If Moroni changed parts of Malachi ch. 4 when he visited young Joseph, why doesn’t 3 Nephi 25 coincide w those changes instead of being exactly as quoted in the Bible?
When Jesus visited the Nephites, He commanded them to “write the words which the Father had given unto Malachi”. What then follows is a description of rectitude and a return to proper temple worship following the destruction of the wicked. This imagery would have felt especially relevant as the the Nephites listened at the Bountiful temple amid the rebuilding efforts following their own calamities. Within the Malachi passages the Lord shared, He included the following:
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord; And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
Not content to merely quote the original, Jesus then “expounded them unto the multitude; and he did expound all things unto them, both great and small.”
At the opening of this dispensation, the angel Moroni also quoted these verses to Joseph Smith, but with some variation:
Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.
Thematically this hits all the notes of the original Malachi quote: Elijah must come before the Lord does, paternal relationships are strengthened, child relationships are strengthened, with a dire warning if this fails. This does not seem to be a case of Moroni providing a better translation, as Joseph Smith did with his Inspired Version of the Bible. Even when quoting directly from Malachi to explain the principles associated with baptism for the dead, the prophet notes “I might have rendered a plainer translation to this, but it is sufficiently plain to suit my purpose as it stands.” It seems that, when it comes to these verses, the King James Version is sufficiently “translated correctly“.
It appears that Moroni is keeping with angelic tradition of opening a new dispensation by repurposing Malachi’s prophecy to foretell a Messianic forerunner. The angel Gabriel did something similar when announcing John the Baptist’s birth.
And he [John] shall go before him [the Lord] in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
Once again we have the thematic elements of the original, but it has been adapted to a special mission that happens in the meridian of time. These two prophets who precede the Lord’s mortal and millennial ministries will use Elijah’s keys in different ways. It is John who turns the hearts of the fathers and Joseph who will turn the hearts of the children.
Returning back to the Nephites, why did they not get a variation on the Elijah theme adapted to their dispensation? For starters, the version preserved in the King James Version is a sufficient baseline to work with. Additionally, the impact of the variations can be lost when the original isn’t known first. Finally, Jesus may have given them a modified version of the Elijah prophecy after giving the original. You’ll recall that after giving them Malachi’s text, Jesus expounded “all things, even from the beginning until the time that he should come in his glory—yea, even all things which should come upon the face of the earth, even until the elements should melt with fervent heat, and the earth should be wrapt together as a scroll, and the heavens and the earth should pass away.” Note that these are themes captured in the Malachi text He shared. “And even unto the great and last day, when all people, and all kindreds, and all nations and tongues shall stand before God, to be judged of their works.” And note how cleanly this can tie in with work for the dead and the organization on both sides of the veil.