You Shall Have My Word : Exploring the Text of the Doctrine & Covenants
Salt Lake City, UT ; Provo, UT
Deseret Book ; Religious Studies Center, BYU
During the night of Sunday, September 21, 1823, at the dawn of the gospel’s restoration, the angel Moroni visited the teenager Joseph Smith Jr. and announced “that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God” (Joseph Smith—History 1:33). After telling young Joseph about the Book of Mormon plates, Moroni “commenced quoting the prophecies of the Old Testament,” including Malachi 4:5–6, but he did so “with a little variation from the way it reads in our Bibles” (Joseph Smith—History 1:36). Echoing the prophet Malachi, Moroni prophesied that Elijah would return “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” to “plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers” (D&C 2:1–2).
Latter-day Saint doctrine regarding the mission of Elijah is unique. By reviewing what other Christian theologians taught on this subject prior to 1836 and then comparing it with Latter-day Saint scriptures and prophetic commentary, we can better understand the differences. This essay investigates how early nineteenth-century Christian theologians answered three key questions regarding Malachi’s prophecy. First, how would Elijah return? Second, when would Elijah return? And finally, why would Elijah return? [From the text]