Reincarnation and Mormonism, Part 3

This entry is part 3 of 6 in the series Reincarnation & Mormonism


Many people are very confused about who Elias and Elijah are after reading Joseph’s discourse on the subject. We need to clarify this before proceeding. He talks about three offices: that of Elias, the forerunner, Elijah the builder, and Messiah the teacher He compares the office of Elias to that of Aaron, Elijah to the Melchizedek, and speaks of Messiah as even higher. Joseph also writes of being visited by separate personages named Elias and Elijah.

These statements have received much ridicule from the Anti-Mormons because the name “Elias” is taken from the New Testament and is merely Greek for Elijah. In other words, as the New Testament calls Isaiah “Isaias” and Messiah “Christ” so does it call Elijah “Elias” because it was translated from the Greek and not the Hebrew as was the Old Testament.

Elias and Elijah refer to the same person in the Bible. For instance Luke 4:25, James 5:17, and Romans 11:2 definitely refer to the Old Testament Elijah but call him Elias.

I do not believe that Joseph was ignorant of this, but that he was describing three principles and merely chose the names Elias, Elijah, and Messiah to describe them. He could have called them A, B, and C. An angel that appeared to Joseph was also named Elias, but this was undoubtedly merely the name that Joseph decided to apply to it.

We needed to clarify this to delve into one of the most powerful scriptural witnesses for reincarnation which concern Elijah. Most LDS are familiar with the great prophecy of Elijah: “Behold, I will send you ELIJAH THE PROPHET before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: 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.” Malachi 4:5-6

Church authorities agree with us that this refers to Elijah’s appearance to Joseph Smith, but what few understand is that the scripture had a dual fulfillment. Elijah was also expected before the first coming of the Lord, and did appear in the guise of John the Baptist.

Luke tells us that John fulfilled the prophecy of the first coming of Elijah: “And he (John) shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS TO THE CHILDREN.” Luke 1:17

Concerning John Jesus said: “For this is he of whom it is written, Behold, I will send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffered violence, and the violent taketh it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, THIS IS ELIAS, which was to come.” Matt 11:10-14

This last line is a poor translation which is corrected in most modern editions such as the Concordant: “And if you are willing to receive HIM, HE IS ELIJAH…”

These scriptures plainly tell us that John the Baptist fulfilled the prophecy of the coming of Elijah the Prophet before the first coming of the Lord. Jesus even identified him as Elijah.

No wonder John was able to go forward in the spirit and power of Elijah. He was Elijah.

Those who do not believe that John was Elijah will quote the scripture where the priests and Levites were sent to John: “And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered. No.” John 1:21

Here it sounds like John denied being Elijah. You couldn’t blame him if he did because such an admission may have caused an early death sentence. On the other hand, Joseph’s inspired version tells a different story:

And this is the record of John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed and DENIED NOT THAT HE WAS ELIAS, but confessed, saying, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, saying, HOW THEN ART THOU ELIAS? and he said, I am not that Elias who was to restore all things. And they asked him, saying, Art thou that prophet? and he answered, No.  Inspired Version, John 1:20-22

Here it makes it clear that John knew he was Elijah come again. His answer was clear enough that the priests replied:

“How then art thou Elias?”

During the transfiguration we are told that both Moses and Elias (Elijah) appeared to Jesus, but the Inspired Version adds something rather startling for Mormon eyes. It says:

And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses, OR IN OTHER WORDS, JOHN THE BAPTIST AND MOSES; and they were talking with Jesus.       Mark 9:3

You can’t get amore positive I.D. than that. “in other words” Elijah and John the baptist were one and the same.

After Peter, James, and John witnessed this event they became quite curious about Elijah because the scribes had told them that Elijah had to appear on the earth before the Messiah. The only thing they had seen of Elijah was the vision they had beheld with their Lord so they asked: “Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come (referring to the future), and restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elias IS COME ALREADY, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. THEN THE DISCIPLES UNDERSTOOD THAT HE SPAKE UNTO THEM OF JOHN THE BAPTIST.” Matt 17:1-13

It’s amazing that everyone doesn’t believe in reincarnation after reading this scripture. Jesus reveals as clear as the spoken or written word can be that John the Baptist was Elijah.

Those who argue that John was merely like Elijah in his mission have no case. For one thing, John’s mission was “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17), completely different from anything Elijah did. Secondly, the prophecies tell us that “Elijah THE PROPHET” would come, not Elijah the symbol.

Modern day revelation puts a seal on the doctrine that John the Baptist was Elijah the Prophet, not Elijah in spirit only. In 1823 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

And who revealed the priesthood to Joseph? All church members commemorate that great date when the priesthood was revealed: On May 15, 1829, as recorded in section thirteen, John the Baptist stood before Joseph and Oliver and revealed the Priesthood. Then he ordained them under his own hands.

Even though John only ordained Joseph and Oliver to the Aaronic priesthood he was the one that revealed both. At the time of his visitation he explained the function of not only the Aaronic but the Melchizedek Priesthood (DHC 1:39); thus both priesthoods were revealed by John.

After the Priesthood was revealed by John it could not be revealed by anyone else because it was already revealed.

Therefore, the only way the priesthood could have been revealed by “Elijah the prophet” was if John the Baptist and Elijah were the same person.

Copyright by J J Dewey

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Eternal Lives, Chapter 14

This entry is part 14 of 17 in the series Eternal Lives

Prophets Who Live Again

Another entity who can be identified several times in the scriptures is Elijah. However, much confusion has arisen over this name because Joseph Smith made a distinction between the names Elias and Elijah calling them two separate offices and in D&C 110 they even seem to appear as two separate personages. Joseph has often been justifiably criticized for making this distinction for the New Testament is written in Greek and every time this word (Elias) appears in the New Testament it refers to the Ancient prophet Elijah and none else for Elijah (Hebrew ELIJAW) translates directly into the Greek Elias (Greek HELIAS). Non Mormon scholars merely believe that Joseph forgot to check the original languages on these two words and became confused as he created his doctrine, but such is surely not the case for he had a reasonable grasp of both the Hebrew and the Greek and surely realized that these two words were the same.

The answer is quite simple. There was a particular office that had no name as yet in the English and he felt the name Elias was as good a name as any to call it. In explaining this he said: “The Spirit of Elias is to prepare the way for a greater revelation of God, which is the Priesthood of Elias or the Priesthood of Aaron.” TOTPJS Page 335. The next office he called Elijah. Concerning this he said: “Now for Elijah. The Spirit, power, and calling of Elijah is, that ye have power to hold the key of the revelations, ordinances, oracles, powers and endowments of the fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood and the Kingdom of God on the earth.” TOTPJS Pg. 337. Thus we see why Joseph said: “There is a difference between the spirit and OFFICE of Elias and Elijah…” TOTPJS pg. 335. One simply represents the Aaronic Priesthood and the other the Melchizedek. Joseph said he represented the office of Elijah or Melchizedek. When personages appear in the scriptures and are identified as Elias or Elijah (referring to modern revelation) they represent one of those offices and not necessarily the person Elijah.

Similarly he also referred to the Christ or the Messiah as an office. (DHC 6:254) We have a good example in the scriptures of someone besides Jesus identifying with this office of the Messiah, none other than the Holy Ghost: “And in that day the Holy Ghost fell upon Adam, which beareth record of the Father and the Son, saying (that is the Holy Ghost is saying:) I am the Only Begotten of the Father from the beginning, henceforth and forever.” Moses 5:9 Most do not believe the Holy Ghost and Jesus to be one and the same person so how else could the Holy Ghost identify himself as Christ unless it is an office that can be attained and delegated as Joseph indicated?

The beginning of the belief that Elijah would come again is given in the familiar scripture: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: 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..” Mal 4:5-6

Malachi seems to speak of this messenger again in saying: “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me: and the Lord whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple…” Mal 3:1

Ironically, both of these prophesies were fulfilled during one turn of the wheel by John the Baptist.

In speaking of John the Baptist Jesus said: “But what went ye. out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. FOR THIS IS HE OF WHOM IT IS WRITTEN, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee…” Matt 11:9-10.

Thus we have positive identification that John the Baptist is the person (Elijah the prophet) prophesied of in Malachi chapter three. The Apostles were familiar with the prophesy of Elijah and there was much talk in Jerusalem about the coming of Elijah before the appearance of the Messiah. Thus “his disciples asked him saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias (Elijah) must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come and restore all things. (This refers to a future coming) But I say unto you, that Elias is COME ALREADY, AND THEY KNEW HIM NOT, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.” Matt 17:10-13.

Clearly we see that the person identified as the fulfillment of the coming of Elijah was none other than John the Baptist. So we have here definite proof that John was the messenger talked about in both of the prophesies of Malachi.

However, the prophesies will be fulfilled twice for the Messiah will have yet another appearance. Thus we can look for one or more appearances of one like Elijah in modern times.

Another prophecy which leads to the positive identification of John the Baptist as Elijah was given directly by Moroni: “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

Here we see that the priesthood would be revealed, not by someone occupying the position of Elijah, as Joseph Smith did, but by Elijah the prophet himself. Moroni wanted to make this clear so he specified “Elijah, the prophet”. But who did reveal the priesthood. Amazingly the first one to reveal the priesthood was none other than John the Baptist himself as related in D&C 14!!!

If one accepts the scriptures the way they are written, then, there is no possible way to deny that John the Baptist and Elijah the Prophet are one and the same.

It is interesting to compare the lives of John the Baptist and Elijah. There are a number of fascinating similarities. For instance, they both lived in the wilderness a good part of their lives. Their physical appearance was also amazingly alike. Concerning Elijah it is written: “He was an hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins.” II Kings 1:8. Then of John the Baptist it is written: “And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins.” Matt 3:4 Elijah was one of the greatest prophets of the Old testament and John was one of the greatest in the New Testament.

On the other hand, there is a difference which is also significant. Elijah displayed great power and John did not. Elijah received great recognition but John dwindled in significance because of the coming of one much greater than himself;.

In comparing behavior within two lifetimes we often find that a significant change indicates a correction of a past mistake and we note a large difference in how John and Elijah handled their enemies. When Elijah had enemies come before him he said: “If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.” II Kings 1:10. This Elijah repeated three times with three different groups of soldiers which certainly put the fear of God into the Government of that time and saved Elijah from the martyr’s death.

On the other hand, John offered no resistance when they came to arrest him and suffered a martyr’s death similar to what would have happened to Elijah if he had followed the same course.

This may cause one to wonder if Elijah misused his power in calling fire from heaven and had to come back and suffer in humility to learn a lesson in restraint.

That Elijah set a bad example is verified by Jesus: “And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, EVEN AS ELIAS (ELIJAH) DID? But he turned, and REBUKED THEM, and said, YE KNOW NOT WHAT MANNER OF SPIRIT YE ARE OF. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” Luke 9:54-55

Undoubtedly, the disciples were astonished at the Lord’s answer for they felt they were on safe ground by following the example of this great prophet, but they were deceived for all must remember the scripture: “Cursed is he who putteth his trust in the arm of flesh.” The apostles were relying on the example of a man (and black and white scripture) and not the whisperings of the Spirit.

Who can doubt that the scriptures condemn the act of calling down fire to destroy men’s lives. Convincing men by great signs is not the way of Christ, but the Anti-Christ as prophesied of in the Book of Revelations: “And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire to come down from heaven on earth in the sight of men.” Rev 13:13. It is ironic that it was John, the Beloved (not the Baptist) who was rebuked for desiring to see fire come down from heaven to prove that Jesus was the Christ. Ironically he also saw into the future when an Anti-Christ would arise who would use this same method.

Thus the scriptures indicate that Elijah made a mistake in using his power from God and had to come back and atone for it with a life of complete submission to the will of God.

At this point one may ask how Elijah is accounted as being such a great prophet if he made a grave mistake? One must keep in mind that Jesus was the first perfect man and even Moses displeased God in a similar fashion by misusing his power and was not allowed to enter Canaan. Despite their weaknesses, however, they were the greatest prophets in the Old Testament, and their memory was so great that there is a legend among the early Christians that these two men will return and battle the Anti-Christ in the last days. Indeed, they were favored enough to be the ones to work with Christ on the mount of transfiguration;

Another prophet who may have had numerous incarnations, or lives, was John the Revelator. Peter, in wondering of the future of this man, said: “And what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet JESUS SAID NOT UNTO HIM, he shall not die; but if I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” John 21:21-23.

Some people believe that John was translated so he would not suffer death, but John himself wrote that Jesus did not promise him that he would not die, but indicated that his will was that John should tarry until he would come. If, then, John did not have the promise of deathlessness the only way he could tarry here on the earth until the Lord comes is by a series of lives. Indeed, this is indicated in the prophesy that is written of him: “And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter. And he said unto me, THOU MUST PROPHESY AGAIN BEFORE MANY PEOPLES, AND NATIONS, AND TONGUES AND KINGS.” Rev. 10:10

Have we heard any announcement over the news lately that John the Revelator has prophesied to kings and is appearing in many different lands speaking in numerous languages? No, we have not, nor will we; for when he fulfills this prophesy he will not be known as John the Revelator, (unless such is revealed) but will be in a different identity having a new name.

Another interesting thing to point out here is that even appearances of Peter, James and John to Joseph and Oliver may be symbolic as indicated in the temples, by the appearance of Peter, James, and John to Adam. We are clearly told there that this is symbolic. In other words, three persons appeared to Adam representing the keys of the Priesthood, but were probably not the entities, Peter, James, and John. It is possible that these three men were on the earth as mortals, even at the time Joseph Smith received the Melchizedek Priesthood.

Oliver Cowdery was with Joseph when they were visited by John the Baptist and testified to that event with boldness, but here is all he had to say about the restoration of the Higher Priesthood:

“I was present with Joseph when an holy angel from God came down from heaven and conferred on us, or restored, the lesser or Aaronic Priesthood, and said to us, at the same time, that it should remain upon the earth while the earth stands. I was also present with Joseph when the higher or Melchizedek Priesthood was conferred by THE HOLY ANGEL from on high. This Priesthood, we then conferred on each other by the will and commandment of God.” DHC Vol. 1 pg 40

Notice that Oliver’s words about this being who confirmed the higher priesthood. He calls this person, “the holy angel” not Peter James and John. Notice the word angel is singular. Perhaps this being who confirmed the higher Priesthood was the same as gave them the lower. Reread the above statement and you’ll see that it appears he is talking about the same angel. We are given no written record of the manner of this visitation.

What created the confusion is that the angel told them that he was acting under the same authority as was held by Peter, James and John from ancient times.

Joseph intuited a confirmation of this Priesthood by sensing the presence of the Apostle Peter, but even he was unaware at the time that he was communing with a memory and thoughtform of his past where Jesus told him (as Peter) in a past life the following:

“And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matt 16:19

Joseph was given the same promise as was Peter because he was Peter. Here are two references.

D&C 64:5 “And the keys of the mysteries of the kingdom shall not be taken from my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., through the means I have appointed, while he liveth, inasmuch as he obeyeth mine ordinances.”

D&C 81:2 “Unto whom (speaking to Joseph) I have given the keys of the kingdom…”

Thus we see that which LDS members have been told about its history and the plan of Salvation may not square with what is written or the true reality as it makes itself manifest.

Copyright 1996 by J J Dewey