3 Nephi Chapter 25
This chapter consists of the Savior's quoting Malachi 4. The central theme of 3 Nephi 25 is the return of the prophet Elijah. Please review the introductory discussion for 3 Nephi 24.
verses 1-2 Elder Bruce R. McConkie has suggested that in these two verses the prophet Malachi may have been quoting from the ancient prophet Zenos whose writings are contained only on the plates of brass. The setting for the fulfillment of these verses is the destruction of the wicked that will be part of the earth's cleansing preparatory to the Lord's return in glory.
The reader should compare these two verses here in 3 Nephi 25 with two verses in 1 Nephi 22 (verses 15 and 24) likely written by the prophet Zenos:
"For behold, saith the prophet, the time cometh speedily that Satan shall have no more power over the hearts of the children of men; for the day soon cometh that all the proud and they who do wickedly shall be as stubble; and the day cometh that they must be burned" (1 Nephi 22:15).
"And the time cometh speedily that the righteous must be led up as calves of the stall, and the Holy One of Israel must reign in dominion, and might, and power, and great glory" (1 Nephi 22:24).
1 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.
verse 1 When Jesus returns, the earth must be purified. Whether by repentance or by destruction, wickedness of all forms must be removed before Christ will dwell here, for only those who are worthy will be privileged to live in his presence.
It seems clear that the usage of the image of such phrases as the wicked burning "as stubble" was not unique to Malachi. Nephi quoted "the prophet" (probably Zenos) as using similar language (see the introductory commentary for verses 1-2 above and the commentary for 1 Nephi 22:15).
2 But unto you that fear my name, shall the Son of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth and grow up as calves in the stall.
verse 2 "Son of Righteousness" This expression refers to the Savior. Years ago Sidney B. Sperry pointed out that the word "Son" here should probably have been written "Sun" ("The Book of Mormon and Textual Criticism," in Book of Mormon Institute, BYU Extension Publications, 5 December 1959, 5). The expression is a quote from Malachi 4:2. The Hebrew texts of Malachi 4:2 contain the word shemesh which means "sun" and not the word ben which means "son." Keep in mind that the Book of Mormon was dictated by Joseph Smith and transcribed largely by Oliver Cowdery. Obviously son and sun sound alike. The matter is of little importance to the meaning of the verse since the expression "Sun of Righteousness" also refers to the Savior.
The image of the "Son" (or "Sun") of Righteousness is particularly relevant considering what the Nephites had just endured prior to the Lord's coming. Following their great holocaust where destruction and calamity were everywhere, the "Sun of Righteousness" had arisen in their midst with spiritual and physical healing in his wings.
The image of "healing in his wings" is the promise afforded the righteous in direct contrast to the curse that awaits the wicked. It is the power of the atonement.
"ye shall go forth and grow up as calves in the stall" The image here is that of gathering to Christ and to the lands of their inheritance.
3 And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of Hosts.
verse 3 This verse continues the theme of destruction of the wicked and the ultimate victory of good over bad. Some of the righteous might be a bit uncomfortable with the aggressive tone of this verse, since it places them in the role of the destroyer.
4 Remember ye the law of Moses, my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.
verse 4 "Horeb" is another name for Sinai.
At first this verse would seem to be a reminder to observe the law of Moses which was in force in Malachi's day but was fulfilled in Christ. In this particular setting this counsel seems somewhat out of place. Perhaps the Lord's counsel here has reference to something else. In commenting on this verse, Joseph Smith taught: "[The] law revealed to Moses in Horeb never was revealed to the children of Israel," apparently referring to the higher law revealed to Moses which Israel did not receive because of rebellion (see JST Exodus 34:1-2; D&C 84:23-25). It may have been the prophet Malachi's intent, and Jesus's intent in quoting this verse to draw attention to the higher law, even the fulness of the gospel, that Moses obtained but that Israel was unworthy to receive. In that case, the reference here to the law received by Moses would not be out of place with the discussion in the following verses concerning Elijah's coming. Jesus's listeners on this occasion were worthy and able to receive the higher law, priesthood, ordinances, and blessings that God revealed to Moses on the mountain that their Israelite ancestors had forfeited.
5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord;
6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
verses 5-6 When Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith in September 1823, he quoted Malachi 4:5-6, but with significantly different wording from the way it appears in either the King James Bible or here in the Book of Mormon. Moroni said, "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" (D&C 2:1). So Elijah was to restore to the earth an important aspect of the priesthood. Why send Elijah? The Prophet Joseph taught:
Elijah was the last prophet that held the keys of this priesthood, and who will, before the last dispensation, restore the authority and deliver the keys of this priesthood in order that all the ordinances may be attended to in righteousness. . . . Why send Elijah? Because he holds the keys of the authority to administer in all the ordinances of the priesthood, and without the authority the ordinances could not be administered in righteousness (Ehat and Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith, 43.)
This prophecy of the prophet Elijah's coming was fulfilled in our dispensation on April 3, 1836, when Elijah and other ancient prophets who held the keys of various priesthood functions appeared to the Prophet Joseph and restored their keys to the earth. What exactly did Elijah restore? He restored the keys whereby all priesthood ordinances performed on the earth may be rendered valid both on earth and in heaven. This is referred to as the "sealing power." Generally, we are prone to think of the coming of Elijah as essential to the great genealogical or family history work of the Church. But there is more. The sealing power pertains to all priesthood ordinances done for the living or for the dead. Because of the keys that Elijah restored, all priesthood ordinances including those having to do with our eternal family ties are valid, now and in the eternities. These ordinances include baptism, priesthood ordinations, and all those ordinances performed in the temple including celestial marriage, sealings-both for the living and for the dead.
Elijah came to "turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers." Joseph Smith taught that "the word "turn" here should be translated "bind" or "seal" (Ibid., 318). Through the temple ordinances, God's promises to the fathers-the promises pertaining to the gospel and eternal increase (Abraham 2:8-11)-are extended to all God's children. The hearts of the children are bound to the ancient fathers because the children are now participants in and recipients of the blessings of the fathers. Being profoundly grateful for such privileges, members of the Church (motivated by the "Spirit of Elijah") also find their hearts turning to their more immediate fathers, and they do all within their power (through genealogical research and subsequent temple work) to ensure that the blessings of the ancient fathers are enjoyed by ancestry as well as posterity.
"lest I come and smite the earth with a curse" Why would the Lord smite the earth with a curse? One reason is that there would be no binding and sealing powers whereby families could be cemented forever. The earth would not have accomplished its foreordained purpose-to establish on its face a family system patterned after the order of heaven. In addition, without the sealing power all covenants entered into by man upon the earth would be of no force in the eternities. This would make null and void the entire system of covenants whereby man grows spiritually upon the earth and has an opportunity to attain celestial glory. This would prevent the earth from fulfilling its mission as an effective venue for mortality and for testing. The plans and designs and schemes and activities of mortal man would be basically purposeless from an eternal perspective. The earth would fail to "answer the end of its creation" (D&C 49:16).
It seems likely that the Savior's visit to the Nephites initiated an era of intense temple activity among them. It is also likely he used Malachi's prophecy as a means to emphasize the role of eternal marriage and the other blessings of Elijah's sealing mission (see 4 Nephi 1:11). We would also assume that baptisms for the dead were subsequently practiced among the Nephites, just as they were in the Old World (see 1 Corinthians 15:29).