I’ve been thinking about this week’s Relief Society lesson.
The lesson states:
Elijah came to commit to Joseph and Oliver the keys of sealing—the power to bind and validate in the heavens all ordinances performed on the earth.
It is interesting to me that it was Elijah who had this role in the Restoration. (Why not Peter, who–according to LDS thought–also had that sealing power after it was given him on the Mount of Transfiguration? Is it because Elijah had not “tasted death”? But how then can John the Baptist–who did more than taste death–restore power?)
We usually look to this verse from 1 Kings 17:1 as the boldest hint of Elijah’s sealing power:
And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.
. . . because it shows Elijah “sealing” the heavens. Get it? We “seal” marriages like he “sealed” the heavens.
I always thought that that was a bit of a stretch, to be honest. Not that I doubted that Elijah had that power or restored it to Joseph Smith, but rather that Elijah was the one chosen for this mission because of his supernal use of the sealing power in sealing the heavens.
I was reading through some great posts on Elijah over at FPR (thanks, Mogs) when I found this; it is commentary on the climax of the story where Elijah raises from the dead the son of the widow of Zarephath:
The amazing thing is what the narrator next says (v. 22): “And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah…” If the subject and object of this sentence were reversed, we would say that Elijah heard the voice of the Lord and we would quite properly understand that Elijah obeyed God. Shall we say the same of the original configuration? Did God obey Elijah?
Did God obey Elijah? If Elijah were exercising the power to bind (or, perhaps in this case, we might phrase it: loose from death), then God would be “obeying” Elijah in the sense that “whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt 18:18). I’m not comfortable with the language of God “obeying,” and yet I think it is used appropriately here inasmuch as it suggests the binding aspect of the sealing power.
Taking 17:22 as the urtext for an example of Elijah’s sealing power makes at least as much sense as taking 17:1. (Although I’m not denying that 17:1 is a use of priesthood power.) The context of 17:22 is that a widow, in a time of famine, is asked to give her very last morsel of food not to her son, but rather to a strange man who shows up (probably looking decently well-fed, what with the ravens and all) and asks for food. To be fair, v9 implies that the woman has received a revelation before Elijah shows up telling her to feed him, but still . . . how many of you would give the last bit of food you had to a random dude instead of to your son?
But she did.
And the food miraculously multiplied.
If this were a sitcom, that would be the end of the story. But this is the Old Testament, so her son dies. She’s mad (v18). (I would have been, too.)
Elijah prays for the boy’s life to be returned to him and the Lord listens to him (=obeys him).
The text then reads:
And Elijah took the child, and brought him down out of the chamber into the house, and delivered him unto his mother: and Elijah said, See, thy son liveth.
. . . which sounds an awful lot like an example of “turn[ing] the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.”
The story ends with this statement of testimony from the widow:
And the woman said to Elijah, Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth.
(Sidenote: pretty dang impressive that she fed him at a time when she didn’t know that he was a man of God, but was working off faith in the revelation that she had received.)
I wonder if this statement of testimony has any relationship to “lest I come and smite the earth with a curse,” the phrase that follows on the one about turning of the hearts. I’ve always wondered about the curse, and what exactly it meant. (Is it just the curse of not being sealed as families, or is there something in addition to that?) If we think of the woman’s testimony that comes after the hearts have been turned, we might see the curse as the absence of that testimony that comes as a result of hearts being turned.
In other words, the blessings of the sealing power strengthen testimonies. Those testimonies allow us to escape the curse.