120 years-old, Moses walked up the slopes of Mount Nebo accompanied by Joshua and the Senate. Despite his age his eye was not dim nor his natural force abated. He was still strong and vigorous. It was not by his will that he ascended those steep slopes. “Get thee up into this mountain,” the Lord said to him, “…and die…” Forty years he had labored to prepare and bring the children of Israel into their promised land, and now he would not be allowed to take them in. From a high eminence atop Mt Nebo, called Pisgah, Moses stood and looked out. Beneath him lay the plains of Moab. To the east lay the deserts and empty space of Jordan. Yet these were not what the Almighty wanted him to see. Moses looked north and “the Lord shewed him all the land of Gilead unto Dan.” That’s a long ways. His view moved south through the land that would belong to Ephraim and the others of the tribes of Israel, all the way to the Dead Sea, the Valley of Jericho, and Zoar on the south. By the power of God Moses saw and comprehended the promised land that lay before him. Then Moses was taken up into heaven without tasting death. According to some records, a whirlwind of fire came and took him up. He would ascend beyond Pisgah to heaven taking with him the keys and authority that had gathered Israel and led them to the promised land.
Approximately four centuries later, and just a short distance to the north, Elijah the Prophet, “took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters.” The waters of the Jordan “divided hither and thither, so that [Elijah and Elisha] went over on a dry ground.” This moment at the end of his ministry was typical of that prophet who would be the last of the prophets until the ministry of Jesus to hold the keys of the sealing power. As he bound or loosed whether on earth or in heaven—so it would be. Though Elijah would be famous for such deeds as binding the rain of the heavens or loosing fire on the earth, his power to seal would not be fully realized until later. So remarkable was his ministry and the miracles he wrought that he would become a figure of legend, myth, and mystery. Elijah crossed the Jordan at Jericho, and as he and Elisha walked and talked, suddenly, “there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.”
In the distance I could see Nebo where Moses was taken up. To my right I could see where Elijah was translated, and I marveled at how close the two places were. A few days later I put my hand to my brow and looked into the distance at another mountain, called Transfiguration, where hundreds of years later in the darkened night those same two prophets, Moses and Elijah, appeared and laid those same mortal hands on the heads of Peter, James, and John and bestowed their keys.
A few weeks later I stood in Kirtland, Ohio, where on April 3, 1836, in the mountain of the Lord’s house at Kirtland—a modern mount of transfiguration—Moses and Elijah, now with bodies resurrected, appeared once again and bestowed their keys on Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. Now for the last time, by the authority of God, the law and the prophets would go forth. Israel is gathered again and taught by Moses keys, and sealed up to God and His mansions by Elijah’s. What is it like to stand on the hoof four dispensations—go and find out!
Building Faith Through Church History