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 the LDS Church, we’re told that this turning of the hearts is about genealogy and sealing children to parents in the temple. We’re taught that it’s a fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham that his posterity will be like sands in number. This leads to teachings on eternal marriage, eternal procreation, and other topics. The problem is, the scriptures, including Abraham’s writings, don’t talk about those things. The promises Abraham received were promises that were also given to the fathers before him, and they had less to do with procreation than we have been led to believe.
2 And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.
3 It was conferred upon me from the fathers; it came down from the fathers, from the beginning of time, yea, even from the beginning, or before the foundation of the earth, down to the present time, even the right of the firstborn, or the first man, who is Adam, or first father, through the fathers unto me.
4 I sought for mine appointment unto the Priesthood according to the appointment of God unto the fathers concerning the seed.
Abraham was seeking for the blessings and rights belonging to the fathers (Adam through Shem), and he identified those rights and blessings as an appointment unto the Priesthood. Pay particular attention to verse 4: the appointment of God unto the fathers concerning the seed. These promises concerning the seed were made not to just Abraham, but to the fathers (patriarchs). And it isn’t concerning their seed, it’s concerning the seed.
When God made the promise to Abraham about his seed, He specifically referenced those who preach the Gospel and those who are converted as a result:
9 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee above measure, and make thy name great among all nations, and thou shalt be a blessing unto thy seed after thee, that in their hands they shall bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations;
10 And I will bless them through thy name; for as many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed, and shall rise up and bless thee, as their father;
11 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee; and in thee (that is, in thy Priesthood) and in thy seed (that is, thy Priesthood), for I give unto thee a promise that this right shall continue in thee, and in thy seed after thee (that is to say, the literal seed, or the seed of the body) shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal.
The literal seed of Abraham have the privilege of bearing the Priesthood (ministry) unto all nations (preach the Gospel). It isn’t through presiding or officiating that the earth is blessed, it’s through preaching . While Abraham taught the same Gospel as the fathers before him, God’s promise to Abraham placed Abraham’s name on those who accept the Gospel. It is through preaching the Gospel that all the families of the earth will become the figurative seed of Abraham and receive all that he received!
The New Testament supports this:
7 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.
8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.
9 So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.
We see glimpses of Abraham’s proselytizing ministry in the scriptures.
15 And I took Sarai, whom I took to wife when I was in Ur, in Chaldea, and Lot, my brother’s son, and all our substance that we had gathered, and the souls that we had won in Haran, and came forth in the way to the land of Canaan, and dwelt in tents as we came on our way;
19 As it was with Noah so shall it be with thee; but through thy ministry my name shall be known in the earth forever, for I am thy God.
Notice how that verse begins talking about how Abraham’s ministry will be like Noah’s. What was Noah’s ministry?
19 And the Lord ordained Noah after his own order, and commanded him that he should go forth and declare his Gospel unto the children of men, even as it was given unto Enoch.
20 And it came to pass that Noah called upon the children of men that they should repent…
This says Noah followed the pattern set by Enoch. What was Enoch’s ministry?
“Enoch, my son, prophesy unto this people and say unto them—Repent…
and a hell I have prepared for them if they repent not;
And this is a decree which I have sent forth in the beginning of the world…and by the mouths of my servants, thy fathers, have I decreed it, even as it shall be sent forth in the world, unto the ends thereof…
Go forth and do as I have commanded thee…open thy mouth and it shall be filled, and I will get thee utterance…
Say unto this people: Choose ye this day, to serve the Lord God who made you.”
And of Enoch’s fathers, we read:
[Adam, Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, and Jared]
22 And this is the genealogy of the sons of Adam, who was the son of God, with whom God, himself, conversed.
23 And they were preachers of righteousness, and spake and prophesied, and called upon all men, everywhere, to repent; and faith was taught unto the children of men.
This Priesthood or ministry of preaching of the Gospel goes all the way back to Adam.
57 …believe on his Only Begotten Son, even him whom he declared should come in the meridian of time, who was prepared from before the foundation of the world.
58 And thus the Gospel began to be preached, from the beginning, being declared by holy angels sent forth from the presence of God, and by his own voice, and by the gift of the Holy Ghost.
59 And thus all things were confirmed unto Adam, by an holy ordinance, and the Gospel preached, and a decree sent forth, that it should be in the world, until the end thereof; and thus it was. Amen.
What did Adam do?
12 And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters.
1 And Adam hearkened unto the voice of God, and called upon his sons to repent.
The blessings of the fathers, the rights of the Priesthood, are to preach the Gospel and call on men everywhere to repent. It started with Adam and continued through the patriarchs and to Abraham. Abraham didn’t receive a new ministry – the ministry he received was the same ministry that the fathers before him had received. What was unique about Abraham was the promise that followers of Jehovah would be called after Abraham’s name. Abraham’s genetic offspring was a means to an end, the end being the preaching of the Gospel to the world.
The resurrected Christ himself confirmed this when he explained that the covenant with Abraham about his seed blessing all the earth wasn’t about genealogy but about the Holy Ghost.
3 Nephi 20:25, 27
And behold, ye are the children of the prophets; and ye are of the house of Israel; and ye are of the covenant which the Father made with your fathers, saying unto Abraham: And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.
And after that ye were blessed then fulfilleth the Father the covenant which he made with Abraham, saying: In thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed—unto the pouring out of the Holy Ghost through me upon the Gentiles, which blessing upon the Gentiles shall make them mighty above all, unto the scattering of my people, O house of Israel.
The Abrahamic Covenant is about preaching the Gospel in its purity, not procreation. The fathers that Malachi references aren’t all men in the last few thousand years who sired physical offspring, but the patriarchs of the pre-flood era who received promises from God that they would be saved through Christ and authorized and empowered to preach the Gospel to the world.
In Part 2, we’ll look deeper into the promises made to fathers and the Gospel they preached.