It took about 40 years for the church to canonize the Vision of Elijah, foundation for the modern temple work that we do today. I asked Dr. Richard Bennett why it took so long. (You can listen here to the full interview.) Dr. Bennett explained
This is classic case in church history of what I would call the reclamation of revelation. In 1876, under the specific direction of Orson Pratt, many earlier revelations that were given in the history of the church, including section 110 which you’re referring to, but not just 110; section 109 was the dedication of the Kirtland Temple; section 121, 122, 123 the Liberty Jail revelations; sections 2 and 13, the Moroni and John the Baptist revelations; section 132 the plural marriage/celestial marriage section, were finally put into the Doctrine & Covenants and canonized in 1876 by membership vote.
And that really opens up a topic in church history about why studying our history is so important is because sometimes we miss things, and I think you’re referring here to section 110 and these other revelations. It’s wonderful that Elder Bednar makes a great point of it. These sealing keys were extremely important. They were all written down by Warren Cowdery. Joseph and Oliver didn’t write it down. Warren Cowdery wrote it down. Joseph never refers to that revelation, if you want to know the truth, although he talks a lot about the substance of it. It’s not until Orson Pratt in 76, under the direction of the President of the Church of course, says we better get that down.
(There’s Orson Pratt again!) On the other hand, studying church history can lead to some sticky problems. I asked Dr Mark Staker why Joseph was sealed to his first plural wife before this vision restoring the sealing power (listen here.) Dr. Staker felt the sealing power had already been restored.
I believe that Joseph Smith received from Peter, James and John all the authority that he needed, including the sealing power. He holds all those through Peter, James, and John. What Elijah brings is keys; keys to enact those sealing powers on behalf of other individuals.
It allowed Joseph to direct his authority his authority on behalf of others because the keys provide the ability to direct priesthood on behalf of people, but they aren’t the priesthood itself. Keys are not equivalent to priesthood. Joseph held the priesthood already.
Let’s look at this argument further. Jesus tells Peter in Matthew 18:18
Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
However, I don’t think that is what we teach at church with regards to the visit of Elijah in 1836. Did Joseph receive the sealing power in 1830 from Peter, James, and John? If so, why do we refer to the vision of Elijah as so central to the sealing power?
What do you think of these explanations? Is studying church history good, bad, or both?