The prophecies of Malachi also reveal important things relative to the last days. After the temple was rebuilt by the Jews upon their return from Babylonian captivity, the people became lax regarding many of the commandments found in the law of Moses. Tithes were being ignored, the Sabbath was being disregarded, the Jews were intermarrying with foreigners, and the priests were offering improper sacrifices (see Nehemiah 13:7-31). Malachi condemned many of the offences (see particularly chapters 1-3).
As part of his ministry, he prophesied of the last days. These are recorded in chapters three and four. These are of such importance that Jesus Christ quoted these two chapters to the Nephites when He visited them and had them recorded in the Book of Mormon (see. 3 Ne. 24-25). Moroni also quoted these chapters to Joseph Smith when he visited the boy prophet and began to prepare him for his future work as prophet of the final gospel dispensation (JS-H 1:36-39).
A Messenger to Prepare the Way
Malachi prophesies that the Lord would send a messenger who “shall prepare the way before me” (3:1). In typical Old Testament prophetic fashion, Malachi’s prophecies are subject to multiple fulfillment. This was first fulfilled in the ministry of John the Baptist (Matt. 11:10). Further, Joseph Smith fulfilled this prophecy. But in a larger sense, the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is a fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy.[iii]
Promises Made to the Fathers
One of the most important prophecies in the Old Testament are the last two verses of Malachi: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (4:5-6). This is evidence by the fact that some rendition of these verses is found in every standard work. Besides Malachi’s original prophecy, we are told that John the Baptist came in partial fulfillment of these verses (see Luke 1:17). They are quoted in the Book of Mormon (see 3 Ne. 25:5-6). They are referred to in the Doctrine and Covenants five times (see D&C 2:1-3; 27:9; 98:16; 110:13-16; 128:17). And a rendition of them is quoted in the Pearl of Great Price (JS-H 1:38-39).
In a limited sense, these verses deal with the great work of family history or genealogy. In a wider sense, these verses speak of the great latter-day work of the final gospel dispensation.
When Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith on 21 Sept. 1823, he offered a different rendition of these verses. A comparison of Moroni’s rendition with Malachi’s original reveals some interesting differences. The following is Moroni’s rendition with the changes underlined: “Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming” (see JS-H 1:38-39 and D&C 2:1-3).
These differences beg some important questions. What was the priesthood revealed by Elijah? Who are the fathers? Who are the children? What are the promises? Why will the whole earth be utterly wasted at Christ’s coming if Elijah does not return?
What is the Priesthood of Elijah?
Notice that Moroni stated that Elijah would reveal “the” priesthood by the hand of Elijah, not “a” priesthood. What is “the” priesthood revealed by Elijah? We know that the Aaronic Priesthood was restored to Joseph Smith by John the Baptist (D&C 13) and the Melchizedek Priesthood was restored to Joseph Smith by Peter, James, and John. But President Joseph Fielding Smith, in the priesthood session of the conference in which he was sustained as prophet, taught that these priesthoods were only preparatory to that given by Elijah. Said he: “To prepare the way for the coming of Elijah and the restoration of the sealing power, because of which men may receive the fullness of the priesthood, John the Baptist came in May of 1829 and conferred upon Joseph and Oliver the Aaronic Priesthood. A short time later Peter, James, and John came and gave them the Melchizedek Priesthood.”[iv]
The priesthood revealed by Elijah is the great sealing power. Elder Boyd K. Packer has written: “The sealing power represents the transcendent delegation of spiritual authority from God to man. The keeper of that sealing power is the Lord’s chief representative here upon the earth. That is the position of consummate trust and authority.” He further said: “I have found that many members of the Church have a very limited view of what the sealing power is. Since it is used most frequently in connection with temple marriages, the word seal has come to mean, in the minds of many Church members, simply that – sealing two people in the eternal marriage bond. It is also used to designate the ordinance by which children who have not been born in the covenant are ‘sealed’ to their parents. Other members of the Church have the idea that the sealing authority that Elijah brought had to do solely with baptism for the dead. The authority is much more inclusive than that. The keys of the sealing power are synonymous with the keys of the everlasting priesthood.”[v]
Joseph Smith taught what that power and authority is: “The spirit, power, and calling of Elijah is, that ye have power to hold the key of the revelations, ordinances, oracles, powers and endowments of the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood and of the kingdom of God on the earth; and to receive, obtain, and perform all the ordinances belonging to the kingdom of God, even unto the turning of the hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the hearts of the children unto the fathers, even those who are in heaven.” He further taught, “Then what you seal on earth, by the keys of Elijah, is sealed in heaven; and this is the power of Elijah, and this is the difference between the spirit and power of Elias and Elijah; for while the spirit of Elias is a forerunner, the power of Elijah is sufficient to make our calling and election sure; and the same doctrine, where we are exhorted to go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, &c.”[vi]
Bruce R. McConkie gives this clear and accurate description of the sealing powers: “Whenever the fulness of the gospel is on earth, the Lord has agents to whom he gives power to bind on earth and seal eternally in the heavens. (Matt. 16:19; 18:18; Hela. 10:3?10; D. & C. 132:46?49.) This sealing power, restored in this dispensation by Elijah the Prophet (D. & C. 2:1?3; 110:13?16), is the means whereby ‘All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations’ attain ‘efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead.’ (D. & C.
“All things that are not sealed by this power have an end when men are dead. Unless a baptism has this enduring seal, it will not admit a person to the celestial kingdom; unless an eternal marriage covenant is sealed by this authority, it will not take the participating parties to an exaltation in the highest heaven within the celestial world.
“All things gain enduring force and validity because of the sealing power. So comprehensive is this power that it embraces ordinances performed for the living and the dead, seals the children on earth up to their fathers who went before, and forms the enduring patriarchal chain that will exist eternally among exalted beings.”[vii]
Who are the Fathers and What are the Promises?
The “fathers” referred to in Elijah’s prophecy is two-fold. Moroni’s rendition says, “And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers.” The first “fathers” in this rendition refers to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (see D&C 27:10; 132:29-37). In a talk given to the Prove Temple workers, Elder McConkie stated: “First I shall explain who the fathers were. The fathers were three in number. There is a general sense in which revelations came to several ancestors that bear on the subject, or at least allude to it, but the fathers within the meaning of this passage are three in number: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, our ancestors.”[viii]
The promises refer to those promises given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that have become known as the Abrahamic covenant (see Abr. 2:6-11). These same promises are sealed upon every couple who are married for time and all eternity in the temples of the Lord.
On 3 April 1836, Moses, Elias, and Elijah restored the keys for temple work and the sealing powers to make those ordinances effective both in this world and the next (see D&C 110). In particular, Elias restored the marriage ordinance with the promises of the Abrahamic covenant while Elijah restored the power to make those promises effective in this world and the next.
Elder McConkie made personal application of the Malachi prophecy: “Have we caught the vision? Moroni quoted the Malachi passage, and the more glorious rendition says that he [Elijah] shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers. So I am of Abraham and the promise has been planted in my heart. And the Lord sent Elias and he sent Elijah. And when Elias came, he brought the gospel of Abraham, the divine commission that God gave Abraham, the marriage discipline that God gave Abraham. Elias restored celestial marriage, and Elijah came and brought the sealing power so the ordinance would be binding on earth and sealed in heaven; and it takes the ministry of both of them to accomplish the purposes of the Lord. Because they came, God has planted in my heart the promise made to the fathers. And so I go to the Salt Lake Temple and marry my wife for time and for all eternity, and so begins a new kingdom of God. And if we are faithful, that marriage exists here and it exists hereafter. And I have been given through that ordinance every promise that Abraham received. It is given on a conditional basis. We must be true and faithful and keep the covenant that we make in the temple, but if we are faithful, we will receive the blessings. That is what is meant by the promises made to the fathers.”[ix]
Who are the Children and Who are Their Fathers?
We now understand who the first “fathers” mentioned in the Moroni rendition are. But who does the second “fathers” refer to and who are their children? To answer that, we must first answer who the children are. Obviously, the children are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – the children of Israel. These children have been scattered among all nations of the world as part of the curse that was imposed upon Israel for violating their covenants with the Lord. In their scattered condition, they have forgotten who they are. They have lost their identity as children of Israel. The mission of the restored gospel is to restore to these scattered remnants of Abraham their true identify as the children of Israel and plant into their hearts the same promises given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (i.e., the marriage covenant).
This is the ultimate meaning of the spirit and work of Elijah. Recall the mortal mission of Elijah. He lived at a time when the children of Israel had forsaken Jehovah and were worshiping the false deities of the Canaanites. Elijah was called to turn their heart back to Jehovah. He did so by enacting a curse – the famine – and confronting the worship of Baal in the eyes of all the children of Israel on Mt. Carmel (see 1 Ki. 17-18). Recall the words spoken by Elijah before fire was sent down from heaven to consume the sacrifice to Jehovah. They speak of Elijah’s mission. “And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou has turned their heart back again” (1 Ki. 18:36-37).
Joseph Smith’s mission, and thus the mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to turn the hearts of modern scattered Israel back to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Their hearts are turned back when they join the Church and have gone to the temple to be married for time and all eternity.
A natural inclination of those who have had their hearts turned to the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is to want their ancestors to receive these same blessings. It is these ancestors, whom are also descendants of Israel, whom Moroni referred to when he said that “the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers.” Hence, associated with the spirit and power of Elijah is work for the dead.
Elder McConkie spoke of this in these words: “Once my wife and I obtain these promises, there is not anything in the world we want more than to have our children receive these same promises. So we try to bring up our children in light and in truth. Eight of them grew to maturity and eight of them have been married in the temple. And to each of them has been given identical blessings. We hope our children’s children and on and on will receive the same blessings. We are concerned with the family. But the Lord has planted in our hearts these promises, and so we not only want our children after us to have these blessings, but we want our ancestors who went before to receive them. And so it happens that my father and mother were married also in the Salt Lake Temple, and they have received the blessing.
And it goes on backward. I have some children who are the eighth generation in the Church, but eventually we all have ancestors who are not in the Church, and that, of course, brings us to the great work of salvation for the dead. We search out our ancestors and get the record of them, then we go to the temple and perform vicariously the ordinances that will give them all the blessings of the gospel. We are in this place, and they are in the next place, but all are alive unto God.”[x]
Why Would the Earth Utterly Wasted?
Why should the earth be utterly wasted at the Lord’s coming if Elijah did not come? Essential to the answer of this question is an understanding of the family of God. In our premortal state, we belonged to the family of God. Having come to mortality and having experienced the fall, our membership in the family of God is in jeopardy. Yet, only those who are members of the family of God can obtain the highest degree of glory in the celestial kingdom and thus become as their heavenly parents. The ordinances of the gospel are essential in order to retain membership in the family of God. We are not creating through temple ordinances individual family units. Rather we are welding the family of God together. “This is what we can get in the temple,” said Joseph Fielding Smith, “so that we become members of the family, sons and daughters of God, not servants.”[xi]
By doing work for our kindred dead, we are welding the family of God together in a united order that will continue throughout eternity. President Joseph F. Smith taught: “There has got to be a welding together and a joining together of parents and children and children and parents until the whole chain of God’s family shall be welded together into one chain, and they shall all become the family of God and His Christ.”[xii] Likewise, Elder Theodore M. Burton taught, “Genealogy as a practical research tool, therefore, is important as a means of accomplishing the far greater purpose of tying or sealing together all those who are willing and qualified into the one great family of God, the Eternal Father, through Jesus Christ, his Only Begotten Son. That is why genealogy is so important.”
The great work of the last dispensation is to initiate the process of perfecting the family of God. President Howard W. Hunter, said: “Not only may baptisms be performed for the dead, but endowments; also sealings, by which wives become eternal companions to husbands and their children sealed to them as a family. The sealing of family units can be continued until the family of God is made perfect. This is the great work of the dispensation of the fulness of times, by which the hearts of the fathers are turned to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers. The uniting and redemption of the family of God was the divine plan before the foundations of the earth were laid.”[xiii]
It is impossible for us to be saved in the celestial kingdom unless we belong to the family of God. And the family of God cannot go into the celestial kingdom until they are perfectly linked together. President Joseph F. Smith explained: “This is a great responsibility that rests upon us, for the Prophet says it is the burden of the scriptures, and if we fail to do it in behalf of our dead we do it at the peril of our own salvation. We cannot be saved without them, and they cannot be saved without us, that is the faithful, because there must be a welding, a joining together of the generations from the days of Adam to the end of time. Families will be joined and linked together, parents to children, children to parents, one generation to another, until we shall be joined together in one great grand family with our father Adam at the head, where the Lord placed him. So we cannot be saved and exalted in the kingdom of God unless we have within our hearts the desire to do this work and perform it so far as it is within our power on behalf of our dead.”[xiv]
Therefore, Joseph Fielding Smith taught, “If Elijah had not come, we are led to believe that all the work of past ages would have been of little avail, for the Lord said the whole earth, under such conditions, would be utterly wasted at his coming. Therefore his mission was of vast importance to the world. It is not the question of baptism for the dead alone, but also the sealing of parents and children to parents, so that there should be a ‘whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories,’ from the beginning down to the end of time.”[xv]
Again, he said: “The question naturally arises in the inquiring mind, ‘Why would the whole earth be smitten with a curse had not Elijah come with the keys of sealing which he held?’
“The family organization must be intact. First husbands and wives must be sealed for time and for all eternity. When this is done, children born to them belong to them for time and all eternity and the family units are preserved.
“Parents who have been married out of the new and everlasting covenant must be sealed for time and all eternity and then have their children sealed to them. When this is done, the ordinance is just as valid as it is in the case of those who were originally married according to the law of the Lord. In like manner, the children who are living may have the same ordinances performed for their ancestors who are dead.
“Then each generation must be joined to the one which went on before. In this way eventually all the families which are entitled to celestial exaltation are joined together, from generation to generation, back to the time of our first parents, Adam and Eve. This will not all be done before the coming of our Lord, but the great work of the millennium will be the temple ordinances for the dead who are worthy to receive it.
“The sealing power of Elijah makes it possible for this joining of the families, generation to generation, back to the beginning. Now, if these units of authority were not here, then the work of sealing, by which the family units are preserved, could not be performed; then the binding power by which all blessings are sealed in heaven, as well as on earth, would be lacking. If this were so, the earth would be smitten with a curse, for all work which had been done, without these binding or sealing ordinances, would fall to the ground unfulfilled.”[xvi]
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