Elias, Elijah, Messiah
Joseph Smith tells us “there is a difference between the spirit and office of Elias and Elijah…. The spirit of Elias is to prepare the way for a greater revelation of God.”1 “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 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.”2 “Messiah is above the spirit and power of Elijah, for he made the world…. Elijah was to come and prepare the way and build up the kingdom before the coming of the great day of the Lord, although the spirit of Elias might begin it…. The spirit of Elias is first, Elijah second, and Messiah last. Elias is a forerunner to prepare the way, and the spirit and power of Elijah is to come after, holding the keys of power, building the temple to the capstone, placing the seals of the Melchizedek Priesthood upon the house of Israel, and making all things ready; then Messiah comes to His temple, which is last of all.”3
There is the Spirit of Elias, the Spirit of Elijah, and the Spirit of Messiah. These three great spirits unfolded in the work of God, in the generations of man, in a steady descent. Like a chiasm, they will again unfold, inverted, and return in an ascent, so that at the end, it will be as it was in the beginning. Father Adam prophesied, Now this same Priesthood which was in the beginning shall be in the end of the world also (Genesis 3:14). This scripture shows Moses quoting Enoch, who was, in turn, quoting Adam.
The spirit at the beginning was the Spirit of Messiah. Adam dwelt in the presence of God. Adam represents that original fullness. Adam was the first man. Adam received instructions and spoke to God face to face. He dwelt in a temple setting called Eden, from which he was cast out, but he dwelt in a temple. Therefore, Adam represents the Spirit of Messiah.
Secondly, the Spirit of Elijah is represented by Enoch who, when the Earth was threatened with violence and men were to be destroyed because of the wickedness upon the face of the earth, was able to gather people into a city of peace and to have the Lord come to their city of peace and remove them from the coming violence and destruction. Enoch is a type of the Spirit of Elijah, because it is the Spirit of Elijah that ascends into Heaven to prefigure the return of the Spirit of Messiah in the last day. The Spirit of Elijah is needed to gather a people to a place that God will acknowledge, will visit, and will shield from the coming violence at the destruction of the world. And so Enoch becomes the great type of the Spirit of Elijah, although the name of Elijah is associated with a man who lived later. (Elijah would likewise ascend in the fiery chariot into Heaven. He duplicated, among a hardened people in a fallen world, the same achievement as Enoch accomplished; albeit, Enoch did so with a city, and Elijah did it as a solitary figure.) It will be Elijah and his spirit that, in the last days, will likewise prepare a city for salvation and preservation.
Lastly, there is the Spirit of Elias, represented by Noah, wherein everything that had gone on before was lost. Things began anew, and Noah had a ministry to preach repentance, to preserve what had been taught before and was lost. Noah — as the messenger or the Elias — bears testimony of what once was.
Before the Lord’s return, these same three spirits need to come again into the world. These will complete the plan Adam described in prophecy. It has always been in the heart of the Lord, from before the foundation of the world, for the Fall of man to be reversed. Man will return through the same stages as man fell. The Spirit of Elias, declaring the gospel, will come again into the world and has returned in the person of Joseph Smith — in the message he delivered, in the scriptures that he restored, and in the message and practices he taught. No matter how short-lived his message was, he laid a foundation in the Spirit of Elias. Without Joseph’s ministry, we could not now move forward. Elias — and the Spirit of Elias — came through Joseph Smith into the world.
Man has yet to take the Spirit of Elias seriously enough to move on to receive something further. There are only two processes. The instant one process ends, the other begins. The first process is “restoration,” and the second is “apostasy.” There is no pause between them. Either there is an active restoration underway, with greater things revealed constantly; or there is apostasy, and light is lost. It is impossible to preserve light. Without an active connection to the Living Vine, there is only death (see John 9:10). Joseph was a restorer, and when he died, restoration ended. The moment Joseph and Hyrum were killed, the world began to lose light. The pace at which light is now being lost among the various Mormon sects has accelerated. But a new restoration has begun, and a new dispensation of the gospel has opened. Whether the light now offered will achieve anything more than came in Joseph’s time remains an unanswered question. The Lord cannot force anyone to receive Him; He can only offer. We must accept. This generation is now facing a crossroads in which it is possible to continue the work and move forward. Moving forward successfully, however, will require an acceptance of the Spirit of Elijah. This time, the Spirit of Elijah is not coming to prepare a people to ascend into Heaven, but instead to prepare a people so that those who come will not utterly destroy them. There must be a people prepared to endure the burning that will come. Just as Enoch’s people were prepared, shielded, and then worthy to ascend (so as to avoid destruction by the flood), the Spirit of Elijah must prepare people to endure the day that shall burn the wicked as stubble. The Spirit of Elijah will gather people to a place of peace, to be the only people who are not at war one with another (see T&C 31:15). They must be people willing to accept the Lord’s teachings and allow those teachings to govern their daily walk — with each other and with God. Being eager to receive commandments, not a few, and also revelations from the Lord is what the people of Zion must necessarily be willing to do.4
“Elias for our day is, I believe, Joseph Smith. I expect Elijah to return the same way he departed. That’s one of the great assignments to him. He must return because he will reopen the way through which others will follow. It will be, I believe, the same person as departed and not someone who self-proclaims or self-identifies as being Elijah. It will be him. Not another. Anyone making that claim would (to me at least) be someone who does not understand the scriptures and is not to be taken seriously.”5 Elias is the spirit and assignment of a “forerunner” who goes before to prepare the way. He lays a foundation for what comes next and is the one who commences to restore what has been lost; a recoverer. Elijah is the spirit and assignment to reconnect Heaven and earth; he who unites realms and initiates man’s access to ministering angels and the church of the Firstborn by opening the stairway of ascent [an axis mundi or columna lucis] into Heaven.6 Messiah is the presence of the Lord.7
4 “Things to Keep Us Awake,” expanded paper of address given in St. George, UT, March 19, 2017, 16–17.
5 “Reply to Questions,” Oct. 20, 2011, blog post.
6 See descriptions of the axis mundi in Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion, trans. Willard R. Trask (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1963), 33–37, 44, 52–54, 177.
7 Email to Scripture Committee, June 30, 2018.