After suffering generations of captivity, the Lord, through the prophet Malachi, told his people “I have loved you” (Malachi 1:2). This might have seemed hard for them to believe after all they had been through, and they ask, “Wherein hast thou loved us?” Some people find it hard to believe that the story of the Old Testament is really a story of love for his covenant people. There are many examples of rebellion and hard hearts among the chosen ones. Yet throughout all of that, God’s hesed, or covenant love was always freely offered. He was always eager to have them return to the covenant relationship when they repented. God’s hesed was patient and enduring.
“As Many as I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten” (Revelation 3:19)
The very experience of enduring God’s chastening has the ability to refines us and prepare us for greater spiritual privileges. Our Father in Heaven is a God of high expectations. As George McDonald once said, “You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it himself. (Quoted by C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity)” This may require knocking out some walls, and digging deep so new plumbing can be installed. It may seem painful, but just like the operation the doctor is performing is going to heal you, sometimes some cutting is necessary.
It is not enough for us to just go through the motions. As Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained, “The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly bank account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan to show us how to become what our Heavenly father desires us to become.”[i] Elder D. Todd Christopherson taught, “I would like to speak of one particular attitude and practice we need to adopt if we are to meet our Heavenly Father’s high expectations. It is this: willingly to accept and even seek correction. Correction is vital if we would conform our lives “unto a perfect man, [that is,] unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).[ii]
He said that “divine chastening has at least three purposes: (1) to persuade us to repent, (2) to refine and sanctify us, and (3) at times to redirect our course in life to what God knows is a better path… If we sincerely desire and strive to measure up to the high expectations of our Heavenly Father, He will ensure that we receive all the help we need, whether it be comforting, strengthening, or chastening… Eventually, much of our chastening should come from within—we should become self-correcting.” [iii]
Malachi’s, “My Messenger”
Malachi’s prophecies were probably spoken about 460-430 B.C., about eighty years after Haggai and Zechariah spurred the people on to rebuild the temple. And yet, the dramatic promises of these prophets were still far from fulfillment. This left the nation discouraged and disappointed in what they thought were unfulfilled promises.
They showed an increasingly casual attitude toward worship and the standards which God had set. The people badly needed to rebuild their relationship with the Lord. They needed an assurance of his love, and a challenge to correct their disobedience. However, before he sent his messenger to correct them, the Lord assured them of his love (see Malachi 1:2). This sets a foundation for their obedience, because they are assured of God’s everlasting love. He would not forsake them and choose another people.
Malachi in Hebrew means “my messenger,” and the Lord, through his messenger, desired to convey his displeasure with the way the priests were dishonoring their priesthood. He told them they had “departed out of the way” and “corrupted the covenant of Levi” (Malachi 1:6-8). They offered unworthy sacrifices, giving the Lord less than the best. Israelite priests were offering blemished and sickly animals as sacrifices in the temple, which the Lord had forbidden (see Leviticus 22:17-25). These sacrifices were to be in similitude of God’s perfect son, and yet these priests were trying to turn a profit by saving the best animals for sale. We might judge them harshly, but we might ask ourselves, “Do we ever offer the Lord less than our best effort?”
They were performing service without real intent. Malachi points out that no one even shuts the door without a purpose, (see Malachi 1:10) and yet the priests are offering sacrifice at the temple without real intent. We may condemn them for this, but are we ever guilty of the same thing? God states that he is receiving more acceptable worship from the Gentiles and the heathen—a statement that is intended to shock Malachi’s Jewish listeners (see Malachi 1:11). The priests have regarded the Lord’s service as a “weariness” and “snuffed” at their priestly duties (see Malachi 1:13-14). They showed apathetic fatigue instead of delight.
Their poor behavior is affecting other people as well. This lack of respect for the Lord had “caused many to stumble” (see Malachi 2:8). We have seen this in the Book of Mormon, when the behavior of Corianton was a stumbling block to the spiritual growth of others. His father Alma told him, “When they saw your conduct, they would not believe in my words” (see Alma 39:11). His actions rang loud in their ears. We can all learn from his example, as a cautionary tale.
Proper Conduct of a Priest—the Contrast Between the Ideal and the Real
The motive for God’s discipline of these wicked priests was that his “covenant might be with Levi” and not be corrupted. Malachi contrasted their conduct with the qualities of a righteous priesthood holder. Such a person “revered God” and “the law of truth was in his mouth,” fulfilling the responsibility to study the word of God and make it known to others. He “walked with men in peace and equity,” having a godly character. He turned “many away from iniquity” and “kept knowledge” as the “messenger of the Lord of Hosts.” Instead of treating all men equally, they had “been partial in the law,” and “dealt treacherously” with their fellow men (see Malachi 2:4-10). Indifference toward God is soon reflected in our callousness towards one another. When God and his laws are respected, so are our fellow men. Because the priests in the days of Malachi fell so short of God’s ideal, the people held them in contempt.
Unfaithful Priests and Broken Marriages
Marriage is a holy institution to the Lord. When marriage vows are taken lightly or broken, we sin against something that is holy to God. He has set apart marriage as a way to fulfill his purposes for his children.
In Malachi’s day, the men of Judah and Levi had turned to foreign women and taken them as wives. One Bible commentator surmises that the men “kept their wives till they had passed their youth, and then put them away, that they might get young ones in their place.”[iv] Do we ever see this happen today? Many had divorced their Israelite wives in order to accommodate their unrighteous desires. The neglected and divorced wives would come to the temple and make an appeal to God at the altar. When their husbands then offered sacrifices to God at that same altar, it offended God. He said that he would not receive such offerings. When they asked why, the Lord told them that in being unfaithful to the marriage vow, they had “dealt treacherously.” God had been a witness between each man and “the wife of thy youth,” . . . “the wife of thy covenant” (see Malachi 2:11,13-15). The Lord was angry with the priests for knowing of the problem, and not executing justice and permitting easy divorce.
The Old Testament often uses the analogy of a marriage relationship to describe God’s relationship with his covenant people. As solemn a bond exists between Jehovah and Israel as exists between husband and wife. But Judah had chosen another partner, “the daughter of a strange god.” God’s command against mixed marriages in Israel had nothing to do with race, but with faith. The Hebrew idiom “the master and the scholar” is another way of saying “everyone.”
The purposes of making the husband and wife “one,” was that they might have a “godly seed.” Fundamental to God’s plan for marriage is the essential oneness between husband and wife in order to establish a proper environment for raising godly offspring. God allows divorce in particular circumstances, although he always hopes for repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation in marriage.
The phrase “The Lord God of Israel hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment” needs explanation (see Malachi 2:16). Part of the marriage ceremony in Bible times involved the husband covering his wife with his garment as a symbol of the protection he brought her. When a wife is forsaken or mistreated, the man covers “his own garment with violence.” This is because the husband and wife are one, and he cannot mistreat his wife without bringing misery and destruction to himself.[v] Paul taught that “husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies” (see Ephesians 5:28). Stating it negatively, when you neglect your wife, you neglect yourself.
God requires faithfulness from his people—faithfulness to himself and faithfulness in human relationships. What is the connection between the law of chastity and the spirit? It is impossible to have lustful thoughts and the spirit both—they are mutually exclusive. (see Doctrine and Covenants 42:22-23) We need to control which thoughts we allow to entertain us, lest we lose the spirit and become subject to the temptations of the natural man.
All betrayals meet with God’s disapproval. Therefore, the phrase “take heed to your spirit” is repeated twice because it is so important (Malachi 2:15-16). If we have allowed our hearts to become critical or embittered towards those with whom we have made covenants, if we “take heed to [our] spirit,” we can change our feelings towards them. If we let the Spirit soften our hearts, we can once again feel connected to them and let love replace bitterness.
“Where is the God of Justice?” (Malachi 2:17)
The people of God in Malachi’s day were discouraged because it seemed like the wicked prospered and had it better than those who were righteous. This filled them with doubt and unbelief, and they grumbled that “everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord”. . . “yea, they that work wickedness are set up” (see Malachi 2:17, 3:14-15) The people are asking, “What good does it do to live the gospel if my wicked neighbor seems to have everything? What good has all our righteousness done? We have wasted our time walking ‘mournfully’ before the Lord!” This is an ancient question—Job asks it also.
However, this kind of talk from God’s people is wearisome to God. “Ye have wearied the Lord with your words” (Malachi 2:17). They are judging unrighteous judgment. They need to be able to identify that which they do have. They need to be able to tell the difference between iniquity and prosperity. “Wickedness never was happiness,” (Alma 41:10) and true joy comes only from obedience to the Lord. Time will reveal God’s true blessings. He will perform his work “that men may discern between the righteous and the wicked” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:95) and “between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not” (Malachi 3:18). Time will show that the Lord’s way pays off! This is a hard lesson for many moderns to grasp, in part because of our impatience. We want everything instantly, if not sooner. We can better recognize and appreciate the Lord’s spiritual rewards if we don’t use the measuring stick of the world.
Then those that “feared the Lord spake often to one another, and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name” (Malachi 3:16). Here Malachi assures the people that not only will God remember their righteousness, but he will write it down in a “book of remembrance.” He promises that they will be the Lord’s people. “And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels” (Malachi 3:17). President Nelson cited this scripture when he described those being gathered. The Lord refers to his people collectively as his “peculiar treasure”(Exodus 19:5),”his jewels,” and as “a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6).[vi] In Hebrew, “peculiar treasure” is segulah, meaning “select, guarded, endeared, shut up, protected from, prized, and sedulously preserved.” You are purchased, like an expensive treasure, with the precious blood of the atonement.
The Messenger of the Covenant
The Lord’s messenger shall prepare the way before his Second Coming. A key to understanding Malachi 3:1-4 is in identifying the messenger who would prepare the world for the day of judgment. The Savior identified John the Baptist as that messenger (see Matthew 11:10). John’s ministry during the Lord’s mortal mission fulfilled the prophecy but only in part, because the context of the prophecy is with Jesus’ second coming. John seems to have understood that his role would extend beyond his mortal ministry. He would have a part in the restoration of the gospel, which would prepare the world for Christ’s Second Coming. He would confer the keys of the priesthood upon men in the last dispensation. When asked who he was, he stated, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias” (John 1:23), referring to Isaiah 40:3. The context of Isaiah’s words, like Malachi’s, does not correspond with the events of the first coming of the Lord. They speak, rather, of the second, when “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (Isaiah 40:5). John would thus be the Lord’s messenger twice, once to prepare the way for his first coming and then again for his second.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “John the Baptist did this very thing in the meridian of time, but it remains for Joseph Smith to perform the glorious work in our day. He is the latter-day messenger who was sent to restore the gospel, which itself prepares the people for the return of the Lord.”[vii] Of course, Jesus Christ, the great “messenger of the covenant” who we delight in, shall come. “But who may abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire” (Malachi 3:2). One cannot read these words without the beautiful music of Handel echoing in our ears. Why do we need the “refiner’s fire?”
Elder Donald L. Hallstrom said in April 2016 General Conference:
When difficult things occur in our lives, what is our immediate response? Is it confusion or doubt or spiritual withdrawal? Is it a blow to our faith? Do we blame God or others for our circumstances? Or is our first response to remember who we are—that we are children of a loving God? Is that coupled with an absolute trust that He allows some earthly suffering because He knows it will bless us, like a refiner’s fire, to become like Him and to gain our eternal inheritance?
An anonymous author relates this well-known story:
In a Bible study of the book of Malachi, chapter three, a group read verse three: “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver” with great puzzlement. The women wondered what this statement meant about the nature of God. One of the women offered to find out about the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible study. She made an appointment with a silversmith to watch him work without mentioning anything about the reason beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver. She watched as the silver smith held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest so as to burn away all the impurities. The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot—then she thought again about the verse, that he sits as a refiner and purifier of silver. She asked the silver smith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that, yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left even a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed. The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silver smith, “How do you know when the silver is fully refined?” He smiled at her and answered, “Oh, that’s easy—when I see my image in it.”
The Sons of Levi Make an Offering in Righteousness
“And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness” (Malachi 3:3-4). In Doctrine and Covenants 13, John the Baptist conferred the priesthood upon the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey, and told them that “this shall never be taken from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.”
Who are the sons of Levi? What offering will they make? Why is that offering so critical that the priesthood will not be taken from the earth? Why is it so important that the priesthood itself was restored to allow the offering to be accomplished? What do purging and purifying have to do with the offering?
First, who are the sons of Levi? In biblical times the sons of Levi kept “the charge of the tabernacle of the congregation, and the charge of the holy place” (1 Chronicles 23:32). In other words, the sons of Levi were essentially the ancient temple ordinance workers. As the Restoration proceeded, more information was revealed and more keys were restored concerning the offering spoken of by John the Baptist. On September 22 and 23, 1832, the anniversary of Moroni’s visit, a great revelation was given on the priesthood. In this revelation the words of Malachi’s and John the Baptist’s prophecies were repeated, but with different and added words that amplified and gave further clarification about the necessary offering: “The sons of Moses and also the sons of Aaron shall offer an acceptable offering and sacrifice in the house of the Lord.” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:31; emphasis added.)
The Sons of Moses hold the Melchizedek priesthood, and the sons of Aaron hold the Aaronic priesthood. Moses and Aaron were both from the tribe of Levi. John the Baptist’s promise refers to both priesthoods. We further learn that the offering will be made in “the house of the Lord.” That helps explain why the sons of Levi must be purged and purified. One must be clean and worthy both to enter the temple and also to exercise priesthood authority.
It is not surprising that an “offering and sacrifice” should be accomplished in the temple. Offerings and sacrifices were done anciently at altars, and the altars of the temple stand at the center of all we do in the house of the Lord. The Lord adds the word acceptable to the offering. When it is made, it will be made in such a manner that the Lord can receive it. The word becomes critically important later in understanding the exact nature of the offering.
As the Restoration continued, the Kirtland Temple was built, and important keys were restored. The major themes of the priesthood were there emphasized by angelic messengers. “Moses appeared . . . and committed . . . the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth.” The promise of Abraham was reiterated as “Elias appeared, and committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham, saying that in us and our seed all generations after us should be blessed.” Elijah then returned to complete the necessary authority to “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers.” (Doctrine and Covenants 110:11, 12,15; emphasis added.) The gathering, the Abrahamic covenant, and the turning of hearts are all inseparably connected with temples. The proper authority was now in place, and the offering could now be made.
The Saints moved on to Nauvoo and once again were given the command to build a temple.[viii] They had learned in Missouri the importance of responding to that command. Their failure to do so was a major factor in their expulsion from Jackson County. (See Doctrine and Covenants 97; 101:43-54.) They had learned in Kirtland that when the Lord gave a command to build a temple and the Saints did not immediately respond, they had “sinned a very grievous sin,” which the Lord compared to “walking in darkness at noon-day.” (Doctrine and Covenants 95:6.) Now in Nauvoo the Lord revealed the redeeming work for the dead and pressed upon the Saints the necessity of completing a temple in order to begin this great work in a place sacred enough for its importance. With the command to build his house, the Lord added a sobering warning: “I command you, all ye my saints, to build a house unto me; and I grant unto you a sufficient time to build a house unto me; . . . and if you do not these things at the end of the appointment ye shall be rejected as a church, with your dead, saith the Lord your God.” (Doctrine and Covenants 124:31-32.)
Notwithstanding all the other works of the Church and the priesthood, the failure to construct a temple (where the Lord could “restore again . . . the fulness of the priesthood” [Doctrine and Covenants 124:28] and where the offering could be made) would result in the rejection of the Church.[ix] In the minutes of the October 1841 conference, the Lord also instructed the Saints not to hold another conference until it could be held in the temple. Apparently, the Lord felt there was no need for further instructions until the most critical one of all was commenced. (History of the Church 4:426.)
The groundwork was now laid for the critical offering to be made, and it was looked forward to by all angelic messengers who had returned to earth to restore priesthood keys and authorities. However, Satan was not idle. Joseph Smith was in hiding. Knowing the Lord’s concern that the work not be stopped for any reason, Joseph gave instructions to the Saints through letters. In a letter written September 1, 1842, Joseph gave the Saints the Lord’s encouragement: “Thus saith the Lord: Let the work of my temple and all the works which I have appointed unto you, be continued on and not cease; and let your diligence, and your perseverance, and patience, and your works be redoubled.” (Doctrine and Covenants 127:4.)
Five days later, on September 6, 1842, in a letter to the Church, Joseph Smith described the “acceptable offering.” Quoting Malachi’s prophecy once again concerning the “sons of Levi,” Joseph then added this instruction: “Let us, therefore, as a church and a people and as Latter-day Saints, offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness; and let us present in his holy temple, when it is finished, a book containing the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation.” (Doctrine and Covenants 128:24; emphasis added.) At least part of the offering Malachi, John the Baptist, and other prophets had in view was a book containing the completed ordinance work for all the dead. It will take the Millennium to achieve that culmination and make it “worthy of all acceptation,” for how can the Lord accept it until all of his children who will receive salvation and eternal life have been provided with the opportunity?
As with many prophecies, the offering spoken of has other fulfillments, but it is significant that the one that Lord chose to emphasize in the revelations of the Doctrine and Covenants is that of the work for the dead. Without that offering, the whole earth would be wasted at the Lord’s coming. How appropriate that the offering we are to place on the altars of the temple is a book. It is a fair exchange for the wonderful book our Father in Heaven has placed on those same altars as his offering and gift to us.
The Windows of Heaven
The Lord, through the prophet Malachi asks the people, “Will a man rob God?” (Malachi 3:8). The Lord gives us all we have and asks so little in return. The “curse” the people are under is depriving themselves of the blessings the Lord desires to give them. He has promised to “open the windows of heaven and pour down a blessing so great that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” He will “rebuke the devourer” for our sakes. This may refer to an insect destroying our fields, as in Joel, indicating a plentiful harvest and temporal prosperity, or it may refer to the spiritual devourer, Satan, who will have considerably less power in our lives.
Elder David A. Bednar commented on how these blessings may be realized:
Often as we teach and testify about the law of tithing, we emphasize the immediate, dramatic, and readily recognizable temporal blessings that we receive. And surely such blessings do occur. Yet some of the diverse blessings we obtain as we are obedient to this commandment are significant but subtle. Such blessings can be discerned only if we are both spiritually attentive and observant.
The imagery of the “windows” of heaven used by Malachi is most instructive. Windows allow natural light to enter into a building. In like manner, spiritual illumination and perspective are poured out through the windows of heaven and into our lives as we honor the law of tithing.
For example, a subtle but significant blessing we receive is the spiritual gift of gratitude that enables our appreciation for what we have to constrain desires for what we want. A grateful person is rich in contentment. An ungrateful person suffers in the poverty of endless discontentment.
The blessing that comes to us through heavenly windows may be greater capacity to act and change our own circumstances rather than expecting our circumstances to be changed by someone or something else. Eyes and ears of faith are required, however, to notice in us an increased spiritual and temporal capacity to do more with less, a keener ability to prioritize and simplify, and an enhanced ability to take proper care of the material possessions we already have acquired.[x]
Anything we give to God is but a small return for all we owe him! Years ago I was impressed by this quote and I have never forgotten it—”We pay tithing because we have faith, not because we have money.”
“The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn”
When Moroni quoted Malachi 4 in its entirety to Joseph Smith, he did so “with a little variation from the way it reads” in the Bible (Joseph Smith History 1:36-39), saying it was about to be fulfilled. “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.
He also quoted the next verse differently: 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.”
Joseph Smith read the phrase “turn the hearts of the children to their fathers,” and explained:
Now, the word turn here should be translated bind, or seal. But what is the object of this important mission? or how is it to be fulfilled? The keys are to be delivered, the spirit of Elijah is to come, the Gospel to be established, the Saints of God gathered, Zion built up, and the Saints to come up as saviors on Mount Zion.
But how are they to become saviors on Mount Zion? By building their temples, erecting their baptismal fonts, and going forth and receiving all the ordinances, baptisms, confirmations, washings, anointings, ordinations and sealing powers upon their heads, in behalf of all their progenitors who are dead, and redeem them that they may come forth in the first resurrection and be exalted to thrones of glory with them; and herein is the chain that binds the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, which fulfills the mission of Elijah. And I would to God that this temple was now done, that we might go into it, and go to work and improve our time, and make use of the seals while they are on earth.
The Saints have not too much time to save and redeem their dead, and gather together their living relatives, that they may be saved also, before the earth will be smitten, and the consumption decreed falls upon the world. I would advise all the Saints to go to with their might and gather together all their living relatives to this place, that they may be sealed and saved.[xi]
Every year at the Passover meal, the Jews set an extra place for Elijah, not knowing when his prophesied return would occur. When was the prophecy fulfilled? According to Doctrine and Covenants 110, Elijah appeared on April 3, 1836 in the Kirtland Temple. That year, it just happened to be Passover when the Jews were setting out an extra seat for Elijah. Imagine how surprised they will be when they learn that he came to Ohio!
The keys which Elijah restored are most significant. One of the blessings that grew out of this power was eternal marriage and the resultant blessing of the sealing of children to parents. By extension, it also allowed generations to be linked together back over the course of the history of the earth. The blessings of the gospel and the sealing power are thus granted to those righteous people who were born during periods of apostasy, and had no access to them.
So important is this work that the whole purpose of the earth would be frustrated if it were not done. Modern revelation explains why. Each generation needs to be welded to the one before it, such that a whole, complete, and perfect union can be made.
The earth will be smitten with a curse unless there is a welding link … between the fathers and the children… For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect. Neither can they nor we be made perfect without those who have died in the gospel also; … for it is necessary in the ushering in of the dispensation of the fulness of times, … that a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories should take place, and be revealed from the days of Adam even to the present time” (Doctrine and Covenants 128:18).
One of the first things necessary for that union is the organization of the righteous from every dispensation into one eternal family. In this way all the keys, powers, and glories from the days of Adam to the present are brought together to prepare the earth for the return of the Savior.
In a very real way, the dead cannot be made perfect without their latter-day descendants doing the necessary temple work. Similarly, those living in the last days cannot receive all the power necessary for salvation until the links are fully complete. The fathers were promised that their posterity must save them in order to save themselves. As the children come to understand how dependent they are upon the fathers, their hearts turn to them. As the welding links are fully formed, the family of God is established and prepared for exaltation. In this way the earth fulfills its purpose.
I love how Elder David A. Bednar has summed up Elijah’s ministry and mission.
Elijah was an Old Testament prophet through whom mighty miracles were performed. He sealed the heavens, and no rain fell in ancient Israel for 3½ years. He multiplied a widow’s meal and oil. He raised a young boy from the dead, and he called down fire from heaven in a challenge to the prophets of Baal. (See 1 Kings 17–18.) At the conclusion of Elijah’s mortal ministry, he “went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (2 Kings 2:11) and was translated.
We learn from latter-day revelation that Elijah held the sealing power of the Melchizedek Priesthood and was the last prophet to do so before the time of Jesus Christ. The Prophet Joseph Smith explained, “The spirit, power, and calling of Elijah is, that ye have power to hold the key of the … fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood … ; and to … obtain … all the ordinances belonging to the kingdom of God” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 311; emphasis added). This sacred sealing authority is essential for priesthood ordinances to be valid and binding both on earth and in heaven.
Elijah appeared with Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration (see Matthew 17:3) and conferred this authority upon Peter, James, and John. Elijah appeared again with Moses and others on April 3, 1836, in the Kirtland Temple and conferred the same keys upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. (D&C 110:14–16).
The Prophet Joseph Smith declared: “The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead. … For it is necessary that the sealing power should be in our hands to seal our children and our dead for the fulness of the dispensation of times—a dispensation to meet the promises made by Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world for the salvation of man. … Hence, God said, ‘I will send you Elijah the prophet’” (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 475).
Joseph further explained:
“But what is the object of [the coming of Elijah]? or how is it to be fulfilled? The keys are to be delivered, the spirit of Elijah is to come, the Gospel to be established, the Saints of God gathered, Zion built up, and the Saints to come up as saviors on Mount Zion [see Obadiah 1:21].
“But how are they to become saviors on Mount Zion? By building their temples … and going forth and receiving all the ordinances … in behalf of all their progenitors who are dead … ; and herein is the chain that binds the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, which fulfills the mission of Elijah” (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 472–73).
Elder Russell M. Nelson has taught that the Spirit of Elijah is “a manifestation of the Holy Ghost bearing witness of the divine nature of the family” (“A New Harvest Time,” Ensign, May 1998, 34). This distinctive influence of the Holy Ghost draws people to identify, document, and cherish their ancestors and family members—both past and present.
The Spirit of Elijah affects people inside and outside of the Church. However, as members of Christ’s restored Church, we have the covenant responsibility to search out our ancestors and provide for them the saving ordinances of the gospel. . .
For these reasons we do family history research, build temples, and perform vicarious ordinances. For these reasons Elijah was sent to restore the sealing authority that binds on earth and in heaven. We are the Lord’s agents in the work of salvation and exaltation that will prevent “the whole earth [from being] smitten with a curse” (D&C 110:15) when He returns again. This is our duty and great blessing.
Elder Bednar then invited the youth of the Church to use their technological skills to assist others in identifying their family histories. He promised them great blessings if they did so. [xii]
We have seen God’s hesed, his patient, enduring covenant love, manifest in countless Old Testament stories this year. This story still continues today. Malachi prophesied, “The Sun of Righteousness [will] arise with healing in his wings,” (Malachi 4:2). Christ’s condescension to come to earth to bring both physical and spiritual healing to those who come unto him is the greatest evidence of God’s love for all his children.
The risen Savior quoted sections of the prophecies of Malachi to the Nephites and Lamanites, stating that the Father himself had commanded him to do so. The reason, he stated, was “that they should be given unto future generations” (3 Nephi 24:1; 26:2). These people needed the words of Malachi in order to understand the new dimension which the work of the Lord took, now that he had fulfilled his mortal mission. Up to this time most of the preparation had been for his first coming. From that point on, it would be for his second. The words of Malachi reveal not only key events but also the nature of the work that would prepare for that coming.
The prophecies of Malachi show the responsibility that the prophets of the former day and the Saints of the latter day have in the work of the Lord. They testify to the dependence each generation of righteous people has on those who came before and those who will come after.
[i] Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become,” October 2000 General Conference.
[ii] Elder D. Todd Christopherson, “As May as I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 97-100.
[iv] Enduring Word Bible Commentary on this verse, available at https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/malachi-2/
[vi] President Russell M. Nelson, “Let God Prevail,” 2020.
[vii] Bruce R. McConkie, New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 1985, 629.
[viii] See the Institute manual Church History in the Fulness of Times for the details of these events..
[ix] Don’t you think President Nelson and the other prophets have felt the “pressure” from these words as the mantle fell upon them? Not just “a” temple, but many, many more.
[x] Elder David A. Bednar, “The Windows of Heaven,” Ensign or Liahona, November 2013, 17-20.
[xi] Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Volume 6:183-84.
[xii] Elder David A. Bednar, “The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn” (Ensign or Liahona, November 2011, 24-27.