It is interesting to contemplate the role that inquiring of the Lord has played in the restoration. The long foretold mission of the prophet Joseph Smith began only after a simple question was asked on bended knee in a grove not far from his house. Likewise, would Nephi have ever received such a glorious vision had he not inquired of the Lord? A few years after Joseph’s vision of God the Father and his son, Jesus Christ, Joseph found his mind being weighed down with yet another question.
Joseph, like many of us, felt a deep and abiding concern for the welfare of his soul. As a consequence of a period of self-reflection, he felt there were aspects of his life that were not in accordance with the glorious visitation he had received a few years prior. As such, he retired to his room on the 21st of September, 1823, just two months before his older brother Alvin would unexpectedly pass away. There in a shared bedroom, he bowed his head in supplication to the God who knew his name, and asked for forgiveness. Consider the following account in Joseph’s own words.
I had retired to my bed for the night, I betook myself to prayer and supplication to Almighty God for forgiveness of all my sins and follies, and also for a manifestation to me, that I might know of my state and standing before him; for I had full confidence in obtaining a divine manifestation, as I previously had one.
While I was thus in the act of calling upon God, I discovered a light appearing in my room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor.[i]
The manner in which the angel introduced himself was not casual. The wording was deliberate, and was the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy. The angel introduced himself, as “a messenger sent from the presence of God”.[ii] He then told Joseph his name was Moroni. This was of course, the son of Mormon, the chief architect of the record that would shortly bear his name. Approximately 1,400 years prior, Moroni deposited that record underneath a large stone not more than a few miles from the farm house in which he now appeared as a resurrected being. There are very few first hand descriptions of resurrected beings available to us; Joseph provides an amazing account of this messenger of the Lord.
He had on a loose robe of most exquisite whiteness. It was a whiteness beyond anything earthly I had ever seen; nor do I believe that any earthly thing could be made to appear so exceedingly white and brilliant. His hands were naked, and his arms also, a little above the wrist; so, also, were his feet naked, as were his legs, a little above the ankles. His head and neck were also bare. I could discover that he had no other clothing on but this robe, as it was open, so that I could see into his bosom.
Not only was his robe exceedingly white, but his whole person was glorious beyond description, and his countenance truly like lightning. The room was exceedingly light, but not so very bright as immediately around his person.[iii]
As we have noted previously, Moroni told the young Joseph that all nations, kindreds, tongues and people would know his name and reputation, and many would slander him. How strange this must have been for a young boy, technologically and economically confined to a limited geographical footprint as he was, to contemplate the possibility of such infamy. Nor could he have imagined at the time the terrible cost such slander would bring. It would cause he and his older brother Hyrum, who likely slept peacefully at his side, to bleed out their lives at the hands of a blackened mob. It would be the impetus that would drive thousands and thousands of converts from their possessions, their homes, and their country.
Moroni told the young boy of the record he and his father had compiled and protected. The record that would give a whispered voice to the tens of millions who had lived their lives in rebellion and now slept in the dust. A record, whose coming forth was, itself, a sign that the Father of us all had already begun the work of gathering Israel once again. Was there any way Joseph could have recognized the full magnitude of this experience? This was the moment Malachi had long foretold, and that a numberless host in the spirit world had anxiously awaited for thousands of years – the dispensation of the fullness of times.
After Moroni had described to Joseph the record that would be his privilege to translate, the angel explained to him the magnitude of coming events. Moroni accomplished this by expounding upon the prophecies of both the Old and New Testaments. Joseph Smith said that Moroni began his explanation with the prophecies of Malachi, as contained in the third and fourth chapters of that book. These were the exact same prophecies that Jesus Christ also quoted verbatim to the Nephites, right after his magnificent discourse found in the previous section of this work. Therefore there can be no doubt that these chapters from Malachi relate to the message the Father had His Son share. Therefore, their meaning is one of great importance and relevance. We will therefore begin our examination of Moroni’s message with these two chapters. Moroni quoted Malachi as follows:
Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me… even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.[iv]
A messenger is defined as a person who carries a message or goes on an errand for another. Moroni announced to Joseph that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God. I believe that Moroni’s visit to Joseph’s crowded bedroom was a literal fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy. It should also be noted that for purposes of clarification, I removed the following line from the above verse, “and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple”. It is interesting to note that most latter-day temples are crowned with a golden statue of the Lord’s messenger – Moroni. Malachi continues:
But who may abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he [the Lord] appeareth? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former years.[v]
Malachi begins by asking an open-ended question, “Who may abide the day of His coming, and who shall stand when He appeareth?” The answer to Malachi’s question is given next; those that will withstand the refiner’s fire and cleansing with fuller’s soap. The symbolism of the refiner’s fire is clear. The reference to fuller’s soap is similar. Fuller’s soap is a harsh alkaline chemical use for cleansing wool. It is symbolic of the Lord’s ability to cleanse His people. The process may seem harsh at the time, but the end result is a product of much greater worth and beauty.
The reference to the sons of Levi is, of course, indicative of the purifying process that will take place among the House of Israel prior to the Lord coming. Levi was the tribe of Israel which, rather than receiving an inheritance of land, was given the right to officiate in the temple. Therefore this reference refers to the restoration of the fullness of the gospel among the House of Israel, which are not complete without the crowning blessing reserved for the House of the Lord. In the latter-days, the House of Israel will receive these crowning ordinances at the hands of the children of Ephraim. This is discussed in the following verses:
And the boundaries of the everlasting hills shall tremble at their [the Remnant of Jacob’s] presence. And there shall they fall down and be crowned with glory, even in Zion, by the hands of the servants of the Lord, even the children of Ephraim. And they shall be filled with songs of everlasting joy. Behold, this is the blessing of the everlasting God upon the tribes of Israel, and the richer blessing upon the head of Ephraim and his fellows.
And they also of the tribe of Judah, after their pain, shall be sanctified in holiness before the Lord, to dwell in his presence day and night, forever and ever.[vi]
In the above verses Malachi has identified those that will abide the day of the Lord’s coming. Now he focuses on those that will not abide the day.
And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts.[vii]
Malachi’s warning sounds similar to Isaiah’s warning to those that “grind upon the face of the poor”.[viii] The common denominator behind all of these groups of people is greed and selfishness. It is the natural man that allows the children to God to trample over each other in their race to accumulate wealth, power, and position. All of which, to their great dismay, will be left behind upon their deaths. By putting the insatiable lusts of the flesh before the needs of the destitute, these will condemn themselves before God and man.
We need not look to the shadowed back rooms of evil and conspiring men to find these characteristics. They are, too often, apparent in the family rooms of our own homes. Is there a difference between the spirit possessing such evil and conspiring men and, for example, a man who consumes his family’s resources on vain commodities for himself, while his children suffer in want? What about the wealthy person that spends time pursuing his or her own interests and pleasure at the expense of spouse and family? Is not this a difference of scope and means, rather than of spirit? Selfishness is the great Antichrist as it insists “my needs are more important than yours.” Christ yielded His will to that of the father in all things. We must learn to do the same if we want to abide that day.
For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob [those that put the will of the Father before their own] are not consumed. Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them [in other words, they have done their own will rather than the Lord’s]. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?
Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine 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.[ix]
The law of tithes and offerings is not about money, it is about putting God first and foremost in our lives. Will you put off the natural man, or will you put off God? If God commands you to return ten percent of your increase to Him, will you do it? If He commands you to fast once a month and provide a fast offering to the poor, will it be done? The Lord’s law of tithes and offerings, properly lived, is a stepping stone to enable the disciple of Christ to seek the Kingdom of God first, rather than himself.
It is a common mistake view the promised blessings of obedience with too narrow a scope. If we pay our tithing in this life are we to expect to abound with physical abundance here and now? What are we to understand from the windows of heaven opening up and showering out blessings upon our heads until we have no more room to receive them? Our God is not short-sighted, though His children often are.
Put the Kingdom of God first and foremost in your life, and then have Job-like trust in God. If He will bless you abundantly in this life, then praise His holy name and consecrate your gain to Him. If He choses to store your temporal treasures in Heaven rather than on earth, trust Him. He, above all, has your best interests at heart. Would you rather receive the vast treasury of the Father in this life, which passes in the blink of an eye, or the life that lasts forever, worlds without end? Regardless of the timing of God’s great outpouring, the outpouring will come. Consider the following verse from the New Testament:
Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.[x]
Malachi continues noting a blessing of particular worth:
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. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts.[xi]
When Malachi teaches of the Lord rebuking the devourer for our sakes, I understand it on two levels. The first is in a spiritual sense. For those that put the Kingdom of God first in their lives, Satan will be rebuked for their sakes. His effort to destroy them and their families will shatter upon the shield and protection the Lord will provide. Their temporal needs will be met, albeit not necessarily their every want.
The second meaning of this verse applies to those that will be called upon to abide the great day of the Lord’s coming. This meaning should be taken literally. The devourer spoken of in this instance is the mighty Remnant of Jacob. This will become more apparent as we get further into Moroni’s message to Joseph Smith. The delightsome land is the land of Zion, which in those days will be the only refuge in a sea of violent conflict. The following verse from the Doctrine and Covenants provides clarification:
And the remnant shall be gathered unto this place [America] and it shall come to pass among the wicked, that every man that will not take his sword against his neighbor must needs flee unto Zion for safety. And the glory of the Lord shall be there, and the terror of the Lord also shall be there [the Remnant of Jacob], insomuch that the wicked will not come unto it, and it shall be called Zion. And there shall be gathered unto it out of every nation under heaven; and it shall be the only people that shall not be at war one with another. And it shall be said among the wicked: Let us not go up to battle against Zion, for the inhabitants of Zion are terrible; wherefore we cannot stand.[xii]
During the time of this great conflict, the Remnant shall devour the wicked. The righteous shall be gathered into Zion, “And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land”. [xiii] The Lord knows that the days of our mortal probation will not always be enjoyable for the righteous. In fact, the more ripened the world becomes in its iniquity, the harder it will be for the righteous. In the last days Satan will wear out many of the Saints. It will appear to the righteous that the world has been turned upside down, and that the Lord has abandoned them. The Lord acknowledges this fact through Malachi:
Your words [those that have waited upon the Lord] have been stout against me, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee? Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts? And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.[xiv]
The righteous will grow weary in their sufferings. They will see the wicked prospering while their way will appear to be hedged at every turn. The world will prosper in its war against the saints for a season, and some will not be able to abide it. But to those that put their trust in the Lord, come “Hell or high water,” to these the following verses apply:
Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. 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. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.[xv]
Jewels are, by their very nature, more valuable than other elements. It takes tremendous and constant pressure to transform carbon, a common element, into a diamond, a rare and valuable variant of the same element. Although the two might start out identical, horrific pressures significantly enhance the value of the one. In a similar way the Lord “will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.”[xvi] Such will be the case in the day that the Lord makes jewels of His people. Then the difference between those that served the Lord and those that served Him not will be as stark as that between the light from the sun and that from the stars.
Moroni now makes a minor but profound change in the first verse of Malachi chapter four. This is how the verse is written in both the Old Testament and as Christ gave it to the Nephites.
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[xvii]
When Moroni quotes this same verse he does it as follows:
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.[xviii]
Moroni changed the agent in this phrase from “the day that cometh shall burn them” to “they that come shall burn them.” Moroni’s phrase gives us several things to consider. First he refers to “they”, a plural pronoun indicating a group of people. Secondly, for identification purposes, in order to distinguish this group from all others, they are described as “they that come”. The general nature of this phrase indicates that their very coming is the identifying event by which they will be known. Therefore, their coming must be of an extraordinary nature for it to serve as the sole means of identification – such as when the Savior comes.
Lastly they come with a purpose – to destroy, specifically to burn with fire. The Great and Dreadful Day of the Lord has long been associated with the wicked being consumed by fire. This host will be the means by which this destruction comes. Compare what Moroni related from Malachi, to the words of Isaiah regarding the coming of the Remnant of Jacob.
They come from a far country, from the end of heaven, even the Lord, and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land. Howl ye; for the day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty. Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man’s heart shall melt: And they shall be afraid: pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth: they shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall be as flames. Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.[xix]
Moroni, Malachi, and Isaiah are all referring to the same group. “They that come” are the mighty Remnant of Jacob – the returning Lost Ten Tribes. In the prior chapter, Malachi assured the righteous that the Lord would “rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground”. We saw that John’s vision of this coming Remnant held a similar condition, that the righteous would not be destroyed, nor any green thing. Malachi again confirms that the Lord will preserve the righteous as the chapter continues.
But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts. Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.[xx]
In these verses, Malachi has identified those who will be numbered among the righteous in that day. He starts by identifying those that fear the Lord. The Bible Dictionary adds some valuable insight into what it means to fear the Lord. It explains:
Care should be taken to distinguish between two different uses of this word. The “fear of the Lord” is frequently spoken of as part of man’s duty; it is also described as “godly fear”. In such passages fear is equivalent to reverence, awe, worship, and is therefore an essential part of the attitude of mind in which we ought to stand toward the All-holy God. On the other hand fear is spoken of as something unworthy of a child of God, something that “perfect love casteth out”. The first effect of Adam’s sin was that he was afraid. Sin destroys that feeling of confidence God’s child should feel in a loving Father and produces instead a feeling of shame and guilt. Ever since the Fall God has been teaching men not to fear, but with penitence to ask forgiveness in full confidence of receiving it.[xxi]
With this in mind we know that Malachi is referring to the righteous as those whom maintain an attitude of reverence, awe, and worship towards the Father. As he continues, Malachi employs some of the most beautiful symbolism recorded in the Old Testament. He states that for those that fear the Lord, the “Sun of righteousness” rather than the “Son of righteousness”, shall rise with healing in His wings. By capitalizing the “Sun” we know that Malachi is linking the glowing orb to the Son of God. In both senses of the word, it is the Sun that dispels the darkness of night. It is the Sun around which our world revolves. The Sun gives life, hope, warmth, and joy. This is not idle symbolism for those days will be great and terrible, and to abide the day our lives must revolve around the Son.
Lastly Malachi mentions the ten commandments, a reference to the fact that those that are righteous will give the Lord more than mere lip service, they will keep His commandments. This calls to mind another insightful scripture from the New Testament:
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.[xxii]
The last two verses that Moroni quotes to Joseph Smith relate to the latter-day mission of Elijah. Moroni changes the wording of both of these verses from how they appear in Malachi. In Malachi, the first verse appears thus:
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: [xxiii]
Compare this to Moroni’s version of the same verses (highlighting added for emphasis:)
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.[xxiv]
Malachi’s version of this verse is much more vague than Moroni’s. Malachi simply states that the Lord will send Elijah the prophet but provides no reason for the visit. Moroni’s version clarifies that the reason for Elijah’s visit is revealing or conferring the priesthood keys. The modification to the next verse is even more interesting. Contrast the original with Moroni’s version:
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.[xxv]
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.[xxvi]
This is a fascinating alteration, “plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers”. The “children” refers to the earth’s latter-day inhabitants; the “fathers” refers to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their pre-scattered progeny. The term “promises” implies all the promises made to these fathers. These covenants have been reviewed in detail in the chapter titled “The Covenants of the Lord Unto the House of Israel.” The term, “plant in the hearts of the children” suggests that the children will become aware of the great importance of the promises that were made to their fathers.
Therefore Moroni’s clarification of this verse to Joseph Smith, was that before the great and terrible day, Elijah would do more than turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and vice versa. Elijah would also cause the children in our day to understand the promises made to their ancient fathers. These children would then, with joyous anticipation, look for the day of their fulfillment (i.e. the literal gathering and restoration of the House of Israel.) This concludes the verses from Malachi quoted to Joseph by Moroni so far as the record indicates.
[i] JSH 1:29&30
[ii] JSH 1:33
[iii] JSH 1:31&32
[iv] Malachi 3:1
[v] Malachi 3:2-4
[vi] D&C 133:31-35
[vii] Malachi 3:5
[viii] Isaiah 3:15
[ix] Malachi 3:6-11
[x] 1Corinthians 2:9
[xi] Malachi 3:11-12
[xii] D&C 45:43,68 -70
[xiii] Malachi 3:11-12
[xiv] Malachi 3:13-15
[xv] Malachi 3:13-18
[xvi] Isaiah 13:12
[xvii] Malachi 4:1
[xviii] JSH 1:37
[xix] Isaiah 13:5-9
[xx] Malachi 4:2-4
[xxi] Bible Dictionary – Fear
[xxii] Mathew 7:21
[xxiii] Malachi 4:5
[xxiv] JSH 1:38
[xxv] Malachi 4:6
[xxvi] JSH 1:39