What Is the Day of Burning Spoken of by Malachi?

Malachi prophesied that a day would come when the unrighteous would be destroyed by fire:

For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch (Malachi 4:1).

The Savior quoted this same passage during His visit to the American continent (3 Nephi 23:1). The passage must have had special significance to His listeners, all of whom must have known people who had died in the recent fires, floods, earthquakes, and tornados. The survivors had been told that they were more righteous than those who had died, and then they had been invited to repent so that Christ could heal them (3 Nephi 9:13).

The prophet Nephi prophesied that God would “preserve the righteous by his power…even unto the destruction of their enemies by fire” (1 Nephi 22:17). And after the destruction which coincided with His death, the Savior repeatedly explained the reason for it: “that the blood of the prophets and the saints shall not come any more unto me against them” (3 Nephi 9:5, 7, 9, 11). Nephi concludes, “Wherefore, the righteous need not fear; for thus saith the prophet, they shall be saved, even if it so be as by fire.”

Nephi specifically tied his prophecy to the destruction which would precede the visit of Jesus Christ to his descendants (2 Nephi 26:4-6).

When the angel Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith with a charge to translate the Book of Mormon, he quoted a number of passages from the Bible, including this passage from Malachi (Joseph Smith—History 1:37). The implication was that this prophecy still had relevance to some future event.

As the Savior taught His disciples, His return to the earth will be preceded by “wars…, famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places” (Matthew 24:6-7). But He urged His disciples, when they began to see these signs appear, to “be not troubled” (Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:22).

More than fifty years ago, Marion G. Romney elaborated on this counsel from the Savior:

Naturally, believing Christians, even those who have a mature faith in the gospel, are concerned and disturbed by the lowering clouds on the horizon. But they need not be surprised or frantic about their portent, for, as has already been said, at the very beginning of this last dispensation the Lord made it abundantly clear that through the tribulations and calamity that he foresaw and foretold and that we now see coming upon us, there would be a people who, through acceptance and obedience to the gospel, would be able to recognize and resist the powers of evil, build up the promised Zion, and prepare to meet the Christ and be with him in the blessed millennium. And we know further that it is possible for every one of us, who will, to have a place among those people. It is this assurance and this expectation that gives us understanding of the Lord’s admonition, “be not troubled.” (General Conference, 1966, pp. 53–54)

I think the message in these passages is two-fold:

  1. Prior to the Savior’s return, there will be a purging. People whose hearts are hardened, who behave in cruel ways and harm the innocent, will be removed from the earth.
  2. Those who are humble, those who are striving to follow God, need not be afraid. God will be with them and will carry them through those difficult times. In fact, the purpose of this “day of burning” is to protect the righteous from those who would harm them.

Today, I will remember the Savior’s admonition to “be not troubled” and Nephi’s assurance that “the righteous need not fear.” Even as I recognize that difficult days are ahead, I will be confident in my knowledge that God will be with the righteous and that ultimately He will save them, “even…by fire.”

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