Moses and Elijah
John A. Tvedtnes
[This is a slightly revised version of an article of the same name published in the Provo Sun on 9 August 1998
On 3 April 1836, Jesus Christ, Elias, Moses, and Elijah all appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple (D&C 110). This was not the first time that Moses and Elijah had appeared together with Jesus, for all three had been on the mount when Christ was transfigured before Peter, James, and John (Matthew 17:3-4; Mark 9:4; Luke 9:30-33). Indeed, the prophet Joseph taught that “The Savior, Moses, and Elias [Greek New Testament form of the Hebrew name Elijah], gave the keys to Peter, James, and John, on the mount when they were transfigured before him” (History of the Church 3:387).
By appearing with Christ on the mount of transfiguration and in the Kirtland temple, Moses and Elijah testified of him and acknowledged him as the source of their priesthood authority. They represented the two major divisions of the Old Testament, “the law and the prophets.” Jesus declared that the law and the prophets testified of him (Luke 24:44; 3 Nephi 15:10), something that is also affirmed in John 1:45 and Mosiah 3:14-15. Moses was the first prophet of his dispensation and, according to Joseph Smith, “Elijah was the last Prophet that held [all] the keys of the Priesthood” in that dispensation (History of the Church 4:211).
D&C 110:14-15, which records the restoration of keys by Moses and Elijah, quotes the prophecy of Elijah’s coming recorded in Malachi 4:5-6, but most readers fail to note that this prophecy is immediately preceded in Malachi 4:4 by mention of the prophet Moses: “Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.”
What is there about Moses that ties him so closely to Elijah? The following chart will compare the activities of the two men.
|Announced the plagues of Egypt (Exodus 7-11)||Announced a drought in the land (1 Kings 17:1)|
|Called down fire from heaven (Exodus 9:23-24)||Called down fire from heaven (1 Kings 18:38; 2 Kings 1:10-14)|
|Caused the Red Sea to part (Exodus 14:21)||Caused the Jordan River to part (2 Kings 2:8)|
|After passing through the Red Sea, he saw Pharaoh’s chariots trapped by the waters (Exodus 14:23-31)||After crossing the Jordan River, he was taken to heaven by horses and a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11-12)|
|Fasted 40 days and 40 nights atop mount Horeb, conversing with the Lord amid earthquake, fire, and smoke (Exodus 19:16-20; 24:12; 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:9, 18, 25; 10:10)||Fasted 40 days and 40 nights atop mount Horeb, conversing with the Lord amid wind, earthquake, and fire (1 Kings 19:8-18)|
|Taken to heaven without tasting death (Alma 45:18-19; Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 4.8.48, and other early Jewish, Samaritan, and Christian texts), at mount Nebo opposite the Dead Sea and Jordan River near Jericho (Deuteronomy 34:1)||Taken to heaven without tasting death (2 Kings 2:11) on the east side of the Jordan River, near Jericho (2 Kings 2:4-5, 8)|
|Appeared to Christ and his leading apostles on the mount of transfiguration (Matthew 17:3-4; Mark 9:4; Luke 9:30-33)||Appeared to Christ and his leading apostles on the mount of transfiguration (Matthew 17:3-4; Mark 9:4; Luke 9:30-33)|
|Appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple, 3 April 1836, to restore keys (D&C 110:11)||Appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple, 3 April 1836, to restore keys (D&C 110:13-16)|
There are other similarities between Moses and his successor Joshua and Elijah and his successor Elisha.
|Moses chose his successor, Joshua, whose name means “Jehovah saves” (Numbers 27:18-20; Deuteronomy 34:9)||Elijah chose his successor, Elisha, whose name means “God saves” (1 Kings 19:16-20)|
|Moses placed some of his own “honour” on Joshua (Numbers 27:20)||Elisha took up Elijah’s mantle (1 Kings 19:20; 2 Kings 2:13)|
|“Joshua . . . was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him” (Deuteronomy 34:9)||Elisha asked to have “a double portion” of Elijah’s spirit (2 Kings 2:9) and others recognized that he had “the spirit of Elijah” (2 Kings 2:15)|
|The Jordan River stopped flowing so Joshua could bring the people across westward near Gilgal and Jericho (Joshua 3:15-17; 4:19)||The Jordan River stopped flowing so Elisha could cross westward near Gilgal and Jericho (2 Kings 2:1, 4-5, 14-15)|
|Moses cast wood into bitter water to make it sweet (Exodus 15:23)||Elisha cast salt into water to “heal” it (2 Kings 2:19-22)|
|Joshua built an altar atop Mount Ebal (Joshua 8:30)||Elijah rebuilt an altar atop Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:31-32)|
|Joshua used twelve stones to build a monument at Gilgal (Joshua 4:19-22)||Elijah used twelve stones for the altar he rebuilt (1 Kings 18:31-32)|
|Elijah multiplied oil and meal for a widow (1 Kings 17:14-16), while Elisha multiplied oil for a widow (2 Kings 4:1-7)|
|Elijah brought a child back to life (1 Kings 17:17-23), as did Elisha (2 Kings 4:32-37)|
 Of this, the prophet Joseph Smith declared, “The spirit of Elias is first, Elijah second, and Messiah last. Elias is a forerunner to prepare the way, and the spirit and power of Elijah is to come after, holding the keys of power, building the Temple to the capstone, placing the seals of the Melchizedek Priesthood upon the house of Israel, and making all things ready; then Messiah comes to His Temple, which is last of all. Messiah is above the spirit and power of Elijah, for He made the world, and was that spiritual rock unto Moses in the wilderness. Elijah was to come and prepare the way and build up the kingdom before the coming of the great day of the Lord, although the spirit of Elias might begin it” (History of the Church 6:254).
 Matthew 5:17 (//3 Nephi 12:17); 7:12 (//3 Nephi 14:12); 11:13 (//Luke 16:16); 22:40; Acts 13:15; 24:14; 28:23; Romans 3:21; 2 Nephi 25:28; D&C 59:22; cf. 2 Kings 17:13.