How Beautiful Are the Feet

How Beautiful Are the Feet

Throughout the Book of Mormon the prophets quote from the great prophet Isaiah. One of the central themes of these quotes is summarized in the title of this post. In fact this verse is originally found in Isaiah 52:7 which reads as:

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!

The first time this verse is quoted is by the wicked priests of King Noah in the 12th chapter of Mosiah. They are questioning Abinadi in an effort to “cross him”. I imagine their purpose in quoting this scripture was to suggest that Abinadi’s prophecies of destruction were not an act of publishing peace and therefore his feet weren’t so beautiful.

What is fascinating is to follow where this verse is quoted elsewhere in the standard works. Christ quotes this verse when preaching to the Nephites in 3 Nephi 20:40. It is quoted in D&C 128:19 which is a letter the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote to the saints regarding baptisms for the dead. It’s quoted in the Old Testament by the Prophet Nahum in 1:15. It is also quoted by Paul in his letter to the Romans chapter 10 verse 15, which just gives a nod to the verse:

And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

As I contemplate this verse I wonder about the etymology of the verse. How did it make it into the Book of Mormon and what was the context of it being quoted. In verse 20 of Mosiah 12 it states: “What meaneth the words which are written, and which have been taught by our fathers, saying:”. So this verse was taught by their fathers and was written. Well we know that Isaiah was included in the Brass Plates at 600BC. We also know that Isaiah lived around 720BC so it makes sense that the Brass Plates would contain his writings.

However, deeper research into the book of Isaiah draws some question to this argument. Recent research has suggested that chapters 40 through 54 of Isaiah were not actually written by Isaiah. This theory suggests that these chapters were written during the Exilic period, which occurred between 586BC and 539BC.

There are several textual observations that make this theory believable. First the authorship style changes, and the new author does not use his own proper name (Isaiah) which is a stark contrast to previous chapters. Second the theology and style change considerably. Third the direct mention of Cyrus the King of Persia who wasn’t the king until 559BC. What this theory suggests is that an author amended the words of Isaiah in large part to firm up a new monotheistic theology as well as to capture the attention of Cyrus to provide a rescue to the Israelites. The summary of the main points of this theory can be found here.

If this theory is correct, then it would not be possible that chapter 52 would be found in the Brass Plates. Additionally, the suggestion that the feet are beautiful for publishing the peaceful message of the Gospel is not the original intent. Understanding that this is an Exilic writing, the peace suggested is the news that Israel is freed from Babylon and can worship Jehovah forever in Israel. Sourced here. The apostle Paul, being well versed in the Jewish scripture, is truly the first to suggest that this meaning could also be ascribed to those preaching the good news of Jesus Christ. It is interesting to see how Abinadi preaching before King Noah is very similar to Paul preaching before King Agrippa, but that is a post for another day. For now I will meditate upon the words of Isaiah.

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