11 After this vision closed, the heavens were againopened unto us; and Moses appeared before us, and committed unto us the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north.
Jenny, Candice, Kim, and I are currently studying “keys” in our D&C 84 project. I’m thinking about keys lately as specific assignments. If you do a search for “key” and look through the many references, you’ll see that there are at least a dozen – maybe two dozen – different, named keys. “Key of the bottomless pit” was one that surprised me. Also “key of the house of David.” And one I’ve seen before but I always really enjoy: Moroni has the “keys of the record of the stick of Ephriam.”
So tonight I decided to look at section 110, where several angels appear to give Joseph Smith keys. Here’s what stood out to me tonight:
11 After this vision closed, the heavens were again opened unto us; and Moses appeared before us, and committed unto us the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north.
I don’t think I realized before how cool this really is. I think before I had seen it as Moses opening up the way for modern day saints to get to work. Something like, Moses comes and uses the key to open the door. But rather, the keys are given to Joseph (and Oliver?). It’s now his assignment. And also he is in charge of opening and closing that work. Or so it seems! That’s very different than how I had read it before.
12 After this, Elias appeared, and committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham, saying that in us and our seed all generations after us should be blessed.
Whoa! Notice that Elias doesn’t give Joseph any keys. He “committed” something. What does that mean? A commission? And how do you commit a dispensation? And further, why is this the gospel of Abraham? First of all, there is more than one gospel? Second, why isn’t this the covenant of Abraham? (The Abrahamic Covenant?). Should I be hearing the word gospel in the sense of “good news” — the good news of Abraham is that all families will be blessed?
And finally, in Joseph and Oliver, and their seed, all the generations after them will be blessed. Fascinating! They begin the next watershed of Abrahamic blessings.
13 After this vision had closed, another great and glorious vision burst upon us; for Elijah the prophet, who was taken to heaven without tasting death, stood before us, and said:
14 Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi (—testifying that he [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come—
15 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—)
16 Therefore, the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands; and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors.
I added the italics and parenthesis to try to figure out what Elijah actually said. But I think with the “your” and “ye” in verse 16, and the “he” in the end of verse 14, that my reading is not a bad one.
Elijah does come to give a key. But what key? The keys of this dispensation. What does that mean? First I think I just say “Everything else they needed for this latter day dispensation.” But since tonight I’m reading more carefully for talk about keys, I have a different idea.
What if Elias shows up and commits the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham to them, and then Elijah comes and gives them the keys of that very dispensation so that they can do what they were committed to doing? Elijah uses the word “dispensation” just like Elias did, and if you read this as a play-by-play then as soon as Elias leaves, Elijah shows up and talks about “this dispensation.” I think rather than hearing that word as a term for a time period, I think we ought to think about what is going on in this section. I assume that we only use that word as a term for a time period because it is a time in which the gospel is dispensed. But if that’s the case, the time term is a later usage derived from the more literal or originary use of dispense. So I think it might be a really, really good reading here to see Elijah as talking about the same thing that Elias was talking about.
If that’s the case, then what I see here is that Elias comes and says that they are going to be the next step in the Abrahamic Covenant, meaning that their families are going to bless all the families after them. How is that to be accomplished? Well Elijah shows up and says it’s time to focus the fathers on the children (just what Elias committed to them) but also the children to the fathers. What are the keys of the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham? I don’t know! :) Surely, it seems, they must include the sealing ordinances of the temple, and also baptism for the dead. But I imagine a lot more, too.
Anyway, as far as keys go, I think I want to say that Moses gave him one key, and Elias and Elijah together gave him another set of keys. That’s pretty cool.