The title of this series of articles suggests that there might be scriptures that are “most important.” I don’t pretend to be capable of knowing what, of all God’s revealed scripture is the most important. However, Malachi 3 must be of great importance because, like many chapters of Isaiah it is given to us twice, and was given to the ancient Nephites by Christ himself. Malachi 4, in turn, must also be hugely important to us, because we have it many different times in the Latter-Day cannon of scripture. Of all things that Moroni could have told Joseph that night in his bedroom, he repeated Malachi 4, something Joseph already had in his Old Testament, and Moroni knew he would translate those verses from the plates that Moroni was there to announce to Joseph. Yet he gave them again. Why?
The Return of the Prophet Elijah
We ended the last article with the indication that there were further ordinances that allow us to experience the things of Godliness. Clearly these ordinances are very important, perhaps most important. I personally believe that this is the reason we are given Malachi 4, several different times. Moroni even gives us different wording in the latter-day reciting. There are probably many reasons for this but I think two are very important: first, to help us better understand a scripture we may have become too familiar with, and therefore have stopped trying to extract deeper meaning from; and second, to help us take notice of it and ask the questions that will help us delve beyond the surface meaning. Lets go to the scriptures. In. 3 Nephi 25 we read:
5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord; 6 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.
1 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. 2 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. 3 If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming. (Italics added.)
There are several key changes in this version as told by Moroni to Joseph Smith. One is that it clarifies that the Lord will reveal “the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah”, not just “send you Elijah the prophet.” Then later instead of the hearts of the children being turned “to their fathers,” it says “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 word “he” in this rendering of the scripture seems to suggest the Lord, not Elijah. So Elijah’s the messenger, the one who delivers “the Priesthood,” but the Lord is going to plant in our hearts “the promises made to the fathers,” which will turn our hearts to our fathers. What are the “promises made to the fathers”? This might refer to several things, but I think the greatest is the promise of exaltation. The promise that we can become like our heavenly parents: Gods, joint heirs with Christ. In Sunday school we are taught that Elijah was the last of the OT prophets to hold the Melchizedek priesthood, and that he restored the sealing power. But what does this mean? Did he just restore the keys to our temple wedding ceremony? The answer is “no,” there is much more to it than that. The keys he held and restored to Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple were not just permission to perform the marriage ordinance.
Lets look at that experience found in D&C 110. The same people visit that were present on the Mount of Transfiguration. First Christ comes. He accepts the temple and proclaims that he “will appear unto [His] servants, and speak unto them with [His] own voice, if” they don’t do things that will defile the temple. Next Moses appears and gives them “the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth.” Next Elias (we don’t exactly know who that is) comes and gives them keys to the “dispensation of the gospel of Abraham.” Lastly Elijah visits and quotes Malachi, giving us another canonical quotation, to one key part of Malachi’s original prophecy:
14 Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi-testifying that he [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come- 15 To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse- 16 Therefore, the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands; and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors.
What’s going on here? Joseph and Oliver have already had priesthood restored to them by John the Baptist (Aaronic) and Peter, James, and John (Melchizedek). Also, have you been counting, how many different times do we have these verses (or some variation) recorded? I count 5 different times: Malachi, 3 Nephi, D&C 2, Joseph Smith History, and D& C 110. Why is Elijah’s return so important? And didn’t they already have Priesthood?
Priesthood Keys & Orders
Lets look at Moses first:
“When Moses was called to gather Israel and lead them back to the land that the Lord had given to Abraham for an everlasting possession, they were members of the Church. Moses was not sent to restore to them the priesthood, nor to convert them, for they were all versed in the knowledge that they were the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob…. So the work of Moses was to gather Israel who were in a compact body. His mission was to lead them to the land of their fathers and see that they were established there according to the commandment of the Lord. “In these latter days when Israel has been scattered, Moses was sent to restore the keys of the gathering, not the preaching of the gospel. It was after people were converted that the spirit of gathering entered their souls, and it was due to the influence of the Spirit of the Lord, based upon the restoration of the keys given to Moses, that the members of the Church, when they were brought into the Church, obtained the desire to gather to the body of the Church. So these two things went hand in hand. “You will recall the fact that it was immediately after the organization of the Church that the spirit entered into the brethren to go forth and preach the gospel. The coming of Moses was not until April 1836, six years following the sending forth of missionaries to convert the world. So if it were dependent on the restoration of the keys held by Moses for the preaching of the gospel, then it would seem that Moses should have come April 6, 1830, at the beginning, but the work of proselyting commenced immediately following the organization of the Church.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Jr., Answers to Gospel Questions, 3:153-154)
So Moses wasn’t sent to restore the keys to missionary work as many people assume. The key is “keys.” It was temple priesthood keys of the gathering of Israel. Some comments by the prophet Joseph Smith that were only casually recorded by several different people suggest that they keys were to the initiatory and endowment ordinances (which are just one larger ordinance). Its here in the temple that we are called and anointed to become a part of God’s family, the house of Israel. This is the gathering.
Next Elias comes.
“And so, the Lord be praised, the marriage discipline of Abraham was restored; it is the system that enables a family unit to continue in eternity; it is the system out of which eternal life grows.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Ensign, April 1980, p. 23. Italics added.)
Elias restores the keys to “the marriage discipline of Abraham.” It seems logical this is what we often call the temple sealing, wherein husband and wife–and families–are sealed to one another as well as to the Savior. Often people think this is a part of the keys brought back to the earth by Elijah. So if that’s not the “sealing” keys that Elijah restored, what did Elijah deliver the keys to?
“The keys of Elijah’s work and ministry are extremely interesting. His coming was the fulfilling of the promise made through Malachi. It is the planting in the hearts of the children the promises made to their fathers, that in these last days, the children should do the work which was denied the fathers upon which their salvation depends. Many members of the Church have thought that the keys restored by Elijah were keys pertaining to the dead, and therefore Elijah practiced in his day ordinances in behalf of the dead. This is an error. There was no work performed for the dead by Elijah or any other prophet before the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The keys held by Elijah were the keys of the sealing power by which all ordinances are sanctioned and approved and upon which the eternal seal of authority is placed.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, The Signs of the Times, p.188. Italics added.)
These were not the keys to the marriage and family sealing that we often think of (which Elias restored). Nor were they the keys to work for the dead. What then, were these promises made to the fathers that our hearts are to be turned to?
“Elijah restored the keys of the sealing power, by which the ordinances in the temple are bound in heaven as well as on earth, for both the living and the dead.” (Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Doctrines of Salvation, 2:234. Italics added.)
The sealing power of Elijah is one that seals upon us all the promised blessings in all ordinances of the temple. If you notice in each temple ordinance, blessings, position, etc. are promised, but all are still dependent upon our faithfulness. None are guaranteed.
“Elijah restored to this Church and, if they would receive it, to the world, the keys of the sealing power; and that sealing power puts the stamp of approval upon every ordinance that is done in this Church and more particularly those that are performed in the temples of the Lord.” (Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Doctrines of Salvation, 3:129)
“…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.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp.337-338. Italics added.)
With this sealing power, a prophet can bind or seal upon a person, all the blessings, powers, and more that are promised us in the other temple ordinances. Nephi, the great-grandson of Alma the Younger, was also given this same sealing power which Elijah held:
4 Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments. 5 And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will. 6 Behold, thou art Nephi, and I am God. Behold, I declare it unto thee in the presence of mine angels, that ye shall have power over this people, and shall smite the earth with famine, and with pestilence, and destruction, according to the wickedness of this people. 7 Behold, I give unto you power, that whatsoever ye shall seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and thus shall ye have power among this people. (Helaman 10:4–7. Italics added.)
In other words Elijah has the power to place the Lord’s seal of approval on someone. He also seems to have the ability to punish the people. You’ll recall at the end of part 2 of this series that we looked at D&C 84:40 which indicates that the Father makes an oath “which he cannot break.” In verse 6 above, the same kind of oath is made. God makes an oath, but it’s not the two-way covenant we are often used to. He simply proclaims in essence, “Nephi I’m giving you this power because you have proven yourself completely worthy. I now know that you would never do anything contrary to My will, therefore I can trust you with this power.” The same is true of this temple sealing brought back to the earth by Elijah. When we have proven that we will do the Lord’s will in all things. When there is nothing left that would cause us to stray, the Lord can–and often will–proclaim that we are guaranteed all the promised blessings, including exaltation.
How is it Done?
As we’ve learned previously, the key to partaking of all blessings, covenants, ordinances, etc. is to offer ourselves as a sacrifice in the Temple. This is the price required to participate in all the orders of the Holy Melchizedek priesthood, and receive the highest blessings of Godliness: eventual exaltation. Before Elder David A. Bednar was called to the Quorum of the Twelve, he served as the President of BYU-Idaho and an area Seventy. He delivered a memorable devotional talk wherein he talked about how BYU-Idaho and other church schools are DPC’s, “Disciple Preparation Centers.” The following is a brief excerpt from his talk:
“As you are well aware, we have devotional speakers every Tuesday—many of whom are emeritus General Authorities or Brethren who have been released after serving in the Second Quorum of the Seventy. A significant number of those Brethren, after being released as General Authorities, have served as temple presidents. As Sister Bednar and I host these Brethren, I ask each one of them this question: “What did you learn serving in the temple that you wish you had better known or understood or appreciated when you were a General Authority?” I have asked that question to many of the Brethren, and the consistency of their answers is striking! The following response by Elder J. Ballard Washburn is representative of so many of the answers I have received:
‘I have come to better and more fully understand the protection available in the temple and through our covenants. I have come to better and more fully understand what it means to make an acceptable offering of temple worship. There is a difference between church-attending, tithe-paying members who occasionally rush into the temple to go through a session and those members who faithfully and consistently worship in the temple.'” (Italics added.)
From this quote we see that the path of a disciple, of one who is taking full advantage of the refining and cleansing process offered by the Savior and his atonement, is different from just the average member. The true disciple is seeking to offer “an acceptable offering of temple worship,” as well as “faithfully and consistently worship[ing] in the temple.” Its this person who starts to pick up on language in the endowment and other ceremonies that point to further ordinances. Additional rites and ceremonies that will seal upon us the blessings promised in the initiatory, endowment, and marriage ceremonies, if we are worthy. As we learned previously, the tithes and offerings required in Malachi are ourselves. We are to symbolically offer ourselves as a sacrifice upon the altars of the temple. Joseph Smith and many others taught that “when the Lord has thoroughly proved [us], and finds that [we are] determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the [we] will find [our] calling and his election made sure, then it will be [our] privilege to receive the other Comforter” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith, ed., 146-515. See also 2 Peter 1:10–11. Italics added.). This ordinance of having one’s “calling and election made sure,” is what Elijah restored the keys to. Because all keys (passed down from Joseph Smith) are held by the Prophet and President of the Church, only he, or one given authority by him to exercise those keys, can perform this sacred sealing ordinance, wherein our exaltation is guaranteed. This ordinance is referred to under several other names, including “receiving the more sure word of prophecy,” “being sealed up by the Holy Spirit of promise,” in some cases “the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost,” and at least one other name.
A Temple Ordinance
Because of the sacredness of this ordinance and the promises made with it, it is usually referred to by modern prophets in discreet ways (see the above quote by Elder Bednar) only understood when a person’s spiritual “ears to hear” have been opened. This has caused many misconceptions, including the idea that having your calling and election made sure is a deeply personal experience wherein only you will know if it has happened. This is simply not true. While your devotion and sacrifice of self are deeply personal, why would such things take place outside of the normal priesthood structure that governs everything else in the church? Also, the “more sure word of prophecy” can only come through a prophet of God. One of Christ’s authorized representatives, by revelation, must oversee–if not perform–such ordinances. This is made very clear in D&C 132:18–19
18 And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife, and make a covenant with her for time and for all eternity, if that covenant is not by me or by my word, which is my law, and is not sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, through him whom I have anointed and appointed unto this power, then it is not valid neither of force when they are out of the world, because they are not joined by me, saith the Lord, neither by my word; when they are out of the world it cannot be received there, because the angels and the gods are appointed there, by whom they cannot pass; they cannot, therefore, inherit my glory; for my house is a house of order, saith the Lord God. 19 And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them-Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; and if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection; and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths-then shall it be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, that he shall commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, and if ye abide in my covenant, and commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fullness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. (Italics added.)
This isn’t just referring to the temple marriage we often think it is. While the temple marriage is the first part, if you read carefully you’ll see that here the Lord is guaranteeing the couple “thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions” and more “when they are out of the world”. These are the keys to the final sealing that Elijah delivered to Joseph Smith. They are held by Thomas S. Monson, today.
A Few Final Notes
While this is not exhaustive or comprehensive, it is a good start to understanding the blessings that can be each of ours, if we live faithful and are able to endure well any and all trials “the Lord seeth fit” to allow us to endure. For me personally, this is terribly motivating. To know that in this life I can be guaranteed the blessings of Eternal Lives. To have a goal to work toward, in this life. Caution must be given as well though. Some become fanatical about certain aspects of the gospel. This has been warned about by many prophets over the years. The same is true here. Though we must commit ourselves constantly and repeatedly to become better disciples of Christ, and better worshipers in the temple, we must keep these things sacred and not develop an overly inquisitive spirit regarding them. That could lead to our downfall and failure to achieve these very blessings. Its also important to note that if someone dies without having their calling and election made sure by a living prophet, this does not necessarily mean they were unworthy of these blessings. Mere logistics would make it very difficult if not impossible for all who have proven worthy, to receive this ordinance at the hand of an Apostle. Those who die worthy will receive the same blessings. Its also important to remember that no matter what we do, this sealing is given by the lord “in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will.” For more information on this topic, see these articles at TempleStudy.com:
Also, studying the lives of many prophets will reveal their own “sealing” experience: Abraham, Jacob, Lehi, Nephi, Jacob (Nephi’s brother), Moroni, and many others. Also, Brother Bruce Satterfield’s presentation given durring the 2001-2002 Know Your Religion series entilted “Preisthood Power & Keys” is extremely helpful. As are these Ensign articles:
- The Restoration of Priesthood Keys on Easter 1836, Part 1: Dating the First Easter
- The Restoration of Priesthood Keys on Easter 1836, Part 2: Symbolism of Passover and of Elijah’s Return
- Accepted of the Lord: The Doctrine of Making Your Calling and Election Sure