Malachi and Turning the Hearts of the Children to Their Fathers
by Craig Foster
While the Book of Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament, it is certainly not the least in terms of the eternal teachings within the book. The name Malachi means “My Messenger” and the Malachi certainly fulfilled the purpose of his name in his prophetic calling as he discussed the end-time which is currently being fulfilled.
Malachi is filled with passages regarding pure and righteous offerings, repentance, and preparing for the Second Coming. But by far, the most important teaching contained within this concluding Old Testament book is the fourth and final chapter in which the reader is warned, “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.” Root refers to our ancestry while branch refers to posterity.
In other words, as Elder Jeffrey R. Holland explained, without proper eternal links, “no family ties would exist in the eternities, and indeed the family of man would have been left in eternity with ‘neither root [ancestors] nor branch [descendants].’” All would be destroyed, leaving those who have experienced mortality without not only ancestors and heritage, but also posterity and name. Holland continued, “Inasmuch as such a sealed, united, celestially saved family of God is the ultimate purpose of mortality, any failure here would have been a curse indeed, rendering the entire plan of salvation ‘utterly wasted.’”
But when the reader is left wondering if all is for naught, comes the most powerful and beautiful promise of Malachi. In the final two verses:
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.
When the Angel Moroni visited Joseph Smith, he quoted Malachi with a slight but significant variation:
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.
The Prophet Joseph Smith explained, “Now, the word turn here should be translated bind, or seal.” Thankfully, the sealing powers were restored on the 3rd day of April, 1836 by the visitation of the prophet Elijah to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple. President Russell M. Nelson explained, “The earth was created, and this Church was restored so that families could be formed, sealed, and exalted eternally.”
What is bound on earth can and will be bound in heaven when performed by priesthood power in temples of the Lord. In an epistle from Joseph Smith giving further directions on baptism for the dead, he stated, “It may seem to be a very bold doctrine that we talk of—a power which records or binds on earth and binds in heaven.” Relationships no doubt created in the premortal existence and continued in mortality will also continue in our post-mortal existence.
These eternal bonds are generational and multidimensional “for we without [our deceased loved ones] cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect.” President Joseph Fielding Smith taught, “What was the promise made to the fathers that was to be fulfilled in the latter days by the turning of the hearts of the children to their fathers? It was the promise of the Lord made through Enoch, Isaiah, and the prophets, to the nations of the earth, that the time should come when the dead should be redeemed.”
As we seek after our dead and perform the necessary saving ordinances, we are blessed. As Elder Gerrit W. Gong explained, “Connecting with our ancestors can change our lives in surprising ways. From their trials and accomplishments, we gain faith and strength. From their love and sacrifices, we learn to forgive and move forward. Our children become resilient. We gain protection and power. Ties with ancestors increase family closeness, gratitude, miracles. Such ties can bring help from the other side of the veil.”
Truly, as we turn our hearts to our ancestors by searching after our deceased ancestors and performing the saving ordinances in temples of the Lord, we will feel the Spirit of Elijah which is the Holy Ghost and His guiding us as we participate in family history and temple work. Everyday, millions, and soon billions, on both sides of the veil benefit from Elijah’s restoring the sealing powers as prophesized in the Book of Malachi.
More Come, Follow Me resources here.
The author would like to thank Suzanne L. Foster and David S. Young.
 See “Malachi” at https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/come-follow-me-for-individuals-and-families-old-testament-2022/51?lang=eng.
 Malachi 4:1.
 Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1997), 297–98.
 Malachi 4:5-6.
 Joseph Smith—History 1:38-39.
 Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2007), 472.
 Russell M. Nelson, “Celestial Marriage,” October General Conference, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2008/10/celestial-marriage?lang=eng.
 Doctrine and Covenants 128:9.
 Bruce R. McConkie, comp., Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1954–56), 2:154.
 Gerrit W. Gong, “We Each Have a Story,” April 2022 General Conference, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2022/04/26gong?lang=eng.
Craig L. Foster earned a MA and MLIS at Brigham Young University. He is also an accredited genealogist and worked as a research consultant at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City for over thirty years before retiring in December 2021. He has published multiple books and articles about different aspects of Mormon history, including co-editing the Persistence of Polygamy series with Newell G. Bringhurst and co-authored American Polygamy: A History of Fundamentalist Mormon Faith with Marianne T. Watson. Craig is also on the editorial board of the John Whitmer Historical Association Journal.