Every Thursday evening I get to be The Man. You know, the Seminary teacher who doesn’t teach Mormon kids about seer stones and polyandry, thus adding to their hopeless naivite.
In truth, it’s a great, great calling, and I have a really bright set of kids.
This week we talked about D&C 2 and the coming of Elijah. Said Moroni to Joseph Smith on Sep 23, 1823, quoting Malachi:
Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood [not in Malachi], by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming (JS-H 1:38-39; D&C 2).
According to Mormon lore, this prophecy was fulfilled on April 3, 1836, when Elijah appeared to Joseph Smith and commited unto him “the keys of this dispensation” (D&C 110:13-16).
What were the “keys of this dispensation”? I told my class that it was the sealing power. I based this on my understanding of the mortal Elijah’s particular heaven-sealing mojo (1 Kings 17:1) and a vague recollection that this was the correct Mormon answer. (I think that’s what it said in the manual too.)
One of my students raised her hand and asked, “How do you know that this is the case? How do you know that the ‘keys of this dispensation’ represent the ‘sealing power’?”
I was stumped. There is no clear-cut indication from scripture that “keys of this dispensation” = “sealing power.” I said I would look into it. When I go to class on Thursday, I am now armed with this quote from TPJS:
The spirit, power, and calling of Elijah is, that ye have power to hold the key of the revelations, ordinances, oracles, powers and endowments of the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood and of the kingdom of God on the earth; and to receive, obtain, and perform all the ordinances belonging to the kingdom of God… What you seal on earth, by the keys of Elijah, is sealed in heaven; and this is the power of Elijah (TPJS, pp. 337-38).
I think this will satisfy my student. Still, I have some questions:
- If dispensational keys = sealing power (and I’m happy for it to so mean, especially considering the peculiar power held by Elijah), why isn’t scripture more explicit? Why do we need a midrash from Joseph?
- Clearly, these keys are so much more than just sealing. Why concentrate on this?
- How exactly will the “earth be wasted” if the sealing power is not in operation? (I know the standard answers — they’re right in my CES teacher’s book — but they don’t make any sense to me.)
BCC readers, please save the youth of Zion from their idiot teacher. What the heck did Elijah give Joseph that Passover day in 1836?
1. The Parallel Joseph records Wilford Woodruff’s journal entry for March 10, 1844. There’s a tonne of stuff on Elijah. Here’s the source for the TPJS extract (itself extracted from the EOM; formatting mine):
Now for Elijah, the spirit power & calling of Elijah is that ye have power to hold the keys of the revelations ordinances, oracles powers & endowments of the fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood & of the Kingdom of God on the Earth & to receive, obtain & perform all the ordinances belonging to the Kingdom of God even unto the sealing of the hearts of the fathers unto the children & the hearts of the children unto the fathers even those who are in heaven.
Malachi says I will send Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come & He shall turn the hearts of the Fathers to the Children and the hearts of the Children to the Fathers lest I come & smite the earth with a Curse, Now what I am after is the knowledge of God & I take my own Course to obtain it, what are we to understand by this in the last days, in the days of Noah God destroyed the world by a flood & has promised to destroy it by fire in the last days but before it took place Elijah should first come & turn the hearts of the Fathers to the Children &c
Now comes the point what is this office & work of Elijah, it is one of the greatest & most important subjects that God has revealed, He should send Elijah to seal the children to the fathers & fathers to the Children, Now was this merely confined to the living to settle difficulties with families on earth, by no means, it was a far greater work Elijah what would you do if you was here would you confine your work to the living alone. No I would refer you to the scriptures where the subject is manifest, i.e, without us they could not be made perfect, nor we without them, the fathers without the children nor the children without the fathers.
I wish you to understand this subject for it is important & if you will receive it this is the spirit of Elijah that we redeem our dead & connect ourselves with our fathers which are in heaven & seal up our dead to come forth in the first resurrection & here we want the power of Elijah to seal those who dwell on earth to those which dwell in heaven this is the power of Elijah & the keys of the Kingdom of Jehovah. Let us suppose a case; suppose the great God who dwells in heaven should reveal himself to Father Cutler here by the opening heavens and tell him I offer up a decree that whatsoever you seal on earth with your decree I will seal it in heaven, you have power then, can it be taken off No, Then what you seal on earth by the Keys of Elijah is sealed in heaven, & this is the power of Elijah, & this is the difference between the spirit & power of Elias and Elijah.