At a Sunday meeting, likely held on 21 March 1841 at the home of in , Illinois, JS gave a discourse on portions of the biblical book of Malachi, focusing particularly on how the text related to the Levitical, or . Two versions of this sermon are extant: one written contemporaneously by and one written later by Martha Jane Knowlton Coray. Both versions are featured here.
JS had a long history of engaging with the book of Malachi. For example, in JS’s account of a heavenly visitation in 1823, an angel named Moroni quoted the third and fourth chapters of Malachi. and JS also averred that another heavenly messenger, John the Baptist, appeared to them in 1829 and referenced Malachi when he conferred upon them authority to , telling them, “Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer this and this authority, which shall remain upon the earth, that the sons of Levi may yet offer an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.” References to Malachi also appear in several early revelations dictated by JS, including an 1832 revelation that mentioned the “sons of Aaron” making “an aaceptable offering and sacrifice in the house of the Lord.” After JS delivered the sermon featured here, the text of Malachi appeared repeatedly in JS’s teachings.
JS’s discussion of priesthood in this discourse may have been related to the organization of the “Lesser Priesthood,” or Aaronic Priesthood, in , which occurred on the same day as the featured discourse and consisted of appointing for the , , and . That the meeting where JS gave this discourse was held at the residence of Nauvoo bishop , a leader over the Aaronic Priesthood, further supports a possible connection between the sermon and the organizing of the “Lesser Priesthood” quorums. JS’s discourse may have been tailored to accompany this organizing of the quorums, or the organization may have been an immediate result of JS’s instruction.
Although neither version of the discourse featured here is dated, the discourse was likely delivered on 21 March 1841. Aside from the fact that the organization of the Aaronic Priesthood quorums occurred on 21 March, the two versions provide internal clues supporting that date. , for instance, inscribed his notes of the sermon in a personal notebook in which he had previously taken notes on presentations and remarks made by JS and others in the weekly Tuesday meetings of ’s lyceum. McIntire recorded that the sermon featured here was delivered at a “Sabath Meeting,” and with this entry McIntire appears to have transitioned from taking notes on only the Tuesday lyceum meetings to also recording notes on JS’s discourses in Sunday worship meetings. The entry for this first Sunday sermon appears immediately following an entry that most likely describes a lyceum meeting held on 16 March; assuming the Sabbath meeting where JS delivered this discourse occurred on the Sunday immediately following, it would have been held on 21 March.
Martha Jane Knowlton Coray also recorded the sermon in a personal notebook. Her account is a longer, more detailed version of the sermon than ’s, but she recorded it much later. While McIntire apparently made his notes at the time of the sermon, Coray did not make her record until more than a decade later, though she most likely drew information from an earlier document. It is unknown whether Coray was present at the discourse and used her own contemporaneous notes to reconstruct her account of the sermon or whether her account was derived from the notes of one or more others in attendance. She apparently wrote this account in her notebook sometime between October 1843 and December 1854. Coray copied several other JS discourses into her notebook, the sources for which are also unknown. She introduced the first of these teachings by writing, “A few Item from a discourse delivered by Joseph Smith.” Coray’s account featured here states that the sermon was given in the latter part of winter 1841, which is roughly congruent with the 21 March dating. While there are general similarities between the McIntire and Coray accounts, some material is exclusive to each, and Coray’s account contains many more details.
In a September 1842 letter to the church, JS again quoted the verses from Malachi 3 that deal with the purification of the sons of Levi. In December 1842, JS explained that this purification of the sons of Levi was accomplished “by giving unto them inteligince— that we are not capable of meditating on & reciving all the inteligence which belongs to an immortal state. it is to[o] powerful for our faculties.” (JS, Journal, 11 Sept. and 28 Dec. 1842.)
This dating assumes that the first weekly lyceum meeting was held on Tuesday, 5 January 1841. For more on the dating issues in McIntire’s notebook, see Historical Introduction to Discourse, ca. 2 Feb. 1841.
Sabath Meeting— Joseph Read the 2 & 3d. Chapters of Malichi & stated that there was a Confered upon all the sons of Levi throughout the Jeneration of the Jews & he also said they beCome heirs to that pristHood By Linage or Decent [descent] & held the of the first principles of the Gospel— for this— he quoted concerning Jesus coming to John to be of John that he (Jesus) might Enter into the Kingdom as John held the Keys suffer it to be so now &c he also Brought up Zacharias pleading with the Lord in the temple that he might have seed so that the preistHood might be presurved
he also prophesyed that all those that made Light of the Revelations that was Given and him & his words— would are [ere] Long Cry & Lement (when the servent of God would be imprizened) say O!! that we had harkened to the words of God & the Revelattions Given But all opertunity is Cut of[f] from them [p. ]
The account of the miraculous birth of John the Baptist to Zacharias and Elizabeth is found in Luke 1. An earlier JS revelation also references the promise made to Zacharias. (See Luke 1:5–25; and Revelation, ca. Aug. 1835 [D&C 27:7].)