In the last two verses of the Old Testament, Malachi prophesied that, “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord,” the prophet Elijah would come to “turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.” He indicated that, if this didn’t happen, the entire earth would be smitten with a curse (Malachi 4:5-6).
During the Savior’s mortal life, He led three of His apostles up a mountain near Caesarea Phillipi, about 35 miles north of Capernaum. There, He was transfigured before them: “His face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light” (Matthew 17:1-2). The prophets Moses and Elijah appeared and spoke with Him. At that time, the apostles asked the Savior about the prophecy that Elijah would come before the coming of the Messiah. Jesus didn’t directly explain Elijah’s role, but He did point out that John the Baptist had fulfilled a similar role, serving as a forerunner and preparing the way for the Savior’s mortal ministry (Matthew 17:10-13).
When the Savior visited the American continent following His death and resurrection, He quoted Malachi’s prophecy (3 Nephi 25:5-6), indicating that it had not yet been fully fulfilled. In 1823, the angel Moroni quoted the same passage to Joseph Smith, but with some variation from the version that appears in the Bible:
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.
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 (Doctrine and Covenants 2, Joseph Smith—History 1:38-39).
Thirteen years later, on April 3, 1836, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were alone in the new temple in Kirtland, Ohio, which had been dedicated one week earlier. They reported that “the veil was taken from [their] minds” so that they could see and understand heavenly things. They saw the Lord, Jesus Christ, who forgave their sins and accepted this new house of worship. Then, they saw three prophets in succession, each of whom gave them priesthood keys:
- Moses delivered “the keys of the gathering of Israel”
- Elias (a contemporary of Abraham) gave them “the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham”
- Elijah gave them the sealing power, telling them, “the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi…and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors” (Doctrine and Covenants 110:13-16).
The sealing power allows marriages to be bound together beyond the grave and allows parents and children to be permanently linked together. By this power, we can also be linked to our deceased ancestors, which is why we participate in family history: learning about our ancestors and turning our hearts to them.
As Elder Dale G. Renlund has taught, when we turn our hearts to our ancestors, we naturally grow closer to our living relatives as well. He shared the experience of Parley and Orson Pratt, two brothers who were contemporaries of Joseph Smith. A prolonged rift between them was healed when they began to take an interest in their family history. Orson wrote to Parley:
Now my dear brother, there are none among all the descendants of our Ancestor, Lieut[enant] William Pratt, who have so deep an interest in searching out his descendants as ourselves…. We know that the God of our fathers has had a hand in all this. … I will beg pardon for having been so backward in writing to you. … I hope you will forgive me.
Elder Renlund concluded: “Their love for their ancestors was the catalyst to heal a rift, mend a hurt, and seek and extend forgiveness” (“Family History and Temple Work: Sealing and Healing,” General Conference, April 2018).
In the hymn “Turn Your Hearts,” my Uncle Paul emphasized that Malachi’s promise and Elijah’s return enables us to build strong bonds with our relatives, both living and dead:
Turn your hearts toward your parents—
Generations gone before.
May you seek until you find them;
In the temple seal and bind them
To your hearts forevermore.
Turn in love to all your children—
Generations yet to be.
May your deeds of gospel giving,
Temple service, righteous living,
Bless them all eternally (Hymns, 291).
Today, I will be grateful for that God sent Elijah to turn my heart toward my parents and toward my children. I will strive to strengthen my relationship with family members, both living and dead. I will remember that our families form a critical foundation for our eternal happiness, and that my Heavenly Father wants to help me develop strong family relationships.