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Angels, What Good Are They?

Don - October 18, 2005

Amulek tells us in Alma 10:10 that he knew the things Alma told him were true and that "the Lord liveth, even so has he sent his angel to make these things manifest unto me". The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families then quotes this from Dallin H. Oaks

October 1998 conference talk: "We, too, can learn from angels.  Angelic messages can be delivered by a voice or merely by thoughts or feelings communicated to the mind…Most angelic communications are felt or heard rather than see"

I seems to me that these angels are butting into the Holy Ghost’s business. From Brother Oaks description I can’t tell the difference between an angel telling me something and the Holy Ghost. Maybe it doesn’t matter, but if angels can do what the Holy Ghost can do, then why do we need the Holy Ghost?

Then it also brings up a few other questions. Since angels can be involved in personal communication with us, do I have one angel in charge of me, or assigned to help me…a guardian angel? Or do angels go from person to person as needed/directed, rather than sticking with just one person…if so why? Who are these angels anyway? Are we running out of angels, since more and more come to earth, or are these angels different angels?

What other questions about angels does this quote raise?


  1. 2 Ne. 32:3
    Angels speak by the power [i.e., authority] of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ.

    Angels are part of the Holy Ghost brigade, so to speak. My personal view is there is one personage of spirit occupying the office/position/presidency of “Holy Spirit” and there are a lot of spirits, both embodied and not, who are assisting under that authority. Sort of a Priesthood of pre and post-mortal heavenly servants, where the office of the Holy Ghost is the President.

    Why would we run out of angels? They dont just have to be pre-mortals, why wouldnt post-mortal spirits, resurrected or not, still be available for service? Too busy playing harps?

    I personally dont buy the whole guardian angel thing, from the perspective that I personally have my own dedicated guardian angel. There is nothing scriptural to suggest such a thing. The only time I can think of the explicitly same angel revisiting the same person is Alma 8:15. Might be others, but they dont come to mind.

    Comment by Kurt — October 18, 2005 @ 3:25 pm

  2. Kurt, what’s the reasoning behind having the angels do the very same work the HG is supposed to be doing? I understand redundency in government, but does the HG really need all that help?

    Comment by don — October 18, 2005 @ 4:15 pm

  3. Don, there’s an error in your post’s title. It should be “Angels! Uhh! What are they good for!”

    Comment by Steve Evans — October 18, 2005 @ 4:43 pm

  4. Steve, your title sounds better, but what about the answer?

    Comment by don — October 18, 2005 @ 5:02 pm

  5. well, now, donny boy, that’s a bit of a toughie.

    Sometimes angels are resurrected beings, restoring keys and authority as to which they were the last holder. Tough to get around that one.

    Angels as messengers, though? beats me. Sure didn’t work for Laman & Lemuel.

    Comment by Steve Evans — October 18, 2005 @ 5:05 pm

  6. I think part of the answer depends on the extent to which God is in time and how far omnipotence is logically possible. If God really can do everything all at once, there seems little point in having helpers do this work for him, well other than what those individuals get out of it. So as blasphemous as it is, I tend towords the idea that angels really are doing quite important work comminicating things in a manner that is as seamless as their abilities allow. Of course that doesn’t answer the questions of hwo they work through the holy ghost.

    Comment by chris goble — October 18, 2005 @ 5:14 pm

  7. I think it’s fairly clear that the angel Amulek is referring to is Alma…

    I think it’s harder to ignore an angel (speaking in the heavenly sense, not the normal “messenger” sense) than the promptings of the spirit.

    Comment by Ben S. — October 18, 2005 @ 5:52 pm

  8. Chris,

    Maybe the work that the angels do is for the benefit of the angels, which would be lost if God went ahead and did it on His own.

    Comment by a random John — October 18, 2005 @ 6:12 pm

  9. Maybe I’m not remembering something but where is there a record of a pre-mortal angel visiting men? (The Savior doesn’t count) Adam gets a visit but how do we know it was pre-mortal for sure? (It could have been Christ, Himself, for instance)

    Comment by Bret — October 18, 2005 @ 6:42 pm

  10. Bret, first one that comes to my mind is Gabriel to Mary.

    Everyone else, I’m still a bit frustrated here. One of my main questions is why angels seem to be doing what the HG does.

    I agree with Steve that angels sometimes have to restore keys, but what about the plain vanilla type angels that act as the quote by Oaks implies?

    Comment by don — October 18, 2005 @ 7:40 pm

  11. Don,

    Oddly enough I posted on this very topic and quoted that same talk from Elder Oaks earlier this year. My take was that the Holy Ghost acts as the postman to deliver messages from angels. Why would angels be interested in sending us comfort or messages? — For the same reason we pray for our departed loved ones.

    Obviously on occasion angels do appear to people. I wonder if it has sometimes has as much to do with their expectations and needs as it does the Lord’s insistance on sending an angel.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2005 @ 11:09 pm

  12. Geoff, again you amaze me with your intellect, good looks and good taste…no wonder I finally posted on something you thought of first!

    Comment by don — October 19, 2005 @ 12:17 am

  13. Geoff, so are you saying the angels who mimic the HG are our departed loved ones and that’s why they do it? Why do we need the postman / HG? Why not let the angels deliver direct…that’s what it sounds like Oaks is saying. If so then, again why the HG?

    Comment by don — October 19, 2005 @ 12:21 am

  14. I actually took Elder Oaks comments to mean that the angels were spirits that wanted to communicate with us and that the Holy Ghost did all the acual message delivery. In other words the angels write the letter and the Holy Ghost delivers it to our spirits/hearts/heads. Notice that he talks about “angelic messages” not about angelic messengers in the quote you included in the post.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 19, 2005 @ 12:51 am

  15. Don,

    What I am suggesting is the angels are, at least in part, the Holy Spirit. There is the old question, “How can the Holy Spirit be all places at all times?” and then various analogies are thrown out to answer the question (e.g., the sun is only in one place but its light fills the solar system, its like an omnipresent electric field and we are resistors in that field, etc.). My view is the Holy Spirit isnt all places at all times, there are lots of Holy Spirits (aka angels) and they are all over the place doing all sorts of things, most of which we are blind to because of our natural eyes. The various angels are organized into a hierarchy, and the head of that hierarchy is the office of “The Holy Spirit”.

    The one Holy Spirit, the member of the Godhead, would be the “President” of the Holy Ghost battalion, effectively a Priesthood leader. And, all the angels, pre or post-mortal, would be subordinate to that office.

    Since the authority of that office derives from the Father and their will is always the Father’s will, they dont usually make any particular mention of themselves and generally avoid the matter when questioned (cf. Judges 13:17-18).


    Why doesnt the Lord count? The vast majority of accounts of angelic visitation in the Scriptures are left ambiguous, so we have no idea whether they are pre or post-mortal. Only rarely are specific angels disclosed as specific individuals. The standard Judeo-Christian take on this is because people would then venerate/worship the angel instead of God, who sent the angel.

    Comment by Kurt — October 19, 2005 @ 6:32 am

  16. don, am I reading you wrong, or are you suggesting that Gabriel was a pre-mortal angel? I thought Gabriel was the post-mortal Noah.

    Comment by meems — October 19, 2005 @ 9:55 am

  17. Meems,
    You’re right, he’s wrong.

    Comment by Rusty — October 19, 2005 @ 10:42 am

  18. I’ve always figured it worked the way Kurt describes.

    I also tend to think it’s our immediate ancestors, more often than not, who are watching over us. That’s based on some personal experiences I’ve had.

    Comment by Susan M — October 19, 2005 @ 11:00 am

  19. I tend to Kurt’s point of view as well. It just seems like an easy explanation. In some instances we feel the spirit as angels affirm to us the things we are thinking about – the Holy Ghost’s role. Taking this view of course provides some interesting thoughts for the way spiritual communication work. I beleive there is a quote somewhere saying that angels know of our thogughts and desires and are often troubled by them. If this is correct then somehow our spiritual side must be constantly radiating communication. Something like if we constantly spoke all our thoughts out loud. This would certainly explain some of the division in Kingdoms. Perhaps though some of this separation is from the fact not everyone can hear things on the same wavelength. Thus you could be around someone but not really able to fully communicate with them. Perhaps in the way liberal academics would find it impossible to communicate with an 18th century red neck slaver. They could communicate, but not about much that would be meaningful.

    Comment by chris goble — October 19, 2005 @ 11:52 am

  20. Meems and Rusty, you’re right, I’m wrong, I read Bret’s question as a pre-mortal, meaning a spirit visiting rather than meaning pre-mortal. Yes, Gabriel is / was Noah, I humbly stand corrected…again! But Geoff’s point about Christ as an example is certainly valid.

    Comment by don — October 19, 2005 @ 1:16 pm

  21. Geoff, you’re right again, Oak’s quote says messages not messengers and that does subtly change the meaning somewhat. Thanks for your insight…again.

    Comment by don — October 19, 2005 @ 1:18 pm

  22. “Angelic messages can be delivered by a voice or merely by thoughts or feelings communicated to the mind…Most angelic communications are felt or heard rather than seen”

    I hate it when people do this. It seems like he’s trying to impugn upon regular jello-eating Mormons the idea that they receive angelic ministry all the time. Hogwash, I say! The scriptures, for the most part (probably very few exceptions) use the term “angel” as someone who is seen, and heard, and maybe even “felt” (I’m thinking of Jacob’s subsequent hip surgery after the pile-driver given him by an angel — or was it Yahweh himself??? Hmmmm…). I don’t know what Oaks was thinking (he’s usually the only thinker of the group), but I don’t like it. Yeah, you heard me. I also have issues with Elder Bednar’s “Seed of Abraham” doctrine. You heard that too.

    I just don’t like it when that which is both lofty and holy is made low for the common member (or anyone, really) to achieve. We do a lot of that in church, so that it seems like we’re doing okay, when in reality, we’re not.

    I say: If you’ve had the presence of an angel, you’d KNOW you had the presence of an angel. No whispers, no feelings, no subjective tools of interpretation or non-existentialist jargon like this. No doubts about it.

    Comment by David J — October 20, 2005 @ 9:01 am

  23. Beware of drawn swords tonight, David, my boy. I thought you were bona fide.

    Comment by Frank the fish n'chip man — October 20, 2005 @ 11:01 am

  24. (with a thick southern drawl)–Bona-fide! That’s just my point, Frank Nanor! Angelic ministry is bona-fide; it ain’t no cryptic, ethereal sublimination of the mind, but rather an actual empirical ocurrence. Epistemologically speakin’, one who got the angels, knows he got the angels through the senses; there ain’t no questions about it.

    As we say down here in Kentucky: Git ‘er dun fer God!

    Comment by David J — October 20, 2005 @ 12:13 pm

  25. I was told in by my teachers quorumn advisor once that if I believed I was in the presence of angelic (or demonic) personages, that I would know it, because they would, well, look like it. And the ol’ ask them to shake hands deal. If they are demonic they will try to convince you otherwise, if angelic but disembodied they will tell you they can’t because they don’t have a body, or they will. They don’t lie about it. It seems to me that it is pretty bona fide. Maybe the Holy Ghost delivers messages to those that can’t handle it and leaves them the option of dismissing it, but if an angel delivers there is business to be done, or a person is ready for it. It seems to me that if we are seeing angels we had better be ready for it…more light, more condemnation.

    Comment by just passing — October 20, 2005 @ 1:57 pm

  26. And the ol’ ask them to shake hands deal. If they are demonic they will try to convince you otherwise, if angelic but disembodied they will tell you they can’t because they don’t have a body, or they will.

    It seems like we’re missing something there though. As if a deceiving spirit would honestly reach out his/her hand for you to shake only to feel nothing, or as if a deceiving spirit would jump out of the way each time you tried to touch him/her. I can imagine chasing one around the room with my arm extended: “I’m gonna getcha!” “No you won’t!” “Yes I am!” “No you won’t!”

    I’ve heard it interpreted that the shaking hands ordeal is pointing to the tokens, but again that doesn’t solve what for me is still an issue of touching. And it’s sort of a circular argument to say that a deceiving spirit can’t use a token; they’re deceiving spirits, so wouldn’t it be natural for them to use a token deceptively? Or are the tokens blessed with some sort of untouchable spell like the garment? Or maybe, and this is what I’m thinking all along, symbolism is something that the modern mind has difficulty understanding… thoughts?

    Maybe Joseph thought that lying/deceiving spirits had bodies? I’ve often thought about MMPs (multiple mortal probations) myself, and that would explain how “unborn” personages “do” things in the physical world. But these are just musings…

    …or are they?

    Comment by David J — October 20, 2005 @ 2:36 pm

  27. David,
    You are one funny bloke. Keep ‘em coming. That image of you chasing a spirit around the room had me in stitches.

    Comment by Ronan — October 20, 2005 @ 3:21 pm

  28. Don and Kurt,
    Not that the Savior wouldn’t count but that I’ve always thought of Him as different/special then a run of the mill angelic appearence

    Comment by Bret — October 20, 2005 @ 10:30 pm

  29. Bucay Ecuador, 1984. My missionary companion and I walked past a bench on which were sitting two elderly men with whom we had never spoken before. One nudged the other, pointed to us, and said in a squeaky frail voice, “Those men are angels!”

    We turned around to take a look, and my companion made a dismissive hand gesture and said “Crazy ol’ coot.” I replied “But he’s right.”

    We walked back to him and arranged to meet him later.

    We baptized him.

    Comment by GreenEggz — November 8, 2005 @ 11:06 pm

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