03862_000_016Questions of general interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy.
Is there any truth to the idea that we have guardian angels who watch over and protect us?
, associate professor of Church history and doctrine, Brigham Young University.
Our scriptures contain many references to “Angels,” and “Ministering Angels.” However, the term “guardian angel” is not used.
The scriptures teach us about the role of “ministering angels,” as Mormon testified:
“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.” (Moro. 7:37.)
The scriptures show that angels appear and minister unto men to:
Who are these angels? The Lord has revealed that “there are no angels who minister to this earth but those who do belong or have belonged to it.” (D&C 130:5.) Such personages may be spirits who have not yet been born into mortality, or who have lived on the earth but who have not yet been resurrected. Or they could be beings with tangible bodies who have been either resurrected or translated. (D&C 129:1–9.)
President Joseph F. Smith gave us some insight about angels who minister to those on the earth: “When messengers are sent to minister to the inhabitants of this earth, they are not strangers, but from among our kindred, friends, and fellow-beings and fellow-servants. The ancient prophets who died were those who came to visit their fellow creatures upon the earth. They came to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; … such beings … waited upon the Savior and administered to him on the Mount. … Our fathers and mothers, brothers, sisters and friends who have passed away from this earth, having been faithful, and worthy to enjoy these rights and privileges, may have a mission given them to visit their relatives and friends upon the earth again, bringing from the divine Presence messages of love, of warning, or reproof and instruction, to those whom they had learned to love in the flesh.” (Gospel Doctrine, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1970, pages 435–36.)
But do we each have a particular “guardian angel” to accompany us through mortality?
In a general conference in 1973, President Harold B. Lee told of receiving blessings from an unseen heavenly messenger:
“I was suffering from an ulcer condition that was becoming worse and worse. We had been touring a mission; my wife, Joan, and I were impressed the next morning that we should get home as quickly as possible. …
“On the way across the country, we were sitting in the forward section of the airplane. Some of our Church members were in the next section. As we approached a certain point en route, someone laid his hand upon my head. I looked up; I could see no one. That happened again before we arrived home, again with the same experience. Who it was, by what means or what medium, I may never know, except I knew that I was receiving a blessing that I came a few hours later to know I needed most desperately.
“As soon as we arrived home, my wife very anxiously called the doctor. … He called me to come to the telephone, and he asked me how I was; and I said, ‘Well, I am very tired. I think I will be all right.’ But shortly thereafter, there came massive hemorrhages which, had they occurred while we were in flight, I wouldn’t be alive to be here today talking about it.” (General Conference, April, 1973.)
President Lee also promised the youth of the Church the help of “a guardian angel of God”:
“You youth of today, we voyage together. … It may be a storm where Nature’s fury is unleashed or it may be a mental or an emotional storm that threatens destruction. Whatever the occasion or the cause, you may by faith, intensified by fasting or ‘after long abstinence’ like Paul, have standing by your side during ‘that night’ of turmoil a ‘guardian angel’ of God ‘whose you are and whom you serve.’” (Decisions for Successful Living, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1973, pages 79–80.)
Whether or not each individual has a “guardian angel” is a topic addressed some years ago by Elder John A. Widtsoe:
“Undoubtedly angels often guard us from accidents and harm, from temptation and sin. They may properly be spoken of as guardian angels. Many people have borne and may bear testimony to the guidance and protection that they have received from sources beyond their natural vision. Without the help that we receive from the constant presence of the Holy Spirit, and from possible holy angels, the difficulties of life would be greatly multiplied.
“The common belief, however, that every person born into the world has a guardian angel assigned to be with that person constantly, is not supported by available evidence. … An angel may be a guardian angel though he come only as assigned to give us special help. In fact, the constant presence of the Holy Spirit would seem to make such a constant, angelic companionship unnecessary.
“So, until further knowledge is obtained, we may say that angels may be sent to guard us according to our need; but we cannot say with certainty that there is a special guardian angel, to be with every person constantly.” (The Improvement Era, April 1944, page 225.)
In our own day, President Joseph Fielding Smith and Elder Bruce R. McConkie both acknowledged that help may come from ministering angels at critical times in our lives, but that the true “guardian angel” for each individual on the earth is the power and direction available through the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost. (See Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, compiled by Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954, 1:54; and Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, Second edition, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966, pages 341–42.)
Hence, the available evidence seems to show that:
(1) We each have constant access to a type of guardian influence through the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost.
(2) Ministering angels are sometimes sent to guide, comfort, protect, and instruct the Lord’s servants and other faithful individuals in times of need.
(3) Angels who minister in our behalf—whether seen or unseen—may include dead loved ones who are aware of our circumstances and concerned about our welfare.
(4) Faith is an important factor in the ministry of angels.
In the sacrament prayers, we promise to always remember Jesus Christ. In what ways can we remember him?
, seminary teacher, Las Vegas, Nevada.
The sacrament prayers speak of our doing three things: (1) eating and drinking “in remembrance” of the body and blood of Christ, which the sacrament represents; (2) taking upon ourselves Christ’s name and always remembering him; and (3) keeping the commandments. (See D&C 20:77–79.)
In return, the Lord promises that we may “always have his Spirit to be with [us].” What a glorious promise! But what does it mean to remember, or to do something “in remembrance”?
The dictionary definitions of remember include “to bring to mind or think of again,” “to keep in mind for attention or consideration,” and “to retain in the memory.” Remembering Christ, then, involves thinking about him often and focusing our attention on his teachings and his atonement for our sins. Concentrating on Christ and his atonement leads us to evaluate how well we are keeping our covenants with him and making the effort to bring our lives into harmony with his teachings. This in turn draws us closer to the Lord as we enjoy the companionship of the Spirit.
President David O. McKay taught that there are three fundamental things associated with partaking of the sacrament:
“The first is knowing yourself. It is examining yourself. … We should partake worthily, each one examining himself with respect to his worthiness.
“Secondly, there is a covenant made. …
“Thirdly, there is another blessing, and that is a sense of close relationship with the Lord.” (General Conference, April 1946; italics added.)
Thus, when we partake of the sacrament, we remember the past and consider the present as we recommit ourselves to following Christ’s example in the future. It is comforting to know that we are not alone in that endeavor; we can receive help and strength from our Father in Heaven. Ammon recognized this fact when he said, “I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things.” (Alma 26:12.) As we add to our spiritual power through partaking of the sacrament and remembering Christ, we will find it easier to control our thoughts, feelings, and actions.
Remembering the Lord also means getting to know him. We can come to know him by reading the scriptures, “feast[ing] upon the words of Christ.” (2 Ne. 32:3.) Another way we can come to know him is by following his example. As our actions become more Christlike, we begin to understand his great love for us—and we begin to learn to love as he loves. Mormon taught that “charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (Moro. 7:47–48.)
When we have true charity, we remember Christ in all that we do. The choices we make are the ones he would have us make, and our lives reflect his will. Our everyday actions become Christlike, and we are literally “changed from [our] carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters.” (Mosiah 27:25.)
We can find examples of those who understand this principle all around us. One sister I know recently served as a volunteer guide at a convention for the blind. Church members were asked to participate with members of other denominations in helping participants find workshops, rooms, and information. But this sister’s service went beyond the convention. She became the friend of a lonely woman who had no family to look after her. She helped the woman with shopping, daily tasks, and trips to the doctor. When the woman was seriously ill, this sister sat by her bed to give comfort. At the woman’s death, the sister made all the funeral arrangements and contacted the one relative the woman had mentioned.
Such dedicated service went far beyond what most of the volunteers did at the convention! They met the needs of the moment, but she went beyond that to give real Christlike service. That’s what remembering Christ is about. It is practicing the principles he lived and taught and becoming more and more like him. Through doing as Christ did, our understanding deepens and our ability to serve grows. We become more able to “put off” the “natural man” (see Mosiah 3:19) and to learn to heed the promptings of the Spirit.
In a way, keeping the Lord in our thoughts is like storing information in a computer. Each Christlike action “programs” our memory for recall when needed. When we have “stored” many such actions, they become easy to “retrieve,” and we begin to perform them as easily, almost as automatically, as a computer retrieves stored information when the right keys are pushed.
While we are yet beginners in understanding the principle of remembrance and how it can lead us to the love of Christ, we sometimes need tangible “reminders” to assist us. Many things can serve as “reminders”: the sacrament; the scriptures; pictures of Christ, temples, and General Authorities; worthy music; family home evenings; service; personal and family prayers; taking upon ourselves his name and striving to adopt his attributes, attitudes, and actions.
Although the Lord has commanded us to “practice virtue and holiness before [him]” (D&C 38:24), he knows that we will not become perfect overnight. The key is practice. As we practice remembering Christ each week during the sacrament, it becomes easier to follow his example. As we follow him, we become more like him, receiving “grace for grace,” going from “grace to grace” until we are glorified in Christ and receive a fulness of the glory of God. (See D&C 93:11–20.)