Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Elijah and the Sealing Keys

For as long as I can remember I have pondered the question, “Why Elijah?” I have never really figured out why Elijah was chosen as the prophet to be the Elias to the coming of the Savior, Jesus Christ. I have wondered exactly why Elijah was given the responsibility of the keys of the Sealing power and the job of restoring them in the Kirtland Temple on April 3, 1836. Perhaps I will never really know for sure, but I have gained some insights through study that I would like to share.

The final vision that occurred in the Kirtland Temple was one that was anticipated from the very beginning of the restoration process. As early as September 21, 1823 the angel Moroni appeared to the prophet Joseph Smith and quoted the prophet Malachi who was referring to Elijah’s role in the latter days.

Joseph Smith History 1:38 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.

39 He also quoted the next verse differently: And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.

This became the first recorded “official” revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants and is now found in Section 2 of that book. Placed only after the “Lord’s Preface” of the upcoming work, or Section 1, this revelation was a prophecy of landmark importance.

Jewish tradition also places an important emphasis on the prophet Elijah. An empty chair and a cup of wine are provided at each Passover celebration in anticipation of his return and he is known to them as the “angel of the covenant”. It is interesting to note that according to the actual Jewish calendar, Elijah did return when the Jews expected him to, during the Passover celebration, to the temple in Kirtland.

Doctrine and Covenants 110:13 After this vision had closed, 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 of by the mouth of Malachi—testifying that he [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come—

15 To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse—

16 Therefore, the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands; and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors.

I love the label given to Elijah as “angel of the covenant”. The covenant that is being referenced is the New and Everlasting Covenant, or the renewal of the Abrahamic Covenant. I more fondly refer to this covenant as the PPL because of the blessings promised in consequence of obedience to the conditions set by the Lord, which are eternal PRIESTHOOD, endless POSTERITY, and a LAND inheritance. To me, this is a beautiful description of becoming like God.

Just like the experiences Abraham had, which were progressive in nature, we too can “walk with God” and become like him. I believe this progression is seen in a pattern of prophet, priest, and finally king, semblance of order. Obviously the pinnacle of progression is that of king and queen, where one is ruler of their own kingdom. The “kingly” status is congruent with that of Godly status, when given by one with authority, or one who holds the keys to “seal or bind” those blessings to the individuals. The ancient Egyptians had a similar thought process, in that Pharaoh, who was their king, was also considered a God. Unfortunately they were acting out of order, or without the proper authority to confer those blessings on the individual, but you get the picture. I believe Elijah was the one chosen to temporarily hold the keys which would seal the ordinances of this life, and allow them to continue, or to be in effect, into our next estate allowing for the realization of the promised blessings of royalty.

Elder James E Talmage spoke of this process, “The patriarchal order is a condition where woman shares with man the blessings of the Priesthood, where husband and wife minister, seeing and understanding alike, and cooperating to the full in the government of their family kingdom. A man cannot hold this priesthood without a wife, and a woman cannot share the blessings of this priesthood without a husband, sealed in the temple.”

The sealing keys that revealed the “fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood” authorized the blessings attained in this life, the extended efficacy needed for the next life. They allowed for the fullness of temple covenants and ordinances to be performed, extending beyond the veil and linking the hearts of the children to their fathers who had gone on before. In this manner a “welding link” was placed in the long line, or chain of family, or royal birthright, through a priesthood line, linking back to Adam.

Elder McConkie wrote:

That same day (April 3, 1836) ‘Elias appeared, and committed the “dispensation of the gospel of Abraham,” meaning the great commission given to Abraham that he and his seed had a right to the priesthood, the gospel, and eternal life. Accordingly, Elias promised those upon whom these ancient promises were then renewed that in them and in their seed all generations should be blessed. (D&C 110:12-16.) Thus, through the joint ministry of Elijah, who brought the sealing power, and Elias, who restored the marriage discipline of Abraham, the way was prepared for the planting in the hearts of the children of the promises made to the fathers. (D&C 2:2.) These are the promises of eternal life through the priesthood and the gospel and celestial marriage.

But why Elijah...again I can only speculate... perhaps Elijah was the last prophet to preside during the Royal Davidic line, or worthy men who received the King/Priest status. Solomon was the last King who was also a priest, leaving an unrighteous posterity to rule in his place. Perhaps those keys to “Kingship” were then taken in a “chariot of fire” to be guarded until a rightful King/Priest would reign. This rightful heir would be Jesus Christ himself. These keys, rights, and powers would of necessity be bestowed once again on the Mount of Transfiguration. Once again Elijah has returned to herald the coming of the King/Priest who will rule and reign in glory this time. The one who made the realization of the blessings we have been promised, a possibility. I believe that this is the mission of Elijah. Our hearts have been turned.


Greg Dowden said...

I loved this one! Way cool! Especially the quotes by Talmage! Who says you're not a writer! LOL!

Mark said...

You have the same question I've been mulling over as I prepare to teach a Gospel Doctrine lesson this Sunday on Elijah. Found your speculation rather interesting.

Nick Olsen said...

Interesting post. I was wondering this myself. I was also thinking, if they all held all the keys, why was it necessary for there to be multiple prophets return to restore individual keys. The first thing that popped into my head was that it was another evidence of the pattern used by the Savior of the testimony of two or three witnesses. Also, I thought in reference to the appearance of Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration, maybe they were chosen due to their prominence in the Jewish tradition. An appearance of them to Peter, James, and John and their testimony of the Savior would solidify the testimony of the apostles as they were so revered by them.