If you have access to a recording of Handel's "Messiah," you may want to play the selections of "The Lord Whom Ye Seek" through "And He Shall Purify," as prelude to the lesson as class members enter. These are musical settings of the text of Malachi or 3 Nephi 24.
THE IMPORTANCE OF MALACHI
When Lehi left Jerusalem, he took with him the Brass Plates. These plates contained many of the same books that we find in our Old Testament. But there was a very important book that was not included, and that was the book of Malachi. The name Malachi means "messenger," and that's about all we know about the authorship of the book. The reason it wasn't in the Brass Plates was very simple: It wasn't written yet. It wasn't written until nearly 200 years after Lehi left. but the Lord felt that this scripture was so important that he brought it to the Nephites personally. On the second day of his visit to America after his resurrection, after reciting a passage from Isaiah, he recited chapters 3 and 4 of Malachi to them. We find them recorded as 3 Nephi 24 and 25. This passage is so important and so relevant to us of the latter days that Moroni recited it to Joseph Smith three times on the night he first visited him in his bedroom. This is the passage we get to study today.
This is what happened after Jesus recited the words of Malachi:
"And now it came to pass that when Jesus had told these things he expounded them unto the multitude; and he did expound all things unto them, both great and small." (3 Nephi 26:1)
So what did Jesus tell them about this scripture as he "expounded" upon it? We can read the whole chapter and not find out.
"And now there cannot be written in this book even a hundredth part of the things which Jesus did truly teach unto the people; but behold the plates of Nephi do contain the more part of the things which he taught the people." (3 Nephi 26:6-7)
If we had the big plates, the Plates of Nephi, we could read about it, but we don't have them yet. Yet! This scripture is a test for us.
"And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them." (3 Nephi 26:9)
If we totally exhaust the Book of Mormon with our study, then we will get the Plates of Nephi and that will be a great blessing. But that's not the only consequence of the test. There is a bad one as well, if we flunk.
"And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them unto their condemnation. Behold, I was about to write them, all which were engraven upon the plates of Nephi, but the Lord forbade it, saying: I will try the faith of my people." (3 Nephi 26:10)
If we don't "use up" the Book of Mormon and never get the Plates of Nephi, we're going to be in big trouble. President Spencer W. Kimball said, "I have had many people ask me through the years, 'When do you think we will get the balance of the Book of Mormon records?' and I have said, 'How many in the congregation would like to read the sealed portion of the plates?' And almost always there is a 100-percent response. And then I ask the same congregation, 'How many of you have read the part that has been opened to us?' And there are many who have not read the Book of Mormon, the unsealed portion. We are quite often looking for the spectacular, the unobtainable. I have found many people who want to live the higher laws when they do not live the lower laws" (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 531-532).
So, we are left to try to figure out Malachi for ourselves, and our willingness to try is part of our test. So let's see what we can do with it today.
MALACHI 3--THE ACCUSATIONS
"Thus said the Father unto Malachi--Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in; behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts.
"But who may abide the day of his coming, and who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner's fire, and like fuller's soap, and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness." (3 Nephi 24:1-3)
This passage tells us the Lord is going to come again, and asks the question, "Who may abide the day of his coming?" The answer is those who have been purified by His Atonement.
And in this chapter, the Lord makes two accusations of wrongdoing. Since this chapter was given to Joseph Smith and is about the latter days, these accusations apply to us. We've got to take care of these wrongs in order to qualify to be purified. After each accusation, the children of the Lord (us) ask the Lord a question, the kind of question kids often ask their parents when they are in trouble, a "what do you mean? what did I do?" kind of a question. The Lord answers and explains, and then tells what blessings will come if we change and correct the wrong.
(Divide the class in two and have half of the class study the first accusation [verses 7-12] and the other half study the second accusation [verses 13-17].)
The first accusation is found in verse 7:
"Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of Hosts. But ye say: Wherein shall we return?" The word "return" might more clearly be translated as "turn" or "change." So Team One needs to find out what actions we need to change, or in what ways we need to turn toward the Lord, and what blessings we will get if we change. I found 4 distinct blessings; see what you find.
(Write on the board: "What did we do wrong?")
The second accusation is in verse 13:
"Your words have been stout against me, saith the Lord. Yet ye say: What have we spoken against thee?"
Team Two can find out what we have said that is wrong, and what 3 blessings we will receive if we change.
(Write on the other side of the board: "What did we say wrong?")
What Did We Do Wrong?
We've been lax in paying our tithing. Howard W. Hunter compared not paying tithing to embezzlement. "The Lord's share came into his hands lawfully, but he misappropriated it to his own use." (April 1964 General Conference) Ezra Taft Benson said, "Tithing is not a donation. It is not optional...It is a commandment." (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 470) Dean L. Larsen said, "For many who live in conditions of poverty, there may be no other way to escape their impoverishment than to give obedience to this law." (October 1994 General Conference)
The blessings: 1) Opening of the windows of heaven, 2) the rebuking of the devourer, 3) the growth and preservation of crops [or possibly other types of profits], 4) being respected by all nations.
Regarding the blessings that come to tithe-payers, Harold B. Lee said, "The opening of the windows of heaven, of course, means revelations from God to him who is willing thus to sacrifice." (Harold B. Lee, October 1971 General Conference.) One clear evidence of this blessing is found in temple-building. Tithing builds temples, and it is my understanding that areas with a majority of full tithe payers are the areas considered for temples. Of course, the temple is a really big "window to heaven."
What Did We Say Wrong?
We've been jealous of those with the "easy" life of entertaining themselves on the Sabbath, not keeping the commandments, living by their own rules, spending their money on luxuries precluded by our tithes and donations, wearing what they like, eating and drinking what they like, living unmarried if they like. It looks like they are having fun all the time. (Think: beer commercials.) Sometimes, when we get tired of doing our duties or when our trials get hard, we look with envy on the neighbors without them. We say, "What good is it to live the gospel, when those people look so happy?" But, "When all of the evidence is in, the world's graduate school of hard knocks will teach what you young men were taught in the kindergarten of your spiritual training. 'Wickedness never was happiness'" (Glenn Pace, October 1987 General Conference)
The blessings: 1) their names are recorded in the Lord's book of remembrance, 2) they will belong to the Lord's family and fall under his protection, 3) they will be spared (at the judgment, and also from the trials of sin in this life).
MALACHI 4--THE JUDGMENT
Now, Malachi tells what is going to happen if you are on the right side or the wrong side at the judgment day. It may not be readily apparent in this life that things go better if you're righteous, but there will be no doubt that the Lord rewards the righteous there and makes all things fair.
"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.
"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." (3 Nephi 25:1-2) Calves in the stall are provided with shelter, with food, with a caring owner, with every need met. Besides being "burned as [in] an oven" the wicked will be left "without root or branch:" without their parents and ancestors, without their children and descendants. We occasionally hear stories in the news of people whose homes burn to the ground, "but," they say, "we still have each other; all our family got out safely," and that makes it a happy ending. The wicked will suffer the fire as well as losing their family, so they will truly lose everything. Families are the real treasures, one of the few treasures we can take with us to the next life.
Gary Wyatt's family is held by him,
In the Old Testament, Malachi is the very last book, and these are the very last verses we read before we start reading about the Savior's birth in Matthew of the New Testament:
"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." (3 Nephi 25:5-6 or Malachi 4:5-6)
The Prophet Joseph Smith said that the word "turn" here could better be translated as "bind" or "seal." This is the blessing that will be of great worth to the righteous; the opportunity to belong to our families in the eternities.
ISAIAH 54--THE LATTER DAYS
This would be a good point to backtrack a little and overview what the Lord quoted to the Nephites from Isaiah, recorded in chapter 22 because there are a few real gems here. I'll elaborate on four:
First, (verse 2-3) the church will spread over the earth, and that church organization can be a protection and a strength to us, as a tent is in a storm.
Second, the Savior takes care of those who are without family or spouse in this life:
"For thy maker, thy husband, the Lord of Hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel--the God of the whole earth shall he be called. For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit...For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee...for the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee." (3 Nephi 22:5-6, 10)
Although we in the church often refer to our Savior, Jesus Christ, as our Brother, He never refers to Himself as such in the scriptures. He refers to Himself as our Father, the one whose name we take upon ourselves when we come into His kingdom/family. His perfection and Atonement put Him on a peak so far above us that we hardly seem to be siblings. He calls us friends, He calls us His children if we qualify, but He never calls us siblings. And it seems too casual, almost, for us to do so.
BUT, here in 3 Nephi, to those who are bereft of a companion here on the earth, who are alone, who feel rejected, who have been widowed, abused, divorced, or never married, He refers to Himself in an even more intimate association: Husband! And to emphasize the incredible power of this Husband, he flanks that title with several other mighty identities:
- "Thy Maker"--the God of the universe, the Creator
- "The Lord of Hosts"--the all powerful leader of the heavenly army, the one in charge of the outcomes of earthly battles as well
- "Thy Redeemer"--a title in ancient Israel that refered to a kinsman who would cover the debts of a family member in trouble, saving them from slavery
- "The Holy One of Israel"--the one who is perfect and without sin, and is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, whose works are well-known throughout the Old Testament
And thirdly, to those who are have been challenged by, unsuccessful in, unsure of, or helpless in their roles as righteous parents, whose children may have wandered, He gives this wonderful promise:
"And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children." (3 Nephi 22:13). Many translations of the Bible clarify this verse by substituting "all thy children shall be taught by the Lord," which does work very well with Hebrew word usage. In the last days, through the Holy Ghost, through our temple covenants, the Lord will teach all of the children of the righteous, not just those who are at church each week or who are agreeable at family home evening, but even those who have strayed.
And lastly, although there will be a lot of trouble of all sorts in our day, we can take comfort in the final verses of this passage, which President Ezra Taft Benson always carried in his wallet, and which he displayed on his desk:
"No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall revile against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord." (from his funeral, reported in the July 1994 Ensign, p. 82)
THE IMPORTANCE OF RECORD-KEEPING
Jesus, in chapter 23, emphasized how important record-keeping is to him. He asked Nephi to bring their records forth, and he went through them and said, "Why can't I find the story of Samuel the Lamanite here? Didn't he come? Didn't he prophesy a lot of important things? Didn't these things all come to pass? Didn't a lot of the righteous rise from the dead?" And he commanded those things to be written.
Likewise, can we imagine Jesus saying to us, "Didn't I answer your prayer? Didn't I heal you when you were sick? Didn't you feel my Spirit in that fast and testimony meeting? Didn't I tell you the Book of Mormon was true? Why have these things not been written down?" If we record the workings of God in our lives, our journals can become our personal scriptures, through which we can strengthen our own testimonies as we re-read them, and through which we can teach our children's children's children long after we are gone.