Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh… free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself. (2 Ne. 2:27)
Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life. (2 Ne. 10:23)
Isaiah 57:1 the righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart
How often do the humble and righteous pass on without more fanfare than a funeral? Loved ones miss them dearly, but the natural man doesn’t really care. The world doesn’t stop and take notice. Every year, the online magazines post articles such as “who we lost this year,” with lists of celebrities, comedians, politicians, musicians, et cetera. These are the people whose deaths make headlines, not the humble followers of Christ.
If God notices the death of every sparrow (Matt. 10:29), then surely He takes notice when his righteous sons and daughters pass on. Though “no man layeth it to heart,” the Holy One of Israel “layeth it to heart” and sends his Holy Spirit to comfort the bereaved left behind.
Boyd K. Packer
One of the most solemn and sacred meetings of the Church is the funeral for a departed member. It is a time of caring and support when families gather in a spirit of tender regard for one another. It is a time to soberly contemplate doctrines of the gospel and the purposes for the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ…
A comforting, spiritual funeral is of great importance. It helps console the bereaved and establishes a transition from mourning to the reality that we must move forward with life. Whether death is expected or a sudden shock, an inspirational funeral where the doctrines of resurrection, the mediation of Christ, and certainty of life after death are taught strengthens those who must now move on with life. (https://www.lds.org/ensign/1988/11/funerals-a-time-for-reverence?lang=eng)
Isaiah 57:2 he shall enter into peace… each one walking in his uprightness
Chapter 57 is a compare and contrast chapter, where Isaiah compares the fate of the righteous to the fate of the wicked. The former can expect peace and comfort. The wicked can expect tribulation, “like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest… There is no peace to the wicked” (v. 20-21). Heber Q. Hale served as a stake president in the Boise Idaho stake. In 1920, he was permitted to travel into the world of spirits and feel the peace that pervaded there among the righteous:
“My first visual impression was the nearness of the world of sprits to the world of mortality. The vastness of this heavenly sphere was bewildering to the eyes of the spirit-novice. Many enjoyed unrestricted vision, and unimpeded action, while many others were visibly restricted as to both vision and action. The vegetation and landscape were beautiful beyond description; not all green as here, but gold with varying shades of pink, orange, and lavender as the rainbow. A sweet calmness pervaded everything. The people I met there I did not think of as spirits, but as men and women, self-thinking and self-acting individuals, going about important business in a most orderly manner. There was perfect order there and everybody had something to do and seemed to be about their busines
“That the inhabitants of the spirit world are classified according to their lives of purity, and their subservience to the Father's will, was subsequently made apparent.” (University of Utah Libraries, Special Collections, Heber Q. Hale manifestation transcript, 1920)
Speaking at the funeral of a Brother James Adams, the Prophet Joseph Smith spoke of the spirit’s passage through the doorway of death.
When men are prepared, they are better off to go hence. Brother Adams has gone to open up a more effectual door for the dead. The spirits of the just are exalted to a greater and more glorious work; hence they are blessed in their departure to the world of spirits. Enveloped in flaming fire, they are not far from us, and know and understand our thoughts, feelings, and motions, and are often pained therewith.(Teachings, 326)
Harold B. Lee
Brothers and sisters, my prayer is for all of us, that we may so live, that when our time comes, we may not be afraid to die, and that when we die, we may look confidently forward to a life, an eternal life, in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ… (Conference Report, Oct. 1947, 67)
Isaiah 57:3-12 draw near hither, ye sons of the sorceress, the seed of the adulterer and the whore
In the marriage metaphor, the children of Israel are betrothed to the Holy One of Israel. When they practice idolatry, they are committing adultery. Hence, the Lord says “behind the doors also… thou hast discovered thyself to another than me, and… thou hast enlarged thy bed, and made thee a covenant with them; thou lovedst their bed.” Instead of focusing on the incense being burned in the Holy Temple, the Jews had incense they burned in their own homes. Instead of pictures of the temple in the living room, they worshiped small idols in their own homes. Their idolatry was kept behind closed doors, as if no one could see them. The Lord compares it to adultery—effectually disrobing and jumping into bed with another man. But that was not the most abominable of their idolatrous practices.
The worst occurred in secret groves in the hills. Under cover of canopy of trees, secret rituals were carried out. They were sexualized rituals of the pagan gods and Canaanite goddess Ashteroth. These were the gods the Israelites were warned about from the time they left Egypt. Details of their practices are not preserved in much detail.
For they also built them high places, and images, and groves, on every high hill, and under every green tree.
And there were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the Lord cast out before the children of Israel. (1 Kgs. 14:23-24)
They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains, and burn incense on the hills, under oaks and poplars and elms, because the shadow thereof is good: therefore your daughters shall commit prostitution, and your spouses shall commit adultery. (Hosea 4:13)
Hence, Isaiah complains that the Jews had been “enflaming themselves with idols under every green tree,” and even more horrifying—performing human sacrifices according to pagan practices, “slaying the children in the valleys under the clifts of the rocks.”
“Slaying the children in the valleys under the clefts of the rocks. The sacrifice of their children to Moloch was largely practised by the Jews in the later period of the kingdom of Judah. It seems to have been originally introduced by the superstitious Ahaz, the father of Hezekiah, who "made his son to pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the heathen" (2 Kings 16:3; 2 Chronicles 28:3). Suspended during the reign of Hezekiah, it was renewed under Manasseh, who followed the example of his grandfather in himself sacrificing one of his sons (2 Kings 21:6). Under the last three kings it prevailed to a very wide extent, and the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel are loud in their denunciations of it (Jeremiah 7:31, 32; Jeremiah 19:2-6; Jeremiah 32:35; Ezekiel 16:20; Ezekiel 20:26; Ezekiel 23:37, etc.). Arguments have been brought forward to prove that the child was merely passed before a fire, or between two fires, and not burnt; but the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming (see the article on "Moloch" in Dr. W. Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible,' vol. 2, pp. 403, 404). The rite belonged especially to the worship of Chemosh and Moloch by the Moabites and Ammonites (2 Kings 3:27; Micah 6:7), from whom it was adopted by the Israelites (2 Kings 17:7) and Jews. The sacrifice was supposed to be expiatory (Micah 6:7). In the later times of the Jewish kingdom the place of sacrifice was the valley of Hinnom, west and north of Jerusalem, which is overhung by rugged rocks.” (http://biblehub.com/isaiah/57-5.htm)
Jehovah reminds them in sobering words, “I will declare thy righteousness, and thy works; for they shall not profit thee” (v. 12). Not many years ago, an exhibit featuring the Dead Sea Scrolls and many ancient artifacts from the days of King David to the Prophet Jeremiah were on display. Many artifacts from the days of Isaiah and Jeremiah were displayed. The most common artifact, by far, was a figurine of the Caananite goddess Ashtoreth or probably more accurately Asherah. There were so many of these figurines, the author was stunned.
The commandment, “thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image” (Ex. 20:3) was frequently ignored in Isaiah’s day. These idols made of stone have survived for 2700 years to declare the works and righteousness of children of Judah. The theme was always the same, a female figurine with exaggerated breasts, representing the fertility goddess Asherah.
Isaiah 57:10 Thou art wearied… yet saidst thou not, There is no hope: thou hast found the life of thine hand
When the prodigal is jealous of the swine eating the husks of the corn and thinks of his father, he “came to himself,” and decided to return (Lu. 15:17). But the prodigal doesn’t always return. Some prodigals, though weary with the greatness of the journey aren’t smart enough to recognize that they are responsible for their situation. They don’t take responsibility. They don’t even recognize that “there is no hope” in their wicked ways, neither is their happiness nor safety (Alma 41:10).
“Thou hast found the life of thine hand,” means don’t complain about the cards you have been dealt because everyone is their own dealer. If they sow righteousness, they reap righteousness. If their hands are helping hands, they receive mercy themselves. If their hands are covetous and adulterous, they are stolen from and cheated on. You have heard the idiom: you’ve made your own bed, now lie in it. As a man thinketh, so is he. Similarly, as a man doeth, so his life becomes. Or, “thou hast found the life of thine hand.”If you don’t like your life, the first person to blame is yourself. If you’re miserable, look in the mirror for the responsible party. The wicked have a hard time seeing who is at fault. The following is a true story of an Alcatraz prisoner, though born into a good Mormon family, found himself sitting on the steps of Alcatraz. His story illustrates the principle.
“One Saturday I was out in the yard, sitting up on the top step of the big steps. I was watching the cons just below me playing handball, looking up to the other end of the yard where they were playing baseball, and watching some of the cons walking up and down between the two activities.I was also looking at the Golden Gate Bridge.
“The wind was blowing from the southwest, San Francisco, and it was a warm sunny day. Then an odor came to me on the wind that shook me to the core. NEW MOWN GRASS! They must have been mowing the grass on the Marina Green. I hadn’t smelled new mown grass for years, but I immediately recognized the odor.
“Then I asked myself the question, ‘What am I doing here, when I could be where I could smell the grass?’ This question seemed very important to me and the next question was, ‘Why am I here?’ The answer to that was that I had tried to escape from Leavenworth. And before that I had some disciplinary problems in McNeil Island and I was there because I had helped rob a bank. Before that I was in San Quentin for stealing a car, carrying a gun, and assaulting another prisoner. Before that I had a General Court Martial in the Navy for going AWOL and served a year in Navy prison for assaulting a Marine guard.And before the Navy, I had my juvenile problems, and had left home when I was 15 years old, over my mother’s objections and tears.
“Then it dawned on me, like I had been hit with a baseball bat to get my attention. That everything I had done to get to this point in my life was BY MY OWN CHOICE. I had chosen to come to Alcatraz! I had actually been moving in the direction to put me in this spot at this time, by my own choice! I was sitting on these steps in Alcatraz looking at the view BY MY OWN CHOICE!
“It was an astounding revelation, and it took several minutes to sink in. That instant I realized the truth, that no one was responsible for my actions but me. All the blame I had placed on anybody else was gone. There was no rancor or ill feeling left for anyone but myself.” (Entombed in Alcatraz: an autobiography by Robert Luke, 60-61)
Isaiah 57:13-14 he that putteth his trust in me
Jehovah promises that those who trust in Him will possess the lands of their inheritance including the holy mountain of Jerusalem and the Temple. They will ask for the Lord to build them a road, to prepare the way, to remove all stumblingblocks from the path, and the Lord will do it. The Lord further promises, “I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners” (v. 18).
Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is (Jer. 17:7)
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Prov. 3:5-6)
Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday. (Ps. 37:3-6)
They that trust in the LORD shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever.
As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the LORD is round about his people from henceforth even for ever. (Ps. 125:1-2)
Isaiah 57:15 I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit
Part of the condescension of God is that he descends from his high and holy place to succor those of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. He promises, “to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” God knows the poor in spirit and promises them that they shall inherit the kingdom of heaven where they may dwell with him (Matt. 5:3). The Lord knows men’s weaknesses and how to succor them (D&C 62:1). He has a special, divine CPR He performs on those with a broken heart; when the humble have nothing left in the tank, He fills them with his Spirit to revive them.
Sylvester Q. Cannon
Only those who are contrite in spirit can enter into the presence of God. As the prophet Isaiah declared:
For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
The Savior illustrated this fundamental requirement when he placed a child in the midst of his disciples, saying: "Whosoever, therefore, shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven." On another occasion he declared: "Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased, and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted." So humility is a means of triumph, paradoxical as that may sound. But that triumph is not of the nature sought by those who are proud at heart. (Conference Report, April 1931, First Day—Morning Meeting 15)
Isaiah 57:20 the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest
Neal A. Maxwell
Being settled keeps us from responding to every little ripple of dissent as if it were a tidal wave. We are to be disciples, not oscillators, like a “reed shaken with the wind.” (Matt. 11:7) More members need the immense relief and peace which can come from being “settled” without which those individuals will be like “the troubled sea, when it cannot rest.” )Isa. 57:20)
There is another special reason to become settled: we will live in a time in which “all things shall be in commotion.” (D&C 88:91; D&C 45:26) The uncertainties, upheavals, and topsy-turviness of today’s world will be such that those who vacillate and equivocate will be tossed about by severe turbulence. (Conference Report, Oct. 1992, 67)
Isaiah 57:21 There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked
Harold B. Lee
To those who fail to heed the warnings of those who are striving to teach these principles and choose to go in the opposite course, they will eventually find themselves in the pitiable state which you are witnessing so often among us. The prophet Isaiah described the tragic result most dramatically when he repeated the words of God which came to him as he sought to fortify his people against the wickedness of the world, and I quote his words:
“… Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the Lord; and I will heal him. But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” (Isa. 57:19–21)
Other prophets have declared likewise, so forcibly as to not be misunderstood, that “wickedness never was happiness.” (Alma 41:10)
As I have prayerfully thought of the reasons why one chooses this course which is dramatically described by the prophet Isaiah—when one who has departed from the path which would have given him peace is like the troubled sea, casting up mire and dirt—it seems to me that it all results from the failure of the individual to have self-respect. Listen to these words of wisdom from those whose lives have been worthy of emulation and who have experienced the realities of the periods of time from which they speak. I quote:
“Self-respect—that corner-stone of all virtue.”
—Sir John Frederick William Herschel
Others have declared:
“Self-respect is the noblest garment with which a man can clothe himself, the most elevating feeling with which the mind can be inspired.”
“Every man stamps his value on himself. The price we challenge for ourselves is given us by others.—Man is made great or little by his own will.”
—Johann von Schiller
…Such are the fruits of self-respect… Rebellion in the land, disorder and the lack of love in the family, children disobedient to parents, loss of contact with God, all because that person has lost all respect for himself. (Conference Report, Oct. 1972, 2)