There are a group of bloggers out there who believe that John the Baptist and Elijah the Tishbite are the same individual.
This same group of bloggers also believe that Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and many other individuals from the early days of the restoration in the 1830s and 1840s will return to earth to literally fulfil every call they received in the D&C, which may not have been fully or even partially realized during their lifetimes.
While this group of bloggers are generally vague as to how all these men are going to come back to earth to “finish their missions” one possibility they sometimes kick around is that these men will be born again.
I had a recent email conversation with an acquaintance who believes that John the Baptist and Elijah are the same individual and that Joseph in Egypt and Joseph Smith may be the same individual.
Are Elijah and John the Baptist the same individual?
Are Joseph in Egypt and Joseph Smith the same individual?
I don’t believe that it is correct or even possible according to the scriptures and teachings of the prophet Joseph Smith for Elijah and John the Baptist to be the same individual or for Joseph in Egypt and Joseph Smith to be the same individual.
In an attempt to debunk this idea I found the following quote from Joseph Smith regarding translated and deceased individuals:
Now the doctrine of translation is a power which belongs to this Priesthood. There are many things which belong to the powers of the Priesthood and the keys thereof, that have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world; they are hid from the wise and prudent to be revealed in the last times.
Many have supposed that the doctrine of translation was a doctrine whereby men were taken immediately into the presence of God, and into an eternal fullness, but his is a mistaken idea. Their place of habitation is that of the terrestrial order, and a place prepared for such characters He held in reserve to be ministering angels unto many planets, and who as yet have not entered into so great a fullness as those who are resurrected from the dead. “Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.” (See Hebrews 11:35.)
Now it was evident that there was a better resurrection, or else God would not have revealed it unto Paul. Wherein then, can it be said a better resurrection. This distinction is made between the doctrine of the actual resurrection and translation: translation obtains deliverance from the tortures and sufferings of the body, but their existence will prolong as to the labors and toils of the ministry, before they can enter into so great a rest and glory.
On the other hand, those who were tortured, not accepting deliverance, received and immediate rest from their labors. “And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, for from henceforth they do rest from their labors and their works do follow them.” (See Revelation 14:13.)
They rest from their labors for a long time, and yet their work is held in reserve for them, that they are permitted to do the same work, after they receive a resurrection for their bodies. But we shall leave this subject and the subject of the terrestrial bodies for another time, in order to treat upon them more fully. (TPJS 170-171, emphasis added)
According to Joseph Smith, those who are translated dwell in a terrestrial order or state. They are to be ministering angels unto many planets. They “obtain deliverance from the tortures and suffering of the body, but their existence is prolonged as to the labors and toils of the ministry.“
On the other hand those who die “rest from their labors for a long time, and yet their work is held in reserve for them, that they are permitted to do the same work, after they receive a resurrection for their bodies.”
Neither of these descriptions by the prophet Joseph Smith allow for a translated or deceased person to be born again unto this earth in a mortal body to suffer the tortures and sufferings of the body.
That John the Baptist and Joseph Smith suffered the tortures and suffering of the body cannot be disputed. John suffered in prison and Christ sent angels to strengthen him, and he was later brutally beheaded. Joseph suffered greatly under the hands of mob violence, wrongful imprisonment, and was ultimately murdered in cold blood.
Based on this evidence and a complete lack of scriptural support for the idea of translated or deceased individuals being born again into a different body, I have to conclude that the theory of John the Baptist and Elijah the Tishbite being the same individual and Joseph in Egypt and Joseph Smith being the same individual is not correct.
If my acquaintance who holds this belief ends up providing any compelling evidence to support his position of multiple mortalities I will provide an update.
For the time being I consider this theory to be effectively debunked.