2 And now I, Nephi, write more of the words of Isaiah, for my soul delighteth in his words. For I will liken his words unto my people, and I will send them forth unto all my children, for he verily saw my Redeemer, even as I have seen him.
3 And my brother, Jacob, also has seen him as I have seen him; wherefore, I will send their words forth unto my children to prove unto them that my words are true. Wherefore, by the words of three, God hath said, I will establish my word. Nevertheless, God sendeth more witnesses, and he proveth all his words.
(2 Nephi 11:2-3)
How would you prove that God lives or that Jesus Christ is our Savior? This might seem like an impossible task, but how would you do it if you had to?
Nephi had firsthand knowledge that these things were true. He had been taught by angels, and he had seen the Savior. But he knew that his descendants would not have that knowledge and would want more than one person’s word that these things are true. So, he did exactly what attorneys do in a court of law to establish the truth of one witness’s testimony: he called on other witnesses to corroborate the truth of his claims.
The testimony of a single witness can be problematic. A single individual may remember or interpret things inaccurately or may have undisclosed ulterior motives. When that witness can point to other people who will testify to the same truths, particularly when those people have independent firsthand knowledge of the facts, his or her case is strengthened. Nephi chooses to quote two other people who have personally seen Jesus Christ: his brother Jacob and the prophet Isaiah.
Witness credibility is an important issue. So he quotes extensively from both witnesses. The prior five chapters are a sermon by Jacob (who also quotes from Isaiah). The following thirteen chapters are from the Book of Isaiah. We can review the extensive testimony of both witnesses and ask ourselves, “Do I find this person credible? Are his assertions plausible and internally consistent? Does he seem trustworthy?”
I’m grateful for Nephi’s trust in his readers, as shown by his use of the word “prove” in this passage. He believes that we are capable of objectively and fairly evaluating the testimony of two corroborating witnesses to determine the truth of his teachings. As I study the rest of 2 Nephi during the month of October, I will take seriously the principles he is trying to teach. I will look for these principles in the words of the other witnesses he quotes, particularly Isaiah.