Hey guys, so for a long time, I thought that Latter-day Saints and other Christians basically agreed on what angels were and what their role is. And while there is certainly a lot of overlap, as it turns out, there are also some major differences. So in this episode, we’re going to talk about what Latter-day Saints believe about angels — what kind of beings they are, what their role is, and why we believe the way we do. Hang tight!
Angels are messengers of God. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught, “From the beginning down through the dispensations, God has used angels as His emissaries in conveying love and concern for His children.” Angels appear throughout Latter-day Saints scripture, including, of course, the Bible; they show up quite a bit in our church history, and we believe that God sends angels even today.
So what kind of being is an angel? There are some Christians who believe that angels are as different from us as we are from animals—they believe that some angels might take human form but are actually a different species of being altogether. Latter-day Saints, on the other hand, believe that angels, like you and I, are all ultimately spirit children of God, made in His likeness and image. Oscar McConkie wrote simply: “In form, angels are like human beings.” And indeed, that is the way the scriptures regularly portray them.
Now, there certainly are differences, but we believe those differences have less to do with kind and more to do with where angels are currently situated within God’s plan of salvation.
We believe that eons ago, before Adam and Eve were ever sent to earth, we all lived with God as His spirit children, and He presented to us a plan. We would be born into mortality, where each spirit would be “clothed,” so to speak, with a physical body of flesh and bone. We would be tested and tried throughout mortality, and ultimately we would pass through death. At death, our physical body would be buried, and our existence would continue once more as a spirit being. But because of Jesus Christ, every single one of those post-mortal spirits would one day be resurrected and receive a perfected, glorified body of flesh and bone.
There were some premortal spirits who rejected God’s plan. Their ringleader was a spirit named Lucifer. He and his followers — his fallen “angels” — were cast out of God’s presence, and Lucifer became Satan.
As far as angels of God go, we can roughly categorize them into two groups: Some angels have physical bodies, some do not (and neither have wings). Angels without bodies are either pre-mortal spirits waiting for their turn to experience mortality or post-mortal spirits who have not yet been resurrected. If you’re looking for a rough pop-cultural example of this, you could think of Casper. He once was mortal but died and is now a post-mortal disembodied spirit.
When it comes to angels with bodies, we’ve got two subcategories: First, you’ve got post-mortal resurrected beings. The mom at the end of Casper is our pop culture example of this. Notice that unlike Casper, she has a physical body.
The other subcategory is for who we call translated beings. A translated being is a very rare servant of God whose mortal body undergoes a change so that they will never experience death or pain. A translated being may remain on earth, or not, depending on what task God has for them to perform.
For example, in Genesis 5, we read that the prophet Enoch walked with God and was taken by God. Hebrews 11 elaborates, teaching that “By faith, Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him….”
It is believed that individuals who were translated before Christ’s resurrection were resurrected with Christ. Individuals translated after Christ’s resurrection will be instantaneously resurrected at Christ’s second coming without having to pass through the pains of death. In Latter-day Saint lingo, we call this event being “twinkled,” in reference to various scripture verses. For example, in 3 Nephi 28, three Nephite disciples are translated, and Christ tells them,
” …ye shall never endure the pains of death; but when I shall come in my glory, ye shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye from mortality to immortality; and then shall ye be blessed in the kingdom of my Father.”
Now, in a sense, you might also consider some mere mortals, like past or present prophets, to be embodied “angels.” Normally we associate the term “angel” with purely supernatural beings, but interestingly, as Latter-day Scholar Taylor Halverson noted, the original Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible “make no distinction between heavenly or earthly messengers … It wasn’t until Jerome’s late fourth century AD Latin translation of the Bible (the Vulgate) that an attempt was made to distinguish between heavenly messengers … and earthly messengers….”
So, for example, In Luke 2, we read about an angel sent to declare the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. The Greek word we’ve translated as angels here is angelos. When we flip to Mark chapter 1, we read about the prophet John being sent as a messenger to prepare the way for Jesus. The Greek word we’ve translated as messenger is, you guessed it, also angelos. Thus, sometimes the term “angel” may not be a reference to a classification of being but rather a description of anyone who is sent on an errand for God.
Before we end this video, we probably should briefly talk about the cherubim and seraphim as described in the Bible. You’ve probably seen freaky artistic portrayals of those before. We’re taught in Doctrine and Covenants section 77 that these descriptions do not represent literal beings but are rather figurative or symbolic representations. There’s your crash course on angels! Check out the resources in the YouTube description for more info. Watch some of our other videos while you’re here, and have a great day!
— “Angels” via the Encyclopedia of Mormonism: https://bit.ly/3NW8hVu
— “The Ministry of Angels,” by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (Oct. 2008 GC): https://bit.ly/44IW1h3
— “Angels” via the Bible Dictionary: https://bit.ly/3psSVh2
— “Angels” via the Topical Guide: https://bit.ly/41l0UKi
— “Angels” via the Guide to the Scriptures: https://bit.ly/42xbNd2
— “Translated Beings” via the Guide to the Scriptures: https://bit.ly/3VKtnrD
— “Twinkling” via the Topical Guide: https://bit.ly/42kt0GK
— “Cherubim” via Book of Mormon Central: https://bit.ly/42i7QJe
— “Cherubim” via the Topical Guide: https://bit.ly/3LUEBoL
— “Cherubim” via the Bible Dictionary: https://bit.ly/3HXLzs2
— “Seraphim” via the Bible Dictionary: https://bit.ly/451tymP
— “The Path of Angels: A Biblical Pattern for the Role of Angels in Physical Salvation,” by Taylor Halverson via BYU Studies: https://bit.ly/3HYPuF1
— “A Latter-day Saint Reading of Isaiah,” by Paul Hoskisson via BYU Studies (in which he briefly talks about seraphim): https://bit.ly/3Me2Y2s
— “Why Don’t We Know the Names of the Angels in the Book of Mormon?” via Book of Mormon Central: https://bit.ly/3Mf7DB7
— Doctrine and Covenants section 77: https://bit.ly/3px5h7v