The Power of Elijah

Theodore M. Burton


My brothers and sisters, that which has transpired here today has my wholehearted approval. To these men who have been appointed of God as prophets, I give my wholehearted support and loyalty.

The Old Testament speaks of many great prophets. The last of the prophets in old Israel who held a fullness of divine authority was Elijah the Tishbite. A famine came in the land when Elijah, as commanded of God, sealed the heavens shut that it did not rain. During this famine, he was miraculously fed by ravens at the brook Cherith, which flowed into the Jordan River.

Then God sent Elijah to the city of Zarephath and told him he had appointed a widow there who would feed him. Elijah met this widow at the outskirts of the city and asked her to give him food to eat.

“And she said, As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” (1 Kgs. 17:12.)

Elijah then promised her in the name of the Lord that if she would feed him, she would never lack for food. I have pondered on the faith of that woman, who, on the promise of a humble man of God, put her life and the life of her son in the balance. Obediently she baked food and fed Elijah, and then followed the miracle of the fulfillment of the prophet’s promise: “And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah.” (1 Kgs. 17:16.)

I have tried to compare her spirit of obedience with our willingness to obey the word of God as spoken by modern prophets. These prophets hold the same fullness of authority given to Elijah. They have told us to keep at least a year’s supply of food on hand for any future emergency. We have only their word of prophecy to rely on, just as the widow relied on that of Elijah. We should obey as she did. By so doing, we will be able to save ourselves and our families from want.

Some members of the Church have said to me, “Why should we keep a store of food on hand? If a real emergency came in this lawless world, a neighbor would simply come with his gun and take it from us. What would you do if a person came and demanded your food?” I replied that I would share whatever I had with him, and he wouldn’t have to use a gun to obtain that assistance either.

“I wouldn’t,” replied one man. “I have a gun, and I wouldn’t hesitate to use it to defend my family. Anyone would have to kill me first in order to get food away from me! After all, they bring their own misery on themselves by not being prepared!”

Well, one way to solve this problem is to convert your neighbors to become obedient Latter-day Saints with their own supply of food. If every family were provided for, our stores would be safe for the use of our families. But not all people have sufficient faith to share with others as did the widow who shared with Elijah. I remember the words of another prophet who loved the poor and the unfortunate. He said:

“And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.

“Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—

“But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.

“For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?” (Mosiah 4:16–19.)

I sincerely believe if we do everything in our power to be obedient to the will of God, we and our families will never lack. If we are obedient as true followers of Christ and share what we have with those less fortunate than we, the Lord will keep his promise to watch over us and care for us. I will then be glad that I have stores of food on hand so I can be of assistance to others. Perhaps like the widow who fed Elijah, the meal will then never fail in our barrels nor the oil ever fail in our cruses until prosperity comes again.

If the power of Elijah is so important in temporal affairs, think of the spiritual power he possessed. You remember, he could bind or seal on earth and have it bound in heaven, or he could loose on earth and have it loosed in heaven. In his day, because of the wickedness of the people, he bound the heavens that it did not rain, and no rain fell until after he had shown the people the impotence and lack of power of the 450 priests of Baal. After they were destroyed and the people humbled, Elijah, by the power of God, opened the heavens again that rain fell to break the famine. This sealing power is characteristic of the prophets of God who hold full divine authority.

Jesus promised this sealing power to Peter and said: “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 16:19.)

However, this power did not come to Peter until one week later, when Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him to the top of a high mountain. As they were there transfigured, Moses and Elias appeared to them and gave these apostles, under the direction of Jesus Christ, a fullness of divine priesthood authority. Remember that Elias is the Greek name for Elijah. Elijah, who was the last prophet of the Old Testament to hold the keys of that sealing power, passed this power on to the prophets of the New Testament. There is great order in the priesthood, and the transfer of keys of authority is carried out carefully in the Lord’s own way, under his direction. Once this power was restored, it was possible to pass it on to all the apostles, as recorded in the scriptures. Jesus told the Twelve: “Verily I say unto you, 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.)

There is considerable confusion in the minds of students concerning the power of Elias and the power of Elijah. There was a prophet by the name of Elias whom we know more familiarly as Noah. (See Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, Deseret Book Co., 1957–66, vol. 3, pp. 138–41.) This office of Elias is that of a precursor or forerunner. Those who have this power are forerunners, who prepare for greater things to follow. Such prophets carry the title of an Elias.

The Twelve, after they heard that Moses and Elijah had come, told Jesus they understood that Elias was to come first and asked for an explanation. Jesus told them the scriptures did teach that Elias must first come and this doctrine was true and correct. Then he explained that John the Baptist was that Elias, who was to prepare the way before him, but the people had not recognized him as such. Following this forerunner comes Elijah with the power to place the seals of the Melchizedek Priesthood upon the house of Israel. Then comes the culmination of the Messiah or Anointed One, who is the Savior or Redeemer with the greatest power of all.

So it has been done in our day also. The forerunner of priesthood restoration was the return of John the Baptist as an Elias to restore the power of the Aaronic Priesthood. Then came Peter, James, and John, who restored the greater or Melchizedek Priesthood. But our generation is that generation of the fullness of times spoken of by Peter to be established in the last days. In this generation, therefore, there must be a “restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” (Acts 3:21.)

Therefore, before Jesus comes in all his power and glory, all things must be prepared beforehand, including the restoration of the sealing power of Elijah.

Thus, that prophecy given by Malachi must be fulfilled. I quote this promise as it was given by Moroni when he was sent to teach Joseph Smith at the beginning of this dispensation:

“Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

“And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers.

“If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.” (D&C 2:1–3.)

So important was this scripture, that it is the only one I know of which is quoted almost word for word in all four standard works. The prophet Elijah, with the keys of this sealing power, did come just as predicted. Those keys of the priesthood were restored in perfect order and harmony, as was done on the Mount of Transfiguration. Each prophet holding special keys of the priesthood appeared and restored them to prophets on the earth. Moses appeared. Elias came. Then Elijah appeared and said:

“Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi—testifying that he [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come—

“To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse—

“Therefore, the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands; and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors.” (D&C 110:14–16.)

With this fulfillment of prophecy, all former priesthood powers were restored again to earth. Temples have been erected in which a fullness of these priesthood ordinances is made available for those who qualify themselves to receive them through faith and righteous living. Before the Savior comes again, power has been given us to proceed with a great priesthood work. We are to bind together the families of men in true patriarchal order, so that through worthiness we may have the privilege to live in the celestial kingdom as children of God, with resurrected bodies of flesh and bone, to dwell eternally in the very presence of God the Eternal Father.

Through this priesthood power which has been again restored to prophets of God, we can be sealed as families on earth and have that sealing be effective in heaven. As authorized disciples of Jesus Christ, we can become in turn saviors not only for our own living families, but also for our deceased progenitors. All it requires is the exercise of that simple faith to carry out this promise as the widow did for Elijah. She gave the last food she had as a token of her faith in God. Surely, out of the great abundance God has given us, we can share some of our time and our means to do this spiritual work for the living and for the dead under the direction of modern prophets who hold the same fullness of priesthood power as did Elijah the Tishbite. President Kimball holds the keys of this sealing power to bind on earth and to have it bound in heaven. He is a true prophet of God, of which I testify in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.