A few days following the dedication in , Ohio, and the that empowered for the ministry, JS’s journal records that JS and had a vision of heavenly messengers in the House of the Lord. On the afternoon of Easter Sunday, 3 April 1836, JS helped other members of the church distribute the of the Lord’s Supper to the congregation that had assembled in the lower court of the House of the Lord. After the sacrament, the curtains were dropped, dividing the court into four quarters. According to , who participated in the day’s meetings, the presidency then went to the pulpits for “the confirmation & blessing of the children.” At some point during the meeting, more veils were lowered, enclosing the west pulpits and dividing them into their four levels. JS and Cowdery “retired to the pulpit”—apparently the top tier, which was reserved for the presidency—where they bowed “in solemn, but silent prayer to the Most High.”
According to the journal, after JS and prayed, secluded in the curtains and pulpits of the , they had a miraculous vision of Jesus Christ, who accepted the House of the Lord as JS had prayed for at the dedication. The appearance was a fulfillment of a promise made in earlier JS revelations, that the Lord would show himself in the temple. Following the appearance of Christ, the journal records, JS and Cowdery also received visitations from the biblical prophets Moses, Elias, and Elijah, who bestowed upon the two church leaders “the of this dispensation.” These keys authorized JS and Cowdery to exercise in new ways the they had received from the apostles Peter, James, and John in 1829. The bestowal of “the Keys of this dispensation,” particularly those concerning the of Israel and turning “the hearts of the Fathers to the children,” marked a vital moment for Latter-day Saint missionary work and temple . Just over a year after receiving these keys, JS sent preachers to to begin the gathering of Israel from abroad. Later, in , Illinois, he would teach and administer new temple ordinances that offered salvation to the deceased and bound them to the living, including , , and . The Latter-day Saints had shown their willingness to build the Lord a house, and these visitations on 3 April 1836 were not only a continuation of great spiritual outpouring; they were also a beginning for Latter-day Saint understanding of the purpose and power of temples.
JS and recounted their visions to some associates shortly after they occurred. In a letter to his wife, , written on the same day, stated that JS and Cowdery experienced “a manifestation of the Lord” in which they learned that “the great & terrible day of the Lord as mentioned by Malichi, was near, even at the doors.”
Sometime shortly after, , JS’s scribe and ’s brother, recorded the experience in JS’s journal, which is the source for the text below. Warren wrote the entry referring to JS in the third person, in contrast to the first-person language found throughout the journal. He may have relied on another original text, no longer extant, or on oral reports from either or both of the participants. If he was working from a prior text, it would directly parallel the method that produced the third-person 1834–1836 history, which he was composing in early April using JS’s journal. By 7 November 1843, , church historian and personal secretary to JS, changed the account into first person for JS’s multivolume history. JS and Oliver Cowdery’s vision was added to the Doctrine and Covenants in 1876. That version, and published versions to follow, contained first-person language.
This account of visitations closes JS’s 1835–1836 journal. After more than six months of almost daily recording of developments in , entries ceased, and for nearly two years there were no entries written in this or in any other extant JS journal.
be poured out upon the heads of my people. even so amen. After this vision closed, the Heavens were again opened unto them and Moses appeared before them and committed unto them the of the of Israel from the four parts of the Eearth and the leading of the ten tribes from the Land of the North. After this Elias appeared and committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham, saying, that in them and their seed all generations after them should be blessed. After this vision had closed, another great and glorious vision burts [burst] upon them, for Elijah, the Prophet, who was taken to Heaven without tasting death, also stood before them, and said, behold the time has fully come which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi, testifying, that he should be sent before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come, to turn the hearts of the Fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse. Therefore, the of this are committed into your hands, and by this ye may know that the great and the dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors [p. 193]
JS’s revelations used the generic name “Elias” to refer to various messengers who appeared as “forerunners” to the first or second comings of Jesus Christ. (See, for example, New Testament Revision 2, part 2, p. 106 [Joseph Smith Translation, John 1:26]; New Testament Revision 1, p. 42 [Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 17:13]; Revelation, ca. Aug. 1830, in Doctrine and Covenants 50:2, 1835 ed. [D&C 27:6–7]; see also Genesis 13–15; 17; 22:17–18, 28; Galatians 3:6–18; and Matthew 17:10–13.)
See Malachi 4:5–6; and Revelation, ca. Aug. 1830, in Doctrine and Covenants 50:2, 1835 ed. [D&C 27:9]. JS later recounted that the visit of Elijah was foretold by the angel Moroni in 1823. He also taught that Elijah restored the keys “of the fulness of the Melchezedek Priesthood,” including the authority to perform ceremonies that would “seal” for eternal duration marriages and parent-child relationships for both the living and the dead. (JS History, vol. A-1, 5–6; Robert B. Thompson, Sermon Notes, 5 Oct. 1840, JS Collection, CHL; Coray, Notebook, 13 Aug. 1843; JS, Journal, 27 Aug. 1843; Woodruff, Journal, 10 Mar. 1844.)
Smith, Joseph. Collection, 1827–1846. CHL. MS 155.
Coray, Martha Jane Knowlton. Notebook, ca. 1841–ca. 1850. BYU.
Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.