Terry B. Ball, “Isaiah and the Latter-day Temple,” in An Eye of Faith: Essays in Honor of Richard O. Cowan, ed. Kenneth L. Alford and Richard E. Bennett (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City, 2015), 31–45.
Isaiah and the Latter-day Temple
Terry B. Ball
Terry B. Ball was a professor of ancient scripture and former dean of Religious Education at Brigham Young University when this article was published.
The painting by Harry Anderson, entitled The Prophet Isaiah Foretells Christ's Birth, depicts the prophecy of Isaiah regarding the birth of Jesus Christ. (Painting by Harry Anderson)
Dr. Richard O. Cowan has devoted much of his research and teaching life to the topic of temples and temple worship. Over the course of his career he has published two books, a course manual, more than twenty articles, and numerous encyclopedia entries on the topic in addition to teaching thousands of students and giving scores of other lectures and presentations about temples. His book Temples to Dot the Earth, which he has regularly revised and updated through the years, remains the most comprehensive work chronicling the history of Latter-day Saint temples and temple worship. His corpus of writings and teachings affirms the significance of latter-day temples and invites us to understand temple worship in antiquity as well.
As Nephi taught from the writings of Isaiah, he encouraged his people to “liken” the prophet’s teachings unto themselves and “unto all men” (2 Nephi 11:8). Nephi regularly followed his own counsel in this regard, and so did his brother Jacob (see 1 Nephi 19:23; 2 Nephi 6:5; 11:2). For example, Isaiah 29:1–4 would have been understood by Isaiah’s contemporaries as a prophecy that Jerusalem would experience invasion, siege, disasters, and conquest, leaving its inhabitants to “whisper” from the grave, “out of the dust,” like one who communicates with the dead through a necromancer or “familiar spirit.” Though the prophecy is clearly speaking of Jerusalem, “the city where David dwelt,” Nephi used the prophet’s words and teachings to illustrate how his own people would come under siege, suffer destruction, and “whisper out of the dust” through their written record (2 Nephi 26:14–16).
In this study I will follow Nephi’s example and encouragement by considering how Isaiah’s prophecies regarding temples and temple worship can be likened to us. In doing so, I will briefly discuss how the prophecies may have been understood in Isaiah’s day and offer suggestions of how they have been or could be likened to current Latter-day Saint understanding and practice.
“The Mountain of the Lord’s House”
The second chapter of Isaiah opens with a glorious vision of “the mountain of the Lord’s house” in the latter days: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths” (Isaiah 2:2–3; cf. Micah 4:1–2).
Isaiah’s contemporaries likely understood “the mountain of the Lord’s house” to be the political kingdom or government of God in the end of days that will draw all nations to it, or perhaps more literally as the actual mount upon which the temple of Solomon was built that would, through some great upheaval, be physically raised above all the surrounding topography. Most people of Isaiah’s day would have associated the “Lord’s house” with the temple built upon the mount.
Latter-day Saints often understand “the mountain of the Lord” and “the house of the Lord” to be one and the same thing; that is to say, we typically visualize the mountain of the Lord as a metaphor for the temple itself. A mountain as a metaphor for a temple seems to make good sense to us. We recognize mountain tops as truly “exalted above the hills” (2:2), separated from the world and closer to the heavens, just as we view temples as places where we can be apart from the world and draw nearer to God. Likewise, we go to temples today to learn, enter into covenants, and seek divine aid just as ancient prophets such as Moses, Elijah, Nephi, and the brother of Jared went to mountains to petition God, to be instructed of him, or to make covenants (see Exodus 3:1–4; 19:1–6, 20; 31:18; 34:1–5; Moses 1:1–2; 1 Kings 19:8–13; 1 Nephi 11:1; 17:7; 2 Nephi 24:25; Ether 3:1).
Furthermore, mountains dominate the landscape. They cannot be ignored. They demand our attention, provide a means for us to orient ourselves in the world, and dictate our courses of travel. So too, temples and temple worship are ever in the hearts and consciences of faithful Latter-day Saints. They beckon to us. From the time we are children, we are taught to set our life’s compass towards the temple and live worthy to participate in temple worship. We further perceive that mountains are firm and enduring. They persist through the ages. Temple ordinances and covenants are likewise, and even more enduring, for they are eternal. Perhaps most significantly, the view from mountaintops is spectacular. From there we see the world laid out before us in its grand perspective, review the paths we took to reach the summit, and see the paths we must follow to arrive at our next destination. The eternal vista we behold in temples is equally spectacular. Therein we see our existence and mortality in its true and eternal perspective. We learn how we arrived at our current state and are taught the paths we must follow to reach our divine destiny. Could there be a more meaningful metaphor than a mountain for latter-day temples and temple worship?
Exemplary of Isaiah's prophecy, the Provo Utah Temple was "established in the top of the mountains" (Isaiah 2:2). (Photo by Matt Reier.)
“All Nations Shall Flow unto It”
Isaiah indicated that “all nations would flow” unto this mountain in the top of the mountains (2:2; emphasis added). The verb translated as “flow” in this verse comes from the Hebrew root nahar, literally meaning to stream or flow, and in its noun form means a stream or river. The text thus seems to be suggesting that this flow to the mountain is remarkably upwards rather than down. For Latter-day Saints this imagery can serve not only to emphasize the miraculous aspect of the vision but also to teach what would be required of those endeavoring to go to the temple. Nothing flows upwards without investing significant energy and effort.
The Hebrew term goyim translated as “nations” in this passage can mean people in general but is more often translated as “Gentiles” in Isaiah (for example, see Isaiah 11:10; 42:1, 6; 49:6, 22; 54:3; 60:3, 5, 11, 16). Latter-day Saints find a fulfillment of the prophecy that Gentile nations shall flow unto the mountain of the Lord as they witness individuals and families from nations around the world enter temples to worship and receive temple ordinances. It probably would not have occurred to Isaiah’s contemporaries that this prophecy could be understood to be speaking of those from Gentile nations actually entering and ministering in the temple. During most of Old Testament times only priests could enter the temple and perform temple rites. When Moses first brought the children of Israel to Mount Sinai, God had offered to make of them a “kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:1–6), perhaps suggesting that all Israel would be able to enter the temple and participate in ordinances there, but they “hardened their hearts” (D&C 84:23–24) and failed to receive the blessing (see Exodus 19:16–24; 20:19; D&C 84:19–26; 1 Nephi 17:30). Consequently, rather than Israel becoming a kingdom of priests at that time, the Lord took priests from the men of the tribe of Levi, and they alone ministered in the temple (see Exodus 28:41; Numbers 1:50; 3:10; 8:5–26; 18:1–7). Such was still the practice when Isaiah gave this prophecy. Accordingly, most of Isaiah’s contemporaries probably understood this prophecy simply to mean that in the last days Gentile nations would come to the political and religious home of Jehovah to learn “of his ways” and “walk in his paths” (2:3) rather than to actually worship and minister in the temple.
Artist's rendition of how the completed Provo City Center Temple will appear.
“A Place and a Name”
Chapter 56 of Isaiah seems to offer some clarification on the issue of Gentiles and temple worship and perhaps offer some indication that someday they could actually enter in the temple. After admonishing the covenant people to “Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed” (56:1), the Lord pronounces a blessing on those who follow his commandments, keep the Sabbath, and avoid doing evil (see 56:2). He then extends a blessing to faithful “strangers” (or foreigners) and to eunuchs, two classes of individuals who had great restrictions placed upon them in regards to worship under Mosaic law. According to the law, eunuchs were specifically prohibited from entering into “the congregation of the Lord.” Even if a eunuch were a Levite, he could not enter the sanctuary (see Leviticus 21:17–23). Moreover, Gentile foreigners, especially Ammonites and Moabites, but also Edomites and Egyptians unto the third generation, were banned from worshipping with the Lord’s people (see Deuteronomy 23:3–8). But in Isaiah 56 the Lord appears to foretell a time and the conditions under which such prohibitions will be removed.
Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the Lord, speak, saying, The Lord hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree.
For thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;
Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.
Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant;
Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people. (Isaiah 56:3–7; emphasis added)
This prophecy most likely would have been understood by those of Isaiah’s day to mean that, like others of the covenant people, Gentile converts and faithful eunuchs were to be allowed to bring sacrifices to the temple door or outer premises and have them offered on their behalf by the priests who ministered inside the temple, but in likening it to our day, Latter-day Saints can find in the phrases “within my walls” and “in my house” support for our practice of allowing all who are worthy to enter and worship within our temples.
Latter-day Saints familiar with Restoration temples and temple work can find additional meaning for our day in the language of this prophecy. For us the promise that those who worthily worship at the temple will receive an “everlasting name” (56:5) that gives them special place among God’s children makes excellent sense, for we believe that ordinances performed and covenants made in Restoration temples are eternal. Likewise, the phrase “a place and a name” can be insightful for us (56:5). The phrase is translated from the Hebrew yad va shem. Other versions translate it as “a memorial and a name” (e.g., New International Version, New Living Translation) or “a monument and a name” (e.g., English Standard Version, International Standard Version). The Hebrew word yad is usually translated in the KJV as “a hand,” though depending on the context it is also figuratively translated as “power” or “strength” (e.g., 2 Kings 9:24; 19:26; Job 1:12); “side,” “wayside,” or “beside” (e.g., Exodus 2:5; 1 Samuel 4:13, 18; 2 Samuel 15:2; Job 1:14); or as a “place” in the sense of a memorial or monument (e.g., Numbers 2:17; Deuteronomy 2:37; 1 Samuel 15:12; 2 Samuel 18:18). Though yad is translated as “hand” more than 450 times in the KJV of the Old Testament, in the context of Isaiah 56:4 the translation “hand and a name” makes little sense to typical translators, while “place and a name” or “memorial and a name” seems to have some meaning. Latter-day Saints can agree, but we also can find meaning in the translation “hand and a name,” for in the temple we share hands of fellowship and covenant.
For Priests and for Levites
In the closing chapter of Isaiah the prophet records another pronouncement by Jehovah that can be understood to further discuss Gentiles and the temple. Therein the Lord speaks of gathering “all nations and tongues” to see his glory (66:18) and sending them forth to those “that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles” (66:19). Jehovah further explains that these missionaries among the Gentiles will then “bring all your brethren for an offering unto the Lord out of all nations. . . to my holy mountain Jerusalem. . . as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the Lord. And I will also take of them for priests and for Levites” (66:20–21; emphasis added). Perhaps Isaiah’s people understood the “brethren” from whom the priests and Levites were to be chosen to be Israelites of the Diaspora scattered among the Gentile nations. Today Latter-day Saints can liken these gathered brethren privileged to be priests and Levites to any who become part of the covenant people by conversion to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and who qualify to worship and serve in Restoration temples. Rather than being mere observers or even worshippers relegated to the outer premises of the temple as in ancient Mosaic law temples, these faithful latter-day converts can be full participants, enjoying the privilege of entering, ministering, and worshipping in the house of the Lord, even as the priests and Levites of Isaiah’s day served in their temples. So “shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord” (66:23).
Acceptance on Mine Altar
One more reference to faithful Gentiles and temple worship can be found in chapter 60 of Isaiah. Isaiah explains that following a period of apostasy in which “darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people,” the Lord will “arise upon” Israel and his glory will be “seen upon” them (60:2–3). He declares that Gentiles will then be drawn to the “light” of Israel and that out of these Gentiles “sons shall come from far” and “daughters” to be “nursed” at their side (60:4). He promises that the covenant children and these faithful Gentiles will “flow together” because the “abundance of the sea,” likely meaning the scattered and lost, will be “converted” and gathered (60:5; cf. 11:10–16). He assures that as these converted Gentiles gather, their flocks “shall come up with acceptance on mine altar” (60:6, 7). Again, while ancient Israelites would interpret this to mean that animals from Gentile flocks will be accepted by the priests for sacrifice, Latter-day Saints can also see this as a promise that converts to the gospel in our day will be allowed to participate in temple worship.
“He Will Teach Us of His Ways”
The primary function of the Levitical temples of Isaiah’s day was to provide a place where priests could perform the rites and offerings of the Mosaic law, especially rites of sacrifice, propitiation, and purification (see Exodus 29–30; Leviticus 1–17; 22–24), but the nations flowing to the latter-day temple of Isaiah’s vision appear to be going to the house of the Lord for something more as they declare, “Let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths” (2:3).
Latter-day Saints can recognize in the declarations “he will teach us of his ways” and “we will walk in his paths” (2:3) much of the purpose for our temple worship, especially in regards to the endowment ordinance. An endowment is a gift. We can describe the temple endowment as a gift God offers to those worthy and willing to receive it. One way to understand the endowment is to think of it as a gift having two parts: a gift of knowledge and a gift of power. It is often said that “knowledge is power,” but the temple endowment seems better understood by separating the two; for indeed, it can be one thing to know how to do something and a very different thing to have the power to actually do it. When we receive the endowment in Restoration temples, if we have been endowed as we should be, we leave the house of the Lord having obtained both a gift of new sacred knowledge and a gift of access to the power to put that knowledge to use.
The gift of knowledge given in the temple endowment can be defined as an understanding of all that is required to enter God’s presence in preparation for receiving our exaltation. The gift of power offered in the endowment is obtained by keeping the covenants we make in the temple. Keeping covenants empowers us. We understand that if we do not keep our temple covenants and refuse to repent, we may retain some or even all of the knowledge we have obtained in the endowment, but we will never have the power or opportunity to use that knowledge to enter God’s presence. Thus we obtain and retain the gift of knowledge by participating in temple worship as regularly as our circumstances permit, and we access the gift of power by keeping the temple covenants we make.
Accordingly, Latter-day Saints can recognize their own reason for receiving the temple endowment in the words of those flowing to the mountain of the Lord’s house in Isaiah’s glorious vision. Their declaration “he will teach us of his ways” (2:3) can remind us of how we obtain the gift of knowledge—by learning of God’s ways in his house. Their pledge “we will walk in his paths” (2:3) can remind us of how we obtain the gift of power—by keeping our covenants.
The Names Written Therein
Chapters 34 and 35 of Isaiah conclude a section of the prophet’s writings that is sometimes called “Isaiah’s Apocalypse” (chapters 24–35). These two chapters seem to provide a synopsis of Isaiah’s apocalyptic message. While chapter 34 focuses primarily on the destruction of the wicked, especially the Edomites (see 34:6), graphically describing their slaughter and the ecological devastation that will occur in their lands on the “day of the Lord’s vengeance” (34:1–15), chapter 35 contains a euphoric description of the bounty and blessings that await the faithful (35:1–2, 5–10). The final two verses of chapter 34 appear to provide a bridge or transition between these two opposing fates in that great day. “Seek ye out of the book of the Lord, and read: no one of these shall fail, none shall want her mate: for my mouth it hath commanded, and his spirit it hath gathered them. And he hath cast the lot for them, and his hand hath divided it unto them by line: they shall possess it forever, from generation to generation shall they dwell therein” (34:16–17).
The identity of those who would not “fail,” who would not want for a “mate,” and who would be given the land to “dwell therein” forever is unclear in the context of this passage. Some may conclude that the prophet was referring to the wild beasts, solitary birds, and scavengers that would inhabit the desolate land of Edom or Idumea after the destruction of the wicked (see 34:11–15). Others may decide that the prophet had in mind those individuals who will dwell in the blessed and productive land of the faithful (see 35:1–2).
With insights from the Joseph Smith Translation (hereafter JST) and the Doctrine and Covenants, Latter-day Saints can find some clarification to this question of identity as well as doctrine relating to the blessings of the sealing ordinance performed in Restoration temples that seals husbands and wives together for eternity. The JST adds a significant phrase to the text of Isaiah. “Seek yee [sic] out of the book of the Lord, and read the names written therein; no one of these shall fail. None shall want her mate. . . . They shall possess it forever; from generation to generation they shall dwell there in” (JST, Isaiah 34:16–17; emphasis added). The added phrase “the names written therein” suggests that those about whom the prophet is speaking are individual people rather than wild animals or fowl.
The promises given to those whose names are recorded in the book of the Lord (34:16, 17) beg the question “What is the book of the Lord and how does one get his or her name recorded therein?” In his apocalypse, John the Revelator spoke of “books” out of which we will be judged that record the works of humankind (Revelation 20:12–15). A revelation given through the prophet Joseph Smith to W. W. Phelps likewise speaks of books that record the names and works of individuals and that will be used to determine their eternal inheritances (D&C 85:6–11). In commenting on the book of life out of which we will be judged, Joseph Smith explained that when an ordinance “which God has prepared for [our] salvation” is “truly and faithfully” performed under priesthood authority and recorded on earth, it is also recorded in the books in heaven (D&C 128:6–9; cf. D&C 85:9). For Latter-day Saints, the “book of the Lord” of which Isaiah speaks can be likened to such records. We can understand that if our names are in “the book”—that is, if we have had saving ordinances, especially the sealing ordinance, properly performed, witnessed, and recorded—then we are candidates to receive an eternal inheritance (34:17), and that eternal inheritance is to be enjoyed with our spouses, for none who are in the book shall “want,” or lack, for his or her “mate” (34:16).
As we liken Isaiah’s temple prophecies to ourselves, Latter-day Saints can find much in his teachings that affirms our understanding of temples and temple worship. In a fulfillment of his prophecies we see ourselves living in the day when the “mountain of the Lord’s house” is recognized for its importance and venerated (see 2:2). We are witnesses of the day in which individuals from all nations are drawn to the light of the Lord (see 60:1–7) and flow to his temples, there to be endowed with knowledge and power as they learn of God’s ways and walk in his paths (see 2:3). We recognize these temple worshippers enter the house of the Lord having priesthood authority to minister and to participate in the ordinances (see 66:19–21), with the assurance that because of their faithfulness their labors in God’s house are acceptable to him (see 56:6–7; 59:4–7). We rejoice as husbands and wives who live true to their covenants are sealed for eternity and assured an everlasting inheritance (see 34:16–17). We understand that these worshippers from all people receive within the walls of God’s house “a place and a name” that affords them special opportunities and responsibilities among God’s children (56:3–7).
For a complete list of works by Dr. Cowan about temples and temple worship, see the bibliography at the end of the book.
In 2 Nephi 27–28 Nephi continues to refer to the prophecy of Isaiah 29 and adds many verses of commentary to explain how it could apply to his own people.
The interpretations I offer herein should be viewed as one way to understand the passages I will discuss, and not as the only way to understand them. Students of Isaiah recognize that there are many layers of understanding and interpretation to Isaiah’s prophecies and that the interpretation, fulfillment, and application of the prophecies can vary significantly among times and peoples.
Unless marked otherwise, all scripture references will be from Isaiah. With only minor differences, the text of Isaiah 2:2–4 is the same as Micah 4:1–3. Scholars have long debated whether Isaiah is quoting Micah, Micah is quoting Isaiah, or if both are quoting a third source, perhaps Joel (e.g., Joel 3:10). For typical discussions on the issue, see Geoffrey W. Grogan, “Isaiah,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gæbelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1986), 6:34; and C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1989), 7:111–12, 111n1.
For modern examples of these interpretations, see Keil and Delitzsch, Keil & Delitzsch Commentary, 7:112–13; John D. W. Watts, “Isaiah,” in Word Biblical Commentary, ed. David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1985), 28–29; and Grogan, “Isaiah,” 34–35.
See Francis Brown, “נׇהַר”and “נׇהׇר” in The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon (LaFayette, LA: Christian Copyrights, 1983), 625. Grogan sees significance in the fact that anciently the major oppressors of Israel were associated with rivers (see, for example, Isaiah 8:6–8; 17:12–14), but here they will flow to Israel to learn from them rather than to plunder them. See Grogan, “Isaiah,” 34–35.
See Francis Brown, “גּוׄי” in Hebrew and English Lexicon, 156. While Brown gives several examples where the term applies to the people of Israel, he notes that the term is usually figurative for non-Hebrews (see 1.c. in the entry).
“Strangers” is translated from the Hebrew nekar, meaning an alien or foreigner such as a Gentile. See Francis Brown, “נֵכׇר” in Hebrew and English Lexicon, 648.
The term “congregation of the Lord” is found often in Deuteronomy. It typically means people gathered together for worship and sacrifice. See “קהׇל” in Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, ed. G. Johannes Botterweck, Helmer Ringgren, and Heinz-Josef Fabry, trans. Douglas W. Stott (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdman’s, 2003), XII:551–54; “Congregation,” in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1962) 1:669–70.
By Restoration I mean the latter-day Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ that commenced with the Prophet Joseph Smith. By “Restoration temples” I mean temples built in our day during and as part of the Restoration. Ordinances performed in Restoration temples are administered under the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood and differ significantly in performance and purpose than those rites performed anciently as part of the Mosaic law in the Levitical temples under the authority of the Aaronic Priesthood of Isaiah’s day.
See Francis Brown, “יׇד” in Hebrew and English Lexicon, 388–91. For additional Latter-day Saint commentary on the interpretation of “hand” in this context, see Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry, and Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1998), 496–97; Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1982), 473–74.
We learn from 1 Nephi 21:1 that the “isles of the sea” to which Isaiah often refers can be understood to mean lost and scattered covenant people. The “abundance of the sea” in this passage seems to be drawing upon the same imagery.
By Levitical temples I mean those ancient temples built to perform the temple rites of the Mosaic law. See note 10 above.
These passages from Exodus and Leviticus speak of the rites to be performed in the tabernacle, which was the portable house of the Lord during their sojourn in the wilderness. Once established in the promised land, the Israelites set up the tabernacle in Shiloh (see Joshua 18:1; 19:51), where it remained for many years. During the time of Samuel and Eli, the ark of the covenant from the tabernacle was lost in battle to the Philistines (see 1 Samuel 4). Though the ark was eventually recovered (see 1 Samuel 5–6), it apparently was not returned to the tabernacle, but taken by the men of Kirjath-jearim to the house of Abinadab in Gibeah (1 Samuel 7:1–2; 2 Samuel 6:3). Later King David brought the ark to Jerusalem and put it in a “tent” there (2 Samuel 6:17; 1 Chronicles 16:1). Meanwhile, the tabernacle eventually was moved to Gibeon (1 Chronicles 16:39–40; 21:29). The tabernacle and ark appear to have remained separated up until the beginning of Solomon’s reign, and sacrifices were offered at both locations (1 Chronicles 16:1–2, 39–40; 2 Chronicles 1:3–6). When Solomon built the permanent temple in Jerusalem, the tabernacle and ark were reunited there (1 Kings 8:1–21). From that time until the destruction of Herod’s temple the Mosaic law rites described in Exodus and Leviticus were performed in the temple at Jerusalem. For a nice overview of the tabernacle, see Richard Elliott Friedman, “Tabernacle,” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman, Gary A. Heron, David F. Graf, John David Pleins, and Astrid B. Beck (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 6:292–300.
The term “ways” in this phrase is translated from the Hebrew derek and can mean a road, way, journey, or manner of doing something. In this context all the definitions seem to apply. See Francis Brown, דֶּרֶךְ"” in Hebrew and English Lexicon, 202–4.
The term “paths” in this phrase is translated from the Hebrew ‘orach and can mean a way, path, or mode of living. It is often used figuratively, as in this context, to refer to a way of righteous living. See Francis Brown, “אׄרַח” in Hebrew and English Lexicon, 73.
The prophet Brigham Young summarized the gift well as he explained, “Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the House of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father.” See Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses (London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854–86), 2:31.
Like other apocalyptic literature, chapters in this section of Isaiah regularly speak of the ultimate destruction of the wicked and the great rewards to be given the righteous.
For examples of modern commentators who interpret the passage this way, see Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, 7:75–76; Grogan, “Isaiah,” 219; and Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary Critical, Experimental, and Practical on the New and Old Testaments (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, repr. 1989), 2:669.
Scott H. Faulring, Kent P. Jackson, and Robert J. Matthews, eds., Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible: Original Manuscripts (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, 2004), 815.
Keil and Delitzsch suggest the “book of the Lord” is simply Isaiah’s own collection of prophecies. Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, 7:75. Perhaps Isaiah’s contemporaries assumed so too, though not many names are written therein.