CLICK HERE to read Isaiah 18.
Scholars could not understand this chapter until the restoration. It was not clear who Isaiah was talking to, what he was talking about, or what his purpose was. Since the restoration, it all makes sense. Look at the preface:
The Lord will raise (restore) the gospel ensign (prophets),
send messengers (priesthood/missionaries) to his scattered people (Ephraim & Lamanites),
and gather them (on both sides of the veil) to Mount Zion (temples).
When Isaiah talks about the land beyond the rivers of Ethiopia (verse 1), he is talking about the land beyond the waters to the west of Africa. That’s us, in the Western Hemisphere. Anytime Isaiah talks about the “isles of the seas”, he is talking about our land in the west, our continents surrounded by water. Jacob the Nephite confirms this for us in 2 Nephi 10:20 when he says:
We have been driven out of the land of our inheritance (Judea);
but we have been led to a better land (the Americas),
for the Lord has made the sea (Atlantic Ocean) our path,
and we are upon an isle of the sea.
Some people take the “buzzing wings” seriously, and suggest that if you look at North and South America from the side, as if standing in the East and looking across in great vision, the continents look a little bit like wings:
Others say it is the land itself that looks like the texture of a wing (rather than the shape of a wing), with rivers for veins:
Others say it is more literal, and talking about all the bugs we have over here! Others go a little more extreme, and talk about the airplanes that fly in our skies (there is an interesting cross-reference to a Native prophecy about “cobwebs in the sky” that many interpret as the cloud-trail left behind planes as they travel across the sky).
Others say it is figurative, that Isaiah saw our modern times in America, with our high-tech culture (“buzzing”) and fast paced society (“wings”).
Isaiah says (verse 2) this countries sends out ambassadors (missionaries) who travel quickly (“vessels of bulrushes” were Egyptian boats made out of papyrus – the metaphor means traveling in light and efficient vehicles). Their message is to the original people (terrible from their beginning) who have been “trodden down” due to judgment by God (“meted out”), and “whose land the rivers have spoiled” (divided). Our continents are divided into countries and states by the many rivers, and the original people who have been “trodden down” due to judgment by God are the Lamanites.
Isaiah tells the whole world to listen and pay attention when the Lord restores the standards (Laws and Covenants of the Gospel, the “ensign”) from the mountains (temples) (verse 3). He says this will be a testimony (“bloweth a trumpet”) to the people telling them the way to return to Him. This is why Moroni stands upon our temples, symbolizing the restoration, blowing his trumpet. Elder Holland said in April 2011 General Conference that even General Conference itself is part of this declaration, part of this ensign, part of the trumpet blowing in the Day of the Lord.
Isaiah then says the Lord revealed to him, even talked with him about the Millenium. After the time of the trumpet, after the gathering, when He has kept His promises, He will rest while righteousness reigns. We will flourish and thrive, with relief from fighting the enemy (verse 4).
But before this can happen, there must be a pruning just like in any other garden (verse 5). Pruning is done by cutting off excess growth that cause bitter or sour fruit and vegetables. If the plant is too spread out, none of its fruit is good or it will not be able to bear fruit at all. So the plant is pruned so that what does grow is strong and the fruit is sweet and full of nutrients. In the same way, the Lord must prune His church to remove those not bearing fruit (testimony and good works and souls) so that those who are can come to fruition.
Isaiah says that what (who) gets pruned will be given to the wild animals (the world), and that they will be devoured (verse 6). Being of-the-world is the consequence for not doing the work to be of-God. So when the Lord prunes that which is not-of-God, it means they are of-the-world.
But those who are-of-God will be remembered, and nourished (Jacob 5), and gathered (verse 7), even the Lamanites (“a people scattered and peeled, and… terrible from their beginning… trodden under foot”). They will be gathered even for temple ordinances, and the ordinances for their ancestors, and even participate in the claiming of the land and building its temple in the New Jerusalem in America (see also 3 Nephi 20:33 and D&C 84:2). I say again:
The Lamanites were not destroyed, but only scattered, because they did keep the covenants they had made thus far – even though they did not yet embrace the full gospel.
This sacred land is promised to them, and we cannot successfully or effectively deliver the full gospel to them until we learn to love the land as they do. It is not enough to love our country or its history – we must love the land, and care for it.