, and they shall fall upon our necks, and we will kiss each other; And there shall be mine abode, and it shall be Zion, which shall come forth out of all the creations which I have made; and for the space of a thousand years the earth shall rest.' (Moses 7:62-4)
"When Christ comes in fulfillment of this promise, there will be on the earth two great cities made holy with holy sanctuaries, or temples. One will be the city of Jerusalem in the land of Judah, which shall be rebuilt; the other the city Zion, or the New Jerusalem, in the land of Joseph." (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 3, pp. 66-72)
Spencer W. Kimball
"In our own time we have seen the political developments that have prepared the way for the gathering of Judah to old Jerusalem, to the land of their inheritance. Our comparatively recent history has also unfolded the preparation of the land of the Americas for the restoration of the gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith, and we have witnessed much of the gathering of the remnants of Joseph in the land of the New Jerusalem and the grafting of the natural branches of Israel into the new tree of the restored gospel. We ourselves are witnessing the fulfillment of the words of the great prophet Isaiah: (quotes Isa. 2:2-3)
"And though we have seen the beginning only, yet shall the work of bringing Israel again to Zion expand to the uttermost parts of the earth. In this regard, I am reminded of the words of the prophet Habakkuk: 'For I will work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you.' (Hab. 1:5.)" ("Our Paths Have Met Again," Ensign, Dec. 1975, 4)
2 Ne 12:4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people
When the Savior comes again, the righteous will be rewarded and the wicked punished. Isaiah has prophesied elsewhere, 'But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked' (Isa 11:4). The judgment upon the wicked will take more than one form and will be accomplished through wars, destructions, earthquakes, famines, etc. The scriptures refer to this as the destruction of Babylon, the end of the world, or the destruction of the wicked. However, this verse seems to also apply to events after the wicked have already been destroyed, but why would people need to be rebuked after the Second Coming?
A common misconception is that everything will be perfect as soon as the Lord comes. The truth is that outside of Zion and Jerusalem, there will still be many who don't believe. Not everyone will immediately join the church. Others will commit sin, even without the temptations of Satan. The glory and order of Zion will not prevail over the entire earth. The heathen nations will need direction, and that direction will come from Zion and Jerusalem. '...then cometh the day when the arm of the Lord shall be revealed in power in convincing the nations, the heathen nations, the house of Joseph, of the gospel of their salvation. For it shall come to pass in that day, that every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language, through those who are ordained unto this power' (DC 90:10-11). Those who reject the Lord and his messengers during the Millenium will be judged and rebuked according to the word of Isaiah.
"There will be wicked men on the earth during the thousand years. The heathen nations who will not come up to worship will be visited with the judgments of God, and must eventually be destroyed from the earth." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], 268.)
2 Ne 12:4 they shall beat their swords into plow-shares
Isaiah is a Millenialist. He often prophesies of the great and peaceful state of affairs during the Millenium. After the Lord comes to slay the wicked and fight Israel's battles, peace will be established on the earth. There will be no more war for 1000 years, 'neither shall they learn war anymore.' This is in great contrast to the wars which will directly precede the Second Coming. During this time period, as the prophet Joel explains, the people will be doing just the opposite-beating their plow-shares into swords in preparation for the ensuing battle, 'Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong' (Joel 3:9-10).
One of the tragedies of war, other than the loss of life, is the remarkable waste of resources. We might ask, "what if we took all the money used to make swords and used it to make plowshares instead?"
"Every gun made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
"This world in arms is not spending money alone: It is spending the seat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children...This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. (Dwight D. Eisenhower, Peace With Justice: Selected Addresses of Dwight D. Eisenhower [New York: Columbia University Press, 1961], 37-38)
"Give me the money that has been spent on war,and I will clother every man, woman, and child in an attire of which kings and queens would be proud. I will build a schoolhouse in every valley over the whole earth. I will crown every hillside with a place of worship, consecrated to the gospel of peace." (Charles Sumner, as quoted by Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, Mar. 1971, 20)" (K. Douglas Bassett, Commentaries on Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, [American Fork, UT: Covenant Publishing Co., 2003], 37)
Dallin H. Oaks
"Many take comfort from the Old Testament prophecy that nations will 'beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks.' (Micah 4:3.) But this prophecy only applies to that time of peace which follows the time when the God of Jacob 'will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths.' (Micah 4:2.)
"For now, we have wars and conflicts, and everywhere they are rooted in violations of the commandments of God." ("World Peace," Ensign, May 1990, 72)
2 Ne 12:5 ye have all gone astray
Isaiah now turns to his people. They have turned their hearts from the Lord their God, 'everyone to his wicked ways.'
2 Ne 12:6 they be replenished from the east
Isaiah begins to explain why the Lord had forsaken his people. They had done several things which were abominable to the Lord.
1) 'they be replenished from the east' means that they had looked to neighboring nations to save them from their enemies when they should have been putting their trust in the arm of God to win their battles.
2) 'hearken unto soothsayers' means they had begun to listen to the astrologers of their day-the soothsayers and sorcerers instead of listening the prophets of God who had been sent to them to lead them and call them to repentance.
3) 'they please themselves in the children of strangers' means that they had begun to commit adultery with the pagan nations around them. This often led to the pagan practice of idolatry.
2 Ne 12:9 the mean man boweth not down
The footnote to chapter 12, verse 2 states, "Comparison with the King James Bible in English shows that there are differences in more than half of the 433 verses of Isaiah quoted in the Book of Mormon, while about 200 verses have the same wording as KJ V." This particular verse is a good example of how the changes made in the Book of Mormon version make more sense. In the Isaiah version this passage reads, 'the mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself: therefore forgive them not.' The Book of Mormon passage makes a lot more sense when describing the proud and haughty men of the last days which will be cut down by the power of the Lord. They will be humbled by the Lord because they would not humble themselves. This doctrine is the main theme of the next 13 verses.
2 Ne 12:11 the lofty looks of man shall be humbled
Henry B. Eyring
"This [verse] is describing a day when the Savior will come, a day we all look for and want our students to prepare for. This scripture says that in that day, all of us who thought we were special and wonderful will seem smaller, and the Lord will be exalted. We will see better who He is, how much we love Him, and how humble we should be...We need Him, and the faith we have in Him makes us see Him as great and exalted and ourselves as small and dependent." ("The Book of Mormon Will Change Your Life," Ensign, Feb. 2004, 10-11)
2 Ne 12:13 the cedars of Lebanon...and...the oaks of Bashan
These two types of wood were the finest, most sought after types of wood available in the days of Isaiah. The cedars of Lebanon were used to build the temple of Solomon (1 Kings 5:6). In this scripture these two types of timber represent the fine things in the world, royal authority, and the pride and loftiness of man's materialism. Zechariah similarly describes the trees of the forest as representing pride-a pride that will be destroyed when the Lord is exalted:
'Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars.
Howl, fir tree; for the cedar is fallen; because the mighty are spoiled: howl, O ye oaks of Bashan; for the forest of the vintage is come down.
There is a voice of the howling of the shepherds; for their glory is spoiled: a voice of the roaring of young lions; for the pride of Jordan is spoiled.' (Zech 11:3)
"The cedar is often figuratively alluded to in the sacred Scriptures. 'The mighty conquerors of olden days, the despots of Assyria and the Pharaohs of Egypt, the proud and idolatrous monarchs of Judah, the Hebrew commonwealth itself, the war-like Ammonites of patriarchal times, and the moral majesty of the Messianic age, are all compared to the towering cedar, in its royal loftiness and supremacy.' (Easton's Bible Dictionary, "Cedar")
"But you can find about half a dozen cedars of Lebanon today. In a few little pockets where they've been preserved you'll find a cedar. They've sprung up, and there may be a hundred or two in the land. That's about all there are. You can't find [many] cedars of Lebanon. It has been bare ever since, but at one time [Lebanon] supplied the world with all the timber it needed for thousands of years." (Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Lecture 74, p. 209)
2 Ne 12:16 upon all pleasant pictures
"'Pleasant Pictures' refers to the standards or figure heads of the ships. The prophet has, in the previous verses of this section, emphasized the fact that humiliation would be the consequence of pride. All that was high and exalted in its own estimation would be debased and humiliated. (vv. 12. Comp. v. 17.) He enumerates: The cedars of Lebanon, the oaks of Bashan, the mountains and hills, the nations and people, the towers and walls and, finally, the ships of the sea, even the largest, the Tarshish ships, with their proud standards or figure heads. All shall be made low, and the Lord alone shall be exalted. (v. 17)" (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, pp. 325-6)
2 Ne 12:20 a man shall cast his idols...to the moles and to the bats
"The imagery of verse 20 is striking: the people will throw their gold and silver idols to moles and bats, animals who are blind from living so long in darkness. The irony of this is that people who understood the material value of the precious metals, and should also have seen the spiritual impotence of the idols, will throw these precious items to animals who will not be able to see them at all." (Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet, by Victor L Ludlow, p. 92)
2 Ne 12:21 for fear of the Lord...when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth
Isaiah is still talking about 'the day of the Lord of Hosts' (v. 12). Therefore, this has reference to the destruction of the wicked and the time period around His Second Coming. In that context, the terrible shaking of the earth spoken of most likely has reference to the great earthquake described Rev. 11:13, 'And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.' In the D&C, it describes the same thing, 'And then shall the Lord set his foot upon this mount, and it shall cleave in twain, and the earth shall tremble, and reel to and fro, and the heavens also shall shake...and they that have watched for iniquity shall be hewn down and cast into the fire' (DC 45:48,50). This is a specific earthquake to take place in Jerusalem and it is different than the many other earthquakes which are also signs of the times. These will occur at various times and in various places, 'And there shall be earthquakes also in divers places, and many desolations' (DC 45:33).