What's Going on in the Book of Mormon Isaiah Chapters? Here Are 3 Insights into the Verses


Editor’s Note: Tammy Uzelac Hall is the host of  LDS Living’s Sunday on Monday, a new weekly podcast focused on Come, Follow Me that dives into the hidden treasures of the gospel. Here are questions readers might have in their studies of the Book of Mormon this week, accompanied by Hall's insights that add new meaning to the beloved verses.

Question: Isaiah 2:2 and 2 Nephi 12:2 say that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains. What exactly does this mean?

Answer: Mountains were among the first places where God would commune with and teach His people His ways—they were essentially temples. Here are a few examples of people in the scriptures who communed with God on mountains:

The experiences the prophets had on the tops of mountains held great significance. It was here that Moses received the call to deliver Israel. It was here that Nephi received the interpretation of his father's dream, and where the Brother of Jared saw the finger of the Lord. 
In New Testament times, it appears that Peter, James, and John all received their endowment while on the Mount of Transfiguration [See Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. (1954–56), 2:165]. While on the mount, they received the more sure word of prophecy when it was revealed to them that they were sealed up unto eternal life (2 Peter 1:16–19; Doctrine and Covenants 131:5).

Another example of how mountains are like temples is from more recent Church history. Pioneer Addison Pratt missed the opportunity to receive his endowment in Nauvoo because he was away as a missionary in the South Pacific at the time. In 1849, he was about to leave again on a mission to the Society Islands, or French Polynesia, but both Pratt and Church leaders wanted him to receive this powerful ordinance before he left. Ensign Peak, now located in Salt Lake County, became a temporary temple for the purpose.

Minutes of the event published in the book The Development of LDS Temple Worship 1846–2000 record that on July 21, 1849, Brigham Young, six members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and other general authorities met atop the hill with Pratt at 6 a.m. Young prayed and "consecrated the spot for the present purpose of giving . . . Pratt his endowment that we might have power to erect a standard that should be glorified in the eyes of all its beholders, that no unholy thing might come here, that thy servants may come here to offer up prayers and obtain the ministration of angels."

Church historian B.H. Roberts wrote that the "action was in harmony with the instructions of the Prophet [Joseph Smith] in Nauvoo when he said that these ordinances of the temple under certain circumstances might be obtained on the mountaintop, as Moses obtained them." However, Devery S. Anderson, editor of The Development of LDS Temple Worship, wrote that Pratt's endowment is the only one documented to have occurred on Ensign Peak.1

Question: Please explain the description of the “Daughters of Zion” in 2 Nephi 13.

Answer: The most common interpretation and teaching of these verses typically focuses on women and girls and is used as an opportunity to teach about modesty and virtue. But let’s look at these verses of scripture through a different lens. 

The Hebrew language can be confusing at times, and the “Marriage Metaphor” of Christ being married to the Church, which is characterized as a woman, can make us forget that even when scriptures like this talk about daughters and brides and women, they are actually speaking about all of God’s covenant people. These verses about the “Daughters of Zion” are not meant to criticize or marginalize women. Here are some things to consider that might clarify what these descriptions mean:

  •  The phrase Daughter[s] of Zion is a term always used to represent Israel, Jerusalem, and Judah. Regarding the phrase “Daughters of Zion,” Joseph Fielding Smith taught that “Moreover, this remark pertains to the men as well as to the women.”Religious scholar Robert L. Millett also teaches that, "daughters of Zion" (Isaiah 3:16; Zechariah 9:9) came to refer to the men and women of Jerusalem who were recipients of either God's wrath or his blessing” (emphasis added).Another commentary entitled Understanding Isaiah notes that Isaiah 3:16–26 seems to indicate that the phrase "daughters of Zion" (3:16) speaks not just against women but against all Israel, male and female.4
  •  In 2 Nephi 13:17, it may seem harsh that the Lord will “smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion,” but there is symbolic answer and reason for this phrase. It is about being unclean, and this uncleanliness is what will force the Lord to “discover her secret parts.” In Hebrew, to discover her secret parts means He will עָרָה arah, lay bare (Brown Driver Briggs, 788), or in other words uncover. The Lord is explaining to covenant Israelite that He would cover his “bride” and offer her protection, but to those who forsook their covenants, He could not offer the same protection, leaving them bare, exposed, and unprotected. As one scholar said about verse 16, “Because of her filthiness, the Lord expresses His intention of uncovering her nakedness before all her lovers and of bringing about her death.”5
    This promise and rebuke applies to all those on the covenant path in our day.

Question: What does the phrase “bravery of their tinkling ornaments” mean in 2 Nephi 13:18 

Answer: In the Hebrew translation of the Bible, the word for “bravery” is Tipharah, which actually means "beauty; glory." It stems from the Hebrew root word Paar, which means "to beautify; glorify". But the word bravery is a mistranslation in 2 Nephi 13:18. This is the only instance in the Bible where Paar word is translated as bravery. All other uses in the Bible mean beauty and glory. So, what is the beauty and glory that the Lord will take away? The beauty and glory of covenants. All of the items mentioned in verses 18–26 are items a bride would have prepared for her wedding and worn on her wedding day, as well as items that the bridegroom would offer the bride’s family as what was called a “bride price.” A careful study of the items in these verses will show is that  some of the items listed correspond to items worn in the temple. Let’s look at some of those items:

2 Nephi 13:18–21/Isaiah 3:19–21 Chains, bracelets, rings, and nose jewels (see Genesis 24:22, 47). These items were given as a bride price, and the bride would wear them on her wedding day.6 See Isaiah 61:10 and Ezekiel 16.

2 Nephi 13:22 Changeable suits of apparel. As part of the bride price, “two garments or alternate apparel” were given. There is a belief that these were for both the bride and groom to wear on their journey “on the day they led her away” from the bride’s home to her new home with the groom.7

2 Nephi 13: 23 This verse describes sacred temple clothing as well as the clothing worn under the bride’s dress. Linen was never worn as an everyday fabric. It was always reserved for and worn by the high priest in the tabernacle. It was also worn on a bride’s wedding day(Ezekiel 16:10, 13). Margaret Barker wrote: “The linen robe is ‘the bright array of glory’ and the one who wears it ‘is now replenished with insatiable contemplation face to face”8 —face to face with the Lord and face to face with her husband. 

2 Nephi 13:24 There are several items in this verse.

1) Brides were anointed with oil before the wedding in preparation for the day. Both Ruth and Esther were washed and anointed with oil prior to their nuptials. “Wash thyself … and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee as a bride prepares herself for marriage” (see Ezekiel 16:8–9, Ruth 3).
2) Also in this verse is a description of a girdle and a rent. The girdle is a sash like the ones worn in the temple. A young bride would tie a sash around her waist as a symbol of fidelity to her husband, and on her wedding night she would remove the sash and hand it to her groom as a covenant symbol of fidelity to him and the marriage. A rent is a rope used to tie up servants and slaves of the Old Testament and is a symbol of being bound to Satan and subject to the whims of sin instead of being bound to the Savior through our covenants.
3) When the verse talks about “instead of well set hair, baldness; and instead of a stomacher, a girding of sackcloth; burning instead of beauty,” these terms reflect the Lord's judgment on Israel. Baldness is one of God's judgments on the wicked (Jeremiah 47:4–5, 48:37; Ezekiel 7:18), and it may refer to the humiliating Babylonian punishment in which the hair of the forehead would be shaved off.
2 Nephi 13:25–26 says, “Thy men shall fall by the sword and thy mighty in the war. And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she shall be desolate, and shall sit upon the ground.” Throughout scripture, God has lovingly offered His protection. Jehovah has promised to fight the battles with and for His covenant keepers (See Exodus 14:13–14, 2 Chronicles 20:15, 17), but when they leave and chose to follow another, He can’t help us. Isaiah spent his mission warning Jehovah’s covenant people of this result for not keeping their covenants.

2 Nephi 14:1/Isaiah 4:1 Biblical scholars agree that Isaiah 4:1 should actually be the last verse of Isaiah 3, making it Isaiah 3:27and Isaiah 4 should begin with verse 2. (The same hold true for these chapters and verses in 2 Nephi—the first verse of chapter 14 should be verse 27 of chapter 13.) So let’s take a look at some of the symbols and references in those verses as well.

“Women” are a symbol for Christ’s people: the 10 virgins, the virtuous woman, and the seven women in this verse are referring to the Saints. This is because the number seven in Hebrew represents being whole or complete. For example, there are seven churches in Asia spoken of in Revelation, the children of Israel walked seven times around Jericho, and Christ refers to himself as the great “I Am” seven times in the Bible. And God rested on the seventh day—the number seven is divinely perfect, unbreakable.

With this knowledge about the number seven, the verse might read that a whole, complete unbreakable group of Christ’s people will take hold of one man. But who is the “one man”? The man in this verse is Christ. He is the only one who can take away our reproach, or as the word also means in Hebrew, disgrace.

The wording of this scripture is the ultimate expression of being destitute and bereft. This is a metaphor explaining that these “women” need help and what they are willing to do to get it. They plead with one man to take away their reproach—the Old Testament reproach of being single and childless. In the Jewish culture, being childless was considered to be a curse form God, because they believed it was God that opened their womb (see Genesis 30:22–24). But the reproach has nothing to do with actually being single and childless.

If Christ is the husband, what reproach are we asking Him to take away? We are asking Him to take away our reproach, or our disgrace of sin. In this scripture, a covenant has been broken, and we are asking for forgiveness and a reinstatement of the beauty and glory that comes from being covenant keepers. The Daughters of Zion—the people of Zion—will be called holy and He will be a place of refuge, a covert from the storm (2 Nephi 14:6, Isaiah 4:6).

The "Sunday on Monday" study group is a Deseret Bookshelf PLUS+ original presented by LDS Living. You can access the full study group discussion through the Bookshelf app. Listen to a segment of this week's episode below or listen to the full Sunday on Monday episode here. 

1. Lee Davidson, “How One Utah Hill Became a Mormon Temple for a Day,” Salt Lake Tribune, March 31, 2015.

2. Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith Jr. [1966], 5:174,

3. Susan Easton Black, Robert L. Millett, Doctrines for Exaltation: The 1989 Sperry Symposium on the Doctrine and Covenants, Deseret Book, 1989.

4. Tina M. Peterson, Jay A Parry, and Donald W. Parry Understanding Isaiah pg. 2. Deseret Book, 1998.

5. Sydney B. Sperry. Voice of Israel’s Prophets. Pg. 206, 1953.

6. Joseph and Aseneth The Apocryphal Old Testament (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984), pp. 473-503.

7. Samuel Greengus, “Old Babylonian Marriage Ceremonies and Rites,” in Journal of Cuneiform Studies 20 (1966): 55–7.

8. Margaret Barker. The Gate of Heaven: The History and Symbolism of the Temple in Jerusalem. Sheffeld, England: Sheffeld Phoenix Press, 2008. 

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