Being raised in Mormondom, I had always supposed the Spirit of Elijah to be the inspiration to do genealogy work (Russell M. Nelson, The Spirit of Elijah, October 1994 General Conference). This doctrine had even apparently gone back to the origins and founding purposes of the restoration (Doctrine and Covenants 2&110). However, upon reading the Book of Isaiah chapter 5 verse 24, and comparing that with Malachi 4:4-6, I learned that such was not the case.
Before I make clear what the Spirit of Elijah actually is, I must respond to objections that will immediately arise. First, no I don’t care what the current leaders of Mormondom have to say; they are clearly false prophets, so let’s just get that out of the way. Secondly, there is a lot of sketchiness surrounding the supposed revelations of Joseph Smith that this is what the so called Spirit of Elijah really is.
“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. 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 is apparently part of the instruction given to Joseph Smith when the Angel Moroni first appeared to him in his bedroom, calling him to translate the Book of Mormon. The current idea we have is that Joseph was awake and praying and then BOOM! In comes Moroni and tells Joseph what his mission will be (Joseph Smith-History 1:29-46, Pearl of Great Price).
Moroni or Nephi?
The earliest accounts of who this messenger was that came to Joseph, state it was Nephi (https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-circa-1841-draft-draft-3/6). Whenever Joseph authored a paper revealing who the messenger was, he always said it was Nephi (Pearl of Great Price, 1851 edition, p. 41). After Joseph Smith’s death, there was apparently confusion over the matter and all future printings of scripture and other documents changed the angels name to Moroni (Textual Changes in the Pearl of Great Price, typed copy, p. 125).
So who was it and does it matter?
I can’t really say, but if we believe Joseph’s testimony and not those speaking for him, we must admit it was Nephi. Even his mother said it was Nephi in 1853 (Biographical Sketches, p. 79). It matters because if the story keeps contradicting itself, can we hold it as truthful?
Dream or Visitation?
The earliest accounts of this visit by the angel (Moroni or Nephi, take your pick), recount it as a dream (Testimonies of Book of Mormon Witnesses, John Clark, Gleanings (1842), p.226 “Martin Harris Interview”). This doesn’t bother me as visitations are very possible through a dream. However, it does make one wonder why the earliest accounts relate this as a dream, and then later it appears to have occurred while awake. Perhaps to make it sound more credible to a western gentile world that doesn’t respect the authenticity of dreams? Whatever the case may be, the history surrounding this event casts doubt on what really occurred.
Importance of Priesthood:
Contrary to popular Mormon belief, priesthood as is now known, was really not important in the early days of the restoration. The account of D&C 2 (supposed to have happened 1823) did not even exist until 1839, well after priesthood had become important to the Mormons. It was not found in the 1832 account of these events, nor in the detailed 1834 account. It makes one wonder if the account was embellished/ altered to fit the new paradigm Mormonism was facing.
For instance, the account of D&C 13 (revealing of Aaronic Priesthood) did not exist until 1834 (supposed to have happened in 1829), nor had any members ever heard of that story until 1834 (Rough Stone Rolling, 75).
Then apparently the Melchizedek Priesthood was also revealed before the formation of the church, but no one knows when that happened. The only scriptural source pointing to a time is D&C 27:6-13, but those verses were not even part of the original revelation penned by Joseph Smith, nor were those later verses written by him (Book of Commandments 28). That lays a lot of doubt on that account.
As the idea of priesthood became more important to the Mormons, so did the ideas of baptism of the dead and other temple work (D&C 124). The authority they claim for these things has a rocky foundation. But the pivotal moment for their claim to authority, comes from D&C 110, with the appearance of Elijah giving the sealing keys.
D&C 110 is riddled with problems.
First of all, it was originally written in the 3rd person, but was changed to 1st person to make it appear as though Joseph and Oliver wrote this themselves. It was not in any versions of the Book of Commandments nor the Doctrine and Covenants until 1876 (when it was also changed to 1st person).
Secondly, the account was not published until 1852, well after Joseph’s death. In all his life, Joseph never spoke of this event as having happened. We still don’t know to this day exactly who wrote the original account, but it is believed by some to be Warren Cowdery. Whenever Joseph spoke of Elijah after this event, he always spoke of him as though he were yet to come in the future.
Furthermore, Oliver Cowdery wrote an exhaustive 8 page paper, detailing the events of the Kirtland Temple dedication, but failed to mention this.
And finally, this supposed vision speaks of “Elias” and “Elijah” appearing as 2 different people, even though “Elias” is just the Greek way of rendering “Elijah”. Elias and Elijah are the same people. The Spirit of Elias and the Spirit of Elijah are the same Spirit.
For all that has been listed under possible problems, there is definitely some pause for serious consideration when looking at the way we have been taught to view this so called, Spirit of Elijah. Now as for the Spirit of Elijah, what is it really?
I have had this question for some time, ever since I have been questioning the authenticity of Mormonism’s claimed authority. The other day, I found myself wanting to read the scriptures, but wasn’t sure where to go. I said a prayer in my heart and asked God what I should read. I went first to Psalms, but as I was about to begin, a thought entered my mind, “Great are the words of Isaiah”. I have read Isaiah multiple times, so there was no need to rush through it to give myself an overall understanding of the message. So I said another prayer to God, asking him to grant me the spirit of prophecy, that I might understand God’s word through Isaiah. I said Psalm 119:18, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law”, as a further prayer to God, and then I began. I read slowly, picking apart every line of every verse, making sure I could explain to someone exactly what it meant. After a couple hours I came to Isaiah 5:24,
“Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of Yehovah of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.”
Keep in mind, this section is referring to the Great Day of the Lord, the Second Coming of Christ. Keep in mind also that terms like “root” and “blossom” are genealogical terms, referring to ancestors (fathers) and children respectively. Keep in mind also that the curse God is decreeing which will waste the earth with fire, is a result of the people casting away the Law (Torah) of God. With those things in mind, I immediately thought of and turned to Malachi 4:4-6,
“Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgement. Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of Yehovah: 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.”
When I hear Malachi 4 quoted by Mormons to support genealogical work, they always skip verse 4, taking 5 and 6 out of context and then make it fit what they want; though the text when taken in whole does not support such.
REMEMBER YE THE LAW (Torah)! And what will happen if you don’t remember it? The whole earth will be wasted, both root and blossom. This is the very same warning and prophecy that Isaiah spoke of. And it is the very same condemnation: not keeping Torah. God does not change (Malahi 3:6), his law (Torah) is eternal (Psalm 119:9), therefore those who break any aspect of it, are under the curse (Galatians 3:10), and will be smitten with the wicked (Isaiah 5:24).
But wait, there is hope. God is going to send forth the Spirit of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the children of Israel back their fathers whom God covenanted with, who kept his Torah. So what is this Spirit of Elijah? It is the returning of God’s people to his Torah! The father’s who kept Torah turn to us to help us receive Torah, and we turn to them to live the laws they lived, those of God’s eternal law, his Torah.
So why the mention of Elijah?
Think of the mission of the prophet Elijah. He was sent to Israel, the 10 tribes who had broken off from Judah, who were living according to paganism. Elijah went to them battling against all the false prophets of Baal (the Lord), trying to return these scattered Israelites back to their true God. His very name signifies “My God is Yehovah”. What a fitting name for the Spirit sent out that would turn scattered Israel’s hearts (that’s us) back to the One True God in the last days?! In this time when the lost name of God has finally been revealed again, and we can all say, “My God is Yehovah”, and I will remember the Law he gave to Moses, to keep it with the statues and judgements! These prophecies are directly related to Yeshua’s parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). We have spent our inheritance amongst swine (as gentiles). But now Israel is awakening to God’s truth, and returning to his law.
This is the Spirit of Elijah: to know your God is Yehovah, and to remember his law.
Something else of interest to keep in mind: When Christ appeared to the Nephites (after the law was supposedly done away) he quoted to them Malachi 4, which specifically states to remember the law given to Moses and to keep it (3 Nephi 25). If Yeshua came to these people and told them that law was done away, why then would he tell them to remember and keep it?
The Spirit of Elijah is not about endless genealogical work, nor is it about the Law of Adoption and getting sealed to “the fathers in heaven”. It is about knowing who your God is, even Yehovah El Shaddai! And then with that understanding, returning to and keeping his everlasting Torah. By doing this, we (the children) have turned our hearts to our fathers, the patriarchs of old, and ultimately to our Father, Yehovah. When He sends Yeshua to cleanse the earth, it will not be entirely smitten with a curse, for there will be a remnant that obeys their God. If none had returned to God’s Torah, perhaps the whole world would have been utterly wasted at his coming.