“Restoring ‘Plain and Precious Parts’: The Role of Latter-day Scriptures in Helping Us Understand the Bible,” Ensign, Dec. 1981, 19–25
Part of Nephi’s vision was seeing the Lord’s merciful gift to Gentiles who had stumbled—a collection of “plain and precious writings,” hid up specifically to come forth to the Gentiles.
These “other books” were all to convince “the Gentiles and the remnant of the seed of my brethren, and also the Jews who were scattered upon all the face of the earth, that the records of the prophets and of the twelve apostles of the Lamb are true.” (1 Ne. 13:39.)
Those “other books” include the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price, all of which make it easier, even possible, to understand the Biblical record.
The Prophet Joseph Smith was the Lord’s instrument in receiving, recording, and publishing revelations, foreordained to that mission in the council in heaven and ordained while upon the earth to deliver the Lord’s words to the Gentiles. Our study of the Old Testament from Kings to Malachi will be greatly enriched by teachings from these “other books” and from the Prophet Joseph Smith. In fact, failure to use these teachings may cause us to “stumble” as we study the record of the Jews.
How do these records and the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith contribute to our understanding of the Bible, specifically the latter part of the Old Testament? Let’s talk first about the historical books of the Bible—Kings, Chronicles, and the poetic books of Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon—then go on to the ancient prophets—Isaiah through Malachi.
The plates of brass Lehi’s sons brought from Jerusalem included the five books of Moses and also “a record of the Jews from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah.” (1 Ne. 5:12.) This record would correspond to Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles. Therefore, Book of Mormon prophets who comment on these books would be close to the original sources. Revelations from the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith are also valid commentaries.
Solomon has traditionally been considered the author of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. Others question his authorship. Joseph Smith said that the Song of Solomon was “not Inspired Writings” but noted that Proverbs 16:18 [Prov. 16:18] (“pride goeth before destruction”) was “well and truely” a saying of “the wise man.”1 However, he did not discuss the authorship question.
Regardless of who wrote Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, there is support for at least some of the Proverbs in the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. For example, Ammon, in speaking to King Limhi and his people, used wisdom in the same way Proverbs does. (See Mosiah 8:20; Prov. 1:20–21.) The Lord’s instruction on how to know whether a person has repented (D&C 58:43) is very similar to Proverbs 28:13 [Prov. 28:13]. In speaking of the constitutional law of the United States, the Lord used the wording of Proverbs 29:2 [Prov. 29:2]: “When the wicked rule the people mourn.” (D&C 98:9.) The Prophet Joseph Smith quoted Ecclesiastes 11:1 [Eccl. 11:1] (without identifying it) in teaching the idea that love begets love. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1938, p. 316.) He also commented that “Solomon … first … asked wisdom, and God gave it him, and with every desire of his heart, even things which might be considered abominable to all who understand the order of heaven only in part, but which in reality were right because God gave and sanctioned by special revelation.” (Teachings, p. 256.)
Some scholars question the actual existence of Job, but the Lord confirms Job’s reality in comforting the Prophet Joseph Smith. (See D&C 121:10–11; Job 2:11.) Further, Satan’s “going to and fro in the earth” (Job 1:7) is verified in Doctrine and Covenants 10:27 [D&C 10:27], and Joseph Smith used this incident in showing that “wicked spirits” are controlled by “bounds, limits, and laws.” (Teachings, p. 208.)
Further, Joseph Smith identified Job 38:4, 7 (“Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? … When the morning stars sang together?”) as speaking of the premortal existence, the priesthood’s institution, and Jehovah’s foreknowledge of earthly events. (Teachings, pp. 167, 220.)
Similarly, a problem in 2 Chronicles 18 [2 Chr. 18] was cleared up by the Prophet Joseph. Ahab, king of Israel, asks Jehosophat, king of Judah, to go with him into battle. Jehosophat desires the direction of a prophet before committing himself and is not satisfied by Ahab’s four hundred supposed prophets. Ahab finally calls Micaiah, but reluctantly since “he never prophecied good of me.” (2 Chr. 18:7.) The text of Micaiah’s next experience is unclear and further makes the Lord responsible for putting a lying spirit in the mouths of the four hundred previous prophets. The Joseph Smith Translation corrected this error, although it did not restore the full text.
“Then there came out a lying spirit, and stood before them, and said, I will entice him. And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith?
“And he said, I will go out, and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And the Lord said, Thou shall entice him, and thou shall also prevail; go out, and do even so; for all these have sinned against me.
“Now therefore, behold the Lord hath found a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil against thee.” (JST, 2 Chr. 18:20–22; italics show Joseph Smith’s changes.)
Later, the Prophet Joseph commented on the true principle of the account: “Micaiah could point out the false spirit by which the four hundred prophets were governed; and if his advice had been taken, many lives would have been spared.” (Teachings, p. 207.)
Lehi found that the brass plates also contained “prophecies of the holy prophets, from the beginning, even down to … Jeremiah.” (1 Ne. 5:13.) Jacob, Nephi’s brother, also referred to “the prophets,” (Jacob 7:11; Jacob 4:4); and the Savior testified to the Nephites that his mission fulfilled the prophecies of “all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken.” (3 Ne. 20:24.)
The Savior quotes and comments upon several prophecies from Isaiah, then commands his listeners, including us, to “search” the prophecies “of Isaiah” and of other prophets. (3 Ne. 23:1–5.) Our search is greatly aided by knowing the Book of Mormon message and the teachings of Joseph Smith. For example, Moroni quoted several Old Testament prophecies to young Joseph and said they were about to be fulfilled. They included part of Malachi 3 [Mal. 3] and all of Malachi 4 [Mal. 4] with a little variation, Isaiah 11 [Isa. 11], Joel 2:28–32, and many others. (JS—H 1:36–41.) In the Messenger and Advocate of February and April 1835, Oliver Cowdery told of twenty-six other Old Testament prophecies Moroni had quoted to Joseph which were being fulfilled in these latter days: twelve from Isaiah, seven from Jeremiah, five from the Psalms, and two from Deuteronomy.2
A breakdown of the contributions of the Book of Mormon and the revelations and teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith illustrates the amount of help available from these sources for understanding the message of the Old Testament prophets.
Isaiah. The Book of Mormon quotes much from the Book of Isaiah. Because of limited space here, I will include only some statistical information presented in a fuller study of the subject.
“There are sixty-six chapters, containing a total of 1,292 verses [which includes ninety verses not written by Isaiah—Chaps. 36–39]in the present-day KJV text of Isaiah. Nineteen of the sixty-six chapters are quoted in their entirety in the Book of Mormon, and two other chapters are quoted in their entirety except for two verses in each chapter. The first two verses of one other chapter are quoted in the Book of Mormon, and one verse from each of two other chapters. Eight chapters of Isaiah have verses quoted from them more than once, either completely or partially. Not counting these duplications, 425 of the 1,292 verses of Isaiah are quoted in the Book of Mormon. Of these 425 verses, 229 are quoted differently from those in the King James text, while 196 are identical. …
“There are at least sixty-six quotations or paraphrases from the prophet Isaiah in the Doctrine and Covenants. Some of these are full verses, and some are only phrases. … Represented within the sixty-six passages are thirty-one different chapters of Isaiah.”3
Oliver Cowdery referred to thirteen passages from Isaiah which the Angel Moroni told Joseph Smith were being fulfilled in these latter days: Isa. 1:7, 23–24, 25–26; Isa. 2:1–4, 3; Isa. 4:5–6; Isa. 11:14–16; Isa. 13:10, 13; Isa. 24:21; Isa. 28:21; and Isa. 29:11–12, 13, 14.4
The Prophet Joseph Smith quotes or comments at least forty times concerning Isaiah. 5 A study of these quotations and comments will show why the Savior said, “Search these things diligently … for great are the words of Isaiah.” (3 Ne. 23:1.)
Jeremiah. There are only three references to the prophet Jeremiah in the Book of Mormon, but all three are significant. The first, as we have seen, notes that the brass plates contained many of his prophecies. Jeremiah was commanded to write his words about eight years prior to Lehi’s leaving Jerusalem. Even though he continued to preach after Lehi left, we learn from the Book of Mormon that part of Jeremiah’s prophecies were accepted as scripture during his lifetime. While this does not add to our understanding of the writings of Jeremiah, it does authenticate them.
Nephi knew that Jeremiah had been cast into prison (see 1 Ne. 7:14), and another Nephi, son of Helaman, used the fulfilled prophecy of Jeremiah that Jerusalem would be destroyed (which it had been by Nephi’s day) to argue that another of his prophecies, the coming of the Lord, would also be fulfilled. (See Hel. 8:20.) By the same logic, since Jeremiah gave many prophecies of the latter days, we can expect their fulfillment.
Two passages in the Doctrine and Covenants can be shown to be Jeremiah’s. The Lord warns Latter-day Saints to hearken to his voice lest “the summer shall be past, and the harvest ended, and your souls not saved.” (See D&C 45:2; Jer. 8:20). The Lord also speaks of the time when “all shall know me … even from the least unto the greatest.” (See D&C 84:98; Jer. 31:34.)
The Prophet quoted Jeremiah 16:14–16 [Jer. 16:14–16] as evidence that the gathering of Israel was “one of the most important points in the faith of the Church of Latter-day Saints, through the fulness of the everlasting gospel.” (Teachings, pp. 92–93.) He also quoted Jeremiah 31:12 [Jer. 31:12] as evidence that there would be two gathering places for the house of Israel in the latter days, Judah to Jerusalem and all the tribes of Israel to Zion (America). (Teachings, p. 17.)
In describing his state of “painful anxiety” at one point, Joseph Smith exclaimed in the words of Jeremiah 9:1 [Jer. 9:1], “O that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night.” (Teachings, p. 14.) He also used the wording of Jeremiah 10:23 [Jer. 10:23] to explain why nations walk in confusion when they are not governed by Jehovah: “for it is not in man that walketh, to direct his steps.” (Teachings, p. 251.)
In translating the Bible under inspiration, Joseph Smith revised thirty-nine verses in Jeremiah. Sixteen of these revisions are simple word changes, but the other twenty-three add doctrinal understanding or make the text more understandable. Some of the more significant doctrinal contributions include the Lord’s warning: “If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.” (Jer. 18:8.)
The Prophet changed repent of to withhold, a translation consistent with the nature of God. (This same type of change was made in Jer. 18:10, Jer. 26:19, and Jer. 42:10. In Jer. 26:3, and Jer. 26:13, Joseph Smith indicated that it was man who must repent instead of the Lord.)
As another example of doctrinal change, the Lord commands the people “to hearken to the words of my servants, the prophets, whom I sent unto you, commanding them to rise up early, and sending them;
“Then will I make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth; for ye have not hearkened unto my servants the prophets.” (JST, Jer. 26:5–6; italics show changes.) This same change was also made in Jer. 29:19, Jer. 35:14–15, and Jer. 44:4.
Ezekiel. The Book of Ezekiel is not quoted in the Book of Mormon because Ezekiel was written after Lehi left Jerusalem. However, the Book of Mormon gives the interpretation of the “stick” of Judah and the “stick” of Joseph referred to in Ezekiel 37:15–20 as writings that will be brought together by a seer. (See 2 Ne. 3:11–12.)
The Doctrine and Covenants refers to a prophecy “spoken by the mouth of Ezekiel the prophet,” which “surely must” come to pass (D&C 29:21) at some point after September 1830 when the revelation was given. The hailstorm, the beasts, and the fowls mentioned in Doctrine and Covenants 29:16–20 [D&C 29:16–20] seem to be the same as those spoken of in Ezekiel 38:22 [Ezek. 38:22] and 39:17–20 [Ezek. 39:17–20]. In fact, all of Ezekiel 38–39 [Ezek. 38–39] probably relates to these “abominations,” helping us to better understand those chapters.
The Doctrine and Covenants does not quote directly from Ezekiel as it does from Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others. However, it does confirm or interpret several passages from Ezekiel. Section 27:5 [D&C 27:5] calls the Book of Mormon “the stick of Ephraim.” The heathen nations’ redemption spoken of in section 45:54 [D&C 45:54] is prophesied of by Ezekiel more times than by any other Old Testament prophet. (See Ezek. 36:22–23, 36; Ezek. 37:28; Ezek. 38:16, 23; Ezek. 39:7, 21, 23.) The time frame in Doctrine and Covenants 45 [D&C 45] is helpful in interpreting these Ezekiel passages. The gathering of Jacob (Israel) and its “flourish[ing] in the wilderness” spoken of in Doctrine and Covenants 49:24 [D&C 49:24] undoubtedly echoes Ezekiel 20:33–38 [Ezek. 20:33–38].
The Prophet Joseph Smith said that the Lord Jesus Christ had personally appeared to Ezekiel from time to time and that Ezekiel had the “glorious visions” of heaven opened unto him. (Teachings, p. 151.) Another comment on Ezekiel is found in an address to the Relief Society 26 May 1842 where he read Ezekiel 14 [Ezek. 14] and “said the Lord had declared … that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church—that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls.” (Teachings, pp. 237–38.) He thus gave the key to understanding this chapter.
Joseph Smith cited Ezekiel 34:11–13 as evidence of the gathering of Israel in the last days from all the nations of the earth to Zion and Jerusalem. (Teachings, p. 17.) He also explained the context of Ezekiel 38–39: “The battle of Gog and Magog will be after the millennium. The remnant of all the nations that fight against Jerusalem were commanded to go up to Jerusalem to worship in the millennium.” (Teachings, p. 280.)
He also quoted Ezekiel 34:3 (without identifying it) in warning those “whose object and aim were to keep the people in ignorance for the sake of filthy lucre; or as the prophet says, to feed themselves, and not the flock.” (Teachings, p. 315.)
The Joseph Smith Translation changed eleven verses of Ezekiel, most of which were not significant doctrinally. However, to 14:9, the Joseph Smith Translation adds, “And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have not deceived that prophet, therefore I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.” (Changes italicized.)
Slight changes in Ezekiel 23:17, 22, and 28 clarify that Israel’s and Judah’s enemies alienated them from the Lord; and Ezekiel 48:35 was also clarified: “and the name of the city from that day shall be called Holy, for the LORD shall be there.” (Changes italicized.)
Daniel. In a prayer given by revelation (D&C 65), Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s interpretation are identified as the latter-day kingdom of God set up by the Prophet Joseph Smith, including such parallels as “the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands” and its rolling forth. (See Dan. 2:35, 45; D&C 65:2.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith made several comments about the book of Daniel. He taught that seers and prophets “saw the stone cut out of the mountain, which filled the whole earth.” (Teachings, p. 13.) He later testified that “the ancient prophets declared that in the last days the God of heaven should set up a kingdom which should never be destroyed, nor left to other people [Dan. 2:44]; and the very time that was calculated on, this [LDS] people were struggling to bring it out.” (Teachings, p. 365.) The Prophet also spoke of Adam as the Ancient of Days:
“Commencing with Adam, who was the first man, who is spoken of in Daniel as being the ‘Ancient of Days,’ or in other words, the first and oldest of all, the great, grand progenitor of whom it is said in another place he is Michael, because he was the first and father of all, not only by progeny, but the first to hold the spiritual blessings, to whom was made known the plan of ordinances for the salvation of his posterity unto the end, and to whom Christ was first revealed, and through whom Christ has been revealed from heaven, and will continue to be revealed from henceforth.” (Teachings, p. 167.)
Concerning Adam-Ondi-Ahman, the Prophet taught that Adam “will call his children together and hold a council with them to prepare them for the coming of the Son of Man. He (Adam) is the father of the human family, and presides over the spirits of all men, and all that have had the keys must stand before him in this grand council. This may take place before some of us leave this stage of action. The Son of Man stands before him, and there is given him glory and dominion. Adam delivers up his stewardship to Christ, that which was delivered to him as holding the keys of the universe, but retains his standing as head of the human family.” (Teachings, p. 157; see also p. 159.)
The Prophet distinguished between the beasts which John the Revelator saw and those seen by Daniel:
“Daniel says (Dan. 7:16) when he saw the vision of the four beasts, ‘I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this,’ the angel interpreted the vision to Daniel; but we find, by the interpretation that the figures of beasts had no allusion to the kingdom of God. You there see that the beasts are spoken of to represent the kingdoms of the world, the inhabitants whereof were beastly and abominable characters; they were murderers, corrupt, carnivorous, and brutal in their dispositions. The lion, the bear, the leopard, and the ten-horned beast represented the kingdoms of the world, says Daniel.
“… What John saw and speaks of were things which he saw in heaven; those which Daniel saw were on and pertaining to the earth.
“… I make this broad declaration, that whenever God gives a vision of an image, or beast, or figure of any kind, He always holds Himself responsible to give a revelation or interpretation of the meaning thereof; otherwise we are not responsible or accountable for our belief in it. Don’t be afraid of being damned for not knowing the meaning of a vision or figure, if God has not given a revelation or interpretation of the subject.” (Teachings, pp. 289–91.)
The Prophet interpreted a sometimes puzzling passage, Daniel 7:21–22 [Dan. 7:21–22]: “The ‘Horn’ made war with the Saints and overcame them, until the Ancient of Days came; judgment was given to the Saints of the Most High from the Ancient of Days; the time came that the Saints possessed the Kingdom. This not only makes us ministers here, but in eternity.” (Teachings, p. 159.)
He also recommended, “You must make yourselves acquainted with those men who like Daniel pray three times a day toward the house of the Lord.” (Teachings, p. 161.)
Another clarification comes in reference to the “abomination of desolation” spoken of by Daniel the prophet. (Matt. 24:15; Dan. 9:27; Dan. 11:31; Dan. 12:11.) In Joseph Smith’s translation of that chapter, the desolation was to take place twice—once at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and again before the Lord’s second coming. (JST, Matt. 24:12, 32.) Daniel’s prophecies therefore undoubtedly have a dual nature. JST Daniel 5:28 changes the word peres to upharsin, making it consistent with verse 25.
Other prophets from approximately the period of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel are also spoken of in modern scriptures, even though their writings are much briefer.
Hosea. The Prophet Joseph quoted from Hosea 6 [Hosea 6] to show that the second coming of Christ would not be before the 1890s. (Teachings, p. 286.) Unfortunately, his reasoning was not recorded and the relevance of his statement is now past.
He also changed one verse to show how the Lord was willing to gather Ephraim: “My heart is turned toward thee, and my mercies are extended to gather thee.” (JST, Hosea 11:8; changes italicized.)
Joel. Moroni quoted Joel 2:28–32 as “soon to be” fulfilled. (JS—H 1:41.) Joseph Smith paraphrased part of verse 30: “The sun will be darkened, and the moon turn to blood” as a reason for the Saints to sanctify themselves and to gather to the places God has appointed. (Teachings, p. 71; p. 280). He also quoted verse 32 as evidence of the latter-day gathering to both Zion and Jerusalem. (Teachings, p. 17.)
He paraphrased Joel 2:2 as a warning to the Saints to prepare for the terrible storms gathering in retribution for the murders at Haun’s mill, the martyrdom of David Patton, and others. (Teachings, p. 141.)
The Prophet also changed Joel 2:13, 14 to show that it is man who must repent and not God.
Amos. The Prophet Joseph notes that “the grand rule of heaven” is that the Lord would do nothing on earth “until revealing his secrets to his servants the prophets.” (Teachings, p. 265, 280; JST, Amos 3:7.) The Joseph Smith Translation changes 3:6, “shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it,” to “the Lord hath not known it.” Again, the change shows that mankind, not the Lord, repents (see Amos 7:3, 6) and also that because Jacob shall repent the Lord will not utterly destroy him. All of these changes render the book of Amos more understandable.
Obadiah. The Prophet quoted the first part of the last verse of the little book of Obadiah several times. He identifies the “saviours … on Mount Zion” as the promised seed of Abraham to whom the priesthood would be restored in the last day, and “presented baptism for the dead as the only way that men can appear as saviors on Mount Zion.” (Teachings, p. 189, 191.) He noted that this fulfilled the words of Obadiah “when speaking of the glory of the latter-day.” (Teachings, p. 223.)
He later said the Saints would become saviors on Mount Zion “by building” temples, “erecting their baptismal fonts, and going forth and receiving all the ordinances, baptisms, and confirmations, washings, anointings, ordinations and sealing powers upon their heads, in behalf of all their progenitors who are dead, and redeem them that they may come forth in the first resurrection and be exalted to thrones of glory with them.” (Teachings, p. 330.)
Micah. Micah is quoted in the Book of Mormon as coming from Isaiah. Possibly it is because Micah and Isaiah were contemporaries and Isaiah is quoted by Micah. (Compare Isa. 2:2–3 and Micah 4:1–2.) Micah 4:12–13 and Micah 5:8–9 are quoted in 3 Nephi 20:16–20 [3 Ne. 20:16–20] and Micah 5:7–15 in 3 Nephi 21:12–21 [3 Ne. 21:12–21], with several differences in the text and some commentary. The Book of Mormon provides the insight that it is unrepentant Gentiles who will be trodden down by the house of Israel.
Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah. The Prophet Joseph’s only recorded comment about these three prophets is a note that Zephaniah 3:9 [Zeph. 3:9] (“Then will I turn to the people a pure language”) was a part of the promise of the gathering of Israel. (Teachings, p. 93.) However, this lack of commentary does not mean that these small books do not contain important messages.
Haggai, Zechariah. In 538 B.C., Cyrus, king of Persia, allowed the Jews to return from their seventy-year captivity in Babylon and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem and the city walls. This task was placed under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah and the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. Latter-day revelation sheds much light on Zechariah (primarily regarding latter-day prophecies) although the Lord also used Ezra 2:61–62 as an example of what would happen to priesthood holders who apostatized. (See D&C 85:11–12.)
Zechariah foresaw the second coming of the Lord, and the Savior paraphrased his words or perhaps quoted them in proper sequence to tell his Jerusalem disciples of the signs of his coming. These words are now Doctrine and Covenants 45:51–52 [D&C 45:51–52]. Zechariah foretold that the Lord would set his foot upon the Mount of Olives, which would split in two. The Jews, looking upon their long awaited Messiah, would wonder at the wounds in his hands and feet; the Lord would explain them, followed by mourning of the Jews. (Zech. 12:10–14; Zech. 14:4–5; D&C 45:51, 53.) The plagues that will come upon those who fight against Jerusalem in Zechariah 14:12 [Zech. 14:12] sound similar to those described in Doctrine and Covenants 29:18–19 [D&C 29:18–19]. The Prophet Joseph referred to Zechariah in describing mankind’s love for the Lord during the millennium:
“The word of the Lord is precious; and when we read that the veil spread over all nations will be destroyed, and the pure in heart see God, and reign with Him a thousand years on earth, we want all honest men to have a chance to gather and build up a city of righteousness, where even upon the bells of the horses shall be written ‘Holiness to the Lord.’ ” (Teachings, p. 93.)
The only significant changes in the Joseph Smith Translation were in 8:7, 13, where save is changed to gather.
Malachi. When Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith in 1823, the first scripture he quoted as “soon to be” fulfilled was from Malachi 3–4 [Mal. 3–4]. The variation in JS—H 1:37–39 provides a plainer interpretation of Malachi 4:1, 5–6 [Mal. 4:1, 5–6]. (The variable reading of Mal. 4:5–6 is now D&C 2.) The entire third and fourth chapters of Malachi are quoted in the Book of Mormon (3 Ne. 24–25) exactly as they are in the King James Version. The Prophet Joseph made no changes in the JST when he quoted them in his instructions on baptism for the dead, noting: “I might have rendered a plainer translation to this, but it is sufficiently plain to suit my purpose as it stands.” (D&C 128:18.)
These two chapters were important enough that the Savior commanded the Nephites to include them in the Book of Mormon. Also, Joseph Smith often quoted from them, especially 4:4–6 [Mal. 4:4–6]: “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.” (Teachings, p. 160.)
“The world is reserved unto burning in the last days. He shall send Elijah the prophet, and he shall reveal the covenants of the fathers in relation to the children, and the covenants of the children in relation to the fathers.” (Teachings, p. 321; see pp. 330, 337, 356.)
“Elijah was the last Prophet that held the keys of the Priesthood, and who will, before the last dispensation, restore the authority and deliver the keys of the Priesthood, in order that all the ordinances may be attended to in righteousness. It is true that the Savior had authority and power to bestow this blessing; but the sons of Levi were too prejudiced. ‘And I will send Elijah the Prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord,’ etc., etc. Why send Elijah? Because he holds the keys of the authority to administer in all the ordinances of the Priesthood; and without the authority is given, the ordinances could not be administered in righteousness.” (Teachings, p. 172.)
Joseph Smith also clarified the doctrine of Malachi 4:4 [Mal. 4:4]:
“How shall God come to the rescue of this generation? He will send Elijah the prophet. The law revealed to Moses in Horeb never was revealed to the children of Israel as a nation. Elijah shall reveal the covenants to seal the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers.
“The anointing and sealing is to be called, elected and made sure.” (Teachings, p. 323.)
Joseph Smith also discussed Malachi 3:2–3 [Mal. 3:2–3] in notes added to his letter on baptism for the dead. (D&C 128:24; see also D&C 13.) The offering by the sons of Levi prophesied of in Malachi 3:3 [Mal. 3:3] will follow the “restoration of all things” spoken of by the prophets. (Teachings, p. 171–73.)
While the Prophet gave nowhere near a full understanding of the Old Testament prophets, certainly he revealed enough and so vividly that we are left without excuse in understanding these new witnesses of the Savior. The Lord has fulfilled his promise to Nephi to bring forth other records to the convincing of the Gentiles.