Jacob 7:5 — LeGrand Baker — ministering angels

Jacob 7:5 — LeGrand Baker — ministering angels

5   And he had hope to shake me from the faith, notwithstanding the many revelations and the many things which I had seen concerning these things; for I truly had seen angels, and they had ministered unto me. And also, I had heard the voice of the Lord speaking unto me in very word, from time to time; wherefore, I could not be shaken (Jacob 7:5).

It seems to me that there are two major categories of ideas in the scriptures and spoken of by modern prophets which deal with angels. The first is the largest, that is angels who give instruction and protection to prophets. The second is more personal, guardian angels. The third is something which is unique to Nephi when he urges his readers to learn to understand “the tongues of angels.” I wish to write briefly about all three.

1) Several non-Mormon scholars have pointed out that the angels who minister to the prophets are serving as messengers of the Council in Heaven. That both the prophets and the angels are/were members of that Council, so both are in the business of doing the work of the council. That seems to be consistent with what Latter-day Saints believe, so I suppose it doesn’t require any further comment.

One of the best discussions of ministering angels found in the scriptures contains a very important key. It reads,

25   Wherefore, by the ministering of angels, and by every word which Proceeded forth out of the mouth of God, men began to exercise faith in Christ; and thus by faith, they did lay hold upon every good thing; and thus it was until the coming of Christ.
26   And after that he came men also were saved by faith in his name; and by faith, they become the sons of God. And as sure as Christ liveth he spake these words unto our fathers, saying: Whatsoever thing ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is good, in faith believing that ye shall receive, behold, it shall be done unto you.

29   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.
30 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.
31 And the office of their ministry is to call men unto repentance, and to fulfill 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.
32 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 7:25-26, 29-32).

The key is this: “showing themselves unto them of strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness.” Kooks, apostates, and self-appointed prophets don’t see angles sent from God.

People who see honest angles are people with “strong faith and a firm mind.” Those kinds of people are also the kind who don’t talk out of turn, so it is not surprising that we hear very few stories about the appearance of angels to non-called-prophets in the church.

President Wilford Woodruff gave a talk in 1896 where he described his own experiences. I had excerpted a few sentences from the talk, then decided you might like to read more than that. So here it is.

One morning, while we were at Winter Quarters, Brother Brigham Young said to me and the brethren that he had had a visitation the night previous from Joseph Smith. I asked him what he said to him. He replied that Joseph had told him to tell the people to labor to obtain the Spirit of God; that they needed that to sustain them and to give them power to go through their work in the earth.

Now I will give you a little of my experience in this line. Joseph Smith visited me a great deal after his death, and taught me many important principles. The last time he visited me was while I was in a storm at sea. I was going on my last mission to preside in England. My companions were Brother Leonard W. Hardy, Brother Milton Holmes, Brother Dan Jones, and another brother, and my wife and two other women. We had been traveling three days and nights in a heavy gale, and were being driven backwards. Finally I asked my companions to come into the cabin with me, and I told them to pray that the Lord would change the wind. I had no fears of being lost; but I did not like the idea of being driven back to New York, as I wanted to go on my journey. We all offered the same prayer, both men and women; and when we got through we stepped on to the deck and in less than a minute it was as though a man had taken a sword and cut that gale through, and you might have thrown a muslin handkerchief out and it would not have moved it. The night following this Joseph and Hyrum visited me, and the Prophet laid before me a great many things. Among other things, he told me to get the Spirit of God; that all of us needed it. He also told me what the Twelve Apostles would be called to go through on the earth before the coming of the Son of Man, and what the reward of their labors would be; but all that was taken from me, for some reason. Nevertheless I know it was most glorious, although much would be required at our hands.

Joseph Smith continued visiting myself and others up to a certain time, and then it stopped. The last time I saw him was in heaven. In the night vision I saw him at the door of the temple in heaven. He came and spoke to me. He said he could not stop to talk with me because he was in a hurry. The next man I met was Father Smith; he could not talk with me because he was in a hurry. I met half a dozen brethren who had held high positions on earth, and none of them could stop to talk with me because they were in a hurry. I was much astonished. By and by I saw the Prophet again, and I got the privilege to ask him a question. “Now,” said I, “I want to know why you are in a hurry. I have been in a hurry all through my life; but I expected my hurry would be over when I got into the kingdom of heaven, if I ever did.” Joseph said: “I will tell you, Brother Woodruff. Every dispensation that has had the Priesthood on the earth and has gone into the celestial kingdom, has had a certain amount of work to do to prepare to go to the earth with the Savior when He goes to reign on the earth. Each dispensation has had ample time to do this work. We have not. We are the last dispensation, and so much work has to be done and we need to be in a hurry in order to accomplish it.” Of course, that was satisfactory to me, but it was new doctrine to me.

Brigham Young also visited me after his death. On one occasion he and Brother Heber C. Kimball came in a splendid chariot, with fine white horses, and accompanied me to a conference that I was going to attend. When I got there I asked Brother Brigham if he would take charge of the conference. “No,” said he, “I have done my work here. I have come to see what you are doing and what you are teaching the people.” And he told me what Joseph Smith had taught him in Winter Quarters, to teach the people to get the Spirit of God. He said, “I want you to teach the people to get the Spirit of God. You cannot build up the Kingdom of God without that.

That is what I want to say to the brethren and sisters here today. Every man and woman in this Church should labor to get the Spirit. We are surrounded by these evil spirits that are at war against God and against everything looking to the building up of the kingdom of God; and we need this Holy Spirit to enable us to overcome these influences. I have had the Holy Ghost in my travels. Every man has that has gone out into the vineyard and labored faithfully for the cause of God. I have referred to the administration of angels to myself. What did these angels do? One of them taught me some things relating to the signs that should precede the coming of the Son of Man. Others came and saved my life. What then? They turned and left me. But how is it with the Holy Ghost? The Holy Ghost does not leave me if I do my duty. It does not leave any man who does his duty. We have known this all the way through. Joseph Smith told Brother John Taylor on one occasion to labor to get the Spirit of God, and to follow its dictation, and it would become a principle of revelation within him. God has blessed me with that, and everything I have done since I have been in this Church has been done upon that principle. The Spirit of God has told me what to do, and I have had to follow that.” (Willford Woodruff, Deseret Weekly, Salt Lake City, November 7, 1896. vol. 53: 642-643) [The Rest of the talk is full of personal stories about how President Woodruff received and obeyed instructions from the Spirit.]

The phrase “guardian angel” is not found in the scriptures. In fact, the word “guardian” is not found there. It is a phrase, but not an idea, which we seem to have inherited from the Protestants and Catholics. I’m not sure what it means in their theology, but in ours it relates closely to what I just wrote about angels being members of the Council, and the relationship between us and them is often spoken of as covenantal.

The only reference I can find to the Prophet Joseph’s mentioning a guardian angel is this one.

I made some observations afterwards, and related a dream which I had a short time since. I thought I was riding out in my carriage, and my guardian angel was along with me. We went past the Temple… “(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 368).

In his editorial called, “Origin, Object, and Destiny of Women,” published in The Mormon, New York, New York, August 29, 1857. John Taylor (later President of the Church) wrote,

Knowest thou not that; eternities ago, thy spirit, pure and holy, dwelt in thy Heavenly Father’s bosom, and in his presence, … thou sawest worlds upon worlds organized and peopled with thy kindred spirits, took upon them tabernacles, died, were resurrected, and received their exaltation on the redeemed worlds they once dwelt upon. Thou being willing and anxious to imitate them, waiting and desirous to obtain a body, a resurrection and exaltation also, and having obtained permission, thou made a covenant with one of thy kindred spirits to be thy guardian angel while in mortality, … [When the unnamed woman prepared to come to this earth] Thou bade father, mother, and all, farewell, and along with thy guardian angel, thou came on this terraqueous globe.

Harold B. Lee spoke of the the same thing. In his book, Stand Ye In Holy Places, p.142143, he writes “Let us see what Parley P. Pratt said about this matter: {What follows is his quote from Parley P. Pratt. The words in brackets [ ] in the quote are President Lee’s, not mine. – LLB}

“In all ages and dispensations God has revealed many important instructions and warning to men by means of dreams. When the outward organs of thought and perception are released from their activity, the nerves unstrung, the whole of mortal humanity lies hushed in quiet slumbers in order to renew its strength and vigor, it is then that the spiritual organs are at liberty in a certain degree to assume their wanted functions, to recall some faint outline, some confused and halfdefined recollections of that heavenly world, and those endearing scenes of their former estate from which they have descended in order to obtain and mature a tabernacle of flesh. Their kindred spirit, their guardian angels, then hover about them with the fondest affection the most anxious solicitude. Spirit communes with spirit, thought meets thought, soul blends with soul, in all the raptures of mutual pure and eternal love. In this situation the spiritual organs [and if we could see our spirits, we would know that they have eyes to see, ears to hear tongues to speak, and so on] are susceptible of converse with Deity, or of communion with angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect. In this situation we frequently hold communion with our departed father, mother, brother, sister, son or daughter, or with the former husband or wife of our bosom whose affections for us, being rooted and grounded in the eternal elements, issuing from under the sanctuary of love’s eternal fountain, can never be lessened or diminished by death, distance of space, or length of years. We may perhaps have had a friend of the other sex whose pulse beat in unison with our own-whose every thought was bright with aspirations, the hope of the bright future in union with our own, whose happiness in time or in eternity would never be fully consummated without that union. Such a one snatched from time in the very bloom of youth lives in the other sphere with the same bright hope-watching our every footstep in our meanderings through the rugged path of life with longing desires for our eternal happiness.” {end of P. P. Pratt quote}

When we begin to understand that beyond sight, as Brigham Young said, the spirit world is right here round about us, and if our spiritual eyes could be open, we could see others visiting with us, directing us. And if we will learn not to be so sophisticated that we rule out that possibility of impressions from those who are beyond sight, then we too may have a dream that may direct us as a revelation.

President David O. McKay also spoke of guardian angels. During a general conference, he addressed himself to the Aaronic Priesthood boys in the congregation and told this story:

Following a series of meetings at the conference held in Glasgow, Scotland, was a most remarkable priesthood meeting. I remember, as if it were yesterday, the intensity of the inspiration of that occasion. Everybody felt the rich outpouring of the Spirit of the Lord. All present were truly of one heart and one mind. Never before had I experienced such an emotion. It was a manifestation for which as a doubting youth I had secretly prayed most earnestly on hillside and in meadow. It was an assurance to me that sincere prayer is answered sometime, somewhere.

During the progress of the meeting, an elder on his own initiative arose and said, “Brethren, there are angels in this room.”

Strange as it may seem, the announcement was not startling; indeed, it seemed wholly proper, though it had not occurred to me there were divine beings present. I only knew that I was overflowing with gratitude for the presence of the Holy Spirit. I was profoundly impressed, however, when President James L. McMurrin, president of the European Mission, arose and confirmed that statement by pointing to one brother sitting just in front of me and saying, “Yes, brethren, there are angels in this room, and one of them is the guardian angel of that young man sitting there,” and he designated one who afterward became a patriarch in the Woodruff Stake of the Church, John Young.

Pointing to another elder, he said, “And one is the guardian angel of that young man there,” and he singled out one whom I had known from childhood, David Eccles. Tears were rolling down the cheeks of both of these missionaries not in sorrow or grief, but as an expression of the overflowing Spirit. Indeed, we were all weeping.

Such was the setting in which James L. McMurrin gave what has since proved to be a prophecy. I had learned by intimate association with him that James McMurrin was pure gold. His faith in the gospel was implicit. No truer man, no man more loyal to what he thought was right ever lived. So when he turned to me and gave what I thought then was more of a caution than a promise, his words made an indelible impression upon me. Paraphrasing the words of the Savior to Peter, Brother McMurrin said: “Let me say to you, Brother David, Satan hath desired you that he may sift you as wheat, but God is mindful of you.” Then he added, “If you will keep the faith, you will yet sit in the leading councils of the Church.”

At that moment there flashed in my mind temptations that had beset my path, and I realized even better than President McMurrin, or any other man, how truly he had spoken when he said, “Satan hath desired thee.” With the resolve then and there to keep the faith, there was born a desire to be of service to my fellowmen; and with it came a realization, a glimpse at least, of what I owed to the elder who first carried the message of the restored gospel to my grandfather and grandmother, who had accepted the message years before in the north of Scotland and in South Wales. (David O. McKay, Conference Report, October 1968, p.86)

This entry was posted in Jacob. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply