Question: What is the Mormon understanding of the nature of angels?

(Redirected from Angels)

Table of Contents

Question: What is the Mormon understanding of the nature of angels?

LDS doctrine on angels is consistent with Biblical passages which portray at least some angels as former righteous mortals

LDS doctrine on angels is consistent with Biblical passages which portray at least some angels as former righteous mortals.

This doctrine does not, however, derive simply from a reading of the Biblical data, which is not conclusive enough to decide the issue one way or another. Rather, like most LDS doctrine, it derives from modern revelation and the accounts of modern prophets.

Latter-day Saints have a fairly well-defined understanding of the nature and role of angels: They (along with the Father and the Son) are of the same race as humans, but are not mortal. They are either pre-mortal spirits, post-mortal spirits, translated beings, or resurrected beings. Our understanding comes from modern revelation and direct contact by prophets with angelic beings (such as Joseph Smith's encounters with Moroni, a resurrected being).

However, the Bible is less than clear about the nature of angels, and—by itself—leaves much room for other interpretations. Because of this, most Christians believe that angels are a separate, distinct creation from man.

The Hebrew word malak and the Greek word angelos (whence we derive the English "angel"), which are the words generally translated as "angel" in the Bible, simply mean "messenger." People read the Bible in the light of their preexisting theology to see there what they want to see.

For example, in Genesis 17: "three men" visit with Abraham. Towards the end of the chapter the LORD (IE Yahweh) turns away (portrayed here as one of the three men), but the other two are then identified as the "two angels" at the beginning of Genesis 18: that visit Lot.

A Mormon reads such a passage, and concludes, "This shows the angels were *men*." Another Christian reads that, and concludes, "This shows the angels have the capacity to manifest themselves in the form of men, but they were not men themselves."

Either reading is consistent with the Biblical account.

  • A useful definition of angels from a non-LDS viewpoint can be obtained from the Catholic Encyclopedia here.
  • A collection of quotations about the LDS understanding can be found here.

Biblical evidence

Mount of Transfiguration

One interesting episode involves the appearance of Moses and Elijah to Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration. There, Jesus and Peter, James, and John saw at least two heavenly messengers: Elijah and Moses (Matthew 17:2-3). The LDS view has both being translated (i.e. taken to heaven without dying, since they needed to have bodies to pass on priesthood keys).

The Bible itself has Elijah being taken in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11), but describes Moses’ presumed death (Deuteronomy 34:5-8, Joshua 1:1-2).

So, this is at least some Biblical evidence that in at least some cases heavenly messengers can be former mortals who once lived upon the earth. Moses and Elijah were impressive enough that Peter wanted to build tabernacles to/for them—which sounds fairly angelic!

Book of Revelation

Another relevant account is John the Revelator's vision, in which John says:

And when...I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel... Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren the prophets..." (Revelation 22:8-9).

This is another instance where an angel identifies himself as a righteous man who had returned as an angelic messenger.

Notes