“Chapter 2: The Mission of Elijah,” Introduction to Family History Teacher Manual: Religion 261 (2012), 4–9
“Chapter 2,” Family History Teacher Manual, 4–9
Three years after the Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–44) saw and talked with the Eternal Father and Jesus Christ in the Sacred Grove, the angel Moroni appeared to him. As part of Moroni’s instruction, he told Joseph Smith of the future coming of Elijah. Referring to this sequence of events, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “The introductory events of the Restoration revealed a correct understanding of the Godhead, emphasized the importance of the Book of Mormon, and anticipated the work of salvation and exaltation for both the living and the dead. This inspiring sequence is instructive about the spiritual matters of highest priority to Deity” (“The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn,” Ensign, Nov. 2011, 24).
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: “Elijah came not only to stimulate research for ancestors. He also enabled families to be eternally linked beyond the bounds of mortality. Indeed, the opportunity for families to be sealed forever is the real reason for our research” (“A New Harvest Time,” Ensign, May 1998, 34). In this lesson you will help students better understand and appreciate the importance of the mission of Elijah, who restored the sealing keys to the Prophet Joseph Smith, enabling families to be sealed together forever and thus fulfill one of the matters of the Restoration “of highest priority to Deity.”
Help students understand that the 15 prophets, seers, and revelators of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—which includes the Twelve Apostles, the counselors in the First Presidency, and the President of the Church, who presides—all hold the sealing keys that were bestowed upon the Prophet Joseph Smith by Elijah. Other General Authorities and temple sealers throughout the world receive delegated authority to seal couples and families, both living and dead, together in holy temples. Help students know that the Lord will bless and guide them as they turn their hearts toward family members and seek to provide the saving ordinances of the gospel for those in the spirit world.
The sealing keys of the priesthood enable ordinances to be binding beyond the grave.
Elijah was the last Old Testament prophet to hold the keys of the sealing power of the Melchizedek Priesthood.
In fulfillment of prophecy, Elijah restored the keys of the sealing power of the Melchizedek Priesthood to the earth in this dispensation.
The Spirit of Elijah, by definition, is the Holy Ghost as His directing influence guides those who participate in family history and temple work.
After Elijah’s return, interest in family history began to accelerate around the world.
Hold up a set of keys for the students to see, and ask:
What are keys used for?
What kind of keys have you used or owned?
Point out to students that in general terms, keys allow doors and other objects to be opened or sometimes turned on. With this thought in mind, have a student read aloud from the student manual under the heading “Priesthood Keys of Authority” (2.1).
In very simple terms, how would you define what is meant by the term “priesthood keys of authority”?
Who directs the exercise of the sealing keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood today?
Have students study the student manual under the subheadings “The sealing powers represent the consummate gift from God” (2.2.2) and “Ordinances are given validity beyond the grave” (2.2.3).
How would you explain, in a single sentence, the importance of the sealing keys of the priesthood?
Why is it important for you to know that sealing keys are on the earth today?
Assign half of the class to read Doctrine and Covenants 128:17–19, looking for insights about sealing keys; ask the other half of the class to read Doctrine and Covenants 138:38, 46–48, looking for the importance of family generations being sealed together. Invite students to share the insights about sealing keys that they gain from these scriptures.
Ask students to share what they already know about the prophet Elijah. After several students have responded, share the following statement from the Bible Dictionary: “We learn from latter-day revelation that Elijah held the sealing power of the Melchizedek Priesthood and was the last prophet to do so before the time of Jesus Christ” (Bible Dictionary, “Elijah”).
Explain that an example of Elijah’s use of the sealing power is found in the Bible. King Ahab (king of Israel) and the majority of the people of Israel were wicked. Ask students to study 1 Kings 17:1; 18:1, 41–45 to see an illustration of how Elijah used the sealing power. Encourage students to share with the class what they learned from these verses about the sealing power.
Invite students to turn to 2 Kings 2. Explain that Elijah was nearing the end of his ministry. As Elijah and Elisha journeyed on foot toward Jordan, Elisha witnessed Elijah as he was being translated. Have a student read 2 Kings 2:11–14.
Why was it important that Elijah be taken to heaven without experiencing death? (If needed, refer students to the student manual under the heading “Elijah was translated” [2.3.2].)
Ask if any of your students can quote the last two verses of the Old Testament (help them by saying, “Behold, I will send you Elijah …”), or ask a student to read Malachi 4:5–6. It might be helpful for students if the terms below are written on the board. Explore the meaning of these terms with your class.
Note: Possible interpretations are provided in parentheses. You may also find the following student manual commentaries helpful: “Elijah’s return turned the hearts of the children to their fathers” (2.4.1), “Promises made to the fathers are planted in the hearts of the children” (2.4.2), and “The earth would be wasted if Elijah did not return” (2.4.3).
Share the following quotation by the Prophet Joseph Smith with your class:
“The Bible says, ‘I will send you Elijah the Prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord; and he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.’ [Malachi 4:5–6.]
“Now, the word turn here should be translated bind, or seal” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 472).
How do the words bind and seal help you understand Malachi’s prophecy?
Explain to students that when Moroni visited Joseph Smith in September 1823, he quoted from Malachi 4:5–6 with some slight changes in the wording. These changes help to clarify and add greater meaning and understanding to Malachi’s prophecy. Assign the class to compare Malachi 4:5–6 with Joseph Smith—History 1:38–39. Then discuss:
What are some differences you notice?
For example, Malachi 4:5 states, “I will send you Elijah,” whereas Joseph Smith—History 1:38 states, “I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah.” Malachi 4:6 states, “Turn the heart of the fathers to the children,” whereas Joseph Smith—History 1:39 states, “He shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers.”
What insights can we gain from these differences? (Possible answers include: The priesthood would be revealed by Elijah. Since Joseph Smith already held the Melchizedek Priesthood, the purposes of the priesthood would be further revealed and understood as a result of Elijah’s visit—the sealing power would be added, family history work could be done with saving ordinances performed in temples, etc. The Joseph Smith—History account adds that the children would have planted in their hearts the promises made to the fathers—the fathers could be Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc. [covered more in chapter 10 on the Abrahamic covenant]. The promises could refer to the gospel blessings, including eternal life. The Joseph Smith—History account also suggests that because of the gospel promises made to the ancient Saints, our hearts would desire those same blessings for us and for our deceased ancestors.)
What phrase from Doctrine and Covenants 110:13 confirms the biblical account of Elijah’s translation? (“Taken to heaven without tasting death.” Be sure students understand that when Elijah came to the Kirtland Temple, he had a physical body. The statements in the student manual under the headings “Elijah was translated” [2.3.2] and “Elijah returned in fulfillment of prophecy” [2.5.1] may be helpful to explain this answer.)
Have students read Doctrine and Covenants 27:9 to emphasize that the prophet Elijah was chosen by God to be the one responsible for the sealing keys. Explain that when the Melchizedek Priesthood is conferred upon an individual, that ordination gives him authority but does not include all the keys of the priesthood. For example, a prospective missionary may be ordained an elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood, but he does not have the keys to perform baptisms; he must first be authorized by another Melchizedek Priesthood holder who does hold the keys, such as a bishop or mission president. A worthy father may baptize and confirm one of his children only after being authorized to do so by his bishop or branch president. All priesthood ordinances are performed only under the direction and approval of a man having priesthood keys to authorize such ordinances (for further explanation, see the student manual under the heading “Priesthood Keys of Authority” [2.1]).
In the unfolding Restoration, the Prophet Joseph Smith received the Melchizedek Priesthood from Peter, James, and John in 1829, but he still needed the keys given to him by Elijah. Before Elijah came, Joseph Smith could not perform a temple marriage sealing or seal children to parents in the temple, nor could he delegate to others the power and authority to do so. (Note: At this point, you may want to refer to the statement by Elder David A. Bednar in the introduction to this lesson.)
Have students read from the headings “The sealing power continues with the President of the Church” (2.5.3) and “The restoration of sealing keys is a pinnacle of the Restoration” (2.5.4) in the student manual.
Why is it important to you to know that the keys restored by the prophet Elijah to the Prophet Joseph Smith are still on the earth today?
In what ways have the keys restored by Elijah in these latter days blessed your life?
Invite students to scan 2 Kings 2:9, 15.
What do you think it means that the Spirit of Elijah rested on Elisha?
What do you think it means that the Spirit of Elijah can rest on people who do family history research? (For help with this answer, see the student manual under the heading “‘The Spirit of Elijah’ is a manifestation of the Holy Ghost” [2.6.1].)
Have students turn to Doctrine and Covenants 138. Prepare them to study from this section of the Doctrine and Covenants by sharing the following information: At the time President Joseph F. Smith received section 138, he had recently experienced the death of his son, 45-year-old Hyrum Mack Smith, who was an Apostle. Thirteen of his 48 children preceded him in death. In addition, a pandemic flu epidemic was in process that eventually killed between 50 and 100 million people worldwide and sickened about 500 million. World War I was in process, which ultimately took 16 million lives. President Smith was himself in poor health and died about one month after receiving this revelation.
Write the following scripture references on the board, and have students silently read the verses from President Joseph F. Smith’s vision:
As students read, encourage them to place themselves in President Smith’s situation. Invite them to look for doctrinal truths that President Joseph F. Smith received in this singular vision. Tell students that they will be asked to share their feelings and insights at the end of their reading.
After allowing time to read, invite students to share any insights and feelings they have about these passages of scripture, particularly regarding their kindred dead who died without a knowledge of the gospel. Testify to students that wonderful experiences await them as they continue to seek out their ancestors, and that the Lord will help them in their endeavors.
Ask students if any of them or someone they know is enthusiastically involved with family history research and temple work. If so, invite them to share what they or the people they know are doing with family history work and how they feel about it.
Have a student read the first two paragraphs of President Gordon B. Hinckley’s (1910–2008) statement in the student manual under the heading “Millions are working on family history” (2.7.1). Ask if anyone is aware of interest in family ancestry that is not sponsored by the Church (such as a television program, websites, a genealogical library or society, or articles in magazines or newspapers). If so, invite them to share that information with the class.
Why do you think interest in the family structure and ancestry are so popular around the world?
How could that interest help in the work of the Lord?
Invite students to turn to the Questions to Ponder section at the end of chapter 2 of the student manual (pages 22–23) and silently review the questions. Invite students to share any answers to those questions that they would like to share. Bear your testimony regarding the mission of Elijah, the reality of the sealing power held by living prophets and temple workers today, and the joy that accompanies our efforts to have our families sealed together for eternity.