What Offering Will the Sons of Levi Make in Righteousness?

The last prophet of the Old Testament, Malachi, prophesied that “the messenger of the covenant” would “suddenly come to his temple.” This sounds like a reference to the Savior’s Second Coming, especially when Malachi asks, “Who may abide the day of his coming?” He tells us that this messenger will refine and purify the sons of Levi, “and purge them as gold and silver,” so that they can “offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness” (Malachi 3:1-3).

Jesus Christ considered this passage so important that He quoted it during His visit to the American continent and commanded His disciples to write it down (3 Nephi 24:1-3).

And John the Baptist referenced the same passage when he conferred the Aaronic Priesthood on Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in May of 1829. According to Joseph Smith’s account, John told them that this priesthood “shall never be taken again from the earth until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness” (Joseph Smith—History 1:69, Doctrine & Covenants 13:1). Oliver remembered it slightly differently: “This priesthood and this authority…shall remain upon earth, that the Sons of Levi may yet offer an offering unto the Lord in righteousness!” (Joseph Smith—History, endnote)

Who are these “sons of Levi,” and what is this offering which they will give to the Lord in righteousness after they are purified?

Who are these sons of Levi?

Levi was one of the twelve sons of Jacob, also known as Israel (Genesis 29:34). Moses and his brother Aaron were descendants of Levi (Exodus 2:1-10, Exodus 6:16-20). The sons of Aaron were consecrated as priests (Exodus 28:1-4) and the rest of the descendants of Levi (known as the Levites)  were their assistants (Numbers 3:5-10). One of the duties of the priests was to kill the animals which were offered to the Lord, and the Levites sometimes fulfilled this responsibility as well (2 Chronicles 29:34). Like the priests, Levites had to be cleansed in order to perform these duties appropriately (Numbers 8:6-16).

In September, 1832, the Lord promised Joseph Smith, “The sons of Moses and also the sons of Aaron shall offer an acceptable offering and sacrifice in the house of the Lord, which house shall be built unto the Lord in this generation.” Who were these sons of Moses and Aaron? The Lord went on to clarify:

The sons of Moses and of Aaron shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, upon Mount Zion in the Lord’s house, whose sons are ye; and also many whom I have called and sent forth to build up my church.
For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies. They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God (Doctrine and Covenants 84:31-34, italics added).

So by participating worthily in the ordinances of the priesthood, we are adopted into the family of Moses and Aaron (and therefore of Levi) and are able to offer an acceptable offering in the house of the Lord.

What is the offering?

In January, 1841, as members of the church gathered in Nauvoo, Illinois, Joseph Smith received a revelation in which the Lord explained the importance of building a temple. Some sacred activities could only be done in a sacred place. “For this cause I commanded Moses that he should build a tabernacle, that they should bear it with them in the wilderness, and to build a house in the land of promise, that those ordinances might be revealed which had been hid from before the world was.” (D&C 124:38). The Lord went on to describe certain activities which ought to be done in a sacred place:

Your anointings, and your washings, and your baptisms for the dead, and your solemn assemblies, and your memorials for your sacrifices by the sons of Levi, and for your oracles in your most holy places wherein you receive conversations, and your statutes and judgments, for the beginning of the revelations and foundation of Zion, and for the glory, honor, and endowment of all her municipals, are ordained by the ordinance of my holy house, which my people are always commanded to build unto my holy name (D&C 124:39).

The following year, Joseph wrote an epistle to the church, explaining the ordinance of baptism for the dead, outlining the biblical basis for this practice, and providing instructions about how these baptisms ought to be performed. Near the end of the epistle, he referenced the passage from Malachi and described the offering we will make:

Behold, the great day of the Lord is at hand;… 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. Let us, therefore, as a church and a people, and as Latter-day Saints, offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness; and let us present in his holy temple, when it is finished, a book containing the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation (D&C 128:24).

So we are the sons of Levi, if we choose to participate in the ordinances of the temple. And our offering to the Lord is the record we keep of our ancestors and of the work we do on their behalf.

Today, I will be grateful for the scope of God’s work upon the earth. I will be grateful that He allows His children, including me, to participate in His work of salvation on behalf of the living and of the dead. I will be grateful for holy places where He can reveal truths to us, and where we can make offerings to Him in righteousness.

13 thoughts on “What Offering Will the Sons of Levi Make in Righteousness?

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  1. This was very enlightening, thank you! I had not tied D&C 13 together with D&C 84 as you have so convincingly done here, so I had not realized that we are fulfilling that prophecy; I had always associated it with the conversion of the Jews associated with the Second Coming of Christ, including the blood descendants of Levi among them.

    Reading D&C 84 from that perspective, “sons of Aaron” are holders of the Aaronic priesthood, and “sons of Moses” are holders of the Melchizedek, or higher, or Holy Priesthood:

    “And the sons of Moses, according to the Holy Priesthood which he received under the hand of his father-in-law, Jethro… Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek, who received it through the lineage of his fathers… Which priesthood continueth in the church of God in all generations, and is without beginning of days or end of years.” (D&C 84:6,14,17)

    “And the Lord confirmed a priesthood also upon Aaron and his seed, throughout all their generations, which priesthood also continueth and abideth forever with the priesthood which is after the holiest order of God.” (D&C 84:18)

    The whole discussion of the two priesthoods in D&C 84 is in the context of building a temple, and officiating therein:

    “Verily this is the word of the Lord, that the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place, even the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation. For verily this generation shall not all pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord, and a cloud shall rest upon it, which cloud shall be even the glory of the Lord, which shall fill the house.” (D&C 84:5-6)

    “Therefore, as I said concerning the sons of Moses—for the sons of Moses and also the sons of Aaron shall offer an acceptable offering and sacrifice in the house of the Lord, which house shall be built unto the Lord in this generation.” (D&C 84:31)

    And in the temple, both men and women are both prepared to officiate in the ordinances of these priesthoods, and do so when we participate in them; when we perform and participate in vicarious baptisms in the temple, we become the sons (and daughters) of Aaron; when we perform and participate in the other temple ordinances, we become the sons (and daughters) of Moses.

    We are working to present to the Lord an offering of “a book containing the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation.” (D&C 128:24) While we are each working on the records of our own dead, we are also working on “a Book;” we are working to link together the whole family of Adam in the ordinances of the priesthood, which won’t be complete until the thousand-year Millennial reign draws to a close and the mortal family of Adam is complete and linked together in one continuous chain:

    “We have been gathered . . . for the express purpose of purifying ourselves, that we may become polished stones in the temple of God. We are here for the purpose of establishing the Kingdom of God on the earth.
    To be prepared for this work it has been necessary to gather us out from the nations and countries of the world [to receive] the ordinances of the holy Priesthood of the Son of God, which are necessary for the perfection
    of the Saints preparatory to his coming.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, 121)

    “The ordinance of sealing must be performed here [son] to [father], and woman to man, and children to parents, etc., until the chain of generation is made perfect in the sealing ordinances back to Father Adam.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, 407)

    So the “until” in D&C 13:1, “which shall never be taken again from the earth until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness,” won’t be finished until all the work of the temples is finished; then truly “the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.” (Joseph Smith, Wentworth Letter)

    Thank you again, you’ve really helped me tie together a lot of ideas I’d never put together before!

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    1. Wow! Thank you for sharing those insights. I’m impressed with the richness of meaning that you have found in this concept, and I’m grateful that the blog post helped you make all of those connections.
      Let me add one more: Last April, in general conference, President M. Russell Ballard said:
      “As we listen to the Spirit during this 200th anniversary celebration this weekend, consider what offering you will present to the Lord in righteousness in the coming days…. I know that the Savior is pleased when we present Him an offering from our hearts in righteousness” (“Shall We Not Go On in So Great a Cause?” General Conference, April 2020). I love the thought that we can each make personalized offerings to the Lord as part of the fulfillment of this prophecy.
      Have a great day!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Your post really did resonate with me and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

        I’ve thought about what it means to be a “son” in the symbolic language of the scriptures. To become a son or a child of someone is to become willing inheritors of their works, and therefore of their rewards.

        There is the interchange between Christ and the Pharisees in John 8:39-44:

        39 They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham.

        40 But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.

        41 Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.

        42 Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.

        43 Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.

        44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.

        And Moroni 7:19:

        19 Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ.

        By contrast, the Old Testament regularly refers to the wicked as “sons of Belial”, a name meaning “without worth”, and used as a proper name for Satan; for example, 1 Samuel 2:12: “Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the Lord.” There we get literal sonship and figurative sonship in the same verse!

        I think sometimes, in our haste to lay hold on Biblical evidence for the doctrine of our being literal spirit children of God, we miss at least part of the intended figurative meaning, as in Romans 8:14-17:

        14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

        15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

        16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

        17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

        Although by nature we are literal children of God, we only become His heirs by becoming His figurative children; because by nature we are fallen, we must be “adopted” into the “family” of those who follow Him.

        Thank you for the Pres. Nelson quote! What a perfect and personally challenging application of D&C 13. It calls to mind probably my favorite verse from the Book of Mormon, Omni 1:26:

        And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved.

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        1. Great passages on becoming the children of God.
          Here’s my personal favorite, from King Benjamin:
          “Because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters” (Mosiah 5:7).
          Thanks again for sharing your insights!

          Liked by 1 person

    2. I enjoyed the insight you have shared. However, I would like to add that although we become a part of the sacrifices and sacraments offered when we work in the temple, the prophet Joseph as well as President Joseph Feilding Smith were very clear that a “Restoration of all things” means that before the Savior returns the Sons of Levi (Jews in Jerusalem) will once again restore blood sacrifice, in a Jewish temple, for a time in order to fulfill this prophecy. So there is more to this than just modern proxy work in our temples. This is all fascinating and will truly be a miraculous time. Thank you for your thoughts.

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      1. Thanks for the reminder, Clark. Here are quotes to that effect, source https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/manual/doctrine-and-covenants-student-manual/section-13-the-restoration-of-the-aaronic-priesthood?lang=eng:

        D&C 13:1. What Is Meant by the Sons of Levi Offering an Offering of Righteousness unto the Lord?
        The Prophet Joseph Smith commented as follows on this scripture:

        “It is generally supposed that sacrifice was entirely done away when the Great Sacrifice [i.e.,] the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus was offered up, and that there will be no necessity for the ordinance of sacrifice in the future; but those who assert this are certainly not acquainted with the duties, privileges and authority of the Priesthood, or with the Prophets.

        “The offering of sacrifice has ever been connected and forms a part of the duties of the Priesthood. It began with the Priesthood, and will be continued until after the coming of Christ, from generation to generation. …

        “These sacrifices, as well as every ordinance belonging to the Priesthood, will, when the Temple of the Lord shall be built, and the sons of Levi be purified, be fully restored and attended to in all their powers, ramifications, and blessings. This ever did and ever will exist when the powers of the Melchizedek Priesthood are sufficiently manifest; else how can the restitution of all things spoken of by the Holy Prophets be brought to pass. It is not to be understood that the law of Moses will be established again with all its rites and variety of ceremonies; this has never been spoken of by the prophets; but those things which existed prior to Moses’ day, namely, sacrifice, will be continued.” (Teachings, pp. 172–73.)

        President Joseph Fielding Smith further explained that “we are living in the dispensation of the fulness of times into which all things are to be gathered, and all things are to be restored since the beginning. Even this earth is to be restored to the condition which prevailed before Adam’s transgression. Now in the nature of things, the law of sacrifice will have to be restored, or all things which were decreed by the Lord would not be restored. It will be necessary, therefore, for the sons of Levi, who offered the blood sacrifices anciently in Israel, to offer such a sacrifice again to round out and complete this ordinance in this dispensation. Sacrifice by the shedding of blood was instituted in the days of Adam and of necessity will have to be restored.

        “The sacrifice of animals will be done to complete the restoration when the temple spoken of is built; at the beginning of the millennium, or in the restoration, blood sacrifices will be performed long enough to complete the fulness of the restoration in this dispensation. Afterwards sacrifice will be of some other character.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:94.)

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        1. Thank you both for your comments. I was generally aware of this interpretation and appreciate you bringing these quotes to my attention.
          I recognize that prophecies can be fulfilled in multiple ways and that different interpretations of the same scripture can be useful. With that said, I have not gravitated to this more literal interpretation for the following reasons:
          1. It appears to contradict 3 Nephi 9:19-20.
          2. I don’t understand why it is necessary. The reasons given in these two quotes sound awfully formalistic to me. If God did command this practice to be restarted, I would expect there to be a deeper reason than simply reproducing the religious practices of the past.
          3. I don’t see the relationship between this interpretation and my daily decisions.
          About a year ago in General Conference, President M. Russell Ballard provided another interpretation of this passage which resonated with me:
          “As we listen to the Spirit during this 200th anniversary celebration this weekend, consider what offering you will present to the Lord in righteousness in the coming days…. I know that the Savior is pleased when we present Him an offering from our hearts in righteousness” (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2020/04/12ballard?lang=eng).
          Just as ancient believers made a meaningful sacrifice by donating the best of their flocks to the Lord, we can follow the same pattern by considering what we have to give and then making a meaningful offering to the Lord. I like this interpretation because I can implement it in my life today.
          I hope that’s helpful. Thanks again for your thoughts, and have a great day!

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  2. I have always wondered what that last offering of the Sons of Levi would be upon the Savior’s return. This has answered so many questions for me and given family history an added emphasis in my life. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. 19 And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings.
    20 And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.

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    1. Thanks for sharing this scripture from the Book of Mormon. After the death of Jesus Christ, He instructed a group of people on the American continent to stop following some of the practices prescribed in the law of Moses. They would continue to make “offerings” to Him, but the nature of those offerings would change.
      This passage reminds us that the most important offering we make is ourselves. As Neal A. Maxwell observed, “Real, personal sacrifice never was placing an animal on the altar. Instead, it is a willingness to put the animal in us upon the altar and letting it be consumed!” (“Deny Yourselves of All Ungodliness,” General Conference, April 1995).
      Thanks for the reminder!

      Like

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