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Making Precious Things Plain
Randal's bookshelf: read

Elements of Effective Communication Making Precious Things Plain, Book of Mormon Study Guide, Pt. 1, 1 Nephi to Alma 16 Book of Mormon Study Guide, Pt. 3: Helaman to Moroni Old Testament Study Guide, Pt. 1: Genesis to Numbers New Testament Study Guide, Pt. 3: The Epistles & Revelation Old Testament Study Guide, Pt. 3: The Old Testament Prophets

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Book Reviews

Title: Making Precious Things Plain, New Testament Study Guide: The Life and Ministry of Christ (3 Volumes)

Author: Randal S. Chase

Publisher: Plain and Precious Publishing

Year Published: 2011

Number of Pages: 293, 278 and 411

ISBN13: 978-1-937901-10-3, 978-1-937901-11-0, 978-1-937901-12-7

Price: $22.95, $22.95, $26.95

Reviewed by Tristi Pinkston for the Association for Mormon Letters

I have substituted for several different classes at church from Sunbeams up to Relief Society, and I've been called to teach Primary and Nursery. I'm also a homeschooling mom who places a strong emphasis on religious learning in the home and as part of our curriculum, and I am on a quest to draw closer to the Savior in my own life. All of these factors came into play in my eager acceptance of the request to review these three doctrinal study guides.

Let me begin by explaining a bit about this product series. Plain and Precious Publishing has released a fifteen-volume set of study guides, three for each of the major books of scripture and then also one focusing on the book of Isaiah, another on the book of Jeremiah, and one on the Christmas story. Today I'm reviewing the three volumes that cover the New Testament. You can buy the books in sets, or you can get them separately. It all depends on your need.

When I first opened these volumes, I was overwhelmed by the sheer possibilities. Gospel Doctrine class! Family home evening! Personal study! I can and will use these books in a huge variety of ways, and it will be easy because of how they are laid out.

As we start with the first book, we see a table of contents with a list of the associated scriptures. That's a really good idea-if you've been assigned to teach about a certain verse of scripture, you'll know exactly where in the study guide to turn. We then go into an introduction, and an explanation of how to use the books. It's explained that some of the chapters are thematic rather than chronological (another great thing to know), and then we conclude this section with the statement that these books are complementary to the Church's lesson material, but are not in any way meant to replace or usurp that lesson material. I really appreciated this-I believe that the material given to us by the Church is the core of what we should use, and anything else we add is supplementary in nature.

Then we head into the book itself. We get a historical preface to the New Testament so we know where it came from, and then we start into the lessons. All I can say about the lessons is wow! They are so well researched, contain so many fantastic supporting quotes, and provide such a great overview of each topic that I know they will be tremendously useful for teachers of religion in any sphere.

The key scripture verses in each chapter are summarized, and appropriate quotes from general authorities are included. We are also given pictures and maps that are applicable to each chapter. The most interesting thing to me-each of these are presented with no commentary by the author. We are given the information and allowed to draw our own conclusions without being led to a certain conclusion by the author, which invites the Spirit in to teach for itself.

If you're a student of the gospel, if you teach the gospel in a formal setting, or if you teach it in your home, you will find these books a valuable tool. I have certainly enjoyed using them and plan to delve into them more deeply in the coming months.

Title: Making Isaiah Plain
Author: Randal S. Chase
Publisher: Plain and Precious Publishing (
Year Published: 2011
Number of Pages: 268
ISBN13: 978-1-937901-14-1
Price: $21.95

Reviewed by Tim Ballard for the Association for Mormon Letters

“Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah” (3 Nephi 23:1). So declared the Savior in the Book of Mormon account. Indeed, the Mormon people have been commanded by God to read Isaiah and understand it. But Mormons, in general, have a problem. This problem is expressed in the oft-repeated phrase that most Mormons completely relate to: I have read the book of 1 Nephi hundreds of times, but rarely have I finished the entire Book of Mormon. Yes, we all know what that means. The reader hits 2 Nephi and gets lost and bored with Nephi’s seemingly endless recitation of the book of Isaiah. What is Isaiah saying? What does this analogy mean? The copy of the Book of Mormon then finds a quiet place under the bed, and is often forgotten for months, until the reader picks it up and starts anew –“I Nephi, having been born of goodly parents….”

Mormon readers want this vicious cycle (what some call the “Isaiah guilt”) to die at last. Dr. Randall chase has given these readers a wonderful weapon to do the job-- *Making Isaiah Plain*. Having read Dr. Chase’s book, I can attest that the title is highly appropriate. His clear goals to make Isaiah’s words both easy to understand and relevant to the Mormon reader are achieved.

For example, the Foreword and first two chapters do a superb job easing the reader into Isaiah. Without delving into the sometimes difficult text of the biblical book, these first chapters explain the power of it all. The subtitles laced throughout these first chapters include “The Life and Ministry of Isaiah”, “The Greatness of Isaiah”, “The Importance of Isaiah”, “Nephi’s Key to Interpreting Isaiah”, etc., etc. In other words, a broad and powerful foundation is laid. Before reading any of the ancient prophet’s words, the reader begins with a knowledge of who that man was—not only in the biblical sense, but also in a Book of Mormon sense. By the time the reader finishes chapter two, he or she will be jumping to get into the actual text. They will be longing to known what Isaiah had to say (a far cry from the reader’s earlier desire to stop and return to 1 Nephi in a few months).

The reader then enters the “meat” of the book—Isaiah’s actual words. Indeed, the reader enters the literary world that the Lord (in 3 Nephi) commanded Book of Mormon adherents to enter. This is my favorite part of the book. Many books of this ilk repeat the entire text of the original language, then comment from time to time about its meaning and purpose. While some might like this kind of format, others are reminded why they shy away from Isaiah in the first place. Dr. Chase scares away any apprehension by analyzing the text thematically. For example, he starts out with the themes of “Isaiah’s Vision of the Lord”, “The Last Days and the Millennium”, and “Punishment and Recompense”. This makes it very easy to follow.

Happily, the reader does not feel he or she is being cheated out of an Isaiah experience because, while he cleverly presents Isaiah thematically, Chase stays true to the order Isaiah provided. For example, chapter 1 includes Isaiah 1-12, chapter 2 includes Isaiah 13-23, etc., etc. The great thing about this is that the reader, if desirous, could read the raw text of Isaiah, then go back and read Dr. Chase’s analysis. The reader could also read both the raw text and Dr. Chase’s book simultaneously. Either way, the reader will be progressing through Isaiah, and at the end will be able to triumphantly declare that he or she did not just read a book about Isaiah, but that he or she actually *read* Isaiah.

The thematic approach taken by Dr. Chase not only makes the biblical text plain, but also makes it relevant. For example, one theme is subtitled “Conditions in Both Isaiah’s Day and the Latter-Days.” The reader then appreciates that Isaiah is not just speaking to a group of ancients (something so many Christians believe today and thus cast off the Old Testament), but that he is speaking to us all *today*. Dr. Chase makes these latter-day applications especially powerful because he relies heavily on the words of Latter-day Saint prophets, who have clearly applied Isaiah’s words to the world today. Joseph Smith, Orson Pratt, James Talmage, and Spencer W. Kimball are just some of the many latter-day watchman on the tower quoted in the book. They indeed bring both relevancy and power to Isaiah’s words.

And finally, if this is not enough to convince the prospective reader that Dr. Chase really can teach you about Isaiah without the typical frustrations and boredom that often accompany such studies, there is one more thing—the images. Laced throughout the book—on almost every page—are visual depictions of the scenes being described. Most of these images are very unique; I for one was seeing the vast majority of them for the first time. They are delightful additions to an already delightful read.

I highly recommend this book. Let us all break down the Isaiah barrier! Let Dr. Chase be our guide!

Title: Making Precious Things Plain - Book of Mormon Study Guide (Volume 1, 1 Nephi to Mosiah; Volume 2, The Book of Alma; Volume 3H3, Helaman to Moroni)
Author: Randal S. Chase
Publisher: Plain & Precious Publishing
Genre: Religious/Study Guide
Year Published: 2007, 2011
Number of Pages: Vol. 1 - 298 pgs, Vol. 2 - 283 pgs, Vol. 3 - 342 pgs

ISBN13: Vol 1 - 978-1-937901-01-1; Vol. 2 - 978-1-937901-02-8; Vol. 3 - 978-1-937901-03-5
Prices: Volumes 1 and 2, $22.95 Volume 3 $23.95

Reviewed by: Allison McKenzie for the Association for Mormon Letters

There are many study guides on scripture topics and the scriptures themselves. The authors who develop these study guides all have ideas, opinions and different techniques to help the student come to understand stories, principles and revelations that have been given through the ages. Randal S. Chase has truly been successful in making these stories, principles and revelations plain and precious, yet intellectual. In very clear explanations and comparisons, one can further open doors of understanding that might have been closed before.

The author does an excellent job listing related groups of scriptures, referencing them together and offering detailed explanations to be explored, yet never once commanding that his ideas are conclusive.

Throughout the book, the author quotes general authorities and other men of God, to further enlighten the reader’s view and understanding of principles and how they can be implemented in everyday life.

The general consensus is that the words from the prophet Isaiah are the most difficult to understand. It has been suggested, however, that his words are among the most important for us to know and ponder. Randal Chase has multiple pages identifying the barriers to Isaiah and the keys to unlocking the imagery, prophecies and personal treasures that are in these chapters. One suggestion to the reader is to place oneself in the time period, and look back at the conditions and the way of life. With this expanded insight, different keys and preparations, readers are now able to start their study of Isaiah in the 2nd Book of Nephi.

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 9, page 129 of Volume 1. The author discusses Isaiah’s Vision of the Lord (2 Nephi 16; Isaiah 6), as follows:


The beginning of Isaiah’s ministry is not found in chapter 1 but in Chapter 6. There he describes his inaugural vision of the Lord and his call to be a prophet. As was the case with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, Joseph Smith and so many more, Isaiah’s ministry came in response to an open visitation of the Lord. That is how the Lord calls his prophets.

- Isaiah 1:1 – Isaiah’s glorious vision occurred in the Holy of Holies of the Jerusalem temple, a fact that is not included in Isaiah 6 nor in 2 Nephi 16, but we learn that at the very beginning of the writings of Isaiah.

- 2 Nephi 16:1 (Isaiah 6:1) Isaiah sees the Lord. The vision occurred (in the year that king Uzziah died: approximately 740 BC), and in this vision he "saw…the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up" (v.1). Both John and Nephi testified that the Lord whom Isaiah saw was the premortal Jesus Christ (John 12:41; 2 Nephi 11:2-3)

- 2 Nephi 16:2 (Isaiah 6:2) Isaiah describes the holy beings that surround the throne of God. The figure of speech “seraphim” is a term meaning “fiery ones” or “serpents” (Numbers 21:6,8; Deuteronomy 8:15; Isaiah 14:29) and refers to the kind of glorious beings that the Prophet Joseph Smith said, “dwell in everlasting burnings.” (footnote added)

There are also a number of metaphors in this scripture that, if taken literally, would seem very strange, but if interpreted symbolically are quite beautiful:

1) The seraphim have wings, a Hebrew term meaning “veils” or “covers.”

2) With these wings, they can veil or cover their faces, Hebrew for “presence.” They can also hide their feet or legs – Hebrew for “footing,” or “location.”

3) They have the power to “fly about,” meaning “to move freely through space.” Elder Bruce R. McConkie said: “Seraphs are angels who reside in the presence of God, giving continual glory, honor, and adoration to Him…The fact that these holy beings were shown to him [Isaiah] as having wings was simply to symbolize their ‘power, to move, to act, etc.’ as was the case also in visions others had received (D&C 77:4).” (Footnote added)


I have purchased, read and studied many different commentaries and study guides for the scriptures. Chase has succeeded in opening doors of understanding and making precious things plain and clear as he references ideas to ideas, and scriptures to scriptures. This is by far the best commentary I have yet to study. Any scholar, intellectual, housewife, layman or seminary student could benefit from Randal S. Chase’s collection of study guides. They are exceptional study tools.