Thursday, July 24, 2014

Angels Appear to Men (and Women and Children) Today

Do angels visit men today? Yes, they do. Do they need to? Yes, they do.

There are over 130 references to angels in the Book of Mormon. The doctrine of angels and their necessity is one that the Book of Mormon restores.

Moroni says, "Neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men. For behold, they are subject unto him, to minister according to the word of his command, showing themselves unto them of strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness." (Moroni 7:29-30)

What do angels do?
Parley P. Pratt suggested these would be good reasons for an angel to come: "If this be the case, what then do we wish, in communicating with the eternal world, by visions, angels, or ministering spirits? Why, if a person is sick they would like to be visited, comforted, or healed by an angel or spirit! If a man is in prison, he would like an angel or spirit to visit him, and comfort or deliver him. A man shipwrecked would like to be instructed in the way of escape for himself and fellows from a watery grave. In case of extreme hunger a loaf of bread brought by an angel would not be unacceptable. If a man were journeying, and murderers were lying in wait for him in a certain road, an angel would be useful to him in telling him of the circumstance, and to take another road. If a man were journeying to preach the Gospel, an angel would be useful to tell the neighbors of his high and holy calling, as in case of Peter and Cornelius. Or would you not like to have angels all around you, to guard, guide, and advise you in every emergency?" (JD 1:13, Parley P. Pratt, April 7, 1853)

Orson Hyde said: "Says one, 'If an angel from heaven would descend and bear testimony that this work was of God, I would believe it. Why may I not receive the testimony of angels, as well as Joseph Smith or any other person? for God is no respecter of persons! If I could receive it, I would be satisfied then that the work is true.' But let me here remark again − suppose the Omnipotent Jehovah, that sits upon His throne of glory and power, was to descend and bear testimony, what further credence would you then want? You would want some one to tell you that it was really God Himself that had visited you, that you might be satisfied it was not an angel of darkness in the similitude of a heavenly personage." (JD 1:123, Orson Hyde, October 6, 1853)

Angels teach about Christ (see Moroni 7:22). Nephi's extensive eye-witness of Christ's ministry was guided by an angel (see 1 Nephi 11). 3rd Nephi as well: "Nephi—having been visited by angels and also the voice of the Lord, therefore having seen angels, and being eye-witness, and having had power given unto him that he might know concerning the ministry of Christ..." (3 Nephi 7:15). (By the way, it is interesting that he considers having an eye witness of the ministry of Christ as a bestowal of power from Heaven. An endowment, if you will.)

This is a pattern we see several times in scripture: Angels don't just teach verbally about Christ, they often provide an eye-witness of his ministry to those they visit. How do you think the gospels were written by people who were not there? I also know of people alive today who are eye-witnesses of the Savior's ministry. They were given these experiences through angelic visitation.

Angels can warn people. Alma was visited by an angel to warn him that he would be destroyed if he continued destroying the faith of men (Alma 38:7).

Angels are assigned to teach us certain things that we won't get anywhere else. In 3 Nephi 17:24, the Savior sends angels down which encircle the children and minister unto them. Ministering means teaching. The Savior had lamented that the adults were unworthy of higher blessings (3 Nephi 17:14), but the children, being innocent, were worthy. Angels teach the worthy in preparation for higher blessings. See also 3 Nephi 19:15. Despite the fact that Jesus was present, there were things the angels were assigned to teach. This happens in Helaman 5:39 as well.

Interaction with angels is a normal pre-requisite to interacting with Jesus personally. Alma taught that angels converse with men to cause them to behold of his glory (Alma 12:29). In other words, they assist men in learning what needs to be learned prior to receiving the Second Comforter. 

Angels are a layer of interaction with Heaven that is higher than the Holy Ghost, but lower than the personal ministry of Christ. So the ranking goes:
1. light of Christ (to all men)
2. Holy Ghost (to some telestial men)
3. Angels (to "special vessels" of the telestial)
4. Christ (to the redeemed or Terrestrial)
5. The Father (to the Celestial)

So we see that those who obtain the Father have greater power given them to bring others further along in their faith through their greater knowledge. Those who have obtained the Son have greater power through their knowledge to bring souls to Christ. And so on. In this manner, God injects knowledge and faith into his children without damning them by stripping them of their opportunity to act for themselves on faith. Moroni put it this way:

"And because he hath done this, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased? Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men.

For behold, they are subject unto him, to minister according to the word of his command, showing themselves unto them of strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness.

And the office of their ministry is to call men unto repentance, and to fulfil and to do the work of the covenants of the Father, which he hath made unto the children of men, to prepare the way among the children of men, by declaring the word of Christ unto the chosen vessels of the Lord, that they may bear testimony of him.

And by so doing, the Lord God prepareth the way that the residue of men may have faith in Christ, that the Holy Ghost may have place in their hearts, according to the power thereof; and after this manner bringeth to pass the Father, the covenants which he hath made unto the children of men." (Moroni 7:29-32)

Angels are appointed to watch over God's children and monitor their spiritual progress. They are the ones who open the gate to further interaction from heaven when individuals prove themselves. For example, the same angel who delivered Alma's rebuke watched over his constant faithful performance until he was visited with a mission to proclaim repentance to the city of Ammoniah (see Alma 8:15). Note how in the temple it is an angel who presents us to the veil and testifies of our worthiness in all things. Symbolically we are taught that an angel declaring our worthiness is what grants us an audience with the Lord. Paul said: ``Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.'' (Hebrews 13:2) Sometimes, angels appear in disguise to men as beggars or someone else in need in order to test them.

Angels appear to testify of God's messengers. Angels told Amulek that Alma was a true messenger (Alma 10:9).

Angels give words to God's messengers. An angel told King Benjamin what to say (Mosiah 3:2).

Angels call witnesses of the truth to call repentence to people---people with church calling and also independent of church channels. King Benjamin is an example of one with office who is visited by an angel and given a prepared message. An independent-of-church example is given in Alma 9:25-29. Alma himself, the presiding high priest, declares that an angel was visiting "many of his people, declaring unto them that they must go forth and cry mightily unto this people, saying: Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is nigh at hand;" (By the way, he didn't seem to have a problem with that. Nor did Nephi in the latter part of the Book of Mormon take issue with Samuel the Lamanite, who was also called by an angel to deliver his message--see Helaman 13:7, 14:9,26).

Angels protect the Lord's messengers when it is not the Lord's will for them to suffer. For example, an angel rebuked Laman and Lemuel once when they were beating Nephi (see 1 Nephi 3). 

To whom do angels appear?
The scriptures say that angels come to:
  • the wise
  • strong mind in every form of doctrine (those who consistently do what they know to be right and allow the Holy Ghost to reign supreme in their judgment)

Recipients of angels do not need to have any church office or responsibility. The people of Lamoni's court---common folks in both the ecclesiastic as well as civic sense---saw angels and conversed with them, and were taught things of God (see Alma 19:34). Prisoners in jail with Nephi and Lehi also were taught by angels (see Helaman 5:48). Women and children can receive angels just as readily as men: "And now, he imparteth his word by angels unto men, yea, not only men but women also. Now this is not all; little children do have words given unto them many times, which confound the wise and the learned." (Alma 32:23).

I hope that it is clear that if we aren't receiving angels as individuals or a body of supposed believers, something is very wrong. Also, that we are missing out on light and truth that could otherwise be ours.

Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain. (Moroni 7:37)

"When you have proven yourself faithful and true to all required of you by the "voice" that comes into your mind and heart, then it becomes possible for angels to visit with you." -Denver Snuffer