A century after the Jews returned to their homeland, many of them had become complacent and less devoted to the Lord. Through the prophet Malachi, the Lord addressed the Jews’ declining commitment to God. The Lord instructed His covenant people to return to Him by bringing Him their tithes and offerings with greater faithfulness, and He promised to bless and protect those who did so (see Malachi 3:7–12). By studying the words of Malachi, students can gain a greater testimony of the law of tithing and feel an increased desire to obey it.
Additionally, students can learn that they are fulfilling Malachi’s prophecy that the Lord will turn the hearts of children to their fathers, or ancestors (see Malachi 4:6), as they participate in family history and temple work. Studying this prophecy can help inspire students to participate in the work of salvation for their departed ancestors.
The book states that it contains “the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi” (Malachi 1:1). In Hebrew the name Malachi means “my messenger” (Bible Dictionary, “Malachi”). This name fittingly reflects the important messages the prophet delivered to the people of his day, many of which also apply to the Lord’s people in the last days.
We know very little about the life of Malachi, aside from what we learn from his writings. His origin and background are unknown, but he evidently lived in the fifth century B.C. (see Bible Dictionary, “Malachi”) and would have been a contemporary of Ezra and Nehemiah.
Although we do not know when or where Malachi’s prophecies were recorded, Malachi delivered them in approximately 430 B.C., most likely in Jerusalem (see Bible Dictionary, “Malachi”). If Malachi recorded his own prophecies, he may have done so around this time.
The book of Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament. In addition, Malachi is one of the most frequently quoted Old Testament prophets. He was quoted by New Testament writers, often with specific reference to the mission of John the Baptist (see Matthew 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 1:17; 7:27), by Jesus Christ to the Nephites (see 3 Nephi 24–25), and by Moroni to the Prophet Joseph Smith (see D&C 2:1–3; Joseph Smith—History 1:36–39).
Malachi’s prophecy that Elijah would “turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6) can be found in all four standard works (see 3 Nephi 25:6; D&C 2:2–3; 128:17; Joseph Smith—History 1:39). When Elijah appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple, he alluded to this prophecy: “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” (D&C 110:14). This prophecy has great significance for Latter-day Saints because it teaches the doctrines of the sealing power, eternal families, and the work we do for the dead in temples (see D&C 138:46–48).
The book of Malachi was written in a distinctive literary form that features “dialogue” between the Lord and the people of Israel (for example, see Malachi 1:2–5). Some of these instances of dialogue include questions posed by the Lord or by various people, as well as statements from those who oppose the Lord.
Malachi 1 Through Malachi, the Lord rebukes the Jews for their disobedience in the practices and sacrifices at the temple. The Jewish leaders were offering “polluted bread” (Malachi 1:7) and improper sacrifices using blemished, injured, and diseased animals.
Malachi 2 The Lord chastises the priests for not keeping their covenant with the Lord and for being a poor example to the people. He uses the breaching of a marriage covenant to illustrate their failure to keep their covenant with Him.
Malachi 3–4 The Lord will send a forerunner to prepare the way before Him, and He will come suddenly to His temple. He challenges the people to live the law of tithing and promises to send Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord.