Concourses of Angels and a Pillar of Fire

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When we attend the temple we enter a sacred structure, literally a home for God. Temples are dedicated and consecrated unto God for the building up of His kingdom. They serve as beacons of His love unto His children. Temples are places where the eternal circle of heaven and the mortal circle of earth intersect.

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In the temple we can find great peace and solace. As we separate ourselves from the world, we have great opportunity to introspect and listen to the teachings of the Holy Ghost. As we serve others in the temple, providing necessary ordinances to those who have passed on, we are surrounded by concourses of angels and a pillar of fire. Have you felt or seen those angels? They surround us in the temple – observing, witnessing, recording, and teaching. Have you seen or felt that pillar of fire? It serves as a shield against darkness and sin. Just as it lit the way for the Israelites in the wilderness, the pillar of fire lights and protects us as we partake of the fruit of the tree of life. We are taught and testified by the burning of the Holy Ghost. In the holy temple, surrounded by angels and fire, we can return to the presence of God and be clasped in His holy embrace.

Angel Moroni image source

Keys to the Ministering of Angels

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Today in Priest Quorum we discussed the responsibilities and duties of Priests. Compared to Deacons and Teachers, Priests have three main additional responsibilities:

  1. Blessing the Sacrament
  2. Baptizing
  3. Helping ordain other Priests, Teachers, and Deacons

When I was Priest age, I stood in on ordinations of fellow Priests. It was always a wonderful experience; something that helped prepare me better for the responsibilities of the Melchizedek Priesthood, namely, the laying on of hands. While ordinations are not a primary role of Priests, they are able to help from time to time.

Another part of our lesson focused on one of the blessings that Priests (and all Aaronic Priesthood holders) have – the keys to the ministering of angels (see D&C 13; D&C 107:20). We had a discussion about what this phrase means. Ministering angels can be seen or unseen; they can be not yet born, deceased, or mortal individuals.

One of my favorite stories from the life of Wilford Woodruff (that my father used to tell to my brother and me) was included in the lesson manual (although it’s a little different from the version I learned from Wilford Woodruff’s Leaves From My Journal):

President Wilford Woodruff experienced the ministering of angels when he was doing missionary work as a priest and was impressed to warn a formerly active Church member named Father Hakeman to repent and become active again.

“I was once moved upon to go and warn old Father Hakeman. … He had been in Jackson County during the persecution period. … We went a good deal out of our way for the purpose of visiting Father Hakeman. I had a vision the night previous, in which was manifested to me the trouble that lay before us, but that the Lord would deliver us. We arrived at his house on Sunday morning. He was taking breakfast. We had had breakfast at the place where we stayed overnight. I saw a Book of Mormon on his shelf. He did not seem to pay any attention to us, or to take any interest in us. I took up the Book of Mormon, and said, ‘You have a very good book here.’

“‘Yes,’ said he, ‘but it is a book that came from the devil.’

“That opened my eyes. He had been an elder; he had been in Zion; had been persecuted there and driven out; but I found that he had apostatized, and he was our enemy. I saw he would do anything he could against us.

“We left him and went to Brother Hubbard’s and stayed with him three weeks, during which we took our axes and cleared some land for him. I was strongly impressed three times to go up and warn Father Hakeman. At last I did so, according to the commandment of God to me. The third time I met with him, his house seemed to be full of evil spirits, and I was troubled in spirit at the manifestation. When I finished my warning, I left him. He followed me from his house with the intention of killing me. I have no doubt about his intention, for it was shown to me in vision. When he came to where I was, he fell dead at my feet, as if he had been struck with a thunderbolt from heaven. I was then a priest, but God defended me and preserved my life. I speak of this because it is a principle that has been manifest in the church of God in this generation as well as in others. I had the administration of angels while holding the office of a priest. I had visions and revelations. I traveled thousand of miles. I baptized men, though I could not confirm them because I had not the authority to do it.

“I speak of these things to show that a man should not be ashamed of any portion of the priesthood. Our young men, if they are deacons, should labor to fulfil that office. If they do that, they may then be called to the office of a teacher, whose duty it is to teach the people, visit the Saints and see that there is no evil or iniquity carried on. God has no respect for persons in this priesthood any further than as they magnify their callings and do their duty” (Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, sel. G. Homer Durham [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1946], pp. 297–98). (Source).

Wilford Woodruff, a Priest in the Aaronic Priesthood, was protected by God, by ministering angels. As a missionary I had similar, although much less dramatic experiences. I’ve felt ministering angels at other times in my life as well.

Heavenly Father loves each of us, His children. One of the strongest manifestations of this love is through the Priesthood. We are given access to some of God’s power. This power is given so that those who hold it can bless the lives of other people. But I want to return to what it means to hold the keys to the ministering of angels.

Keys lock and unlock objects. They allow the key holder to control access to things. Holding the keys to the ministering of angels means that those with the Aaronic Priesthood do not just receive the ministering of angels, they are able to call upon angels when needed. So instead of being passive recipients of the comfort and protection of angels, those with the Aaronic Priesthood can actively call for the blessings and comfort of angels. All of this, of course, if dependent upon worthiness and God’s will but God gives His priesthood to men so that they have opportunities to use His power, not independently from God but inter-dependently with Him. It’s a remarkable power that God gives to men.

Lessons from Death, Part 8

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As much as fathers love their children and miss them terribly if they die, mothers are often more distressed by the deaths of their children. There is something special about carrying the child for 9 months then approaching the gates of death to bring forth a new child through the doorway of life; this act and service creates a special bond between mother and child. If this bond is shattered by a premature death, even though the break may be only temporary, mothers are often devastated. Joseph Smith offered these words of comfort to mothers who have had their children sealed to them: “‘Will mothers have their children in eternity?’ Yes! Yes! Mothers, you shall have your children; for they shall have eternal life, for their debt is paid…. Children … must rise just as they died; we can there hail our lovely infants with the same glory—the same loveliness in the celestial glory.” (Source).

That’s another wondrous blessing of the gospel – we mourn those who die but we do not mourn without hope. In the acute and even chronic pain of separation, as overwhelming the grief may be, with the blessings of the gospel, there is always a beacon of hope in the darkness. This beacon may appear dim and distant but it is there to comfort us in our darkest hours. We can see this beacon as we let our faith break through the wall of despair. Eventually this beacon will grow brighter until we are able to embrace once again the source of the light as we cross from this life to the next and are reunited with our loved ones.

Sometimes the light of these loved ones blesses in this life in our times of sorrow. In the October 2000 General Conference, Elder Robert D. Hales spoke on suffering but more specifically on experiences that help us overcome suffering. He missed the April 1999 and October 2000 General Conferences due to multiple surgeries. I remember parts of his talk vividly – some of what he said resonated strongly with me while I watched and listened to him, an apostle of the Lord. As he was suffering, in pain in the hospital, Elder Hales reflected on the blessings of the gospel.

“On a few occasions, I told the Lord that I had surely learned the lessons to be taught and that it wouldn’t be necessary for me to endure any more suffering. Such entreaties seemed to be of no avail, for it was made clear to me that this purifying process of testing was to be endured in the Lord’s time and in the Lord’s own way. It is one thing to teach, ‘Thy will be done’ (Matt. 26:42). It is another to live it. I also learned that I would not be left alone to meet these trials and tribulations but that guardian angels would attend me. There were some that were near angels in the form of doctors, nurses, and most of all my sweet companion, Mary. And on occasion, when the Lord so desired, I was to be comforted with visitations of heavenly hosts that brought comfort and eternal reassurances in my time of need.“(Hales, Nov. 2000 Ensign, Online Source).

Sometimes angels visibly comfort us in our dark hours. As members of the Church we are entitled to the ministering of angels as we live worthily. These angels are not always seen but sometimes they are; when they minister unto us they provide great comfort and hope.

Link to part 7 of this essay.

Blessings of the Aaronic Priesthood, Part 3

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“Upon you my fellow servants.” When you are given the Aaronic Priesthood, you are given the responsibility to serve others. As Deacons, you will be able to pass the sacrament – the sacrament is the single most important thing that we do at church, and Deacons are a part of it and partially responsible for it. That is a lot of responsibility! The most important thing we do at church is mainly done, under the direction of the Bishop, by the young Aaronic Priesthood holders – ages 12 to 18. There is nothing more important Deacons can do than to faithfully pass the sacrament and live worthily to do so. The sacrament is so important that the Savior blessed and passed it around Himself at the Last Supper; He now delegates this responsibility to the Aaronic Priesthood.

The Aaronic Priesthood also holds the keys to the ministering of angels. Think about that. As a bearer of the Aaronic Priesthood, you are entitled to the ministering of angels – for angels to strengthen and teach you; even if you don’t ever see them, they are there. Elder Holland spoke on this topic at the Oct. 2008 General Conference:

“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.”

Elder Holland went on to explain to whom angels minister:

“As Mormon said to his son Moroni, who would one day be an angel: Has the day of miracles ceased? 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? Behold I say unto you, Nay; for…it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men…. For behold, they are subject unto [Christ], 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.”

Those who hold the Aaronic Priesthood – and everyone else – who have strong faith and a firm mind will be able to see ministering angels. Seeing angels may not necessarily involve vision; seeing angels might simply be discerning their hand – the Lord’s hand – in our lives and in the world around us. However, I believe what the scripture says – those with a firm mind in every form of godliness will have the privilege of seeing angels. I should note, that a pure heart is not always a pre-requisite for beholding heavenly messengers – Nephi’s brothers Laman and Lemuel saw an angel and heard it speak but they were not strong in faith or with firm minds in the faith. Even the viewing of angels is not enough to dispel the darkness of disbelief but it can strengthen the faith and lives of those with strong faith.