“That He May Show Them Unto the Learned”

Monte S. Nyman

15 But behold, it shall come to pass that the Lord God shall say unto him to whom he shall deliver the book: Take these words which are not sealed and deliver them to another, that he may show them unto the learned, saying: Read this, I pray thee. And the learned shall say: Bring hither the book, and I will read them.11 And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it issealed:16 And now, because of the glory of the world and to get gain will they say this, and not for the glory of God. 17 And the man shall say: I cannot bring the book, for it is sealed. 18 Then shall the learned say: I cannot read it.12 And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned. [Isaiah 29:11–12]19 Wherefore it shall come to pass, that the Lord God will deliver again the book and the words thereof to him that is not learned; and the man that is not learned shall say: I am not learned. 20 Then shall the Lord God say unto him: The learned shall not read them, for they have rejected them, and I am able to do mine own work; wherefore thou shalt read the words which I shall give unto thee. [2 Nephi 27:15–20]

The Book of Mormon retains a much more detailed account of this prophecy than the King James text of Isaiah, which was literally fulfilled when Martin Harris took a copy of some of the translated characters from the plates to the learned linguist Professor Charles Anthon. Words from the unsealed part of the record to be given to “another” (Martin Harris) by the man to whom the book was delivered (Joseph Smith) (v. 9). The intentions of the learned were also foretold in Isaiah. The arguments regarding the authenticity of Martin Harris’ visit will not be treated here; suffice it to say his story has been authenticated. He told one story and maintained it over the years, while Anthon told several contradictory stories. The brief account given by Martin Harris (as recorded by Joseph Smith) shows the literal fulfillment of this prophecy (see JS—History 1:63–65).

Joseph Smith wrote that the angel Moroni quoted the prophecies of “the Old Testament” that were soon to be fulfilled (JS—History 1:36–41). He then wrote that “He [Moroni] quoted many other passages of scripture” to him that he did not record (JS—History 1:41). Oliver Cowdery, in relating some of those scriptures, cited Isaiah 29:11–14 as having been quoted by Moroni. Moroni probably referred to the whole chapter.

The Book of Mormon text of Isaiah shows the detail of the prophecy when it records that the Lord God would “deliver again the book … to him that is not learned” (v. 19; italics added). The plates were taken from Joseph after the first 116 pages of translated manuscript were lost. The plates were later returned to him (HC, 1:21–23). The Book of Mormon text further shows that the Lord was giving an opportunity for the learned to reject these words before he showed the world that he was not dependent upon the learned for the accomplishment of his purposes (v. 20).

Book of Mormon Commentary: I Nephi Wrote This Record