Related Posts: The Premortal Life; The Spirit World; Adam-god Theory

See also Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (Apostle), The Ministry of Angels.

According to Mormon beliefs angels are children of God sent to perform tasks, minister, and deliver messages. For example, Gabriel visited Zechariah and also Mary the mother of Jesus (
Luke 1:19, 26); Joseph Smith was visited by the ancient prophet Moroni (JS-H 1:29-47); an angel comforted Jesus in Gethsemane (Luke 22:43; Matt. 4:11); and Israel was led to the promise land (Ex. 23:20; 32:34; compare Mal. 3:1). It was an angel who carried Lazarus’ spirit to Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22) and at the last day angels will separate the righteous from the wicked (Matt. 13:41, 49). These angels are premortal, mortal, postmortal, and resurrected children of Heavenly Father.

In addition to performing tasks angels can also serve as witnesses before God: “Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God” (Luke 12:8); “He that overcometh…I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” (Rev. 3:5); “Behold, thou art Nephi, and I am God. Behold, I declare it unto thee in the presence of mine angels, that ye shall have power over this people” (Helaman 10:6).

The book of Revelation

Angels are most prominent in the book of Revelation. There is an angel over fire and over the waters (Rev. 14:18, 16:5), one who ministers at the altar in heaven (Rev. 8:5), and an angel over each of the four corners of the earth (Rev. 7:1). The inhabitants of the earth are warned by three angels (Rev. 14:6-9), one of whom preaches “the everlasting gospel.” Angels sound trumpets, bring destruction (Rev. 8:15-16), pronounce woes and judgments on the inhabitants of the earth (Rev. 8:13; 14:8). It is an angel who opens the bottomless pit and releases demonic horrors on the world, and later an angel imprisons Satan for a thousand years (Rev. 9:1-2; 20:1-3). It is Michael and his angels who triumph over Satan in the war in heaven (Rev. 12:7). And twice John was so overwhelmed by the glory of the angel before him that he attempted to worship it (Rev. 22:8; 19:10).

The form of angels

Moroni appears to Joseph Smith

Moroni appears to Joseph Smith

In scripture angels are typically depicted as men. When Joshua saw an angel carrying a sword his initial impression was that it was a man, asking him, “Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?” (Josh. 5:14). The visitor identified himself as “captain of the host of the LORD.” When Manoah, father of Sampson, was visited by a heavenly messenger “[he] knew not that he was an angel of the LORD.” Only when the angel ascended into heaven did its identity become known (Judg. 13:16, 20). Daniel saw the angel Gabriel “as the appearance of a man” (Dan. 9:21; 8:15). When the women came to anoint the body of Jesus they saw “two men” standing before them “in shining garments” (Luke 24:4, 23). And following a lengthy fast Cornelius saw “a man” standing before him “in bright clothing” (Acts 10:30). Zechariah also described his angelic visitor as a man (Zech. 1:9-10). When Joseph Smith received his first angelic visitation he described the visitor as having a head, hands, feet, wrists, ankles and legs, and referred to the angel as “him.”Joseph wrote, “His whole person was glorious beyond description, and his countenance truly like lightning” (JS-H 1:32). The angelic visitor was Moroni, an ancient prophet (JS-H 1:32-33).[1] Paul reminds us, “not [to] forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it” (NIV, Heb. 13:2).

Zechariah did see “two women approaching with the wind in their wings” (Zech. 5:9), but this might have been symbolic language.

According to Jewish traditions Seraphim are heavenly beings usually classified as angels.[2] Isaiah described them has having “six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew” (Isa. 6:2-3).[3] By Isaiah’s description Seraphim are not human like in form. However, in Mormon tradition angels are human. Of these Seraphim Elder Bruce R. McConkie (Apostle) wrote, “[the wings] symbolize their ‘power, to move, to act, etc.’” (“Seraphim,” Mormon Doctrine.) However, the passage he quotes from Doctrine and Covenants section 77 verse 4 is regarding similar animals witnessed by John the Revelator (Rev. 4:8). It seems quite possible that the beasts seen by John and the Seraphim Isaiah witnessed are angelic like beings of a nonhuman species.[4]

Names of angels

The Doctrine and Covenants names three angels: Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael (D&C 128:21). Michael, the archangel, was born into the world as the first man Adam (D&C 27:11; 107:54; Dan. 10:21; 12:1; Jude 1:9; Rev. 12:7; 1 Thes. 4:16). Gabriel is Noah (HC 3:386; see also Dan. 8:16; 9:21; Luke 1:9, 26). The apocryphal book of Tobit mentions Raphael, as well as the existence of seven holy angels (Tob. 12:15)—The apocrypha does hold some weight in LDS thinking (D&C 91:1-6).[5]


According to LDS beliefs angels do not have wings (HC 3:392). According to the Jewish Encyclopedia it was not always clear if it was imagined that angels have wings (“Angelology“). The New Catholic Encyclopedia says, “At the beginning of the early Christian period angels were represented as wingless youths; it was only in the 4th century that they were depicted with wings” (“Angels: Iconography”).[6]

The purpose of angels

Peter, James, and John ordain Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to the Melchizedek Priesthood.

Peter, James, and John ordain Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to the Melchizedek Priesthood.

In the Book of Mormon angels serve a similar purpose as those depicted in the Bible: “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve those who are going to inherit salvation?” (HCSB, Heb. 1:14). The prophet Nephi saw “angels descending upon the children of men” who “did minister unto them” (1 Nephi 11:30). Knowledge of the plan of salvation came to mankind through angels: “it was expedient that man should know concerning the things whereof he had appointed unto them; Therefore he sent angels to converse with them” (Alma 12:28-29); and “in his mercy he doth visit us by his angels, that the plan of salvation might be made known unto us as well as unto future generations” (Alma 24:14; Hel. 5:11). “By the ministering of angels…men began to exercise faith in Christ” (Moroni 7:25). According to the prophet Alma, angels declare repentance “unto all nations…that they may have glad tidings of great joy” (Alma 13:21-22). God “imparteth his word by angels unto men, yea, not only men but women also…[and] little children do have words given unto them many times, which confound the wise and the learned” (Alma 32:23). One of the central messages of the Book of Mormon is that miracles have not ceased and “neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men” (Moroni 7:29), as can be attested by Joseph Smith’s many experiences with angels.

Kinds of angels

Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote in his book Mormon Doctrine, “These messengers, agents, angels of the Almighty, are chosen from among his [God’s] offspring and are themselves pressing forward along the course of progression and salvation, all in their respective spheres” (“Angels”). Joseph Smith taught that “there are no angels who minister to this earth but those who do belong or have belonged to it” (D&C 130:5); that is, every angel who has or will visit this earth has been or will be born as a mortal person on this earth.

Elder Bruce R. McConke (Apostle) listed five kinds of angelic persons: premortal spirit persons, mortal persons, translated persons, post-mortal spirit persons, and resurrected persons. See also Encyclopedia of MormonismAngels.”

Premortal spirits: A spirit person, not yet born to mortality, can be an angel. Not long after Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden they were visited by a messenger (Moses 5:6-8). Because it seems unlikely they had deceased children prior to this visit the messenger must have been a premortal person.

Mortal men: When Jesus speaks of John the Baptist he says, “Behold, I send my messenger before thy face” (Matt. 11:10; compare Mark 1:2 and Luke 7:7). The word messenger is, in fact, angelos. This also applies to the OT: “Then spake Haggai the LORD’S messenger” (Hag. 1:13); and in Malachi, “For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge…for he is the messenger of the LORD” (Mal. 2:7). In both these cases the word for messenger is malawk’ which can refer to a heavenly or earthly messenger.[7] The Septuagint uses angelos in place of malawk’.[8] Paul also writes, “but [you] received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus” (Gal. 4:4).[9]

Translated persons: Translated persons are mortal people who have been taken into heaven before death, or who have been granted immortality but have not yet received a resurrected (perfected) physical body. As Jesus said, “There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matt. 16:28; Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27). There are four translated persons believed to be among the people of the world: John the Revelator and the three Nephites. In the Doctrine and Covenants it is revealed that John asked of Jesus, “give unto me power over death, that I may live and bring souls unto thee” (D&C 7:1-8; compare John 21:22-23). The three Nephite prophets desired the same and were told, “ye shall never taste of death…until all things shall be fulfilled…when I shall come in my glory” (3 Nephi 28:7). When Jesus comes again they will be “changed in the twinkling of an eye from mortality to immortality” (3 Nephi 28:8). Translated persons can minister, baptize, miraculously escape prisons, and cannot be killed. The Book of Mormon tells us “they will be among the Gentiles, and the Gentiles shall know them not…They will also be among the Jews, and the Jews shall know them not…they are as the angels of God” (3 Nephi 28:15-32).

I am not aware of any verse of scripture or other prophetic utterance that indicates translated persons appear with angelic glory to mortal men.

It is also believed that Enoch, Moses, Elijah and others were translated (D&C 38:4; 45:11-13; Heb. 11:5; Deut. 34:5-7, compare Alma 45:18-19; 2 Kings 2). It was Moses and Elias who appeared to Jesus and to Peter, James, and John (Matt. 17:4-11; Luke 9:33; Mark 9:5). It is believed these prophets were resurrected with Christ.

Post-mortal spirits: These are persons who have passed from mortality and are not yet resurrected. They are referred to as “the spirits of just men made perfect” (D&C 129:1-9; 76:69; Heb. 12:23). They are destined to inherit celestial glory (The Mormon Concept of Heaven(s)).

In D&C 129 Joseph Smith described how an angel may be tested to determine if it is an angel of God: “When a messenger comes saying he has a message from God, offer him your hand and request him to shake hands with you.” If the angel is the resurrected kind he has a body of flesh and bones, so when he takes your hand you will feel it. But, “If he be the spirit of a just man made perfect…he will not move…but he will still deliver his message.” However, if he is an angel of the devil (2 Cor. 11:14) then “when you ask him to shake hands he will offer you his hand, and you will not feel anything; you may therefore detect him” (D&C 129:1-9). This test could naturally apply to both premortal and postmortal angelic spirits. This test is the only reference I know relating to post-mortal angels.

Resurrected beings: The resurrected prophet Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith.[10] We believe the resurrected John the Baptist appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and ordained them to the Aaronic priesthood. Later the resurrected apostles Peter, James, and John ordained Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to the Melchizedek priesthood (D&C 27:12-13; 133:55). Moses and Elias, who “were with Christ in his resurrection” (D&C 133:55), also appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and conferred upon them priesthood keys (D&C 110:11-12).

It is possible for a resurrected being to appear without angelic glory and thus be mistaken for a mortal person: for example Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene after his resurrection (John 20:1-17).

Traditional Christianity

In the traditional Christian view angels are a race of beings who, though sometimes appear male, are of a different species from man[11]. Angels were created by God ex nihilo. (See Creation Ex Nihilo.) As heavenly beings, they perform tasks given to them by God. Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians do offer veneration and prayers to angels; but this is considered distinct from adoration, which is worship reserved for God alone. (Saints of the Orthodox Church and Christian Worship.) Latter-day Saints to not offer prayers or devotion to angels; this is also true for Protestants,[12] some of whom believe angels act in the world today, others not.[13]

Guardian angels

Mormons do believe in guardian angels, that is, angels who guard and protect. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism reads, “This well-known guardian function of angels has given rise to an assumption on the part of some that all persons, or at least the righteous, have individual angels assigned to them throughout life as guardians. There is no scriptural justification for this tradition. Though it has been entertained sometimes among Latter-day Saints and others” (“Angels, Guardian”).

The belief that each person has a personal guardian angel is dubious in other Christian denominations. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia reads, “The modern conception of the possession by each man of a special guardian angel is not found in Old Testament” (“Angels”). The 1907 Catholic Encyclopedia reads, “The general doctrine that the angels are our appointed guardians is considered to be a point of faith, but that each individual member of the human race has his own individual guardian angel is not of faith (de fide); the view has, however, such strong support from the Doctors of the Church that it would be rash to deny it” (“Angels”).[14]

Though in Mormon belief the idea that each person has a personal guardian angel is dubious, we do believe angels can and sometimes do offer divine protection. Elder Dallin H. Oaks (Apostle) said, “For most of us the mortal journey is long, and we continue our course with the protection of guardian angels” (“Bible Stories and Personal Protection,” Ensign, Nov. 1992).[15] Jesus Christ said to Joseph Smith, “My Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up” (D&C 84:88).

It has been entertained by some that guardian angels might be the dead who watch over the living. Brigham Young said, “All people have their guardian angels. Whether our departed dead guard us is not for me to say. I can say we have our guardian angels” (JD 13:76). In 1928 Elder Hyrum G. Smith (General Authority) said, “The spirits of our departed loved ones, as well as other spirits, may be appointed to act as our guardian angels” (Conference Report, October 1928, p. 81–82). Elder Harold B. Lee taught, “Who are guardian angels? Well, it would appear that someone who is quickened by some influence, not yet celestialized, is permitted to come back as a messenger for the purpose of working with and trying to aid those who are left behind.”[16]

There are also stories of former loved ones, men and women, appearing to living relatives in visions and dreams.[17] By the Mormon definition they could be considered angels.


End Notes
[1] According to the Talmud and Midrash angels “have the shape of man, but consist half of fire and half of water” (“Angels and Angelology: Origin of Angels,”
Encyclopedia Judaica)

[2] “The passages cited furnish conclusive evidence against the idea, popular for a time, that the seraphim belong to the same category as angels” (“Seraphim,” Jewish Encyclopedia); Maimonides includes the seraphim in his ten ranks of angels (“Angelology,” Ibid.).

[3] “They covered their faces. (a token of humility); with the second. They covered their feet. (a token of respect); while. With the third. They flew” (“Seraphim,” Smith’s Bible Dictionary).

[4] Of these animals Joseph Smith said,

John heard the words of the beasts giving glory to God, and understood them. God who made the beasts could understand every language spoken by them. The four beasts were four of the most noble animals that had filled the measure of their creation, and had been saved from other worlds, because they were perfect: they were like angels in their sphere. We are not told where they came from, and I do not know; but they were seen and heard by John praising and glorifying God. (TPJS, p. 292)

[5] In some Jewish traditions there are five principle angels: Metatron is representative of God; Michael the great prince stands on the right hand of God’s throne and represents Israel; Gabriel represents judgment; Uriel stands to the left of God’s throne and Raphael stands behind it. (“Jewish Angelology and Demonology,” The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, book 6 appendix 13, Alfred Edersheim.) The name Metatron is found only in Jewish literature (“Metatron,” Jewish Encyclopedia).

[6] See also “Early Christian Representations of Angels,” Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907. This was also affirmed by the 1915 and 1979 International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (“Angel”):

As to their outward appearance, it is evident that they bore the human form, and could at times be mistaken for men (Eze. 9:2; Gen. 18:2, 16). There is no hint that they ever appeared in female form. The conception of angels as winged beings, so familiar in Christian art, finds no support in Scripture (except, perhaps Dan. 9:21; Rev. 14:6, where angels are represented as “flying”).

In Isalm “[God] made the angels messengers with wings,—two, or three, or four (pairs)” (Sura 35:1).

[7] “From an unused root meaning to despatch as a deputy; a messenger; specifically of God, that is, an angel (also a prophet, priest or teacher): – ambassador, angel, king, messenger” (Strong’s, H4397).

[8] The New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd edition, “Angels.”

[9] The Book of Enoch teaches that righteous men will be transformed into angels.

And the Chosen One in those days will sit upon his throne, and all the secrets of wisdom will proceed from the thoughts of his mouth, for the Lord of the spirits has given it to him and has honored him. And in those days the mountains will skip like rams, and the hills spring like lambs satisfied with milk, and they will all be angels in heaven. (1 Enoch 51:3-4).

[10] We know that the Urim and Thummim were taken from and returned to Joseph Smith by Moroni several times (HC 1:21; 1:23); Joseph also returned the golden plates to Moroni (Smith, 141); because Moroni appeared having angelic glory it stands to reason he was a resurrected and not a translated being (JS-H 1:32). See also Elder Mark E. Petersen (Apostle), “The Angel Moroni Came!,” Ensign, Nov. 1983). Joseph Smith also said, “Moroni…being dead and raised again therefrom, appeared unto me…” (HC, vol. 3, p. 28).


By the word “angels” (that is, “messengers” of God), we ordinarily understand a race of spiritual beings of a nature exalted far above that of man, although infinitely removed from that of God…Angels are termed “spirits,” as in Heb. 1:14 – but it is not asserted that the angelic nature is incorporeal. The contrary seems expressly implied in Luke 20:36. The angels are revealed to us as beings such as man might be, and will be when the power of sin and death is removed, because always beholding his face (Matt. 18:10) and therefore being “made like him” (1 John 3:2). Their number must be very large (1 Kgs. 22:19; Matt. 26:53; Heb. 12:22) their strength is great (Ps. 103:20; Rev. 5:2; Rev. 18:21) their activity marvelous (Isa. 6:2-6; Mat. 26:53; Rev. 8:13) their appearance varied according to circumstances, but was often brilliant and dazzling (Matt. 28:2-7; Rev. 10:1-2). (“Angels,” Smith’s Bible Dictionary).

Angels are a part of the creation of God, created either in the beginning or sometimes before the foundation of the earth (Ps. 148:2-5; Neh. 9:6; Col. 1:15-17). They are of a higher order than humans (Heb. 2:7) and are greater in power and might (2 Pet. 2:11; cf. 2 Kgs. 19:35)…Angels are not omniscient as is God, for the do not know the time of the coming of Christ (Matt. 24:36; cf. 1 Pet. 1:12). Neither are they omnipresent, for they are said to go from place to place (Dan. 9:21-23). Angels are spirit beings (Heb. 1:14). They do not die, nor do they marry (Luke 20:36; Mark 12:25). While the number of the angels is never definitely given, they are said to be innumerable (Dan. 7:10; Heb. 12:22; Rev. 5:11) ¶ Angels may be wicked (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6; cf. Rev. 12:7) or good. Good angels seem to operate in conjunction with the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing God’s message to mankind. (“Angel,” Eerdman’s Dictionary of the Bible, 2000).

The Bible tells us a lot about angels. They don’t marry or die (Luke 20:35-36). Angels are involved in revealing the law (Acts 7:38), bringing messages from God (Zechariah 1:14-17), praising God (Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 5:11-12), and protecting his people (Daniel 6:22; Acts 12:7-10). ¶ Some angels rebelled against God (2 Peter 2:4). Those angels, of whom Satan is chief, work through false teachers (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10; 1 Timothy 4:1-2), attempt to separate believers from God (Romans 8:38-39), and tempt us to sin (1 Peter 5:8). (Nancy Ortberg, “Are Angels Active in Our World Today?,” Christianity Today)

[12] For example the Westminster Confession reads, “Religious worship is to be given to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and to Him alone (Matt. 4:10 with John 5:23 and 2 Cor. 13:14); not to angels, saints, or any other creature (Rom. 1:25; Col. 2:18; Rev. 19:10)” (21:2).

[13] See Nancy Ortberg, “Are Angels Active in Our World Today?,” Christianity Today. The International Bible Encyclopedia reads,

The visible activity of angels has come to an end, because their mediating work is done; Christ has founded the kingdom of the Spirit, and God’s Spirit speaks directly to the spirit of man. This new and living way has been opened up to us by Jesus Christ, upon whom faith can yet behold the angels of God ascending and descending. Still they watch the lot of man, and rejoice in his salvation; still they join in the praise and adoration of God, the Lord or hosts; still they can be regarded as ‘ministering spirits sent forth to serve for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation’ (He. 1:14); still they shall accompany Christ at His coming. (“Angel”)

[14] On this point the New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd ed., says, “Up to now it has not yet been defined as dogma that every man has a guardian angel. This opinion does, however, have a basis in Holy Scripture and has been maintained in the Church since ancient time, despite the uncertainty of the question in the first 1,000 years” (“Angels: Service of the angels”).

[15] In 1968 President David O. McKay related an experience he had as a young missionary. During a meeting one of the missionaries arose and said, “Brethren, there are angels in this room.” According to President McKay, “the announcement was not startling; indeed, it seemed wholly proper, though it had not occurred to me there were divine beings present…I was profoundly impressed, however, when President James L. McMurrin, president of the European Mission, arose and confirmed that statement by pointing to one brother sitting just in front of me and saying, ‘Yes, brethren, there are angels in this room, and one of them is the guardian angel of that young man sitting there,’ and he designated one who afterward became a patriarch in the Woodruff Stake of the Church” (Conference Report, October 1968, p. 86).

[16] The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996, p. 59

[17] A woman by the name of Martha Cragun Cox was doing some family history she had a remarkable experience,

During that same summer of 1922, her mother, who had been dead since 1901, appeared in a dream to Geneva and showed her a list containing about a hundred names. Martha interpreted the dream to mean that she should find the names in Genealogical Library records. As she worked, a man overheard her mention Lane, her mother’s maiden name, and gave her a letter from her mother’s nephew that had been written almost exactly a year earlier and forwarded through four hands. (Supporting Saints: Life Stories of Nineteenth-Century Mormons, Provo: Utah, 1985, p. 129.

There was a man in the California mission, as related by the president of that mission, who became deeply interested in the Book of Mormon. After laying down the book, he turned to the Lord in fervent prayer. He asked the Lord if the Gospel as taught by the Latter-day Saints was true, and in a vision of the night-time he saw the Salt Lake temple, which lie had never before seen, and his deceased sister appeared to him and explained the ordinance of baptism for the dead. A few days later, when he came into the mission house to attend a meeting there, he saw over the pulpit a picture of the temple. He immediately said: “I know that building; it is the temple of God, for I saw it in a dream.” He came to the elders and demanded baptism. (Elder Rudger Clawson (Apostle), Conference Report, April 1909).

A sister who died appeared in a vision to a young Lamanite in Nephi, as she had something to tell. She stated that her own children were so engrossed in business that she could not communicate with them. (John Taylor, General Conference April 1890, Collected Discourses, Vol. 2.)

Some years ago a member of the Presiding Bishopric had a son killed in a tragic train accident…Twice the young man appeared to his mother who had been inconsolable over his death…He told her not to worry about him anymore, because this was the last time that he would be permitted to come back to see her.” (Robert L. Millet and Joseph Fielding McConkie, The Life Beyond, Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1986, p. 102)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *