Are angels real? Do they really minister to people on earth? Yes!
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often inadvertently called the Mormon Church, eloquently taught of the ministry of angels in times past and today.
God knew the challenges [His children] would face, and He certainly knew how lonely and troubled they would sometimes feel. So He watched over His mortal family constantly, heard their prayers always, and sent prophets (and later apostles) to teach, counsel, and guide them. But in times of special need, He sent angels, divine messengers, to bless His children, reassure them that heaven was always very close and that His help was always very near.
Usually such beings are not seen. Sometimes they are. But seen or unseen they are always near. Sometimes their assignments are very grand and have significance for the whole world. Sometimes the messages are more private. Occasionally the angelic purpose is to warn. But most often it is to comfort, to provide some form of merciful attention, guidance in difficult times.
I testify that angels are still sent to help us, even as they were sent to help Adam and Eve, to help the prophets, and indeed to help the Savior of the world Himself. Matthew records in his gospel that after Satan had tempted Christ in the wilderness “angels came and ministered unto him.” Even the Son of God, a God Himself, had need for heavenly comfort during His sojourn in mortality. And so such ministrations will be to the righteous until the end of time.
What Are Angels?
Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, believe that angels are divine messengers sent from God to minister to mankind on the earth. Mormons do not believe that angels have wings. Wings in the scriptures are symbolic of power and movement.
I love the Prophet Joseph Smith’s clarifying description of angels in Doctrine and Covenants 129:1-8:
There are two kinds of beings in heaven, namely: Angels, who are resurrected personages, having bodies of flesh and bones— For instance, Jesus said: Handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. Secondly: the spirits of just men made perfect, they who are not resurrected, but inherit the same glory.
When a messenger comes saying he has a message from God, offer him your hand and request him to shake hands with you. If he be an angel he will do so, and you will feel his hand. If he be the spirit of a just man made perfect he will come in his glory; for that is the only way he can appear—Ask him to shake hands with you, but he will not move, because it is contrary to the order of heaven for a just man to deceive; but he will still deliver his message. If it be the devil as an angel of light, when you ask him to shake hands he will offer you his hand, and you will not feel anything; you may therefore detect him.
The above quote shows how familiar the prophet Joseph Smith was with heavenly messengers. I think that if an angel were to visit me, my first thought would not be to shake his hand!
What Is The Ministry of Angels?
In the Book of Mormon, a record of the Lord’s dealings with men on the American continent, the prophet Mormon, taught that angels’
…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. 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 7:30, 31).
How marvelous that God does not leave us alone! He is ever aware of our needs and always provides a way for us to learn of Him.
God often reveals His good news through angels. Angels announced the birth of His Son, Jesus Christ to shepherds in Bethlehem’s fields.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men (Luke 2:9-14).
I’ve often wondered about the effect that announcement had on those shepherds and their families. Of course, their experience has affected mankind for generations. I’m so grateful that Luke recorded that glorious visitation!
The Lord also sends angels to warn or reprove His children. One example of divine rebuke occurred in the Book of Mormon to Alma the Younger, the wayward son of the prophet Alma. Alma and faithful members of the Church prayed to God for his son and his friends who sought to destroy the Church of God.
As they were going about rebelling against God, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto them; and he descended as it were in a cloud; and he spake as it were with a voice of thunder, which caused the earth to shake upon which they stood…
And the angel said: Behold, the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith (Mosiah 27:11, 14).
Alma and his friends heeded the words of the angel, repented of their sins, and became powerful witnesses of Jesus Christ. Later, as Alma the Younger called wicked people to repentance, that same angel visited him and comforted him during that time of affliction. Alma the Younger’s angelic visitation strengthens my faith that God truly cares about my salvation and provides the way and means necessary for each of us to learn of Him.
After His death and resurrection, the Savior visited the people on the American continent. As He taught the people, He called all of the children to Him.
And he spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: Behold your little ones…and they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them (3 Nephi 17:24-25).
Angels Minister Today
As a Mormon, I believe that the ministry of angels is a merciful witness that God loves His children and provides divine means to teach His Gospel, comfort His children and testify of Jesus Christ. “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” (Moroni 7:22).