1 Behold, I will asend my bmessenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly ccome to his dtemple, even the emessenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. But who may aabide the bday of his ccoming? and who shall dstand when he appeareth? for he is like a erefiner’s ffire, and like fullers’ gsoap: And he shall sit as a arefiner and purifier of silver: and he shall bpurify the csons of dLevi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an eoffering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of aJudah and Jerusalem be bpleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former years. (Malachi 3:1-4)
Who is this messenger?
John the Baptist
A key to understanding Malachi 3:1-4 is in identifying the messenger who would announce the day of judgment. The Savior identified John the Baptist as that messenger: “For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee” (Matt. 11:10). As seen in chapters 1 and 2, much of the message of Malachi concerns the unrighteousness of the Levites, who had violated the priesthood stewardship with which the Lord had blessed them and had brought their ministry under a curse (Malachi 2:2, 8). It is therefore remarkable that a later son of Levi, John the Baptist, would be foretold in Malachi’s prophecy.
John’s ministry was a perfect type of the lesser priesthood due to the fact that he would “prepare the way before” the greater ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, who was to come (Malachi 3:1). John’s witness of Jesus during the Lord’s mortal ministry partially fulfilled the prophecy, but the context of Malachi 3:1-4 seems to deal with the second coming of Jesus Christ. Malachi asks, “who may abide the day of his coming? He shall purify the sons of Levi… (Malachi 3:2-3). John seems to have understood that his role would extend beyond his mortal ministry. When people asked who he was, he said, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias” (John 1:23), referring to Isaiah 40:3.
The context of Isaiah’s prophecy is similar to Malachi – Isaiah speaks of every valley being exalted and every mountain being brought low, with the glory of the Lord revealed and all flesh seeing Him together. To me this is obvious: both prophets speak plainly of the second coming. From a Latter-day Saint perspective, I find this fascinating. What other Christian denomination even claims that John has had a role in their priesthood or organization as we prepare for Jesus Christ in the last days?
The Prophet Joseph Smith
John would therefore be the Lord’s messenger twice, once to prepare the way for his first coming and then again for his second. The latter-day fulfillment was when John bestowed the priesthood upon his fellowservants (see D&C 13 and Revelation 6:11) Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. The prophet Joseph Smith, by receiving the priesthood and making the way for the Restoration, is also an individual who fulfills this prophecy. In the JST of Matthew 17 we read the following:
“And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things, as the prophets have written. And again I say unto you that Elias has come already, concerning whom it is written, Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me; and they knew him not, and have done unto him, whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of Man suffer of them. But I say unto you, Who is Elias? Behold, this is Elias, whom I send to prepare the way before me. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist, and also of another who should come and restore all things, as it is written by the prophets.” (JST Matthew 17:10-14) Clearly the prophet Joseph Smith fits as the messenger that shall prepare the way before the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is “another who should come and restore all things, as it is written by the prophets.”
Along with this prophecy Malachi noted that two important events would also take place: the Lord would come to his temple (Malachi 3:1), and the sons of Levi would be purified and then make an acceptable offering before the Lord (Malachi 3:3). The Lord came suddenly to his temple on 3 April 1836, as described in Doctrine and Covenants 110. His coming marked the beginning of the great latter-day work of the house of the Lord: “This is the beginning of the blessing which shall be poured out upon the heads of my people,” he proclaimed (D&C 110:10).
His appearance was followed by that of others, including Elijah, whose coming fulfilled another prophecy in Malachi (D&C 110:13-16; Mal. 4:5-6). The messenger spoken of in Malachi 3:1 has direct linkage to the passage in Malachi 4:5, thus tying this prophecy to Elijah as well.
I had the opportunity to take an Old Testament class taught by Dr. David Bokovoy recently. He shared some wonderful insights into the meaning of Malachi’s name. The name מַלְאָכִי Malachi is interesting, it literally means, “my messenger”. The root of the word comes from מַלְאָך Malak, which means, “angel”. Having a technical background in this language helps to understand this prophecy as it relates to the mission of Moroni. From Joseph Smith History we read:
“He (the angel Moroni) called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.” (Joseph Smith History – verse 33, emphasis added) Moroni also fits the description of this messenger who will prepare the way before the second coming of Jesus Christ. He brought knowledge to the Prophet Joseph Smith relative to his specific mission, was the messenger to deliver the Book of Mormon – the text that will be used in the last days to gather Israel and bring all people to a knowledge of Jesus Christ and His gospel.
How this relates to young people
Malachi 3:1 states that the Lord will send a messenger before him, to prepare the way. I would ask, “What is this messenger preparing people for?” From the context of Malachi 3 it is reasonable to suppose that this messenger is preparing people to meet the Savior. “In what ways are you like Elijah?” John, Joseph Smith, Elijah, and Moroni have done their work. Now the youth are sent to prepare the world for Heavenly Father’s children to make and keep covenants with him preparatory to entering into His presence. They are as important today as John was in the first century as he taught people about the coming of Jesus Christ.
To me, this makes Joseph Smith History verse 33 all the more relevant to young people. God does indeed have a work for them to do. He has prepared them for this time to take His message to all the world. When we see that the gospel is true and that this work matters, we realize that we are the hands that the Lord has to prepare people to do His work. When someone knocks on the doors of those without the gospel, it is the messengers the Lord has sent at that day. John, Joseph Smith, Elijah, and Moroni are not here to spread the gospel – it is the youth in our classes that the Lord is depending on to “prepare the way before me”. From the perspective of those who have passed on to the Spirit World, it is our youth who will “suddenly come to the temple” and perform saving ordinances for them. Truly Malachi’s message has relevance for the youth of the Church in our time.