If I am a member of the true church and comfortably on my way to a pre-arranged spot in the celestial kingdom, then how come I haven’t seen any angels?
According to Moroni, if I haven’t, I’m assured a telestial inheritance, which is the place prepared for those without faith and for whom it is as if no redemption has been made. Seriously.
36 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?
37 Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.
38 For no man can be saved, according to the words of Christ, save they shall have faith in his name; wherefore, if these things have ceased, then has faith ceased also; and awful is the state of man, for they are as though there had been no redemption made. (Moroni 7)
No angels, no faith. No faith, no celestial kingdom. I’m not talking about the proverbial, kind relief-society sister who drops off baked goods. I’m interested in the real deal; true heavenly messengers from Father. We are supposed to be looking for them, right?
It may be that I haven’t recognized them while entertaining strangers, but I don’t think so. See, entertaining people I’m not familiar with scares me. Stranger danger, you know. The last time I consistently entertained strangers was on my mission; and not in the way I think Paul meant. In his letter to the Hebrews I’m pretty sure he’s talking about inviting people in for food and/or shelter whom you’ve never met before. The way I entertained strangers on my mission was as an annoying novelty, in a kind of hey-look-at-that-strangely-tall-gringo-he-must-be-here-to-exploit-us sort of way. I don’t think that really counted.
I am principally concerned about my own lack of heavenly interaction and what that implies about my [lack of] faith. But I’m also concerned about our modern Mormon culture. It’s not so much that other members of the Church don’t talk about having received heavenly visitations, because that may be a function of the Lord asking those who have had such experiences to keep them confidential, as much as it’s an indicator that such things aren’t happening. What really concerns me is that the vast majority of members I know have no apparent interest in such things. They aren’t looking for heavenly interaction themselves, and are most likely to find anyone that is weird (i.e. “looking beyond the mark”). They view as strange or deluded any non-Bretheren that might claim such interaction. None of the people I go to Church with talk about heavenly visitations. None of the General Authorities I listen to are talking about having had such experiences themselves. Now I think I can guess what you are saying to yourself; “Young infidel, of course the Brethren have angelic visitations or more; they simply don’t talk about them. That would be inappropriate; they are too sacred to be shared with everybody.” I would imagine that is the case for some; but if it were happening on a regular basis to most of them don’t you think they would talk about it at least every once in a while? If God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and holy men in the past talked about such experiences, could it be that rather than the implementation of a new heavenly policy strictly regulating disclosure of angelic visitations, they simply aren’t happening as frequently? The reason the “too sacred to share” view seems problematic is that the Book of Mormon prophets, who interestingly did seem to be the type of people who consistently had these types of experiences, also seem to be the type of people who were pretty open about sharing them. For example:
It was Lehi’s talking about what he had seen in a vision that got him in trouble with other members of the true Church (the Jews) in his day. Considering his experience makes me wonder how someone would be treated today by other members of the Church if he started telling people he had seen a vision, especially if he weren’t an important religious leader. Lehi wasn’t even important enough to have his own copy of the scriptures, or (apparently) to be invited to the evening meetings of the elders of the Jews from which Laban emerged wasted on the night he met his untimely demise. But let’s get on with other examples. (1N 1:18-20)
Nephi had no problem reminding his brothers, in front of their girlfriends and prospective in-laws, that they had seen an angel (1N 7:10)
Jacob tells a congregation of believers that an angel had revealed Christ’s name to him the previous night. (2N 10:3)
King Benjamin announced during his farewell address to a “great number” (the whole kingdom had been invited) that the content for his talk came directly from an angel. (Mosiah 3:2-4:1)
Amulek announced he had been visited by an angel to the folks in Ammonihah, the city that was so wicked they later burned the true believers. So it can’t be that holy men never share such experiences with others, even unrighteous others. (Alma 10:9)
From the wall Samuel the Lamanite told his hostile Nephite listeners that an angel had appeared to him (Helaman 13:7)
There are other examples. We don’t have to look beyond the Prophet Joseph to find a holy man who was constantly talking about his interactions with heavenly beings. The bottom line is the precedent has been set; telling others about angelic visitations is not inherently wrong or universally prohibited. The only constraining factor should be whether the Lord allows/commands such a person to disclose the experience. I’m led to believe that the problem is not so much one of “too sacred to disclose,” but more likely of “too infrequent to report”. I read a fascinating account by Hugh Nibley of a conversation he had with his grandfather, who was a general authority for many years:
“I think it was that last talk I had with Grandpa, and I went to see Grandpa Nibley, and that’s when he died. He had a suite on the top floor of the Hotel Utah. He said, ‘D’you see that window there?’ Considering the things he’d done in his life, he says, ‘If an angel were to come through that door, I would jump right out that window. I wouldn’t hesitate. I’d go right through that window.’ he said. He couldn’t face an angel; he was talking about the culture shock of meeting an angel and so forth. And, uh, that was our parting conversation. The last words to me. Then we said good-bye, and so forth. But that left it with me, you see. Here he was in the First Presidency, had been Presiding Bishop for all those years, and yet he says now that he could not face an angel, and it had been because–we’d been talking about it; because of the things he had to do in the way of business.”
[Charles W. Nibley was called to be the Presiding Bishop of the Mormon Church in 1907, a position he held for eighteen years until 1925 when he was called to be the Second Counselor to Heber J. Grant in the First Presidency of the LDS Church. He died in Salt Lake City on 11 December 1931 at the age of eighty-two. Source].
Truths, and accompanying expectations, can be lost over time in a decaying religious culture. But God’s truths don’t change. If we ever wonder whether we’re living up to the truth we claim to possess, all we have to do is ask ourselves where the angels are. Until then, we ought to be very humble and careful when considering ourselves God’s chosen people.