Sunday, May 17, 2009

“For they that come shall burn them….”

On the night of September 21, 1823, the angel Moroni visited Joseph Smith in response to a prayer seeking “forgiveness of . . . sins and follies” (JSH 1:29). The Prophet was shockingly honest in admitting that it was fear of condemnation that brought him to his knees that night. Although letters published in the Messenger and Advocate by Oliver Cowdery reveal that an overall thirty texts from both the Old and New Testaments were part of Moroni’s instructions to the Prophet that night (Messenger and Advocate, 1:79-80), the Joseph Smith History recites just five of them.

One of the passages recited is Malachi 4:1 which reads in the King James Version (KJV): “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts.” There is an interesting discrepancy between the KJV and the version Moroni quoted that night: “For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall burn as stubble; for they that come shall burn them, saith the Lord of Hosts” (JSH 1:37).

The KJV harmonizes with 3 Nephi 25:1 and also in the James Mulholland manuscript, the earliest source for Joseph’s work. Mulholland was the prophet’s scribe during the period when he dictated this portion of his history. The manuscript was later revised, some of it after the Prophet’s death, and became the source for the History of the Church and the material now found in the Pearl of Great Price. This “revised” material includes the phrase “they that come shall burn them.” As far as I know, we are not sure if Joseph Smith or a later editor made this change.

However, the change seems to fit quite nicely into other revelations dealing with the destruction of the wicked in the last days. In Revelation 7:1, John sees “four destroying angels holding power over the four corners of the earth” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.321), who are “sent forth from God, to whom is given power over the four parts of the earth, to save life and to destroy; these are they who have the everlasting gospel to commit to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people; having power to shut up the heavens, to seal up unto life, or to cast down to the regions of darkness” (D&C 77:8).

In other words, these are the angels of heaven who Christ taught were to come in the authority of the Lord to separate the wheat from the tares and then burn the latter (Matt 13:39-41). These “angels are waiting the great command to reap down the earth, to gather the tares that they may be burned” (D&C 38:12). Indeed, “at that hour cometh an entire separation of the righteous and the wicked; and in that day will I send mine angels to pluck out the wicked and cast them into unquenchable fire” (D&C 63:54). “Behold, verily I say unto you, the angels are crying unto the Lord day and night, who are ready and waiting to be sent forth to reap down the fields” (D&C 86:5).

In 1879, Wilford Woodruff spoke concerning these angels:

Wickedness and abominations of every kind have increased a hundredfold within the last few years, until the whole earth is filled with murders, whoredoms, blasphemies and every crime in the Black Catalogue that was manifest in the antediluvian world or Sodom and Gomorrah . . . the heavens weep and all eternity is pained and the angels are waiting the great command to go forth and reap down the earth. This testimony I bare to all nations under heaven and I know it is true by the inspirations of the Almighty God.” (Epistle of Wilford Woodruff, Millennial Star, April 21, 1879) (emphasis added).

Fifteen years later, after referring to D&C 86:5, he spoke these somber words:

God has held the angels of destruction for many years, lest they should reap down the wheat with the tares. But I want to tell you now that those angels have left the portals of heaven and they stand over this people and this nation now . . . . And from this very day shall they be poured out.” (President Wilford Woodfruff, Temple Workers Excursion Salt Lake City Tabernacle Sunday, June 24 1894).

While we cannot be sure if the slight alteration to the text of Malachi 4:1 was intentional or not, it clearly agrees with ancient and modern revelation. All the same, whether it is the day that comes or the four destroying angels that come, the wicked will nonetheless eventually be burned.

5 comments:

Howard said...

Indeed!

Nate said...

"those angels have left the portals of heaven and they stand over this people and this nation now . . . . And from this very day shall they be poured out"

Do you think they are doing any gathering, or are they waiting for the big moment? I doubt they are standing idly. I wonder to what extent people may be being gathered other than the gathering of Israel. I wonder this because it always seems that you find pockets in almost every city where there are a lot of really good people.

Jeremy said...

Nate, the full quote by Pres. Woodruff (I knew I should have put the full quote in there...) makes it clear that several calamities and disasters would be brought on by the 4 angels. Accordingly, from 1894 and on, Pres. Woodruff declares that those calamities and disasters will now take place in greater numbers.

Some LDS scholars have actually documented the recorded disastrous incidents, including the onset of tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, famines, etc. These scholars can pretty much point to the beginning of the 20th century as a spike in these occurrences.

So, I would answer your question that the angels have been at work for a while now. However, they may also play an important role when things are prophesied to escalate.

Greg said...

Hi Jeremy - I think that scripture to be accurate, although I don't have any reference material with me right now.

However, I wonder if the scripture about those who will come with the Savior will burn those remaining may be in reference to the third major event of the Lord's Second Coming.

This would seem reasonable since the Savior's first appearance at Adam-ondi-Ahman will be unknown to the world and to Church members in large measure, whereas his coming to the Jews on the Mount of Olives will be to save the sons of Judah and those who gather with them from an almost sure destruction. However, "the great and crowning advent of the Lord will be subsequent to these two appearances" and his glory - as well as the glory of those who come with him - will leave the rebellious as "stubble."

Just a thought.

SmithFamily said...

Do you think that "They that come" could be extraterrestrials? Praying on the matter, I have had this dream...

I was on the earth, beholding the nations of the earth and the perplexities of those nations. I then began to fly away from the earth in a smooth motion, seeing it from above the atmosphere, then beyond the moon, to then find myself close to our star, the sun. While I gazed in wonder at this tiny blue planet in the distance, earth, I noticed off to my right massive beautifully and complexly shaped objects of metal. I focused my attention on these objects and found myself moving towards them. As I got closer, these objects became more clear and upon inspection I found them to be massive, complex, yet beautiful metal ships of some sort - to the likeliness of nothing I've ever before seen (I don't watch sci-fi, or any Hollywood movies at that - wastes of time). They were mostly Triangular in shape, but some were hexagonal in shape as well. As I continued getting closer to one triangular pyramid-shaped ship, I realized how huge these things were, at least 1/8th the size of earth. I then found myself in the cockpit of sorts of this one giant ship looking out towards earth, and although I could not see the faces of the beings controlling the ship I could feel their presence and feel their feelings towards human-kind on the earth. The feelings were palpable and were nothing of kindness but on the contrary, they were feelings of hostility and of enmity. At that point int he dream I felt sorry and compassion for earth and its inhabitants, and felt the impression that only those who are found clean would be raptured away from the burning to take place. I then found myself awoken from the dream, with the impression on my mind that these beings exist, they are hostile towards us and have an array of ships unlike anything imagined by human mind thus far, and may take part, either knowingly or not, in cleansing the earth by fire.