- Righteous souls who have not yet been born, and who do not possess a body (D&C 130:5)
- Righteous souls who have lived and died, and do not possess a body. These are called, “Spirits of Just Men made Perfect”. (D&C 76:66-79, Heb 12:22-24, D&C 129)
- Righteous souls who have lived and been translated, and do possess a body (TPJS, 170), and
- Resurrected beings. (Matthew 27:52-53, Helaman 14:25, D&C 129)
It is undoubtedly true that the full purposes and functions of angels have not been fully revealed. We do know some about their mission
Prior to the birth of Christ, God used angels to teach all mankind of the upcoming birth of His son.
22 For behold, God knowing all things, being from everlasting to everlasting, behold, he sent angels to minister unto the children of men, to make manifest concerning the coming of Christ; and in Christ there should come every good thing.
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. (Moroni 7:22,25, italics added)
This was the ministry of angels prior to the coming of Christ. Coupled with “every word which proceeded forth out of the mouth of God” which constitutes the labors of the Holy Spirit and the conscience of mankind, angels were ministering to prepare the world for His birth in Bethlehem. Because of these angelic labors men began to have faith, and to enjoy “every good thing”.
Verse 26 assures us that after Christ came men were still saved by faith in his name.
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 surely 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
Then it poses this question:
27 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased because Christ hath ascended into heaven, and hath sat down on the right hand of God, to claim of the Father his rights of mercy which he hath upon the children of men?
28 For he hath answered the ends of the law, and he claimeth all those who have faith in him; and they who have faith in him will cleave unto every good thing; wherefore he advocateth the cause of the children of men; and he dwelleth eternally in the heavens. (Moroni 7:26-28.)
After Christ’s birth Christ ordained apostles and disciples who bore the good news of the gospel to the world. Men gained faith in Christ through their testimony, teaching and witness. (1 Corinthians 1:21)
The next verse asks the question, because Christ ascended into heaven, does that mean that the ministry of angels has ended, or that miracles of God have ceased?
29 And because he hath done this, [ascended into heaven] 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. (Moroni 7:29, 30)
The answer is a resounding no! Miracles continue as before, and the ministry of angels didn’t stop at all, but changed its focus. After we have a strong faith in Christ, and a firm mind (Moroni 7:30), or true understanding of the gospel and the extraordinary promises of the priesthood, then angels can show themselves unto us as needed to fulfill the covenants of the father. Anyone who has been within holy walls will understand the implication of this principle.
Of course, much, if not most, of those angelic labors are performed without showing themselves unto mortals. What is being held forth in this verse, in the temple, and throughout all the scripture, is the fact that he angels do and will appear to us when we are prepared, and if it suits the purposes of God. (3 Nephi 28:30)
Their present mission is:
- Angels “speak by the power of the Holy Ghost” (2 Nephi 32:2-3)
- Angels “speak the words of Christ,” which connects them with the functionality of the light of Christ. (2 Nephi 32:3)
- The “words of Christ” and by extrapolation, angels, will tell us “all things what ye should do”.
- Angels reveal “things whereof he [has] appointed unto [mortals]”. (Alma 12:29) In other words, they reveal those principles, doctrines, covenants and blessings that God has ordained that we should receive in mortality.
- Angels converse with man and “cause men to behold his glory”, (Alma 12:29) which is the vital process of qualifying to enter the presence of the Lord. Temple patrons will recall the involved role of angels in the process of arriving at the veil. We will discuss this principle at length under “Seek the Face of the Lord”.
- Angels are subject unto Christ and minister “according to his command”. (Moroni 7:30)
- Angels show themselves unto mankind when we have a “strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness”, (Moroni 7:30) which means, after we are valiant members of the kingdom of God, strong in our faith and firm in our understanding.
- The “office of their ministry is to call men to repentance” (Moroni 7:31),
- Angels fulfill and do the “work of the covenants of the Father” (Moroni 7:31), which includes the covenants regarding Enoch, the latter-day Zion, the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood, Eternal Marriage, consecration, temple covenants, and all others, all of which have significance to our quest for Zion.
- Angels declare the words of Christ to the “chosen vessels of the Lord that they may bear testimony of him” to the world. (Moroni 7:31)
Since the coming of Christ, it appears that angels declare Christ’s words to His servants, who then bear that message to the world. His Servants would include all who place themselves into a state of righteousness that allows them interact with angels, not just ordained authorities. Thus, through the ministry of angels, and the labors of His servants, the Father fulfills His covenants.
31 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.
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 [the ministry of angels] bringeth to pass the Father, the covenants which he hath made unto the children of men. (Moroni 7:31-32, comment added.)
And when they do appear to us, they can and will work great and marvelous miracles to prepare us for the “great and coming day” of judgment.
30 And they are as the angels of God, and if they shall pray unto the Father in the name of Jesus they can show themselves unto whatsoever man it seemeth them good.
31 Therefore, great and marvelous works shall be wrought by them, before the great and coming day when all people must surely stand before the judgment-seat of Christ; (3 Nephi 28:30-31.)
Hence, miracles have not ceased unless we simply do not believe (unbelief) in the fact that angels do continue to appear, minister and work miracles even today—especially today.
36 Or have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men? Or has he withheld the power of the Holy Ghost from them? Or will he, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved?
37 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 7:36, 37.)
Even more tragic than the loss of miracles and angelic appearances such unbelief would cause, is the fact that “all is vain”. Vain means, failing to have, or unlikely to have the intended or desired result; devoid of substance or meaning.
If we ever became sullied by unbelief, not only would we miss the joy and miracles of the ministering of angels, but all else that we do and believe would not have the desired result of exaltation. What portion of our lives, our faith and our service might become “vain” due to such unbelief (if we allowed it to overtake us) is not easy to tell. Does this mean that all other parts of our faith would be without reward? Does it simply mean that the covenants of the Father wouldn’t get fulfilled in this life, but maybe will in the next? Does it only mean that we would live our lives without special miracles but otherwise receive the exaltation we hope for? Or is this simple phrase “all is vain” warning us that if we allow unbelief in the ministry of angels and other lofty things to obscure our view of the grand purposes of the Father’s covenants in our lives, that we are unavoidably allowing that same unbelief to distance ourselves from many other potential, even vital blessings in our lives, and hence, all is vain?
The other side of that heavily circulated coin is that Angels can and do appear when we believe, and when our faith is bright and our understanding is strong. This is one of the great joys of the latter-day gospel, that we are not alone, but that we are buoyed up and supported, taught and protected by angels. We see and are seen.