Gospel Doctrine Old Testament Lesson #40; Isaiah 54–56 and 63–65.

In the spirit of the book Let Me Tell You My Story, I approach this lesson supplement with my own very personal experience, born of humility, not hubris, for I only have my own knowledge of scriptures as I have likened them unto me, but these are the things as they are. So, forgive the anecdotal nature of this essay.

Maybe because I studied literature at BYU, I always get heady and spacey when I read Isaiah. Partly because it is beautiful poetry and because that is combined with powerful prophecy, I am galvanized by its message. But in particular, this chapter 54 is the Isaiah that I love. This is what I’ve held onto in the dark nights of the soul when the candle flickers to fragile. I first became acquainted with this chapter in my single early 30’s. I was taken aback that I hadn’t married, and eventually, I was given a beautiful revelation of a daughter who I would name Allie. In a dream, I received a congratulatory card from one of my brothers for having a daughter named Allie. Then the same week, I stumbled on what would become a favorite poem by Robert Graves, “Allie.” (see this delightful poem at the end.) But before that, I discovered Isaiah in this chapter, as he reached out to a poet’s and a mother’s heart (Sing, O barren…).

So, what does this have to do with the grand message of the closing chapters of Isaiah, one of the most intellectually and artistically gifted prophets in biblical history, you may be asking yourselves? Well, this.

I didn’t learn of this scripture out of a curiosity of literary structure or history of ancient prophets, or doctrinal revelation about the 2nd Coming, but it was given to me when I was at my extremities. When I needed a personal touch from heaven in my hurt as a woman. For years, I had been longing for my companion and children, tired of the single life and all the harassment and confusion that comes with being a long-term dater and a secretary to a pool of male executives (almost all of whom were honorable). I was attractive enough to be chosen to date, or look good at the reception desk, but there was something in my makeup that didn’t seem to jibe with the perfect wife material. I started to get chronic illnesses born of fatigue. I felt used up as a woman for all the wrong reasons.

When I was miraculously directed to this chapter, my eyes lighted on these lines and I probably cried when I read the following.

Isaiah 54:1 Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the LORD.

A second witness of this came when I told my forever single aunt about being given the scripture as comfort, and she said she had been given the same one in her youth.

I have since learned that Isaiah’s words were speaking of the “Church,” the Latter-day Saints and would-be-saints who are willing to love and serve God to the very last of their breath. But heroically, it is couched in terms of a mother’s heart as Isaiah’s inspired words reveal the very dear and personal love and reward that await those who endure these last and troubled days (years, decades, etc.). It describes the transformation of a person (individually) or a body of people (Zion) as we try to live worthy of these great promises and repent when we all fall short. And again, JOY! He is speaking in terms of a woman’s sorrow, which is so touching to me.

I love that the Savior knows so much of a woman’s heart: her wordless, inherent shame, and burden, whether a biological or a spiritual mother to others. Not all moments are filled with shame or sorrow, but those moments do come. Whether from barrenness or loss of a child, or suffering of children worldwide, or more currently, assault and denigration of women we hear on television. I also love that the Savior heals the shame of one’s own personal sin that breaks a heart as we go through remorse and repentance, whether as individuals or as Zion. His tender mercies and promises can sustain through trials when we seek Him, and sometimes even when we don’t or we can’t.

So, this is my story, my personal experience with these scriptures is what I needed to illustrate their worth to my soul as it may apply to others and the great love of our Savior as he feels towards all of us. These words of Isaiah are too beautiful and powerful for my heart not to be overwhelmed, and I want to weep at my Savior’s feet because of them. But it not just for me, never just me. The invitation is extended to all peoples:

Isaiah 54:
4 Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more.
5 For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.
7 For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. 6 For the LORD hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God.

And I did have that daughter at age 36. Prior to her birth, I was told in a priesthood blessing that she was the one of my dreams, and I would have to have patience with her, as Heavenly Father and the Savior had with me. I have joked with my husband that I didn’t think of heaven as needing patience with me, I assumed I was a total delight. Looking back, much patience was needed and much grace was granted. And I have needed that same patience with my own children.

And finally, the delightful poem I mentioned in the beginning. The Lord fulfilled his promise of children to me that in part was relayed by the following poem (although I recognize with all my heart that the promise could have waited until eternity, at times wished they had due to health, and I would have been as blessed).

As Robert Graves’ poem describes another girl named Allie, so my Allie has loved nature and wildlife and all animals. It is poignant to me that this is so literally fulfilled.

By Robert Graves

Allie, call the birds in,
The birds from the sky.
Allie calls, Allie sings,
Down they all fly.
First there came
Two white doves
Then a sparrow from his nest,
Then a clucking bantam hen,
Then a robin red-breast.

Allie, call the beasts in,
The beasts, every one.
Allie calls, Allie sings,
In they all run.
First there came
Two black lambs,
Then a grunting Berkshire sow,
Then a dog without a tail,
Then a red and white cow.

Allie, call the fish up,
The fish from the stream.
Allie calls, Allie sings,
Up they all swim.
First there came
Two gold fish,
A minnow and a miller’s thumb,
Then a pair of loving trout,
Then the twisted eels come.

Allie, call the children,
Children from the green.
Allie calls, Allie sings,
Soon they run in.
First there came
Tom and Madge,
Kate and I who’ll not forget
How we played by the water’s edge
Till the April sun set.