It shames me to say that I’ve only read the verses of Isaiah sparingly and rather grudgingly at that. Though Isaiah was brilliant, for a young mind like mine he was quite impossible to understand. Just reading about him in the Book of Mormon was enough for me. Fortunately, my ignorance regarding the wisdom of Isaiah would soon be revealed. In just 45 short minutes, Sister Ann N. Madsen changed my perspective of the enigmatic Isaiah.
Sister Madsen conveyed such love for the book of Isaiah. It was infectious, I must admit. As she positioned herself upon the pulpit, her grandmotherly eyes seemed to see all. “It’s quite a challenge to open Isaiah in 45 minutes,” she stated “but let’s scratch the surface.” She began by stressing the importance of noticing the related history and politics of Isaiah’s time. Isaiah draws from his environment and prophesies to the people of his time, using experiences available to all.
Isaiah speaks using metaphors. He prophesies boldly and in poetry. Unlike English poetry rhyming merely words, Hebrew poetry has rhyming ideas, also known as Chiasmus. When one reads Isaiah, imagination must be used. As Sister Madsen said “[The book of] Isaiah is a repository of gospel truths revealed to a man of great intellectual power who uses symbols to make it accessible to all.” Metaphors speak to people on an individual level. Experience alone can change the understanding one takes from a metaphor.
I delighted in Sister Madsen’s explanation of Chapter 6 of the book of Isaiah. At this point, Isaiah has seen Jesus Christ. From that moment on, you can feel Isaiah’s deep devotion for his Savior that can never be shaken. Isaiah is a prophet of hope, and he invites his people to “walk in the light of the lord.” Like all prophets, Isaiah must call his people to repentance. However, he does not despair as, Sister Madsen jokes, Jeremiah does in Lamentations.
Though I cannot write all that I have felt in this great lecture, I felt the spirit so strongly in that room. As Sister Madsen said, “the adversary will tell us to not read the book, but if we don’t open Isaiah then we are kept from his marvelous witness of Christ”