Thou Art My Servant O Israel in Whom I Will Be Glorified

Alan C. Miner

Andrew Skinner asks, "Who is this servant whom Isaiah announces in 1 Nephi 21? Isaiah provides us with some important clues as he describes this servant’s life and work. The servant would be someone:

1. who “the Lord hath called … from the womb” (21:1)

2. whose “mouth [was] like a sharp sword” (or spoke with authority) (21:2)

3. who was hidden “in the shadow of [the Lord’s] hand” (21:2)

4. who was “made … a polished shaft; in his quiver hath [the Lord] hid [this servant]” (21:2)

5. who would say, “I have labored in vain” (21:4)

6. who would authoritatively say, “And now, saith the Lord” (21:5)

7. who knew he was foreordained--“[the Lord] formed me from the womb” (21:5)

8. whose life work would be “to bring Jacob again to [the Lord]” (21:5)

9. who was “to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel” (21:6)

10. who the Lord would “give … for a light to the Gentiles” (21:6)

11. “whom man despiseth” yet “Kings shall see and arise, princes also” (21:7)

12. “who will be given ”for a covenant … to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages,“ to ”say to the prisoners: Go forth" (21:8-9)

Various aspects of these characteristics could probably be applied to several different individuals. Jewish theology maintains that this prophecy of the “suffering servant” depicts the Jewish nation, but, taken together, the words Isaiah uses to describe this helper of Israel in the latter days apply only to two beings: the Messiah and the Prophet Joseph Smith. Nephi and Lehi seem to know not only that Isaiah intended to prophesy of Jesus and Joseph Smith (see 2 Nephi 3), but also that the latter-day restoration of the gospel would help bring about the final redemption of Israel. Every true prophet is a type, a foreshadowing, or a symbol of the Lord Jesus Christ. However, with respect to Isaiah’s words here in 1 Nephi 21, consider the following concerning Joseph Smith:

1. He was called “from the womb,” or foreordained (2 Nephi 3:7-9, 14-15). He knew through revelation that he had been chosen to be the prophet of the restoration (see D&C 127:2). Indeed, Joseph said the following:

Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of heaven before this world was. I suppose I was ordained to this very office in that Grand Council. It is the testimony that I want that I am God’s servant, and this people His people. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 365.

2. He spoke the words of the Lord (see D&C 18:35-36; 21:5, 6:2)

3. He was “hid” by the Lord (see D&C 86:9)

4. He became a polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty:

I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else, striking with accelerated force against religious bigotry, priestcraft, lawyer-craft, … [etc.] Thus I will become a smooth and polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty. (Teachings, p. 304)

5. He at times felt that he labored in vain (see D&C 121:2)

6. He not only had the authority to speak for God, but many times these messages were prefaced by the very words Isaiah predicted: “Thus saith the Lord” (see D&C 52:1; 54:1; 55:1; 60:1; and 87:1, to name a few)

7-9. He brought forth the Book of Mormon and restored the gospel (see Mormon 8:16; D&C 5:9-10; 6:6; 109:67) He was commissioned to oversee the latter-day gathering of Israel (see D&C 110:11,16)

10. He is spoken of as “a light unto the Gentiles” (D&C 86:11). Note* Only one other person can claim that distinction--the Lord himself (see Isaiah 42:6).

11. He was both despised and revered (see Joseph Smith-History 1:33). He proclaimed that the gospel would be preached before “kings and rulers” (see D&C 1:23).

12. He was the servant through whom the eternal gospel covenant was reestablished (see D&C 1:17-22). Note* Surely it is not mere coincidence that D&C 1, where the Lord introduces Joseph to the world, begins with the same language as Isaiah 49:1 (1 Nephi 21:1)

[Andrew C. Skinner, “Isaiah 48-49 in 1 Nephi 19-22,” in Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, pp. 106-109]

Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon: A Cultural Commentary