Relief Society Lesson 26: Elijah and the Restoration of the Sealing Keys
I tried to resist making this into a Gospel Doctrine lesson, but it still has a lot of Gospel Doctrine type topics. As usual, my comments/questions are in italics, the lesson is in regular font, and comments and suggestions are always welcomed.
I’m not usually one for reading directly from the manual, but the description in the section, “From the Life of Joseph Smith,” might be good for setting the mood for discussion about the significance of the restoration of keys, but I would get an excellent reader to read this. Also, I’ve taken out the citations; those don’t need to be read and added some links to remind people who key figures are—should members of your class need refreshers about people we don’t hear about weekly. I would also recommend singing for opening or closing songs the ones that are listed below.
From the Life of Joseph Smith
In the spring of 1836, after three years of work and sacrifice, the Kirtland Saints finally saw their beautiful temple complete, the first temple in this dispensation. On Sunday, March 27, more than 900 people gathered in the temple chapel and vestibule for the dedicatory service. Many others met in an overflow session in a nearby schoolroom, while still others listened outside the open windows of the temple. The Prophet himself helped to seat the faithful.
The congregation heard an address by Sidney Rigdon, a counselor in the First Presidency, and then joined together to sing “Now Let Us Rejoice” and “Adam-ondi-Ahman,” written by William W. Phelps. Joseph Smith then rose to offer the dedicatory prayer, which he had received by revelation. In the prayer, he described many of the remarkable blessings that are bestowed upon those who come in worthiness to God’s temple. The choir sang “The Spirit of God,” and the congregation then stood and gave the Hosanna Shout “with such power as seemed almost sufficient to raise the roof from the building.”
“Let thy house be filled,” the Prophet said in the dedicatory prayer, “as with a rushing mighty wind, with thy glory.” This was literally fulfilled, for many Saints testified that heavenly beings were present during the dedication service. Eliza R. Snow recalled: “The ceremonies of that dedication may be rehearsed, but no mortal language can describe the heavenly manifestations of that memorable day. Angels appeared to some, while a sense of divine presence was realized by all present, and each heart was filled with ‘joy inexpressible and full of glory’.”
That evening, as the Prophet gathered with about 400 priesthood bearers in the temple, “a noise was heard like the sound of a rushing mighty wind, which filled the Temple, and all the congregation simultaneously arose, being moved upon by an invisible power.” According to the Prophet, “many began to speak in tongues and prophesy; others saw glorious visions; and I beheld the Temple was filled with angels, which fact I declared to the congregation.”
In a meeting held in the temple a week later, on Sunday, April 3, manifestations of extraordinary significance occurred. After the Prophet assisted other Church leaders in administering the sacrament, he and Oliver Cowdery retired to the pulpit behind lowered curtains and knelt in solemn prayer. As they rose from prayer, the Savior Himself appeared to them and proclaimed His approval of the temple: “Behold, I have accepted this house, and my name shall be here; and I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house.”
After this vision closed, Joseph and Oliver saw three separate visions in which ancient prophets appeared to them to restore priesthood keys necessary for the latter-day work of the Lord. The prophet Moses appeared and committed to them “the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth.” Elias came and committed to them “the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham.”
Then, in another glorious vision, Joseph and Oliver saw the prophet Elijah. The coming of Elijah was so important that the ancient prophet Malachi had prophesied of it centuries earlier, and the Savior had repeated the prophecy to the Nephites. Elijah came to commit to Joseph and Oliver the keys of sealing—the power to bind and validate in the heavens all ordinances performed on the earth. The restoration of the sealing power was necessary to prepare the world for the Savior’s Second Coming, for without it, “the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.”
What do you think about these events?
What is the significance of Moses coming? Remember Moses and the Aaronic Priesthood (see Exodus 18)? It would make sense that the prophet who God chose to bring forth the preparatory priesthood (D&C 84:23-26) would be the one to talk about the preparations necessary for bringing about the complete priesthood.
What was the significance of Elias coming? In this case, I find it hard to tell if Elias is a title for someone else. It seems unlikely that Elijah (Elias is the Greek form of the Elijah), which is why the next question is in blue (although, initially, it feels like it should be in red).
Who is Elias? (I might spend some time on this, see the link above)
What is Elijah’s role in all of this? (I would highlight Elijah’s role in the Old Testament before delving into this area. Elijah talking to Ahab and Jezebel (1 Kings 18), Elijah and the widow (1 Kings 17 and this post’s picture)–this is the caliber of man we want to remember when thinking of him bringing the keys.)
Teachings of Joseph Smith
The ancient prophet Malachi foretold the coming of Elijah.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said the following about Moroni’s visit to him on the evening of September 21, 1823, as recorded in Joseph Smith—History 1:36–39: “[Moroni] first quoted part of the third chapter of Malachi; and he quoted also the fourth or last chapter of the same prophecy, though with a little variation from the way it reads in our Bibles. Instead of quoting the first verse as it reads in our books, he quoted it thus:
“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.
“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.
How do you think Joseph Smith felt when Moroni said this to him?
What Priesthood is Elijah talking about here? Melchizedek
“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.”
Why is this verse such an important one for us as Mormons?
What are the promises talked about here?
Elijah restored the sealing keys—the power and authority to bind in heaven all ordinances performed on earth.
“ ‘And I will send Elijah the Prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord,’ etc., etc. [see Malachi 4:5]. Why send Elijah? Because he holds the keys of the authority to administer in all the ordinances of the Priesthood; and [unless] the authority is given, the ordinances could not be administered in righteousness.”
What ordinances did Elijah bring? Temple ordinances—let the class expound on these.
What power do you find in these ordinances?
Through the sealing power, families can be sealed for time and all eternity, and sacred ordinances can be performed for the dead.
“Now comes the point. What is this office and work of Elijah? It is one of the greatest and most important subjects that God has revealed. He should send Elijah to seal the children to the fathers, and the fathers to the children.
What does this statement mean?
How do we work to be sealed to our families?
What does being sealed to your family meant to you?
Does this just apply to eternal relationships sealed through the ordinances in the temple?
Could it apply to sealing or healing difficult family relationships in this life? (Joseph takes another approach in the following quote)
“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 were here? Would you confine your work to the living alone? No: I would refer you to the Scriptures, where the subject is manifest: that is, without us, they could not be made perfect, nor we without them; the fathers without the children, nor the children without the fathers [see Hebrews 11:40].
“I wish you to understand this subject, for it is important; and if you will receive it, this is the spirit of Elijah, that we redeem our dead, and connect ourselves with our fathers which are in heaven, and seal up our dead to come forth in the first resurrection; and here we want the power of Elijah to seal those who dwell on earth to those who dwell in heaven. This is the power of Elijah and the keys of the kingdom of Jehovah. …
What experiences have you found uplifting as you do work for the dead?
The coming of Elijah was a necessary preparation for the Second Coming of the Savior.
“The hearts of the children of men will have to be turned to the fathers, and the fathers to the children, living or dead, to prepare them for the coming of the Son of Man. If Elijah did not come, the whole earth would be smitten.”
Why would the whole earth be smitten?
“Elias is a forerunner to prepare the way, and the spirit and power of Elijah is to come after, holding the keys of power, building the Temple to the capstone, placing the seals of the Melchizedek Priesthood upon the house of Israel, and making all things ready; then Messiah comes to His Temple, which is last of all. … Elijah was to come and prepare the way and build up the kingdom before the coming of the great day of the Lord.”
Has the message of Elijah’s bringing of the keys changed over time in the Church?
What does it mean to you?