Source:Rediscovering the Book of Mormon:Ch:10:3:Poetry:Isaiah and Jacob

Poetry in the Book of Mormon text: The Poetry of Isaiah and the Book of Mormon

Poetry in the Book of Mormon text: The Poetry of Isaiah and the Book of Mormon

Especially in the books of First and Second Nephi, this resemblance [to Old Testament Hebrew poetry] is what we would expect when we consider that Nephi delighted in the words of Isaiah (see 2 Nephi 25:5) and that Nephi and his brother Jacob quoted much from Isaiah—one of the greatest poets of the Old Testament. When they present poetry of their own, it sounds much like Isaiah. Arranged in poetic lines, the following example of a passage that Jacob quoted from Isaiah reveals the rhythm of ideas and the great poetic power of Isaiah:

My righteousness is near;
my salvation is gone forth,
and mine arm shall judge the people.
The isles shall wait upon me,
and on mine arm shall they trust.
Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
and look upon the earth beneath;
for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke,
and the earth shall wax old like a garment;
and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner.
But my salvation shall be forever,
and my righteousness shall not be abolished.
(2 Nephi 8:5-6; cf. Isaiah 51:5-6)

In its rhythm, this passage begins with "righteousness" and "salvation" and ends with "salvation" and "righteousness"—which are, of course, closely related to each other. In the middle are two contrasts of the heavens and the earth.

Having just quoted this passage and others from Isaiah, Jacob employed poetry himself to help sustain the high level of what he had just been teaching the people. While his poetry is not as vivid as Isaiah's, it contains some of the same elevated expression and rich comparison.

O the greatness and the justice of our God!
For he executeth all his words,
and they have gone forth out of his mouth,
and his law must be fulfilled.
But, behold, the righteous,
the saints of the Holy One of Israel,
they who have believed in the Holy One of Israel,
they who have endured the crosses of the world,
and despised the shame of it,
they shall inherit the kingdom of God,
which was prepared for them from the foundation of the world,
and their joy shall be full forever. . . .
O then, my beloved brethren,
come unto the Lord, the Holy One.
Remember that his paths are righteous.
Behold, the way for man is narrow,
but it lieth in a straight course before him,
and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel;
and he employeth no servant there;
and there is none other way save it be by the gate;
for he cannot be deceived,
for the Lord God is his name.
(2 Nephi 9:17-18, 41)[1]


  1. Richard Dilworth Rust, "Poetry in the Book of Mormon," in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, edited by John L. Sorenson and Melvin J. Thorne (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co.; Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1991), Chapter 10.