God “has promised us great things; yea, even a visit from the heavens,” Joseph Smith prophesied in 1833.1 Three years later, on Easter Sunday, the resurrected Savior appeared to the Prophet in the Kirtland Temple and announced, “I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate2 with the Father.”3
“After this vision closed, the heavens were again opened,” and at the Lord’s direction the ancient prophets Moses,4 Elias,5 and Elijah6 appeared, one by one, to the Prophet Joseph and Oliver Cowdery and committed the “keys of this dispensation”7 to carry forward “ordinances8 instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world.”9
With these keys, the “power to seal on earth and in heaven,”10 we can be united with our Father in Heaven as families for eternity and fulfill the promise “to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers.”11
Joseph Smith Quotes
“The spirit, power, and calling of Elijah is, that ye have power to hold the key of the revelation, ordinances, oracles, powers and endowments of the fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood and of the kingdom of God on the earth; and to receive, obtain, and perform all the ordinances belonging to the kingdom of God, even unto the turning of the hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the hearts of the children unto the fathers, even those who are in heaven” (History of the Church, 6:251; spelling modernized).
“The doctrine or sealing power of Elijah is as follows:—If you have power to seal on earth and in heaven, then we should be wise. The first thing you do, go and seal on earth your sons and daughters unto yourself, and yourself unto your fathers in eternal glory” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 340).
“This is the spirit of Elijah, that we redeem our dead, and connect ourselves with our fathers which are in heaven, and seal up our dead to come forth in the first resurrection; and here we want the power of Elijah to seal those who dwell on earth to those who dwell in heaven” (History of the Church, 6:252).
Joseph Fielding Smith, 10th President of the Church, 1970–1972
“The Lord has called upon us to look after our dead, to seek out their genealogy. This spirit has gone forth, the keys that were bestowed by Elijah are here, and the hearts of the children have turned to their fathers. One of the greatest evidences of the truth of the story told by the Prophet Joseph Smith that Elijah came to him and Oliver Cowdery is the fact that people who are not connected with this Church, who have no sympathy perhaps with the Church, are gathering the records of the dead. Their hearts have turned to the fathers” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1934, 19–20).
Joseph Fielding Smith, 10th President of the Church, 1970–1972
“It is interesting to know that on the third day of April, 1836, the Jews were celebrating the feast of the Passover, and were leaving the doors of their homes open for the coming of Elijah. On that day Elijah came, but not to the Jewish homes, but to the Temple in the village of Kirtland near the banks of Lake Erie, to two humble servants of the Lord who were appointed by divine decree to receive him” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 2 vols. , 2:53).
Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th President of the Church, 1995–2008
“I thank him and love him [Joseph Smith] for the sealing power of the holy priesthood that makes possible and certain the continuance of the family through eternity. I have said many times that if nothing else came out of all the sorrow and travail and pain of the restoration than the sealing power of the holy priesthood to bind together families forever, it would have been worth all that it has cost” (in Susan Easton Black and Charles D. Tate Jr., eds., Joseph Smith: The Prophet, the Man (1992), 6).
What “keys” did the ancient prophets restore to the earth?
Various prophets, from Adam to the present dispensation, came to Joseph Smith with keys (see Doctrine and Covenants 128:21). John the Baptist brought “the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins” (Doctrine and Covenants 13:1). Peter, James, and John restored the keys of their ministry and declared themselves as possessing the keys of the kingdom and of the dispensation of the fulness of times (see Doctrine and Covenants 27:12; 128:20). Moses restored “the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north” (Doctrine and Covenants 110:11). Elias “committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham” (Doctrine and Covenants 110:12). Elijah came with “the keys of the power of turning the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers” (Doctrine and Covenants 27:9; see also 110:13–16). He then told Joseph, “The keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands” (Doctrine and Covenants 110:16).
Is the power to seal on earth and in heaven new to this dispensation?
The Savior gave Peter “the keys of the kingdom” with authority to “bind on earth . . . [and] in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). The Lord also extended this authority to the rest of the Twelve (see Matthew 18:18). Nephi was also given the sealing authority (see Helaman 10:7). These keys and sealing authority were restored to Joseph Smith and are held today by the President of the Church (see Doctrine and Covenants 132:7, 45–46).
What else did Jesus Christ say when He appeared in the Kirtland Temple that day?
To Joseph and Oliver, the Lord said, “Behold, your sins are forgiven you; you are clean before me; therefore, lift up your heads and rejoice.” He encouraged all to rejoice who had labored to build the temple, promising, “I have accepted this house, and my name shall be here; and I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house.” He also explained, “The hearts of thousands and tens of thousands shall greatly rejoice in consequence of the blessings which shall be poured out, and the endowment with which my servants have been endowed in this house. And the fame of this house shall spread to foreign lands” (Doctrine and Covenants 110:5, 7, 9–10).
Online Resources at ChurchofJesusChrist.org
“The Kirtland Temple”—in “Building the Kingdom in Kirtland, Ohio,” Our Heritage: A Brief History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1996), 33–36
“Prayer of Dedication for the Kirtland Temple”—Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2002), 270–274
“Glorious Days in Kirtland, 1834–36”—Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2003), 153–68
“Messengers with Keys”—Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2002), 274–77
“The Saints Were Commanded to Build a Temple”—in “Joseph Smith: First President of the Church,” Presidents of the Church Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2004), 11–12
“Miraculous Manifestations Accompanied the Building and Dedication of the Kirtland Temple”—in “Joseph Smith: First President of the Church,” Presidents of the Church Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2004), 12–13
Online Resources at BYU
“The Appearance of Elijah and Moses in the Kirtland Temple and the Jewish Passover”—Stephen D. Ricks, BYU Studies, vol. 23, no. 4 (1983), 483–86
Meeting of Jewish expectation and Latter-day Saint tradition concerning the appearance of Elijah.
“The Kirtland Diary of Wilford Woodruff”—Dean C. Jessee, BYU Studies, vol. 12, no. 4 (1972), 365–99
Discusses the Kirtland Temple, his marriage to Phebe, and their patriarchal blessings.