Where are we going to learn about God's mysteries? Who will teach us? Are angels a reliable source of information?
And the lesser priesthood continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel.
Well, it appears angels are part of the "preparatory" gospel. What's that?
Which gospel is the gospel of repentance
Ah, that's what angels do. They call us to repentance!
and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments
Yikes. I don't like the sound of those "carnal commandments." What are they?
which the Lord in his wrath caused to continue with the house of Aaron among the children of Israel.
"In his wrath" doesn't sound good. And all this is part of the keys of the ministering of angels?
Would it surprise you if I suggested that many angels are, in fact, bad examples? Angels just aren't the role models we need (that would be Jesus Christ).
For instance, angels are often not terrific examples of charity. Pop Quiz: Which is more important: (1) learning the mysteries of God or (2) loving our neighbor?
Though I speak with the tongue of angels and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and have not charity, I am nothing.
(1 Cor. 13:1-2).
How could Paul say that? Surely having "all knowledge" counts for something.
And angels clearly know a lot. Then . . . why are they still angels? Why haven't they progressed onwards towards godhood? What prevents them from ascending (or maybe we should be asking, "descending") the ladder?
Despite their knowledge, many angels plateau and are stuck in their current station. Why? Let's ask Joseph Smith:
The Key and power of endless life: ― Angels desire to look into it, but they have set up too many stakes.
(Joseph Smith, History, 1838-1856, vol. E-1, August 27, 1843).
That's . . . frightening. Joseph is indicating angels don't hold the key and power of endless lives because they've "set up stakes" ― what does that mean? They are unwilling to leave their comforts and the bubble they've created in order to progress beyond their current understanding. They are reluctant to set aside many of their cherished truths and thus can't make room for greater truths.
Which begs the question: what could possibly try the faith of an angel?
"Know Ye Not . . . "
The apostle Paul taught:
Know ye not that we shall judge angels?
(1 Cor. 6:3)
Huh? Does Paul mean angels aren't holier or more righteous than us? Perhaps we're all in the same boat ― we're spiritual beings with agency and some have more light than others, but we're all persons with personalities and preferences in the end.
Have you considered that the Father strives for equality in heaven as well as earth? To bring Zion from above to join with Zion here below in a great unity and equality that pierces the veil? We must become "one" with the angels of Enoch's City as well as with each other.
(Imagine if angels jockeyed for rank and status in heaven. Oh wait, that's what Satan did.)
So we share a common labor, whatever side of the veil we find ourselves on: whether just-men-and-women-made-perfect, or resurrected and exalted beings, or ministering angels of flaming fire (D&C 7:6) ― we're all laboring in Christ's name, declaring repentance and faith in Jesus.
Maybe that's why angels refer to themselves as our "fellow servants" (Revelation 22:9).
(And if we're going to judge them, maybe they're trying to get on our good side.)
Angels in the Outfield
If an angel took us out for drinks on Friday night and we began to discuss deep doctrine, is there a particular "mystery" we would want to ask them about? If we could ask them, who had been behind the veil, anything at all, what would it be?
Sitting across the table from the angel, what aspect of life-after-life or death-after-death would we focus on?
Eternity is a pretty big place; eternal lives is a pretty big subject.
Where to start?
("Oh, do you know Brother Uzael from the Cherry Hill Kolob 4th Ward? I went to primary school with his son five rounds ago.")
I want to make the point that while most of us assume talking to a ministering angel would be a good thing, is it always? Or is it possible angels can become a hinderance if we hold an unhealthy esteem for them? ("Follow-the-prophet" on steroids.)
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
(1 John 4:1)
Isn't that exhausting? Paul is teaching us to exercise discernment even (especially) in our conversations with angels!
It's a real risk, and the more adept we become at piercing the veil the more important discernment becomes.
Be [not] seduced by evil spirits, or doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men; for some are of men, and others of devils. Wherefore, beware lest ye are deceived.
So how do we judge whether it's a "good" angel? By the color of its hair? Its manner of dress? How about we discern if they speak the words of Christ? Does the angel carry Christ's spirit of charity?
Pure love is the key.
And that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given. For they are given for the benefit of those who love me . . . that all may be benefited . . . and not for a sign that they may consume it upon their lusts.
Thus we see that learning the "mysteries" from angels may be helpful when it benefits others ("all may be benefited") and results in increased love for God and one another.
Gifts (and angels) that merely gratify our pride are useless.
Overworked and Underpaid
Despite what we may think, seeing an angel doesn't change our hearts. They aren't fairy godmothers with a magic wand that can replace our sinful natures with a godly one.
Worse, seeing an angel can deceive us (looking at you, Korihor).
To quote Nephi, who explained this to his brothers:
Ye have seen an angel, [so that must have been awesome] and he spake unto you; [cool! What did he say?] yea, ye have heard his voice from time to time; [Laman and Lemuel must have been so righteous to have these experiences!] and he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words; wherefore, he has spoken unto you like unto the voice of thunder, which did cause the earth to shake as if it were to divide asunder. [what miracles, right?] And ye also know that by the power of his almighty word he can cause the earth that it shall pass away; yea, and ye know that by his word he can cause the rough places to be made smooth, and smooth places shall be broken up. O, then, why is it, that ye can be so hard in your hearts?
(1 Nephi 17:45-46)
You see, angels don't spend their time complimenting and congratulating righteous people; that's what the devil's angels do.
True messengers appear and declare the conditions of repentance to a fallen world. So we don't have to be "perfect" to be ministered to by an angel of God. Quite the opposite!
But remember: angels can't save us (though some serve as saviors on Mt. Zion).
I'd like to say (apologies in advance to any angels listening to this) that angels are not very impressive by Hollywood standards.
Case in point: if we met Moroni on our way to Walmart, he'd probably look like a hobo (for those of you have not read David Whitmer's account of running into the angel Moroni (who was incognito at the time) while traveling on the road to Fayette, New York one hot summer day with Joseph Smith, he described Moroni's sweaty appearance: he wore an unseasonably warm brown woolen suit and was "heavy set." Hey! It's like I'm looking in the mirror.)
Angels Are Messengers
Angels come in all shapes and sizes; they come in all kinds of dispositions and temperaments. There are:
Hugh Nibley said if an angel appeared to us, he'd stand there and just quote from the scriptures.
Why? Because that's an angel's job!
Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ.
(2 Nephi 32:3)
What is their message? What should we expect to hear from an angel who visits us?
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, to prepare the way among the children of men, by declaring the word of Christ.
That, I believe, is the best job description I've ever seen.
The Good News
Knowing the administrative titles of exalted beings (while certainly fascinating) doesn't really affect our salvation. Faith in Christ does.
Distinguishing a Power from a Principality is not the essential thing: it is discerning whether the messenger (whether from heaven or earth) is speaking the words of Christ by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Otherwise, we're just enamored by a foreigner's accent that tickles our fancy ("Oo, he's a Norwegian? He sounds so sophisticated!").
Being Norwegian doesn't determine whether a person possesses the Testimony of Jesus, regardless of their rank (just ask Lucifer).
I've saved the best part for last. Now that we have a good perspective on angelology, I want to encourage us all to reach out to our friends; to commune with the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn.
In the heavens we have so many friends!
These are they who have come to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of Enoch, and of the Firstborn.
My prayer, like Joseph Smith's, is:
Help us by the power of thy Spirit, that we may mingle our voices with those bright, shining seraphs around thy throne.