This is one in a series of reviews of the weekly lessons found in the Come, Follow Me for Individuals and Families published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To link to all of the 2022 teachings, click here. Bold face type in this article comes from the Church’s curriculum. (Note: Not every sentence written in the curriculum is being reviewed.)
“I have loved you,” the Lord told His people through the prophet Malachi. But the Israelites, who had suffered generations of affliction and captivity, asked the Lord, “Wherein hast thou loved us?” (Malachi 1:2). After all Israel had been through, they may have wondered whether the history of ancient Israel is really a story of God’s love for His covenant people.
As you reflect on what you have read in the Old Testament this year, what evidence do you find of God’s love?
For the Christian, there are many ways, including:
- How He protected His people through so many misfortunate circumstances, including mistreatment from the Egyptians, attacks from Canaanites and other enemies, and surving despite atrocious decisions made by leaders
- The line of David was preserved, as prophesied in the OT prophets, that endured through Christ
- The promise of the Messiah, as described in the OT, did come to pass
- His Word has been preserved through the centuries so we can know the mind of God, in our own language. See Dead Sea Scrolls, for example.
It’s easy to see many examples of human weakness and rebellion. Yet throughout all of that, God never stopped reaching out in love. When the sons of Jacob mistreated their brother Joseph, the Lord still prepared a way to save them from famine (see Genesis 45:4–8). When Israel murmured in the wilderness, God fed them with manna (see Exodus 16:1–4). Even when Israel abandoned Him, turned to other gods, and were scattered, God never fully abandoned them but promised that if they repented, He would gather and redeem them “with great mercies” (see Isaiah 54:7).
All true. God never forgot His promises even when His people did.
Viewed this way, the Old Testament is a story of God’s patient, enduring love. And this story continues today. “The Sun of Righteousness [will] arise with healing in his wings,” Malachi prophesied (Malachi 4:2). Jesus Christ did come, bringing physical and spiritual healing to all who come unto Him. He is the greatest evidence of God’s love for ancient Israel and for all of us.
In the KJV, Malachi 4:2 says, “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.” Despite the interpretation given by the Come, Follow Me teaching, Malachi 4:2 is not talking about Jesus! In English, “sun” of righteousness sounds like “son” of righteousness, but it is a completely different word. The Hebrew word for “sun” is shemesh and is feminine, not masculine. Thus, this should have been translated by the King James Translators (KJV) as “with healing in her wings” and not “. . . his wings.” Or, as most translations say, “its wings.” For some reason, the KJV translators used the masculine pronoun.
It must be understood that monuments in the ancient Near East picture the sun with wings. Although it is true that there would be righteousness coming (ultimately through Jesus), this is not a Messianic prophecy. So this is sloppy exegesis on the part of the authors of this series–and I suspect there is nobody on that staff that knows the biblical languages, including Hebrew.
Ideas for Personal Scripture Study
The Lord asks for “a pure offering.”
The Lord’s words in Malachi 1 indicate that the Israelite priests were offering blemished and sickly animals as sacrifices in the temple, which the Lord had forbidden (see Leviticus 22:17–25). What do these sacrifices suggest about the priests’ feelings toward the Lord? (see Malachi 1:13). Why does the Lord ask us to give Him our best offerings? Think about the sacrifices the Lord has asked you to make. What can you do to give Him “a pure offering”? (Malachi 1:11; see also 3:3).
I agree that we must give from our first fruits, not our last. (For example, see Prov. 3:9-10; Neh. 10:35; Ezek. 44:30). The Jewish priests were not allowed to offer sickly animals or anything that could not be considered the best. In the same way, we ought to do the same.
Malachi’s prophecies are being fulfilled in the latter days.
When the Savior visited the Americas, he quoted Malachi 3–4 to the Nephites (see 3 Nephi 24–25). In 1823, the angel Moroni shared portions of these same chapters with Joseph Smith (see Joseph Smith—History 1:36–39; see also Doctrine and Covenants 2). Why do you think Malachi’s words are repeated so often in the scriptures? (see also Doctrine and Covenants 27:9; 110:13–16; 128:17–18). In your opinion, what messages from Malachi 3–4 seem especially important for our day?
We can debate that Jesus ever visited the Americas. I don’t think He did. In fact, there are many problems with the Book of Mormon, including a lack of archaeological evidence in either North or Central America.
But let’s think about this for a minute. Somehow, are we supposed to believe that Malachi was cited word for word in Reformed Egyptian to the Book of Mormon people? If that is the case, these words were then written down on the gold plates. Then it was placed on the plates in such a way that it was translated into English almost perfectly word for word in the King James Version? This is just too hard to believe. If you get two translators together who translate any piece of literature, they will be different in many ways. It seems just too neat how the Book of Mormon corresponds practically word for word as taken from the Bible. I, for one, don’t buy it.
When Moroni quoted Malachi 4:5–6 to Joseph Smith, he did so “with a little variation from the way it reads” in the Bible (Joseph Smith—History 1:36). What does Moroni’s variation add to our understanding of this prophecy? To learn more about the coming of Elijah and how this prophecy is being fulfilled today, see Doctrine and Covenants 110:13–16 and Elder David A. Bednar’s message “The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn” (Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 24–27). Why are you grateful that Elijah has come?
By asking this question, I was pointed to something that ends up being very suspicious. First, we need to acknowledge that both Malachi 4:5-6 and 3 Nephi 25:5-6 say the exact same thing. It says:
5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord; 6 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.
In other words, Joseph Smith copied Malachi 4:5-6 from his KJV in the exact same way. In both the KJV Bible and 3 Nephi 25:5-6, they say:
5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord;
6 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.
I think the author(s) of Come, Follow Me made a mistake since the two verses read exactly the same way–please look it up to check. What the author(s) probably meant was there are variations in the first four verses, as mentioned in Joseph Smith-History 1:36-39 in the Pearl of Great Price.
In 1833, Joseph Smith supposedly put together the “Inspired Translation” or “Joseph Smith Translation.” Malachi 4:5-6 was thus translated in the Book of Mormon (3 Nephi 25:5-6) to read exactly the same as the King James Version.
Major changes from these accounts are made in the Pearl of Great Price (PGP) account supposedly given by Moroni. It says “all that do wickedly shall burn as stubble” (rather than merely “shall burn as stubble” in verse 1a). In addition, PGP lists it as “for they that come shall burn them” (rather than “the day that cometh shall burn them up in verse 1b). The other major change in what the Angel Moroni supposedly told Joseph Smith is found in verses 5 and 6.
Joseph Smith-History 1:38 says, “Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the Prophet” before it continues with what the KJV and the Book of Mormon say, “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.”
Joseph Smith-History 1:39 adds, “And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children” before it continues with what the KJV and the Book of Mormon say, which is “to their fathers.” Then the words in the scriptures ending the book (“lest I come and smite the earth with a curse”) should have been, according to PGP, “If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.”
Let me summarize what I have just said:
- Malachi 4:5-6 is translated in the King James Version exactly the same as 3 Nephi 25:5-6 in the Book of Mormon. This means that Jesus supposedly quoted the verses in the same exact way in AD 34 as it reads in the KJV version dated 1769.
- Yet, in 1823, Moroni comes to Joseph Smith and says it should be translated differently (see above, Joseph Smith-History 1:36-39).
- Then, in 1833, Joseph Smith retranslates Malachi 4:5-6 exactly the same ways as the King James did so in its version.
But this makes no sense because Joseph Smith certainly must have known about what he had been told by Moroni in 1823! Or would someone claim that he merely forget what Moroni had told him?
Somebody might say that Smith had not finished translating the Bible and so he did not get a chance to change Malachi 4:5-6. There are several problems with this theory. First, in Documentary History of the Church 1:368, Smith claimed in July 1833 that he that day finished his translation. In addition, if God really had told him that he was commanded to finish his “translation” earlier that year, as he claimed, then he still had 11 more years to finish this translation. It makes no sense for him to delay what God had supposedly commanded! And certainly Smith would have made it a priority to change those verses altered by Moroni before claiming that he finished the translation.
Even more interesting is that Smith said that the word “turn” in Malachi 3:5/3 Nephi 25 “should be translated bind, or seal” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 472). But in Joseph Smith-History 1:39, Moroni insisted that the word should not have been “bind” or “seal” but rather “plant.” So what should the correct word be? And why were none of those words (bind, seal, or plant) used in Malachi 4:5 or 3 Nephi 25:5? It makes no sense.
We need to understand that Smith’s translation process was progressive to fit the needs at the time. Joseph Smith-History was not written until 1838. Supposedly Elijah came to the Kirtland, OH temple to bestow the “priesthood keys” to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland temple on Easter Sunday, April 3, 1836. This is fully two years prior to the composing of Joseph Smith-History. He invented Moroni’s story in Joseph Smith-History section 1!
There are too many variations for what should have been a simple issue. Here is another way to look at the translation of Malachi 4:4-5 and 3 Nephi 25:5-6 (stated as if each point is a fact):
- 1769: King James Version used by Smith was published; this is the version used in Malachi 4:4-5
- 1823: Joseph Smith is given a new translation by Moroni in Joseph Smith as recorded in the PGP
- 1830: Malachi 4:4-5 is cited exactly word for word in 3 Nephi 25:5-6 as it reads in Malachi 4:4-5; the translation offered by Moroni from 1823 is completely ignored as 3 Nephi is word-for-word the same as the KJV of Malachi 4:4-5
- 1833: Joseph Smith finishes his Inspired Version and Malachi 4:4-5 is the same as the KJV; the translation offered by Moroni from 1823 is completely ignored
- 1838: Joseph Smith-History 1 is composed from what had taken place almost two decades prior.
Police detectives look for variances in stories like this and are taught to smell a rat with such discrepancies. What do you think?
To answer the question originally asked in the paragraph above, Moroni’s variation adds absolutely nothing to the text.
For more on this topic, visit Malachi 4:5-6: Does this passage refer to Mormon temples?
And also see more about the Joseph Smith Translation by visiting these pages:
- The Joseph Smith Translation
- The Joseph Smith Translation: An Improvement over the Original? Or Much Ado about Nothing?
- Why Isn’t the Joseph Smith Translation (Inspired Version) of the Bible used today?
- The Joseph Smith Translation: Inspired by whom?
- Faith alone and the Joseph Smith Translation
- Bible prophecies about Joseph Smith?
Paying tithing opens the windows of heaven.
As you read Malachi 3:8–12, think about your own experiences with paying tithing. What does the phrase “open you the windows of heaven” (verse 10) mean to you?
These are some of the most misinterpreted verses for both Mormons and some Christians. If “tithing” is meant to be a New Testament principle, then why did Jesus, Peter, and Paul never talk about tithing. Tithing is part of the law that was fulfilled through what took place at Calvary.
Does God still want His followers to practice generous giving? Of course. Second Corinthians 9:6-11 says,
6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written:
“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
their righteousness endures forever.”
10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
Of course, tithing is a requirement in Mormonism to be allowed to go to the temple; it is here where people qualify for exaltation. Check out this article titled Tithing by Coercion and the problem with forced tithing.
Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Home Evening
How would your family answer the question found in Malachi 1:2—“Wherein hast [the Lord] loved us?” What are some evidences of the Lord’s love for us?
For one, we were dead in our transgressions and sins (Eph. 2:1), yet while we were sinners (Rom. 5:8), Christ died for those who would have faith in Him. He died on the cross for sins and is therefore able to impute His righteousness into believers’ accounts. We are no longer condemned for our sins and become benefactors of a tremendous gift we could never repay. What more can be said?
As you read Malachi 3:8–12, invite family members to share their thoughts or feelings about tithing. What temporal and spiritual blessings have we seen from paying tithing? (see David A. Bednar, “The Windows of Heaven,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2013, 17–20). Family members might enjoy drawing pictures to represent these blessings and hanging the pictures on a window.
In Mormonism, tithing is a requirement. In Christianity, giving is an opportunity. To show how tithing is nothing more than mere rote of multiplying 10% to either gross or net pay (your choice), consider what fifth President Lorenzo Snow said:
Our temporal salvation depends on our paying tithing. The poorest of the poor can pay tithing; the Lord requires it at our hands, to lay this matter plainly before the people, and we are going to do it. It is the temporal salvation of this Church, it depends upon obedience to this law. (Improvement Era, Aug. 1899, 794.)The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, 212. Bold in original.
Eternal life is at stake when it comes to tithing, according to Marion G. Romney, a member of the First Presidency:
Tithing is a part of the celestial law referred to in this revelation. Obedience to it is a prerequisite to being quickened in the resurrection by the fulness of the celestial glory. Without such fulness one coming into the presence of the Lord would be consumed, for God dwells in “eternal burnings.” So you see, my young brethren and sisters, tithing, is in a very real sense, a form of fire insurance – insurance against burning both in this life and in the life to come.Look to God and Live, 153.
A church manual says a person will be destroyed unless tithing is paid:
Our Father in Heaven is happy when we pay our tithing. He has promised to bless us if we pay it. He has said that He will give us so many blessings we will not know what to do with all of them. He has also said we will not be destroyed with the wicked if we pay ourGospel Fundamentals, 2002, 155
These are some pretty serious teachings. No Latter-day Saint should risk the consequences of not tithing. After all, it’s not just for eternity’s sake but for a prosperous life on earth. Current President Russell M. Nelson sounds like a false prosperity teacher when he said,
We preach tithing to the poor people of the world because the poor people of the world have had cycles of poverty, generation after generation. That same poverty continues from one generation to another, until people pay their tithing.“’Dowry is not the Lord’s way’: In Kenya, LDS President Nelson says tithing breaks poverty cycle,” Deseret News, 4/16/2018.
It’s similar to temple garments that are treated by many as good luck charms. Pay your tithing and wash away the poverty of your generation. Talk about needing good works in order to gain heaven! Such a Gospel is not taught in the Bible.
What does it mean to us to belong to the Lord and to be one of His “jewels”?
A person who fears the Lord will receive the mercy of God while those who do not follow the Word of God will be separated from God forever.
I want to give credit to the church leaders for not using Malachi 3:1 as a prophecy about Joseph Smith. I would have thought this verse would have been used in this series, as it has by leaders in the past. Good for them not to use it. For an article on this verse and how it has been misused in the past, see here.
I spent a lot of time in this review showing the fallacy of Malachi 4:5-6 as somehow being a prophecy about the priesthood. There are too many problems with Joseph Smith’s handling of these verses in the Pearl of Great Price and the Joseph Smith Translation to keep his integrity. What I have reported above ought to be troublesome for every Latter-day Saint. And finally, tithing is part of the law and is not something we do to earn God’s favor. Generous giving takes its place. Legalism takes the back seat.