Who was the Elias of D&C 110?

On 3 April 1836, at the Kirtland Temple as recounted in D&C 110, the heavens were opened and Moses appeared in vision, committing the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth and the leading of the ten tribes from the lands of the north.

Then, in v. 12 we read:

After this, 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.

Then in v. 13 comes Elijah the Prophet, who quotes the famous Malachi passage about the hearts of the fathers turning to the children and vice versa. So who was this Elias?

Normally, Elias in the NT is simply the Greek form of the Hebrew name Elijah. Greek lacked an exact equivalent to the “y” or yod of the Hebrew name Eliyah (or Eliyahu, “Yahweh is my God”); such sounds were represented in Greek with a iota (or “i”), and -as was a common ending for male names in Greek. So Elias was simply the Greek way of writing Eliyah (Elijah).

But in D&C 110, that option appears to be foreclosed, since Elijah himself makes a separate appearance immediately following Elias.

The usual LDS answer to this question, as reflected in both the LDS 1979 Bible Dictionary and the Encyclopedia of Mormonism (s.v. “Elias”), is to state that Elias was the name of an otherwise unknown man who presumably lived in the days of Abraham.

Personally, I just can’t buy this explanation. First, it would be odd for a Middle Bronze Age Semite to have a Greek-formed name like Elias. The more linguistically acceptable form of this argument is that this was another Eliyahu, and to avoid confusion with the Eliyahu (Elijah) of the next verse, he was called by his Hellenic name Elias here. But even if that were the case, why would God send a man no one had ever heard of and who is nowhere mentioned in the Bible to commit this gospel to Joseph Smith? I just can’t buy that.

The name “Elias” has also been used as a kind of title to refer to a forerunner or a restorer. But that runs into the same problem of why an otherwise unknown individual would be chosen to do this task. The whole point of bringing famous personalities from biblical antiquity to restore these keys is the fact that they were well known and thus their authority was assured.

So for a long time I just kind of took the view that Joseph got confused about the fact that Elias is simply the Greek form of the name Elijah. I’m still kind of partial to that point of view. But of course, faithful LDS don’t like it, because then how do we account for the vision in D&C 110? Am I saying that he didn’t really see anyone in between Moses and Elijah?

Well, this has been a puzzle for a long time. It is a favorite complaint of critics. I certainly would be interested in what others think.

I do have a bit of an insight, however, into how to understand the Elias of D&C 110.

Mark 9:3 reads:

And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus.

The JST adds the following words immediately after “Moses”: “…or in other words, John the Baptist and Moses.”

The LDS BD s.v. “Elias” opines: “The curious wording of JST Mark 9:3 does not imply that the Elias of the Transfiguration was John the Baptist, but that in addition to Elijah the prophet, John the Baptist was present.” Well, I hate to be disagreeable, but the LDS BD is just plain wrong: the curious wording of JST Mark 9:3 implies exactly that the Elias of that passage should be understood as John the Baptist. LDS scholars understandably don’t like that reading and would like to sweep it under the rug, but that is clearly what the JST means to convey. The source of this equation would seem to be Jesus himself, who equated John the Baptist with the Elias who was to come.

Note, too, that in D&C 110 Elias is paired with and immediately follows Moses.

I suggest that this pairing is not accidental, but harks back to the Mount of Transfiguration. Elijah is then presented at the scene, but tied to the ending quotation of the OT.

So, my tentative suggestion to the question is that Joseph understood the Elias of the Mount of Transfiguration, which was the model for who appeared to him at the Kirtland Temple in these verses, to be John the Baptist, a separate individual from Elijah the Tishbite.

Why would John the Baptist commit the gospel of Abraham to Joseph? Not because he lived in the time of Abraham, obviously, but because he was the last great prophet of the old covenant preceding the time of Christ.

Comments

  1. Interesting. I think it’s fairly common amongst Mormons to think that John only held the Aaronic priesthood. What is the basis for this assumption? I’m not aware of anything scriptural that would preclude him from holding the Melchizedek priesthood, which I assume would be essential for Kevin’s postulate to be correct.

  2. Ed Snow says:

    Kevin, I don’t know if you’re right (sounds good to me), but I’ve always thought the Elias thing was a clumsy mix up too. In fact, I find it analogous to Michael and Adam both appearing separately in the same vision when they’re supposed to be the same guy:

    The heavens were opened upon us and I beheld the celestial Kingdom of God, …I saw father Adam and Abraham and Michael and my father and mother, my brother Alvin,…” (Joseph Smith’s 1835-36 Diary, Jan.21, 1836)

    Sometimes things are just plain mixed up. In this vision, appealing to early “Adam-God” concepts (ie, “God is the person referred to here, he’s just called Adam because, hey, that’s the ‘crazy talk’ they were doing back then!”) is an interesting apologetic move I’ve heard people try as well, and may actually be right in some historically-speaking way (!?!), but it further complicates things. By fixing one problem you create another. Sometimes you just have to choose your poison.

    I find it interesting that Mormons eschew untidiness, something about avoiding “matter(s) unorganized,” or being anal retentive about fixing them. No loose ends. That’s why I think Mormons like Jello fruit salad so much: the fruit isn’t just sliding all over the place, it becomes fixed, organized, correlated.

  3. Ed Snow says:

    Oops. The last two paragraphs in my comment weren’t supposed to be block quotes. Dang. See, sometimes things just get mixed up.

  4. Kevin, wonderful stuff. I like it a lot. Elias as John the Baptist in the Bible AND the D&C… whodathunkit?

    Gomez, I’ve heard a lot of explanation on this, but I think the Bible might be hinting at there being only 1 priesthood at the time Jesus came, outside of Jesus himself, according to the book of Hebrews. Who knows.

  5. Greg Call says:

    I think the Elias = John the Baptist thing is pretty entrenched and I’m surprised to hear that the Encyclopedia of Mormonism disagrees. As I recall Joseph Fielding Smith lays out the argument in “Answers to Gospel Questions.”

  6. Interesting theory. That makes a lot more sense than any other theory I’ve heard.

  7. Greg Call says:

    Check that. Joseph Fielding Smith says that the Elias who appeared in Kirtland was *Noah*. Here’s the argument:
    “Joseph Smith revealed that Gabriel was Noah; Luke declared that it was the angel Gabriel who appeared to Zacharias and Mary; and the Lord has declared that Elias appeared to Zacharias and Joseph Smith. Therefore, Elias is Noah” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions 3:141).

  8. David J, do you believe the bible indicates one priesthood? Wouldn’t that prevent John being able to restore keys he did not hold?

  9. KB: I like your analysis; it is persuasive to me. I don’t understand why it should be controversial. Your post raises two questions for me:

    (1) With regard to the John the Baptist = Elias reading of Mark 9:3, you state “LDS scholars understandably don’t like that reading and would like to sweep it under the rug, but that is clearly what the JST means to convey.” You lost me on that. Why, in your view, is this a reading that LDS scholars “understandably” don’t like. Does that reading somehow imply the Church is not true or that JS was lying? Maybe I’m being dense, but I don’t see why this is a reading that LDS scholars “understandably” don’t like. Is it just because the EoM contains a contrary analysis?

    (2) Growing up in a scripture-rich LDS setting, I always thought it was a pretty standard interpretation that Elias = forerunner and thus refers to John the Baptist. I have heard this many times. So, even if the Bible Dictionary does say that with reference to the JST verse, many members of the Church are following your preferred interpretation of JST Mark 9:3 anyway.

    But as far as your analysis goes, it is very persuasive to see John the Baptist, as the last prophet of the old covenant, conveying the keys to the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham to Joseph Smith in the last days.

  10. I meant, even if the Bible Dictionary does say that Elias in JST Mark 9:3 is there with Moses in addition to John the Baptist, many members of the Church seem to be following your preferred interpretation of JST Mark 9:3 anyway.

  11. Last Lemming says:

    Consider the possibility that none of the three explicitly identified themselves. The third came the closest, by invoking the prophecy of Malachi concerning Elijah. Joseph might have assumed that the two who appeared to Jesus at the transfiguration would be repeating their mission in Kirtland. That means Moses was one of them, and Joseph might have linked him more closely with the gathering of Israel than to the gospel of Abraham. That leaves “Elias.”

    Kevin makes the case that Joseph seems to have believed that the “Elias” at the transfiguration was John the Baptist. So why not just identify him by name? Maybe because John the Baptist was one resurrected face with which Joseph was already familiar, and it was not the face of the “Elias” who appeared in Kirtland. So he retained the linkage of Moses with “Elias,” but was otherwise not confident enough in the identity of “Elias” to commit it to writing.

    I don’t know when Joseph translated that chapter of Mark, but if it was prior to 1836, he might have been operating under the assumption that the prophecy of Malachi had already been fulfilled through John the Baptist. The experience at Kirtland might, therefore, have changed his mind about the identity of “Elias” at the transfiguration and he just never got around to changing it in Mark. In which case, the “Elias” at the transfiguration might have been the still unidentified figure who appeared in Kirtland. Or, more likely, it was Elijah all along. Isn’t speculation fun?

    Incidently, my vote for the restorer of the gospel of Abraham is…ahem…Abraham.

  12. Kevin Barney says:

    John F., I think the reason LDS scholars don’t want to read the JST of Mark passage the way it clearly reads is that that would put John the Baptist on the Mount of Transfiguration in lieu of Elijah, rather than in addition to him. We would bascially be kicking Elijah off the Mount of Transfiguration if we do that.

    It is interesting that the third figure in D&C 110 is Elijah, who according to the regular Bible was with Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration. So there seems to be a clear connection between D&C 110 and the Mount of Transfiguration; I’m just not sure I understand very well the nature of that connection.

  13. Steve EM says:

    “That’s why I think Mormons like Jello fruit salad so much………..”

    That’s a Utah/Idaho thing, along with expecting clairvoyance and not stating the dress when inviting someone to a function. Please don’t pin that rigid brand of Mormonism on the whole church.

  14. I don’t know how much bearing this has, but according to Bushman (according to my memory) the text of D&C 110 was written by Warren Cowdrey–and it was in the third person. Furthermore, Bushman says that Joseph never refered to that particular experience even when preaching on the mission of Elijah.

    Do we have good reason to think that Joseph read and approved the text that we have?

  15. Ed Snow says:

    Yes, Steve EM, you’re right. “some Mormons like Jello.” Zeal without knowledge there. My mind was on vacation and my mouth was working overtime. Didn’t mean to taint anyone. Jello’s a worn out comedic angle anyway, even with a new twist.

    The more I think about this, the more I think modern members don’t really understand much about the Elias doctrines Joseph taught–I don’t. They seem less than developed, something he got got started on before his death that never got fully developed.

    Also, I think there’s no real need to work out all of the “priesthoods” in a methodical way. It’s worthwhile to do, and I like reading about it, but I don’t think it’s very important. In the earliest days, the term “priesthood” wasn’t even used–it was authority. Look at the sacrament and baptism prayers–authority is the term. It wasn’t until later that explanations were developed for the authority.

    Another example, Bushman has suggested that the Peter James & John visit to JS and OC happened after 4-1-1830. This is contrary to current understanding of keys and all and church organization. And then there’s that very odd statement from Joseph Smith about James/Jacob and keys from the King Follett discourse–what does this mean?

    I have an old edition of the New Testament in the Latin, Hebrew, German and Greek languages. I have been reading the German, and find it to be the most [nearly] correct translation, and to correspond nearest to the revelations which God has given to me for the last fourteen years. It tells about Jacobus, the son of Zebedee. It means Jacob. In the English New Testament it is translated James. Now, if Jacob had the keys, you might talk about James through all eternity and never get the keys. In the 21st of the fourth chapter of Matthew, my old German edition gives the word Jacob instead of James.

  16. do you believe the bible indicates one priesthood? Wouldn’t that prevent John being able to restore keys he did not hold?

    Gomez, good questions. I would tacitly say “yes” to the first question (in the NT). Again, the book of Hebrews assigns Jesus a higher order of the priesthood, which I think JS might have utilized in the restoration movement in a corporate way, but it seems to only be something Jesus had. I’ve even been exposed to people who are offended that Mormons imply that they use it for themselves.

    And I would say “no” to the second question. As far as restoring Aaronic stuff, he wouldn’t need the Melch. for that, would he? I’m not sure. And if he is Elias (btw kevin, you’ve convinced me!), is he really restoring a priesthood or just conferring keys? Is there a difference? I don’t know.

  17. Kevin Barney says:

    That’s an interesting quote, Ed. By a weird linguistic process, the name Jacob becomes “James” for NT persons with that name. That is,

    OT HEB Ya’akob (ENG transliteration “Jacob”)

    becomes IakObos in NT Greek,

    Iacobus in Latin

    Iacomus in Late Latin, and from there into the Romance languages: Giacomo in Italian, Jaime in Spanish, etc., and finally

    James in English.

    I was taught at BYU that the reason the name “James” was used in the NT is that the Bible was dedicated to King James I, and the translators couldn’t very well not include his name in it. I believed that for a number of years, but when I tried to track it down, I found that it simply isn’t true (the truth of the matter is the linguistic development I sketch above; indeed, “Iames” is used in Tyndale, IIRC).

    So Joseph was commenting on the unfortunate distance between the English names Jacob and James, since they are really the same name. I’ve seen non-LDS commentators make the same observation and lament as Joseph (although phrased a little less colorfully).

  18. Ed Snow says:

    Kevin, I was wondering what he meant about the mix up of names and its relationship to keys. I’ve always heard the King James explanation as well. So, if King Arthur had been king at the time of the KJV, would Peter, Arthur and John have visited Joseph Smith?

  19. Steve EM says:

    Isn’t the angel Gabriel a women? She’s always depicted that way in movies. It was a riot in Constantine when she tells the protagonist he’s f’ed with no hope of escaping hell. Was Noah a cross dresser?

    And isn’t the KFD suspect, being so close to JS’s death when he was under pressures we can’t imagine, hence why it was never canonized?

  20. It would be odd for Gabriel to be female, since the name means “might man of El”/ “warrior of El.” If it means “El (is) a warrior” then it could be a woman’s name, but it would be strange.

  21. A couple of questions:

    1. If the Elias of S.110 is John the Baptist, why not just say so? What was the point of obscuring his identity? It seems to me that it would be important to identify the individual in a recognizable manner. JS identified John the Baptist by that name as the restorer of the Aaronic Priesthood, so why not identify him by that name in S.110?

    2. Since J Bap. did not belong to the dispensation of Abraham, does it really make sense that he would appear to commit to Joseph the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham?

  22. Levi Peterson says:

    For whatever it is worth, Dialogue will publish a moderately long documented article on Elias. Appropriately enough, the title of the article is “The Prophet Elias Puzzle.” Its author is Sam Brown.

  23. This nice thing about Elias = John the Baptist is that it would also make the Mt of Transfiguration be akin to the M.P. and the A.P. Since the sons of Moses = MP.

    We then have the three levels in the Priesthood. AP, MP, and then fulness. That lines up actually quite well with those who argue that Mk 9:5 is a kind of temple ceremony with three degrees of glory symbolized.

    I understand why people want Elijah as the representative of the MP but I think Moses works just as well whereas I’m not sure Moses works as well for AP. (The traditional reading)

  24. Nice post and comments. I think that Section 138 is quite important as it relates to this. JSF lists those who were waiting for Jesus at the post-mortal party. We have “Noah, who gave warning of the flood;” (41), “Moses, the great law-giver of Israel” (41), and “Elias, who was with Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration” (45). Notably there is no Elijah and no John the Baptist.

    This is problematic in some ways, but it is helpful. It disputes the Mormon idea that Moses was not dead. But if Section 110 was the Mt. of Transfiguration II, then it may not be a big deal as that section is replete with language identifying it as a visionary experience. It is the McConkie vein of thought that requires there to be physical contact.

    Noah and Elias are both there, which repudiates JSFII’s idea that they were the same people. This is particularly odd considering that he wrote the revelation down for his dad.

    John the Baptist isn’t mentioned…and he was certainly dead by then. So there is no conflation there. Only thing is that JSF put the characters in semi-chronological order and Elias is mentioned before Elijah.

    The idea that Elijah never died is a quite significant non-Mormon tradition and so tis not being there is supported by his twinkled status.

    RE: the original manuscript (Jared #14), it was written by Warren Cowdry, but it was in Joseph’s own Journal – which makes it likely that he wrote it by dictation. The only oddity is that in that account Joseph and Oliver are referred to in the third person. (from Woodford)

    RE: Melchezedek Priesthood restoration (Ed #15). I believe the date of the restoration is sometime in July according to the scholarship of Bushman and Quinn. Quinn’s explanation is masterful and really quite faith promoting.

  25. Not that it should matter, but keep “John the Baptist was on the Mount of Transfiguration” top secret from any Bible scholars! This is in-house only!

    Personally, I don’t like Elijah not being involved on the Mt: he’s too important a figure, whose presence there is entirely appropriate to the Elijah myth. As far as the NT is concerned, Elias = Elijah and that’s just a fact.

    (Now, I realise that D&C 110 and the JST complicate things, hence our “wrestling” here. Wrestle on, but don’t tell your Bible pals about it over dinner! Or do tell them and watch them go red in the face. In fact, tell them, it would be funny…!)

  26. In Malachi, Elijah/Elias comes, of course, to prepare the for the apocalypse. In Jewish circles at the time of Jesus, there seems to have been some debate about whether there would be a new Elijah or a re-appearance of the old Elijah (who’d been taken up into heaven by a chariot [2 Kings 2:11-12]). Moreover, if there were to be a new Elijah, then there remained a question about whether he would be a messianic figure in his own right or whether he’d be preparing the way for another messiah. (In this sense, the new Elijah can be seen as one bearing the prophetic mantle, which has been absent since Malachi).

    Thus, we see Jesus explicitly speaking of himself as a prophet (as in Matt 13:57), and this may have caused him to be confused with a new Elijah (as in Mark 8:29). Interestingly, Jesus explicitly repudiates Elijah’s mission of reconciling parents and children when he states “I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man will find his enemies under his roof.” (Matthew 10:35; also Luke 12:51-53).

    In any case, the synoptic gospels seek to lay the issue of whether John the Baptist is Elijah to rest; they are explicit that he is. (Matthew 11:14, Mark 1:2, Luke 1:17). The gospel of John, however, offers a different view (John 1:19-22):

    This is the testimony John gave when the Jews of Jerusalem sent a deputation of priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He readily acknowledged, “I am not the Messiah.” “What then? Are you Elijah?” “I am not,” he replied. “Are you the Prophet?” “No,” he said.

    This passage is not, however, definitive. If we follow the passage a little further than portion quoted above, once John the Baptist’s questioners press him a little more on the issue, he finally quotes Isaiah’s prophecy which is the one that Malachi parallels, only he leaves off the first part that refers to the herald. So John himself doesn’t seem quite clear on whether he is Elijah.

    In any case, the debate over whether John the Baptist is Elijah seems to be one that has raged since the earliest times of Christianity. The fact that D&C 110 has re-ignited this debate places it firmly within this tradition.

  27. DKL,
    Good points. But what does it mean? Was E. “reincarnated” as JTB? (But E. never died, so he would have to be a “new” Elijah then?)

  28. Ronan, as with most disputes concerning the interpretation of scripture, the question hinges on literal vs. figurative interpretation; i.e., on whether the name Elijah is intended to denote a man or an archetype. I allude to one sense in which Elijah way be considered an archetypal figure; viz., in reference to the spirit of prophecy. Specifically, if his ascension into heaven represents the removal of the great prophetic spirit from among the Jews (which continued in an attenuated form after Elijah’s ascension and was finally removed altogether), then the reappearance of the prophetic spirit constitutes the reappearance of Elijah. Thus, in its loosest sense, the Malachi passage (4:5) can be understood as guaranteeing not the reappearance of a specific individual, but the return of prophecy before the apocalypse.

    And this is not an anachronistic analysis of the New Testament. There does appear to have been some debate concerning this matter among the Jews of Jesus’s time.

    At any rate, given the debate and questioning over who is and isn’t Elijah that is contained within the New Testament itself, I think that the hypothetical response of the scholars that refer to may be a bit glib.

  29. Oh, I’m the king of glib. But I just pulled a few basic books off the shelf and no-one’s making a case for Elias/Elijah on the Mt. of T. being JTB. Still, I can see now that it’s not utterly bonkers.

  30. Sylvester Smith says:

    Nah. I’m Elias.

  31. Kevin Barney says:

    Levi, thanks for the heads up on the forthcoming article. It’s a very confusing issue, and well ripe for treatment in Dialogue.

    And thanks all for the great comments. I am learning from them.

  32. …it just dawned on me that we can apply the greatest mess-cleaner-upper of all time: Divine Investager of Authority. Elias is at once both the Baptist and Elijah!

  33. #24. “Quinn’s explanation is masterful and really quite faith promoting.”

    J. could you give me a reference for this. Thanks.

  34. J. Watkins says:

    D&C 27:5-12 gives a list of names that Christ says he will soon come and drink wine with (gasp!) which list includes Elias, John the Baptist who had the spirit of Elias, and Elijah, consecutively and in that order. This suggests to me that they are separate individuals. Also, the distinction that John was a separate person but had Elias’ spirit makes me think that there doesn’t have to be a contradiction between John saying of himself (maybe to emphasize the part of his mission important to the Pharisees and their colleagues without lying) “I’m not Elias” and Jesus and the scriptures saying “He is Elias”. Then you’d have to look at the Malachi prophecy as being dual in nature and pretty loose in terminology, but then that does seem to be the way with dual prophecies.

    I’ve also always thought that the events at the Mount of Transfiguration and Kirtland Temple were parallel. Weren’t keys being restored in both? Maybe Last Lemming was right, maybe Abraham represents his own dispensation. Or maybe it’s Joseph since he seems a likely character from his life story to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and vice versa. He was also a preparer of the way for people to follow after with his family before the famine. I think I like Joseph as an educated guess to be a restorere of the keys of Abraham’s dispensation and hence Elias.

  35. gomez, I’ll have to go home before I can give you a bibliographic referance, but here is a great lecture (mp3) he gave on the topic.

    That is an interesting observation J. Watkins. If the spirit of Elias = the spirit of Elijah, which according to Joseph was the power to seal people up unto eternal life, or the fullness of the priesthood, then the idea that John was walking around with just the aaronic priesthood is crushed.

  36. Derek L. says:

    J Watkins (#34)-
    I read D&C 27:6-7 differently. Joseph’s revelation seems to be identifying Elias as a restorer of keys and then identifies this Elias as the one who appeared to Zacharias announcing he would have a son. This angel we know to be Gabriel, who Joseph identified as Noah. Therefore Elias, the restorer of keys = Noah. Of course, then what do we make of D&C 138, with Elias and Noah identified separately, as J. Stapley pointed out in #24? I dunno.

    When we have a church-wide vote to identify the real identity of Elias, my vote will be for Noah as Elias based on D&C 27.

    I look forward to the Dialogue article as well.

  37. C. Harrell says:

    I ran across this blog this morning and am intrigued with the discussion Kevin stimulated by his take on Elias’s identity in D&C 110. Kevin’s logic seems sound, as usual, but I am not so sure about his assumption.

    Here are some additional thoughts:

    In August 1830, JS identified the angel Gabriel, who appeared to Zacharias (John’s father), as Elias (D&C 27:7). Later, in 1831-32 JS he also equated Elias of the restoration with Christ (JST 1:28) and then with John the Revelator (D&C 77:14). So at least by April 1836 (the time of D&C 110), he understood Elias to be a term or title for a restorer sent from God; not necessarily (or at least not limited to) a specific prophet named Elias. In July 1839 he stated, “In the first ages of the world… there were Eliases raised up who tried to restore these very glories” (TPJS 159).

    So Noah isn’t necessarily the Elias of D&C 110, but then neither is John the Baptist.

    To argue that Elias couldn’t have been an actual OT prophet because it is a Greek name assumes that JS would have picked up on this, which he apparently didn’t. Evidently, he was similarly unaware that Esaias is the Greek form of Isaiah (Matt. 3:3), and therefore proclaimed Esaias to be a prophet who “lived in the days of Abraham” many centuries before Isaiah (D&C 84:11-13). In D&C 76:100 he mentions “Esaias” and “Isaiah” as separate individuals.

    In sum, I tend to concur with garf’s points that (1) if Elias was JTB, it wouldn’t make sense to disguise him as Elias, and (2) JTB didn’t belong to the dispensation of Abraham. I am inclined to concur with McConkie who suggests that Elias in D&C 110 is either Abraham or a contemporary (McConkie, The Millennial Messiah, 103).

    As to why JS identified JTB as the Elias on the Mount of Transfiguration, here is one speculation:

    Since Joseph differentiated between John as Elias and Elias of the restoration (JST Matt. 17:14; in fact, in JST Jn. 1:22, he specifically states that John was Elias but “NOT that Elias who was to restore all things”), he may have wanted JTB to be the Elias on the mount in because he felt that the coming of Elias, who was to restore all things, should be reserved for the latter days.

  38. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks for the additional thoughts, C. I want to be clear that I don’t feel I have a vert good handle on this issue, so this thread is meant to stimulate some “thinking out loud,” which it has.

    But I still don’t buy the BRM reading. If it comes to that, I would sooner see it as a simple mistake than as some otherwise unknown guy who just happens to have the name Elias. The Abraham qua Elias theory makes more sense to me than the unknown Elias theory does.

  39. Isn’t Joseph considiering himself the Elias that would restore all things?

  40. Charley Harrell says:

    Kevin, you state: “If it comes to that, I would sooner see it as a simple mistake.” Are you suggesting it is a mistake in the sense that JS was wrong to suppose that Elias was an OT figure (just as he thought Esaias was a figure living in the days of Abraham), or in the sense that Joseph meant to say or refer to someone else?

    I agree that Abraham qua Elias makes more sense than an unknown Elias, but Joseph’s references to historical figures didn’t always make.

    WRT Joseph considering himself as Elias. There is no record that he ever referred to himself as such. He always referred to Elias of the restoration as an angel from the other side of the veil. He later spoke of mortals functioning “in the spirit of Elias” in the sense of a forerunner (similar to JTB), but not as a restorer.

    It appears to be PPP that first applied the Elias qua restorer to JS. In Key to the Science of Theology (p. 79) he states, “That great prophet, apostle, and martyr, Joseph Smith, was the Elias, the Restorer, the presiding messenger, holding the keys of the Dispensation of the fulness of times; yes, that extraordinary man * * * was the chosen vessel * * * to be a messenger in the spirit and power of Elijah, to prepare the way of the Lord! For, behold, he will suddenly come to his temple.”

  41. Nice pull, Charley. Sounds like you have done quite a bit of homework, perhaps being the author of the forthecoming article? I’ll look forward to it.

  42. Kevin Barney says:

    The “mistake” theory as I understand it is that Joseph thought that Elias was a “name” of a biblical personality apart from Elijah. But as a name, Elias in the NT always refers to Elijah, with the exception of the weird equation Jesus makes between Elias and John the Baptist. Of course, if Joseph made a mistake, then who appeared to him in D&C 110? Or did anyone appear to him at all?

    Joseph may have also understood that the word “Elias” could be used as a title (presumably derived from the equation Jesus makes with JtB mentioned above). At least, his contemporary Alexander Campbell understood the word in this way, as shown by his _Delusion_. So if Elias is a title here, it *could* be John the Baptist or Abraham or Noah or whoever. It could stand for some other biblical personality.

    What I have a particularly difficult time with is the idea that Elias is used either as (a) the name of an otherwise unknown man or (b) a title referring to an otherwise unknown man.

  43. Mark Butler says:

    There are a couple of option here that has not been considered – Elias could be John the Revelator, or a prophet who had not yet been born in 1836, who for some reason held keys in over some critical function in heaven prior to his birth.

    This is a controversial topic because every false prophet in the world is always trying to claim one of the mantles described of latter days prophets in the scriptures. David Koresh and the Branch Davidians are a good example.

    Now in the case of Elias, the first thing to recognize is the the scriptures, including the D&C are quite clear that all things have not yet been restored, keys perhaps, practice definitely not.

    Sometimes it is unclear how many different remaining pre-millennial roles there are, but the scriptures are full of them, BRMs general insistence to the contrary notwithstanding.

    D&C 77:12-14 is a critical scripture in this regard, possibly identifying John the Revelator as Elias, or perhaps another latter day figure:

    12 Q. What are we to understand by the sounding of the trumpets, mentioned in the 8th chapter of Revelation?

    A. We are to understand that as God made the world in six days, and on the seventh day he finished his work, and sanctified it, and also formed man out of the dust of the earth, even so, in the beginning of the seventh thousand years will the Lord God sanctify the earth, and complete the salvation of man, and judge all things, and shall redeem all things, except that which he hath not put into his power, when he shall have sealed all things, unto the end of all things; and the sounding of the trumpets of the seven angels are the preparing and finishing of his work, in the beginning of the seventh thousand years—the preparing of the way before the time of his coming.

    13 Q. When are the things to be accomplished, which are written in the 9th chapter of Revelation?
    A. They are to be accomplished after the opening of the seventh seal, before the coming of Christ.

    14 Q. What are we to understand by the little book which was eaten by John, as mentioned in the 10th chapter of Revelation?

    A. We are to understand that it was a mission, and an ordinance, for him to gather the tribes of Israel; behold, this is Elias, who, as it is written, must come and restore all things.

    Well, as it turns out there is someone to whom formally belong the keys of the gathering of Israel, namely the Root of Jesse:

    What is the root of Jesse spoken of in the 10th verse of the 11th chapter?

    Behold, thus saith the Lord, it is a descendant of Jesse, as well as of Joseph, unto whom rightly belongs the priesthood, and the keys of the kingdom, for an ensign, and for the gathering of my people in the last days.
    (D&C 113:6-7)

    As Isaiah states:

    And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.

    And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.

    And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.
    (Isaiah 11:10-11)

  44. Mark Butler says:

    I should say the Elias. There are obviously others, including John the Baptist, preparing the way before the time of the first coming. And certainly Joseph Smith acted in the spirit of Elias, as Parley P. Pratt said.

  45. Nice pull Mark.

  46. Jeremy W says:

    Elias is another name for Elijah; Elijah was the first (as far as the scripture we have) to be depicted as a forerunner, as the name Elias represents.

    In 1 Kings 17:45-46, after Elijah’s miracle that consumed the priests of Baal, this is what happens:

    “And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel. And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.”

    The key is the last sentence: “…and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.” The person who ran before the king in these days was the herald – or forerunner – who announced and prepared the way for the king. Thus Elijah becomes the type for all to come with a mission to prepare the way for the King, being the Lord. Elijah later fulfilled this again, of course, delivering the keys to the work for the dead to Joseph Smith. John the Baptist, of course, was another important person to fulfill the role of Elias. Elijah was the first. In a way, 1 Kings 17 is somewhat symbolic of the Second Coming.

  47. Not wanting to threadjack particularly but still wanting to do some self-promotion, I would recommend your consideration of my “Prophet Elias Puzzle” in the forthcoming issue of Dialogue. You may want to buy the issue even if you don’t subscribe just for the article, which I hope sheds considerable light on the Elias-Elijah bifurcation.

    PS: Amri, Elias/Elijah drank wine but not coffee and ate meat sparingly. He no longer eats or drinks.

  48. Mark Butler says:

    The resurrected Lord ate fish…

  49. Mark: reference was meant as a joke to amri. If you’re curious, Taylor Petrey, an LD Saint in grad school on the East Coast, is doing his dissertation work on these ideas about food, waste, and the resurrected body. it’s a surprisingly complex literature throughout early (and later) Christianity.

  50. Wait, LD doesn’t mean learning disabled does it?

    Like Elias/Elijah, at least I know by the time I’m with him I’ll have kicked my bad bad habits.

  51. Kevin Barney says:

    Samuel Brown’s “The Prophet Elias Puzzle,” Dialogue 39/3 (Fall 2006), is now available here.

  52. Fellow Earth Travelers-

    I have enjoyed reading you speculations…. Here is how it really is in section 110.

    The “Elias” or forrunner that delivered the keys of the Gospel of Abraham was none other than Abraham! Dah! Think about it, Moses personally delivered the dispensational keys that he personally held and Elijah the Prophet personally delivered the dispensational keys that he personally held… who other than Abraham would deliver the Gospel of Abraham?

    Read the second chapter of Abraham very closely. Abraham was promised that he would “minister” (be a ministering angel) to his posterity after they go to a strange land that would be given to them as an everlasting inheritance!!!

    The inspired version informs us that everyone that goes before the Lord to prepare the way is acting in the spirit of Elias. Any one of the three ministering angels that appeared at the Kirtland Temple could have been referred to as “Elias”.

    Why did the Lord inspire Joseph to use the generic name of Elias?

    To obscure what was taking place and divert peoples attention from the real issue of what was actually taking place?

    Since “Blindness is on Israel” until the fulness of times, there are certain things that God did not want the Saints to fully understand. 2nd Thes tells us that in the last days God would send strong delusion so that the Saints who loved darkness rather than truth would believe a lie.

    He wanted to obscure the reality of what was actually taking place…. you see, the Abrahamic “land covenant” had to do with the land of America…. not the Old World Jerusalem and the seed of Abraham has to do with America, not the bearded people with beeny caps on in the old world Jerusalem.

    The Abrahamic covenant pertains to America! The seed of Abraham is gathering to America and the land promised to Abraham and his seed for an everlasting inheritance is in the land of America. Simply read section 38 and 3rd Nephi very carefully and you will realize that the abrahamic land covenant is in America.

    Having cleared up that mystery, let us takle another one in this section of scripture…. the Old Testament “Elijah” who followed Elias (Abraham) in delivering dispensation keys is the same as “he who was known as John the Baptist). Thats right, John the Baptist was the reincarnation of Elijah the Prophet from the Old testament.

    We are told that no less that 5 times in the standard works even though hardly any one believes it.

    Think about it, from modern revelation we have been given a more accurate rendering of Malachi 4

    “He will reveal the priesthood by the hand of Elijah the Prophet before the great and dreadful day of the Lord”

    This did not happen in the Kirtland Temple! Elijah did not confer priesthood to Joseph and Oliver in the Kirtland Temple by “hand”, rather he announced that the prophecy in malachi had fully been fulfilled and therefore the Great and Dreadful day of the Lord is near! Since he had completed his dispensational responsibilities he was now transfering his keys to Joseph and Oliver. (Because Joseph would need to hold those same keys) The inspired version tells us that there was to be two Elijahs in the last days: Elijah the preparer (John the Baptist) and Elijah the Restorer (Joseph Smith)

    When had the priesthood previously been revealed by the laying on of hands by Elijah the prophet?

    Seven years previous to section 110

    Elijah the Prophet appeared to Joseph and Oliver and revealed the priesthood by the laying on of hands! Notice he did not say ” I am John the Baptist” rather he said “I am he who was known as John the Baptist”.

    This is why the NT tells us John was full of the Holy Ghost while in his mothers womb… most people never achieve the fulness of the holy ghost during mortality let alone before birth! The orginal version of the D&C tells us that John the Baptist had been baptised BEFORE coming out of the womb.

  53. Why isn’t Elias who brings the keys to the dispensation of Abraham the same Esaias who lived during the time of Abraham and is in the direct preisthood line of Moses (D&C 84:12-14)?

  54. re 53 JSJ seems to have understood Elias in a rather generic way, and Esaias (and indeed Isaiah himself) could easily be seen as an Elias. I think people have been overly distracted by Elias, where JSJ meant to highlight Elijah. re: 52, most of christianity believed/believes the Baptist was a type of Elijah. JSJ separated Elijah from Elias very deliberately.

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