Here in 1 Nephi 21, Nephi quotes Isaiah 49, but I want to look at some verses in the chapter that speak in imagery about latter-day temple work.
9 That thou mayest say to the prisoners: Go forth; to them that sit in darkness: Show yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places.
10 They shall not hunger nor thirst, neither shall the heat nor the sun smite them; for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them.
11 And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted. (1 Nephi 21:9-11)
It is probably easy to see that temple work is the means by which we bring freedom to the spirits in spirit prison, but there is other imagery that tells us of the benefits of temple worship here.
They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places. – The image is of a flock of sheep that is feeding “in the ways.” We may have seen images of sheep crossing roads, but this has a twist to it. The sheep are sticking to the road. This is unusual because in that day the roads were not a good place to pasture. All the foot traffic would beat down the grass and plants. But in this image, the sheep are feeding in the ways, so the road has the best grass. What does that teach us about the gospel as the way? The gospel has the best spiritual nourishment.
their pastures shall be in all high places – Do the tops of mountains have good pasture in them? (Any sheep farmers out there who read this could probably tell me.) You’d think the best grass would be in the meadows and valleys, so it’s probably symbolic. The high places in Isaiah’s day used to be shrines of worship. When Israel was righteous these high places were essentially temples to Jehovah. So when Isaiah tells us there shall be pastures in all the high places, he’s saying in the latter day the house of Israel would find nourishment at the temple. That he mentions high places (plural) is a hint of multiple temples, and we can see that is fulfilled today. And it is true that we are nourished and made stronger through the Lord’s grace as we participate in temple worship.
Verse 10 continues the imagery of the flock of sheep and tells us that these sheep will be very well taken care of as they travel from place to place. They won’t be hungry or thirsty or get heat stroke, but the way they go by (the one that has grass growing in it) will also have springs of water running along it for them to drink from. Really, this tells us the shepherd is totally awesome, since he’s found this excellent way for the sheep to go. If you stick with this shepherd, you are blessed; you won’t have anything to worry about. And we know who this Good Shepherd is, don’t we?
And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted. – We know what “my mountains” are. These are the Lord’s temples. So the temples become the way. They become a clear part of the gospel path, as the way the sheep (the house of Israel) is exalted. The temple leads to a higher way of living, and it exalts the sheep.
Gotta love Isaiah. He knew what he was talking about.