Joseph Smith’s Confusion About Elijah and Elias

Joseph Smith is the founding prophet of Mormonism who claimed to receive new revelation from God in the form of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price. In the Doctrine and Covenants we read:

“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. 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: 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” (110:12-14).

Smith is visited by two different individuals in this encounter: Elias followed by Elijah. It was only after the first vision had closed that Elijah appeared before them. Elias and Elijah are presented as two different prophets each with a distinct name throughout the Doctrine and Covenants (27:6-9; 138:45-47). The identification of Elijah is easy. He is the Old Testament prophet who was “taken to heaven without tasting death” in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11). But who is Elias? Where in the Old Testament does it ever talk about him? Mormons respond by saying that Elias is an unnamed prophet of the Old Testament who was a contemporary of Abraham or another Old Testament prophet under a different name.

To see where the name Elias actually comes from, all we have to do is open a King James Bible. The New Testament translation of the King James only uses the name Elias to refer to Elijah because it is a transliteration of the Greek word for Elijah which is ēlias. On the other hand, the Old Testament translation of the King James only uses Elijah to refer to him. The difference between the two is because each testament was done by a different translation committee and they did not thoroughly check with each other before publishing. But Smith thought that Elijah and Elias were actually two different prophets instead of grasping that Elias is simply the King James’ way of referring to Elijah in the New Testament!

So, which is more likely? Is it more likely that Elias is a different prophet from Elijah who is never mentioned in the Old Testament or that Joseph Smith was confused about the translation inconsistencies of the King James Bible? The King James Bible identifies Elias as Elijah rather than being a distinct prophet from him (Matt 17:10-13; Rom 11:2-4; Jas 5:17). That Smith thought Elijah and Elias were two different prophets is a sad illustration that proves he is not a true prophet of God.

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