I was asked in an email to clarify some topics. I am posting this in response:
The appearance in 1836 in the Kirtland Temple does not appear to have fulfilled the return of Elijah. This is a topic the church is grappling with at the moment. Not at the bottom, where I live and write, but at the top. Though there are continuing statements made in public, behind the scenes there is a debate going on over the meaning of Elijah’s appearance, when Joseph Smith received the sealing power, how he received it and whether the history should be revisited and clarified. I am setting out what I believe. It is for others to decide for themselves what they believe. But this is not as settled a subject as some public statements made for generations by the church make it appear.
Why does Joseph Smith omit mention of Elijah in his letter to the saints in September, 1842 (Section 128) if Elijah’s return was completed in Kirtland in 1836?
Why does Oliver Cowdery never mention Elijah in his testimony about the restoration, though he does mention Moroni, the voice of God, John the Baptist and Peter, James and John?
Why does Joseph Smith speak of the return of Elijah as a future event in both January and March of 1844 if the Kirtland appearance satisfied the promise made in Malachi?
These are serious questions. There are people trying to answer them right now. I’ve provided my answer. Anyone is free to disagree with it. Anyone is free to decide it for themselves.
I don’t think I am Elijah, and that’s so stupid a proposition that I have a hard time even dignifying it with an answer. I want to say: “Are you serious???!!” But I’ll leave it with, “no.”
The sealing keys came to Joseph, like they came and were conferred upon Melchizedek and Nephi the same way. I explained it in Passing the Heavenly Gift. I’m not going to repeat it again here. It comes in only one way, that is by the Voice of God.
I’ve never said any church leader was “evil” or “of the devil.” On the contrary, I’ve continually said they are the only ones entitled to lead the church, and no one has a right to interfere with their leading. No one has the right to call someone to any office in the church, collect tithing, or lead people away from the church. But EVERYONE has a duty to testify of the truth and to teach one another the doctrines of the kingdom. Therefore we are all under some obligation to declare what we believe, explain why, and defend it using the scriptures and declarations of the prophets. As to the analogy of church presidents to “Popes” that is J. Reuben Clark’s terminology, as you can see in the book, and is not mine. I defer to him for that characterization. It is relevant to see how a member of the First Presidency viewed the role of the President and for that reason was included. I do not say whether I agree or disagree with his characterization, I only provide it. In fact, I do very little evaluating or concluding in Passing the Heavenly Gift. I merely set out what was said, done or written with the exception of one chapter which presumes, for purposes of that chapter, that the things promised in Section 124 were not delivered. Then, in light of that presumption, I explain what would then be the case. The book is an alternative view of history, which people are free to consider and reject. It is proposed as a way to grapple with inconsistencies and glaring problems which are not adequately reconcilable with the current stories we tell one another. I believe it is faith promoting. Particularly for those who are aware of the problems with our history. But, it is only faith promoting if you read the entire book. Reading only the first part will not be faith promoting, because it acknowledges the many problems and acquaints readers with the reasons why there is a crisis of faith among some of the most serious students of our history. I do not try to hide anything. It is or should be clear I’m not trying to shirk from difficulties. After setting it out, I then explain why I believe God’s hand still lingers over the church and the saints. What is amusing to me is that one apostate reader thought it was too much an apologetic work (i.e. a defense of the church) for him to finish reading it. In other words, he thought it TOO faith promoting.
I do think the words of a dispensation head, in any dispensation, are binding upon all who follow. I do not think any prophet subsequent to Moses had the right to change Moses’ teachings, for they were binding upon them. Until the Lord makes a change and opens a New Dispensation (which I expect Him to do personally), what Joseph Smith brought us is binding upon everyone, including all following prophets. We are told to be obedient to what we have received from him. (D&C 28: 2-3.) I believe that is still true. Meaning that no one, regardless of position or rank, can ignore what came through Joseph Smith except to their peril. Until a New Dispensation arrives, what Joseph Smith launched is supposed to remain intact.
“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 take seriously.
I think that covers it. But I have to say the mischief comes from speculating, interpreting or emotionally reacting to the words I’ve written or spoken. Not in the words themselves. I try to be clear. The words are not attempting to “suggest” anything. Only to explain what I believe and why I believe as I do. They are the result of a great deal of work, which is set out in the text or footnotes, or bibliography.