Lesson 45: The Book of Malachi

Reading Preperation:
  • Malachi
Lesson Notes:
1. Introduction
The writings of Malachi are the last of the writings of Twelve minor Prophets as noted in the Hebrew Bible. His message then and its importance for us today however give his writings special significance. When the Savior appeared following his resurrection to the Nephites gathered in the land of Bountiful at the temple, he quoted Malachi, Chapters 3 and 4 as recorded in Third Nephi, chapters 24 and 25 in the Book of Mormon. On September 23, 1823, a heavenly messenger named Moroni visited Joseph Smith. During his visit, he quoted from the book of Malachi.
Joseph Smith states,
“… on the evening of… [the]… twenty-first of September (1823) … a messenger sent from the presence of God to me [said] that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; … [and] that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations… After telling me these things, he commenced quoting the prophecies of the Old Testament. He quoted part of the third chapter of Malachi; and he quoted also the fourth or last chapter of the same prophecy, though with a little variation from the way it reads in our Bibles” (History of the Church 1. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1969, Second Edition Revised, 10-12; see also Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith-History 1:29, 33, 36, italics added).
As we proceed, we will address in greater detail, the Savior’s visit to the Nephites in the light of the writings of Malachi as well as the visit of the angel Moroni and his message from Malachi to Joseph Smith.
2. The Book of Malachi
Who is Malachi?
Sidney B. Sperry states,
“… little is known of the life of Malachi apart from what can be learned in his book… According to the synagogue tradition, Malachi lived after the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, and was a contemporary of Nehemiah. It is clear from the prophecy that the Temple had been completed, and moreover, enough years had passed by to see the Jews become worldly and negligent toward their spiritual duties. The priests, who should have led and taught their people correct principles, were themselves corrupt and guilty of being partial in their administration of the Law… The book seems to make clear that the Jews were living under a pechah, or Persian governor who was kind to them. These facts and others not here mentioned lead us to believe that Malachi was written during the reign of Artaxerxes I, king of Persia, or sometime between 464 B.C. and 424 B.C. I tentatively date the book at 450 B.C.” (The Voice of Israel’s Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1952, 425-427).
3. Outline of the Book of Malachi
Sidney B. Sperry provides the following outline:
I. The proof of the Lord’s love for His people (1:2-5).
II. The Lord’s condemnation of Israel for her faithlessness (1:6-2:9).
III. A reproof for foreign marriages and divorce (2:10-17).
IV. The coming of a messenger to prepare the way of the Lord; the Lord to purify and refine the sons of Levi that they may offer an offering in righteousness (3:1-4).
V. Condemnation of Israel for various sins, with promised blessings if she complies with God’s requirements (3:5-18). These verses probably have reference to Malachi’s own time, but application may be made of them to future Israel.
VI. The coming of Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord in which judgments shall befall the wicked (4:1-6)
(The Voice of Israel’s Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1952, 428, 434, numbering changed).
Having provided an outline of the writings of Malachi, we will now focus our attention upon the individual chapters highlighting Malachi’s message and admonishment to Judah and to Us.
4. Malachi 1: Lord’s Love and Rebuke
Malachi 1:2-3
2 I have loved you, saith the LORD, Yet ye say, Wherein hath thou loved us? Was not Esau, Jacob’s brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob.
3 And I hated [HEB.Loved less]Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.
The Lord does not hate Esau nor does He hate any of His children. He cannot however ignore the choices of his children when they are rebellious and disobedient to His commandments without taking action. As noted previously, God’s action is not immediate so that the individual may have the opportunity to repent, but without change, there will be consequences for errant choices as was the case with Esau.
When Judah was obedient, the Lord confirms his love for Israel and his rebuke of Esau and his ancestors (Edomites) who had been among Judah’s most bitter enemies. In spite of the Lord’s love for Judah however Judah had not honored Jehovah. One area where they had not been diligent was in the priest’s offering unacceptable animal sacrifices as part of the temple worship.
Malachi 1:6-8
6 … O priests. that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?
7 Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible.
8 And ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? Offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the LORD of hosts.
Does it make a difference if the bread is spoiled or the animals which are offered for sacrifice in the Lord’s temple are lame or sick? It definitely matters to the Lord, and should also matter to us when we, as His servants, act in his name.
The Old Testament student manual states,
“As the spiritual sons and servants of the Lord (see v.6) their offerings to God had become common and worthless. Inasmuch as the sacrifices that they made for the people typified the coming sacrifice and atonement of the Son of God, the only acceptable sacrifice was that which was spotless. The priests and Levites of Malachi’s day were mocking God [by their errant actions]. They had no reverence for what they were doing” (Old Testament student manual: 1 Kings—Malachi. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1982, Second Edition, 351).
In response to the irreverent actions by the priests and Levites, the Lord declared through Malachi his judgment.
Malachi 1:10
10 … I have no pleasure in you, saith the LORD of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand.
The Lord is extremely displeased with the actions of his servants. They have polluted His house and disgraced their service to Him.
Malachi 1:11
11 For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts.
The conventional wisdom of Nyman, Rasmussen and Sperry is that verse 11 is a continuation of the Lord’s rebuke toward the priests and Levities for polluting his ordinances. They state that when the heathen nations who will offer “a pure offering” they will then be entitled to greater blessing than Judah.
Adam Clarke is unique in his view of verse 11 referring to a time in the future when Mosaic sacrifices will no longer be required.
Adam Clarke states,
“From the rising of the sun. The total abolition of the Mosaic sacrifices, and the establishment of a spiritual worship over the whole earth, is here foretold” (Adam Clarke Commentary on the Bible. Abridged by Ralph Earle. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1967, [Nineteenth Printing March 1991], 759).
Is this prophecy in Malachi foretelling the Lord’s atoning sacrifice when the Law of Moses will be fulfilled and no longer would animal sacrifices to be offered? When Jesus Christ visited those in the America’s following his crucifixion and atonement at Jerusalem, He made the following statement as recorded in the Book of Mormon.
B/M, 3 Nephi 9:19-20
19 And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings.
20 And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with the fire, and with the Holy Ghost…
The purpose for establishing the Law of Moses was in order to focus Israel’s attention toward the ultimate sacrifice and atonement which would be offered for the sins of all mankind by the Lord Jesus Christ. Through these words, the Savior himself confirms to those gathered that because His sacrifice and atonement have been accepted by the Father, the purpose for which the Law of Moses had been established was now fulfilled. No longer were animal sacrifices to be offered by the people, instead their sacrifice was to be “a broken heart and a contrite spirit.”
It is not clear at this time which of the two interpretations are correct. Both views are presented for further consideration by the reader.
5. Malachi 2: Unfaithful in Marriage
The second abuse, the degeneracy or corruption] of the priesthood, came about when the actions of the priests and Levities were no longer in keeping with the Lord’s directive.
Malachi 2:8
8 … Ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the Lord of hosts.
The role of the priest was to be an example of righteousness to the people. He was also to be a student of the scriptures and to teach the words of life to others by word and example.
Malachi 2:6-7
6 The law of truth was in his [priest’s] mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity
7 … he is the messenger [teacher by word and example] of the Lord of hosts.
When the priest and Levite no longer lived lives of exemplary action and behavior as “messenger of the Lord” the people no longer heeded their teaching. When we say one thing and exemplify the opposite, our actions then speak louder than our words to those we are teaching.
Malachi now addresses the sin of which many in Judah are guilty.
Malachi 2:11
11 Judah hat dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god.
Marriage to non-Israelites had proven in the past to be a seedbed for apostasy for those of Israel. It is for this reason the Lord had forbidden it. By their actions, they were rejecting their relationship with the Lord and forming one with those who did not honor the Lord! But their only sin was not confined to marrying outside the covenant, they then compounded their transgression by being unfaithful to their wives!
The Old Testament student manual states,
“One of the gross sins among the ancient people of the Lord was unfaithfulness in marriage vows. Some of the Hebrew men, tiring of their wives and the mothers of their children, were seeking the companionship of younger women. The wives would come to the temple and make an appeal to God at the altar” (The Old Testament student manual:1 Kings—Malachi. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1982, Second Edition, 352).
Malachi 2:14-15
14 Yet ye say, Wherefore [have we displeased the Lord]? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion and the wife of thy covenant.
15 And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the sprit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against thy wife of his youth.
In other words, those who entered into marriage outside the covenant did so by committing a sin through breaking their covenant with the Lord. However, once the marriage had been contracted, the Lord expected the man to fully honor his marriage covenant by being a faithful husband and father to his wife and children. With the passing of time, if the man then sought to break his marriage covenant and to seek another wife, this action would again invoke the anger of the Lord against himself. The Lord’s law of marriage is complete fidelity by both partners to the marriage covenant.
Malachi 2:16
16 For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.
This verse speaks directly to those in Israel, both then and now, who attempt to justify the ending of their marriage (“covereth violence with his garment”) with feeble excuses while ignoring the pain and heartache their decision will cause others. Today, in many instances, the individual seeks legally to minimize any responsibility he/she may have for the collateral damage caused to their former family by their decision. Is it any wonder that the Lord would feel that this choice should not be made by His children?
Malachi 2:17
17 Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he deligheth in them: or Where is the God of judgment?
Malachi, like Isaiah [5:20] and Nephi [15:20], speak of a time when there will be those who will seek to minimize the difference between good and evil. It is likely that they will then create their own God who will justify their actions.
B/M, 2 Nephi 28:7-8
7 Yea, and there shall be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die, and it shall be well with us.
8 … and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.
There will be those who upon seeing the gross wickedness that exists, then and now, will wonder “Where is the God of judgment?”
Sidney B. Sperry states,
“The prophet [Malachi] is saddened, as these words show, by the low spiritual state of his people. He sees a day in the future when the answer to the question, ‘Where is the God of justice’ will be answered with vengeance. The Israelites of that day will be tried and refined, but out of their experience great good to the human race shall result” (The Voice of Israel’s Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1952, 434).
6. Malachi 3: Christ appears in Temple
Richard D. Draper states,
“the risen Savior quoted sections of the prophecies of Malachi, stating… the reason… was ‘that they should be given unto future generations’ (3 Ne.24:1; 26:2)… The words of Malachi reveal not only key events but also the nature of the work that would prepare [the righteous] for [the Lord’s Second] coming” (“The Book of Malachi” in Studies in Scripture 4. Edited by Kent P. Jackson. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993, 365).
Malachi 3:1
1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me, and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.
The messenger who prepared the way before the Lord prior to his commencing his mortal ministry was John the Baptist. Will John the Baptist be involved in the preparation for the Lord’s second coming?
As noted previously when Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith on the evening of September 21, 1823, Joseph Smith states,
PGP, Joseph Smith-History 1:36
36 … He first quoted part of the third chapter of Malachi, and he quoted also the fourth or last chapter of the same prophecy, though with a little variation of how it reads in our Bibles…
Sidney B. Sperry states,
“In his account of the heavenly vision, the Prophet Joseph Smith declared that Moroni quoted only part of the Third Chapter of Malachi, but he did not state what part. Quite natural curiosity may prompt one to ask the question, which verses of this chapter did Moroni quote? The writer is convinced that he quoted the first three verses and perhaps also verse four… The reason for our conviction in this regard are these: Verses one to four would have been of prime importance to Moroni, since they deal with the events of the latter days, as our study will show. Then again, verses five to eighteen may be interpreted as dealing with infractions of the moral and religious code of Malachi’s own times. They could not be of immediate use to Moroni in explaining to Joseph Smith the great events that were shortly to come to pass in the world” (The Voice of Israel’s Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1952, 435; see also History of the Church 1. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1969, Second Edition Revised, Footnote *: by B.H. Roberts, 12).
I agree with Sperry as to his reasoning regarding Moroni’s possible choice of verses from Malachi, Chapter 3 to share with Joseph Smith. These four verses would be most important regarding the coming restoration. The significance of the balance of Malachi, Chapter 3 and 4, extends however beyond Malachi’s time for when Jesus Christ appeared to the Nephites in the America’s following his resurrection, He reiterated the same message recorded in Malachi, Chapters Three and Four. This suggests to me that those in the America’s needed to have Malachi’s words, which they previous did not have, just as we need to have them today. As we proceed, I believe the reasoning will become clear.
On May 15, 1829, John the Baptist as a resurrected person, appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and bestowed upon them the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood (Doctrine and Covenants 13). Following their receipt of the Aaronic Priesthood, Joseph and Oliver now had the authority to perform a valid baptism. The restoration of the authority to baptize had been absent from the earth since the death of the early apostles. Joseph now baptized Oliver by complete immersion in the Susquehanna River and then Oliver baptized Joseph as they had been instructed by John the Baptist.
On April 3, 1836, following the completion and dedication of the Kirtland Temple, the Lord came suddenly to his temple.
Doctrine and Covenants 110:1-4
1 The veil was taken from our mind, and the eyes of our understanding were opened.
2 We saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the temple, before us; and under his feet were a paved work of pure gold, in color like amber.
3 … and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying:
4 I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth. I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father.
What joy must have filled the hearts of Joseph and Oliver to have the Lord Jesus Christ himself appear to them in His Holy house. It was to Joseph and Oliver that John the Baptist had appeared as a messenger sent from heaven to restore to them sacred priesthood authority. Now, Jesus Christ himself had suddenly appeared to them, as Malachi had previously prophesied.
Doctrine and Covenants 110:6-9
6 Let the hearts of your brethren rejoice, and let the hearts of all my people rejoice, who have, with their might, built this house in my name.
7 For behold, I have accepted this house, and my name shall be here; and I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house.
8 Yes, I will appear unto my servants, and speak unto them with mine own voice, if my people will keep my commandments, and do not pollute this holy house.
9 Yea, the hearts of thousands and tens of thousands shall greatly rejoice in consequence of the blessing which shall be poured out, and the endowment with which my servants have been endowed in this house.
Why had the Savior appeared to his servants? It appears to me that His purpose was three fold: (1) To express appreciation to those who had sacrificed their time and means in order to construct “His house in my name;” (2) To confirm His personal acceptance of His house and that He will manifest himself within this house, and (3) “the hearts of thousands and tens of thousands” will greatly be blessed “in consequence of the blessings that will be poured out” though the temple work that will have its beginning within the Lord’s house in Kirtland.
Before proceeding further with the events that transpired in the Kirtland Temple on April 3, 1823, let us return our attention to the visit of the Savior following his resurrection to those gathered in the Americas. It is during his visit as recorded in the Book of Mormon in Third Nephi, Chapters 24 and 25, that the Savior referenced the words of Malachi. It is important to note that the words of Malachi were not recorded on the brass plates therefore it was necessary that the Savior quote them to the people assembled.
B/M, 3 Nephi 24:2; Malachi 3:2 [same except Lord caps]
2 But who may abide the day of his coming, and who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap.
3 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and he shall purify the sons of the Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.
When the Lord returns to the earth for the second time, His glory will be of such intensity that only those who have been obedient to the commandments and have sought to live lives of righteousness will be able to stand in His presence. The reference to “a refiner’s fire and … fuller’s soap” refers to the purifying effect which is the purpose of both elements upon metal and cloth respectfully. The wicked will not be able to stand.
B/M, 3 Nephi 24:5; Malachi 3:5 [same except Lord caps]
5 And I will come near to you in judgment: and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers [divination], and against the adulterers, and against the swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger, and fear not me, saith the Lord of Hosts.
Those who are guilty of the above sins will be amongst the first to receive the effects of the Lord’s immediate judgment.
B/M, 3 Nephi 24:7; Malachi 3:7 [same except Lord caps]
7 Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of Hosts. But ye say [said]: Wherein shall we return?
For those who have been taught the ordinances, but not kept them, if they will return [repent], the Lord will hear their pleading.
B/M, 3 Nephi 24:8-10; Malachi 3:8-10 [same except Lord caps]
8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say:[,] Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
9 Ye are cursed with a curse,[:] for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my house; and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
It would appear that there are many who had been negligent in keeping this commandment (vs.7-8), and the importance of their giving tithes [10% of income] and offerings [fast offerings] had not been fully understood. For this reason, the Lord is again directing the candidates in his kingdom to again live this law and to receive the blessings that will accompany their obedience.
Harold B. Lee states,
“The promise following obedience to this principle is that the windows of heaven would be open and blessing would be poured out that we would hardly be able to contain. The opening of the windows of heaven, of course, means revelation from God to him who is willing thus to sacrifice” (“The Way to Eternal Life” Ensign, November, 1971, 16).
As members of the Church, often we are prone to interpret the commandment of the Lord to pay our tithes and offerings as having only temporal benefits and we tend to underestimate the spiritual blessings that will accompany our obedience. The benefit received from personal revelation from the Lord, as Harold B. Lee notes, may far exceed any temporal blessing that we may obtain. There are also other benefits as noted by LeGrand Richards.
LeGrand Richards states,
while “we need the tithes of the Saints in order that the kingdom might go on,… for it shall be builded just as rapidly as the faith of the Saints can build it… [we must also understand that] giving sanctifies the souls of those who [give]” (Conference Report, April, 1939, 44-45).
The giving of our tithes and offerings offer to us many blessings.
B/M, 3 Nephi 24:11-12; Malachi 3:11-12 [same except Lord caps]
11 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of Hosts.
12 And all nations shall call you blessed, for ye shall be a delightsome and, saith the Lord of Hosts.
Monte S. Nyman and Farres H. Nyman note,
“A… [another] promise to the tithe payer was that the Lord would rebuke the devourer and not cause the fruits to be destroyed or not be productive (Malachi 3:11). The problem relates to the weather. The elements that destroy crops include such things as frost, drought, insects and hail. The Lord promises to control such for his people if they are faithful. Such blessings upon the sons of Jacob will bring the recognition of surrounding nations upon them (Malachi 3:12)” (The Words of the Twelve Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1990, 143).
In the past, due to the change in the United States from an agrarian culture to one based on technology, I would have discounted this blessing. Having just experienced one of the most disastrous years that the United States has ever experienced in its history with natural disasters including droughts, floods, extremes in temperature, hurricanes, tornadoes, and the effect this has had upon the food production including increased cost to the consumer, has reminded me of our dependence upon the Lord for the very food we eat and the security provided by our homes. For many this will be attributed to the “effects of climate change” however others, like myself, recognize it as a warning from the Lord regarding the nations level of spirituality!
B/M, 3 Nephi 24:13 Malachi 3:13
13 Your words have been stout against me, saith the Lord. Yet ye say: What have we spoken against thee? 13 Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee?
3 Nephi 24:14 Malachi 3:14
14 Ye have said: it is vain to serve God; and what

doth it profit that we have kept his ordinances and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of Hosts?
14 Ye have said, it is vain to serve God; and what

profit is it that we have kept his ordinances and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of Hosts?
B/M, 3 Nephi 24:15; Malachi 3:15 [same]
15 And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.
In the above verses 13-15, we learn that in the latter days there will be those [members?] who will be guilty of speaking against the Lord [and his authorized servants?]. When this sin is brought to their attention, they will discount its seriousness. Their complaints will probably arise at a time when the persecution against the saints [members of the LDS Church] is beginning to increase and many members will suffer because of their beliefs. At this time, it will appear to the individual that there is no immediate relief from their circumstances. Their experience, combined with their personal observation that those who “work wickedness” seem to be prospering, will bring about a trial of the individual’s faith. It is most important during these times to remember what we know and then to count the blessings we have “that money cannot buy” including family, good friends, health and peace of mind based upon our trust in the Lord.
B/M, 3 Nephi 24:16-18; Malachi 3:16-18 [same except Lord caps]
16 Then they that feared [reverance] the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared [reverence] the Lord, and that thought upon his name.
17 And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.
18 Then shall ye return and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God, and him that severeth him not.
Sidney B. Sperry states,
“[The Lord] proceeds to show them that their complaints against Him are unjust and that in the forthcoming judgment day a clear distinction will be made between the righteous and the wicked. The wicked who mourn and fast before God and then complain that their piety has brought them no gain are contrasted with the righteous who do not believe that mere outward worship is sufficient to please him” (The Voice of Israel’s Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1952, 441).
7. Malachi 4: Dreadful Day-Elijah to return
The importance of this chapter cannot be over emphasized. It is recorded in our scriptures written by Malachi himself. It was quoted by the Savior himself when he appeared to the Nephites who were gathered at the Temple in Bountiful in the America’s following His resurrection. Lastly, it was quoted by the angel Moroni when he appeared to Joseph Smith on September 23, 1823 with a little variation as it appears in our Bible today. It’s message is as current as the headlines in today’s newspaper.
As we proceed, I will attempt to correlate these recordings so that the reader may understand the differences.
There is no difference between Malachi 4:1,5,6 and the recording in the B/M, 3 Nephi 25:1,5,6. The difference is between the writing of Malachi and the words of the angel Moroni as recorded in Joseph Smith’s History. The two are provided for comparison.
Malachi 4:1,5,6 PGP, Joseph Smith—History 1:37-39
1 For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. 37 For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea and all that do wickedly shall burn as stubble; for they that come shall burn them saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: 38 And again, he quoted the fifth verse thus: 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.
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. 39 He also quoted the next verse differently: And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promise 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.
We learn in Malachi 4:1 that at a time in the future {the Second Coming of the Lord], the proud and the wicked will be destroyed. Those who had the opportunity to repent of their wickedness, but chose not to, with be destroyed by “they that come” meaning those who because of their obedience and purity will return with the Lord to the earth at the time of His Second coming. They will be left with “neither root nor branch.”
Theodore M. Burton defines root and branch,
“what is meant by the expression “that it shall leave them neither root nor branch”? This expression simply means that wicked and indifferent persons who reject the gospel of Jesus Christ will have no family inheritance or patriarchal lineage — neither root (ancestors or progenitors) nor branch (children or posterity). Such persons cannot be received into the celestial kingdom of glory of resurrected beings, but must be content with a lesser blessing” (Conference Report. September 30, 1967, Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 81).
When we combine the insight gained by a reading of Malachi 4:5 and the PGP, Joseph Smith—History 1:38, our understanding is expanded. We learn from each that Elijah is going to return to the earth as a messenger sent from heaven before the “great and dreadful day of the LORD.” We learn from the History of Joseph Smith the purpose of Elijah’s return is to bestow upon Joseph Smith the keys of the priesthood that Elijah held during his mortal life. The bestowal of the priesthood by Elijah shall “plant in the hearts of the children the promise made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.” Without Elijah’s return and the authority which he will bestow upon Joseph Smith, the “whole earth would be utterly wasted at His coming” or in the words of Malachi, when the Lord comes, He would “smite the earth with a curse.” What is the meaning of these important verses and what is Elijah to restore that will have such an important impact upon the children and the fathers that it will save the earth from being “utterly wasted” or “curse[d]” by the Lord’s return?
For centuries the Jews have interpreted the words of Malachi and the return of their Prophet Elijah literal. Even today, as the Jews celebrate Passover, a place for the Prophet Elijah is prepared in anticipation that this will be the time that he will return. They are unaware that Elijah has returned, at the time of Passover, April 3, 1823.
On April 3, 1823, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery received four heavenly visitors, including an appearance from the Savior which we have previously referenced. The names of the other messengers are Moses, Elias, and Elijah. We will address the importance of the Elijah appearance and then why the appearance of Moses and Elias.
Doctrine and Covenants 110:13-16
13 After the vision had closed [Elias appearance], another great and glorious vision burst upon us; for Elijah the prophet, who was taken to heaven without tasting death, stood before us, and said:
14 Behold, the time has fully come which was spoken bo 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 the 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.
The keys that Elijah bestowed upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery contained the authority to perform ordinances whose efficacy would extend beyond the grave and would be valid in heaven. These include the performance of all essential ordinances necessary for the living and the dead, including eternal marriage and the sealing of children to their parents. It is for this specific purpose that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is engaged in building temples throughout the world.
Joseph Smith states,
“the power of Elijah [is] to seal those who dwell on earth to those who dwell in heaven… what you seal on earth by the keys of Elijah, is sealed in heaven” (History of the Church 6. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1969, Second Edition Revised, 252).
Richard D. Draper states,
“One of the blessings that grew out of this power [bestowed by Elijah] was eternal marriage and the resultant blessing of the sealing of children to parents. By extension, it 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 [when the power and authority to perform essential ordinances was not upon the earth]. A byproduct of this process is that those on the earth are sealed to those in heaven and can draw assistance from them” (“The Book of Malachi” in Studies in Scripture 4. Edited by Kent P. Jackson. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993, 371).
With this additional insight regarding the purpose of Elijah returning to the earth, we come to better understand the reason why the earth would be “cursed” or “utterly wasted” at the time of the Savior’s return. The ordinances of baptism and sealing must be done either during the individual’s time on earth or by proxy following their death. In this manner, links are established amongst family members “over the course of the history of the earth.”
Doctrine and Covenants 128:15, 18 [Letter Joseph Smith to members of Church, September 6, 1842] [underline added]
15 And now my dearly beloved bothers and sisters, let me assure you that these principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over, as pertaining to our salvation. For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation, as Paul says concerning the fathers—that they without us cannot be made perfect [Heb.11:40]—neither can we without our dead be made perfect.
18 I might have rendered a plainer translation in this, [quotes Malachi 4:5, 6] but it is sufficiently plain to suit my purposes as it stands. It is sufficient to know, in this case, that the earth will be smitten with a curse unless there is a welding link of some kind or other between the fathers and the children, upon some subject or other—and behold what is that subject? It is the baptism for the dead. 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 of the dispensation of the fullness of times, which dispensation is now beginning to usher in, that a whole and complete and perfect union, and wielding 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. And not only this, but those things which never have been revealed from the foundation of the world, but have been kept hid from the wise and the prudent [of the world], shall be revealed unto babes and sucklings [the unlearned] in this, the dispensation of the fullness of times.
Richard D. Draper states,
“Each generation needs to be welded to the one before it, such that a whole, complete and perfect union can be made. 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 for the return of its great King (see Doctrine and Covenants 128:18). 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” (“The Book of Malachi” in Studies in Scripture 4. Edited by Kent P. Jackson. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993, 372).
This sacred work for the living and the dead can only be accomplished within the walls of a sacred temple dedicated for that specific purpose. The keys and power to perform these sacred ordinances is the power and authority that the Prophet Elijah held. It was therefore necessary for him to return to earth in order to bestow this power upon the living prophet so that the work could commence in this dispensation of the fullness of times.
Gordon B. Hinckley states,
“Surely the work that goes on in these sacred houses is the most unselfish of all work. Those who labor here do so, for the most part, in behalf of those beyond the veil of death. They do it because of a knowledge of the importance of eternal ordinances and covenants. They do it so that even the dead may exercise agency concerning the acceptance or rejection of sacred ordinances” (“An Ensign to the Nations” in Ensign, November, 1989, 54).
What was the purpose for Moses and Elias to return to the earth? Each brought keys that they had held that they restored again to the earth to the Prophet Joseph Smith. We will address first Moses return and then Elias.
Doctrine and Covenants 110:11
11 After this vision closed [vision of the Savior], the heavens were again opened unto us; and Moses appeared before us, and committed unto us the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribe from the land of the north.
The gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and leading of the ten tribes to Zion is one of the greatest responsibilities that the church and its members have in the latter days.
The gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth will be accomplished by a joint effort of the full-time missionaries who go throughout the world sharing the message of the restoration and the blessings that are now available to them and the finding of individuals and families who would be receptive by the members of the church. As they enter the waters of baptism and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost they are now on the path to receive all the blessing the Lord has for them including receiving their patriarchal blessing. In this blessing, they become aware of their tribal lineage and the individual blessings the Lord has for them. They also have the privilege of attending the temple and there receiving the sacred ordinances of eternity.
Joseph Smith states regarding this important work,
“the gathering… It is a principle I esteem to be of the greatest importance to those who are looking for salvation in this generation, or in these, that may be called, ‘the latter times.’ All that the prophets have written from the days of righteous Adam, down to the last man that has left any testimony on record for our consideration in speaking of the salvation of Israel in the last days, goes direct to show that it consists in the work of the gathering” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Compiled by Joseph Fielding Smith. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1977, 83).
The promise was made to Israel by the Lord that if they were faithful and obedient to the covenants they would be a blessed and chosen people. Time and time again, Israel was not able to live up to their covenants and they were not able to receive the blessing the Lord had promised them. It will be different during the dispensation of the fullness of times in which we are now living.
Doctrine and Covenants 88:73
73 Behold, I will hasten my work in its time.
The revelation given to the Prophet Joseph on December 27 and 28, 1832 and January 3, 1833, indicated that a time would come when the all would be in place that the Lord would then “hasten [His] work”. That time according to the present day prophet, Thomas S. Monson, has now arrived (see “Hastening the Work” in Ensign, June, 2014, 4). This work involves the gathering a second time of the righteous of the tribes of Israel.
Bruce R. McConkie states,
“We have gathered, from their Egyptian bondage as it were, [Moses was in charge of the first gathering] the dispersed of Ephraim and few others, initially to the mountains in America, but now into the stakes of Zion in the various nations of the earth. The gathering of Israel is a reality” (“The Final Glorious Gospel Dispensation” in Ensign, April, 1980, 22).
The second key that Moses bestowed upon Joseph Smith involved the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north. It is important to know that the Lord knows the location of the members of these tribes and they are not lost to him. Their gathering will be separate from the gathering of the tribes of Israel.
It was the Savior himself who informed the Nephites at the time of His appearance in the Americas that He was going to the visit the lost tribes of Israel.
B/M, 3 Nephi 17:4
4 But now I [Jesus Christ] go unto the Father and also to show myself unto the lost tribes of Israel, for they are not lost unto the Father; for he knoweth whither he hath taken them.
And they will have the gospel taught to them.
B/M, 3 Nephi 20:26
26 And then shall the work of the Father commence at that day, even when the gospel shall be preached among the remnant of this people [during the latter days]. Verily I say unto you, at that day shall the work of the Father commence among all of the dispersed of my people, yea, the tribes which have been lost, which the Father hath led away out of Jerusalem.
Bruce R. McConkie notes,
“When the ten tribes return they will come at the direction of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for he now holds and will then hold the keys of presidency and direction for this mighty work” (“The Final Glorious Gospel Dispensation” in Ensign, April, 1980, 22).
Why did Elias come to the Kirtland Temple?
Joseph Fielding Smith states,
“… we learn that Noah is Gabriel and that he came to Joseph Smith as an Elias [forerunner] and restored the keys of the dispensation in the which the Lord made covenant with Abraham and his posterity after him to the latest generations… Elias is Noah” (Answers to Gospel Questions 3. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1960, Second Printing, 140-141).
Bruce R. McConkie states
“What is the gospel of Abraham? Obviously it was the commission, the mission, the endowment and power, the message of salvation given to Abraham… It was a divine promise that both in the world and out of the world his seed should continue…
“Thus the gospel of Abraham was one of celestial marriage… It is a gospel or commission to provide lineage for the elect portion of the pre-existent spirits, a gospel to provide a household in eternity for those who live the fullness of the celestial law. The power and commission is what Elias restored, and as a consequence, the righteous among all future generations were assured the blessings of a continuation of the seeds forever, even as it was with Abraham of old (D&C 132)” (Mormon Doctrine. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1966, Second Edition, 219-220).
The Doctrine and Covenants student manual states.
“With such blessings restored again [Moses, Elias] the way was opened for teaching scattered Israel the principles of salvation. The Lord’s plans, however, would all come to naught if the mighty sealing power of Elijah had not immediately followed, for Elijah’s power enables Israel to have those principles here and hereafter” (Doctrine and Covenants student manual. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981, 276).
8. Conclusions
As we conclude this chapter regarding the writing of Malachi, I am grateful that we are able to have even a portion of his writings that have been preserved for our benefit. The truths that are contained in these brief four chapters are of great value for each of us.
While it is true that the last two chapters of Malachi, especially chapter four, has the greatest importance for our day, each chapter contains important counsel for us today.
Some of the messages which stand as important counsel for us include: (1) The importance of those who are in the service of the Lord to conduct their actions in reverence and obedience appropriate to the sacred trust of their calling is an important admonition. We must never take lightly the impact that our actions may have upon others; (2) The importance of marrying within the covenant and then to fully honor our vows with complete fidelity should be the norm for each partner. When we seek to gratify our own selfish interest at the expense of others, especially our spouse and children, we may expect to receive the full measure of condemnation for our actions from God; (3) The sins of greed and selfishness effects many in the world today. There is a human tendency, for many, to think of themselves first. This is no more apparent that in the obtaining of riches. When we pursue the obtaining of wealth for the sole purpose of our own honor, and neglect the needs of those around us, we are standing on slippery ground. Our success, as we define it, and our demise in the eyes of the Lord is imminent unless we change our focus. The treasures in heaven are only reserved for those who use their talents by rendering service and benefiting the lives of those around them. King Benjamin gave these words of counsel to both the rich and the poor.
B/M, Mosiah 4:21-24 [underline added]
21 And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O them, how ye aught to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.
22 And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done.
23 I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him; and now, I say these things unto those who are rich as pertaining to the things of this world.
24 And again I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give.
It is certain that this admonition includes the paying of our tithes and offerings as well as our giving of our time and energy to help build the Lord’s kingdom.
Lastly, we turn to the great prophecy concerning the coming of Elijah and the effect of his return upon the earth and her inhabitants. How blessed we are that he has returned and restored the keys to bring about the work for the dead and the wielding of the links of this earth’s family back to Father Adam and Mother Eve. The keys have been restored; the work for the dead is going forward, and the earth is being blessed.
Orson Pratt states regarding the unfolding of this great work,
“By and by we will have Temples, with a great many things contained in them which we now have not; for with them, as with all other things, the Lord begins little by little; he does not reveal everything all at once. He gave the pattern of these things in Kirtland, Ohio, as the beginning; but there were not rooms for the washings, no rooms such as we have now, and such as were prepared in the Nauvoo Temple, and in other respects, there was something added to the Nauvoo Temple. Why, Because we had greater experience, and were prepared for greater things. There was no font in the basement story of the Kirtland Temple, for baptismal purposes in behalf of the dead? Why not! Because that principle was not revealed. But in the Nauvoo Temple this font was prepared, which was something in advance of the Kirtland Temple. We have, of late, constructed a Temple in St. George. Blessings have been administered in that Temple, that were totally unknown in the two former Temples, namely endowments for the dead. Again, by and by, we [will] build a Temple in Jackson County, Missouri. Will it be built according to the pattern of our present Temples? No, There will be, according to the progress of the people, and the knowledge they receive, and the greatness of the work that is before them, many things, pertaining to the pattern, that will then be given, which will differ materially, or will be, at least, in addition to that which is in these Temples now built. I think if you go and search the Church Historian’s office, you will find a plan of a Temple, that is to be built in Jackson County, which will be very different from the little Temples we now build” (Journals of discourse 19. London: Latter-day Saint’s Book Depot, 1854-86, [Eighth Reprint 1974], 19).
Latter-Day Temples will continue to be built until they dot the earth and are accessible to all who desire to obtain these sacred blessing that link earth with heaven. May each of us take full advantage of the Lord’s blessings for each of us by preparing ourselves to participate in this sacred work for our ancestors.