“Precept Upon Precept”

Brant Gardner

Note: Verse 30 is intentionally repeated. The previous commentary on verse 30 is an important prelude to understanding Nephi’s usage, but that usage is not apparent until verse 31. Verse 30 is repeated here to provide the continuation that helps supply Nephi’s expansion of Isaiah’s text.

Remembering that the poetic import of Isaiah is of a nearly childish mode of instruction, note the specific cursing which follows verse 30. Verse 31 is an explicit condemnation of those who put their trust in man, and particularly those who hearken to the precepts of men. Remember also that these verses are following Nephi’s series of woe-statements, and that verse 32 is yet another explicit woe-statement. While the “woe” is not explicit, the opening word “cursed” in verse 30 is ample recognition of the condemnatory tone of the unit.

In the structural context of Nephi’s usage, verses 30 and 31 must form some type of condemnation, and should function as a woe-statement, just as the surrounding verses do. What Nephi has done is take Isaiah’s usage of the simple teaching, and has turned it back upon the learned (or the rich and the learned to be closest to Nephi’s terminology). For Nephi, this very simple learning is contrasted with that of men, which by assertion of the pride of men would be much more sophisticated than the teachings of God. Nephi’s condemnation here is a continuation of his condemnation of those who deny God, and who prefer to be puffed up in the pride of their own learning. They may self-exalt their sophistication, and deride the word of God as childish, yet it is that simple “line upon line, precept upon precept” that will ultimately save, not the self-proclaimed greater sophistication of the learning of men.

Multidimensional Commentary on the Book of Mormon