On February 9, 1843, the Prophet Joseph Smith gave instructions to help the Saints know how to distinguish the nature of ministering angels and spirits. These instructions are recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 129. Doctrine and Covenants 130 contains Joseph Smith’s teachings on various doctrines while he was meeting with Saints in Ramus, Illinois, on April 2, 1843.
Suggestions for Teaching
The Prophet Joseph Smith gives instructions concerning the nature of ministering angels and spirits
Ask students what they would tell someone who wanted to know if Latter-day Saints believe in angels. After students respond, invite a student to read the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“From the beginning down through the dispensations, God has used angels as His emissaries in conveying love and concern for His children. …
“Usually such beings are not seen. Sometimes they are. But seen or unseen they are always near. Sometimes their assignments are very grand and have significance for the whole world. Sometimes the messages are more private. Occasionally the angelic purpose is to warn” (“The Ministry of Angels,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 29).
Explain that beginning in 1839 and continuing through 1843, the Prophet Joseph Smith gave instructions to several people to help them know how to distinguish the nature of ministering angels and spirits. Some of these instructions are recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 129.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 129:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for an important difference between angels and spirits. (You may want to explain that the word just means righteous.)
How are angels different from spirits? (Angels have resurrected bodies of flesh and bones; spirits do not.)
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 129:4–7 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for a way to distinguish between angels and righteous spirits. Ask students to report what they find.
What do we learn from verse 7 about the nature of true messengers sent from Heavenly Father? (After students respond, you may want to suggest that they write the following doctrine in the margin of their scriptures: True messengers sent from Heavenly Father will not deceive us.)
Explain that the devil sometimes tries to appear as an “angel of light” in order to deceive people (see D&C 129:8). In addition, “the scriptures also speak of the devil’s angels. These are those spirits who followed Lucifer and were thrust out of God’s presence in the premortal life and cast down to the earth (Rev. 12:1–9; 2 Ne. 9:9, 16; D&C 29:36–37)” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Angels,” scriptures.lds.org). Do not relate experiences concerning Satan or evil spirits or allow the discussion to degenerate to relating sensational stories and spurious material.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 129:8–9 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for how to recognize an evil spirit who seeks to deceive by appearing as an angel of light. (Explain that the word administration in verse 9 refers to a manifestation or visit from an angel or a spirit.) Invite students to report what they learn.
In addition to the instruction in these verses, what has Heavenly Father given you to help you discern Satan’s deceptions?
The Prophet Joseph Smith clarifies various doctrines
Explain that on April 2, 1843, Joseph Smith held a stake conference with Saints in Ramus, Illinois, which was about 20 miles southeast of Nauvoo. During a morning meeting Elder Orson Hyde preached a sermon and taught an interpretation of scripture he had learned in his previous association with another church.
What responsibility did the Prophet have in this situation? (To correct any false doctrine taught in the meeting.)
Explain that presiding leaders in the Church such as prophets, stake presidents, and bishops have the responsibility to ensure that correct doctrine is taught in Church settings. After the morning meeting, Joseph Smith, Orson Hyde, and a few others had lunch at the home of Joseph’s sister Sophronia. During lunch, the Prophet said that he “was going to offer some corrections to [Brother Hyde’s] sermon.” Brother Hyde responded, “They shall be thankfully received” (in History of the Church, 5:323).
What can we learn from how Joseph Smith dealt with this situation?
What can we learn from Orson Hyde’s response to the Prophet?
Explain that in his morning remarks, Orson Hyde had misinterpreted John 14:23. Invite a student to read this verse aloud.
Inform the class that after Orson Hyde referred to this verse, he told the people that it is “our privilege to have the Father and Son dwelling in our hearts” (in History of the Church, 5:323). Doctrine and Covenants 130 contains the Prophet Joseph Smith’s correction of this idea. It also includes some additional teachings.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 130:1–3 aloud. Ask students to follow along, looking for why Orson Hyde’s statement regarding the meaning of John 14:23 was incorrect. Ask them to report what they find.
Explain that many people today either have no concept of God, or perhaps like Orson Hyde, who was once a Campbellite preacher, have an incorrect understanding of the nature of Deity because of false traditions. We can help others understand Heavenly Father’s true nature and their relationship to Him.
How can we respond with kindness and understanding when discussing the gospel with those who have mistaken ideas because of false traditions?
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 130:22–23 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for doctrines they can explain when teaching others about the Godhead.
What doctrines are taught in these verses? (Students should identify the following doctrines: Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are separate individuals with physical bodies of flesh and bones. The Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit.)
Why do you think it is important to understand that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are separate individuals with bodies of flesh and bones?
To help students further understand the doctrine of the Godhead, assign them to work in pairs. Provide each pair with a copy of the following statement. Invite students to study the statement with their partners and underline truths about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost that stand out to them.
“God the Father: It is generally the Father, or Elohim, who is referred to by the title God. He is called the Father because He is the father of our spirits. … God the Father is the supreme ruler of the universe. He is all powerful … , all knowing … , and everywhere present through his Spirit. … Mankind has a special relationship to God that sets man apart from all other created things: men and women are God’s spirit children. …
“God the Son: The God known as Jehovah is the Son, Jesus Christ. … Jesus works under the direction of the Father and is in complete harmony with him. All mankind are His brothers and sisters, for He is the eldest of the spirit children of Elohim. [He is the Redeemer who suffered the sins and pains of all mankind and overcame physical death for all.] …
“God the Holy Ghost: The Holy Ghost is also a God and is called the Holy Spirit, the Spirit, and the Spirit of God, among other similar names and titles [such as the Comforter]. With the aid of the Holy Ghost, man can know the will of God the Father and know that Jesus is the Christ” (Guide to the Scriptures, “God, Godhead,” scriptures.lds.org). The primary role of the Holy Ghost is to bear witness of God the Father and Jesus Christ. The Holy Ghost teaches and confirms truth.
After students have completed this assignment, ask several to report what they marked and explain why those truths stood out to them. You might conclude this activity by inviting one or two students to share their testimonies of the Godhead with the class.
To help students discover another doctrine Joseph Smith taught to the Saints in Ramus, invite them to review Doctrine and Covenants 130:2, looking for what he said about our relationships.
What does sociality mean? (Sociality pertains to the nature of our personal interactions and relationships.)
What did Joseph Smith teach regarding the nature of our relationships in heaven? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following truth: The relationships we can have in heaven are the same as those we enjoy on the earth, but they will include eternal glory.)
How might this truth influence your interaction with others?
Ask a student to read aloud the following testimony of eternal relationships by President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency:
“Because of the restoration of the knowledge of eternal families, we are more hopeful and more kindly in all our family relations. The greatest joys in this life center in families, as they will in the worlds to come. I am so grateful for the assurance I have that if we are faithful, the same sociality which we enjoy here in this life will be forever with us in the world to come, in eternal glory” [see D&C 130:2] (“The True and Living Church,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2008, 22).
Invite students to ponder their relationships with others, especially their family members. Invite them to write a goal to strengthen those relationships.
To help students discover other doctrines the Prophet taught at this meeting in Ramus, invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 130:4–11.
What do we learn about angels from verses 4–7?
What do we learn from verse 9 about the future of the earth?
You may want to explain that according to verses 10–11, all who inherit the celestial kingdom will receive a Urim and Thummim to help them learn about and understand heavenly things. The Prophet did not elaborate on this teaching.
Commentary and Background Information
Doctrine and Covenants 129:8–9. “The devil as an angel of light”
“Satan attempts to deceive by counterfeiting the light that accompanies the spirit of a just man made perfect. A just man made perfect who comes as a messenger will appear in his glory, ‘for that is the only way he can appear’ (D&C 129:6). The Prophet Joseph Smith once said, ‘Wicked spirits have their bounds, limits, and laws by which they are governed … and, it is very evident that they possess a power that none but those who have the priesthood can control’ (in History of the Church, 4:576).
“The Prophet taught that when the devil is offered a hand to shake, ‘he will offer you his hand’ (D&C 129:8). The mortal will feel nothing, because the devil is an unembodied spirit. He can therefore be distinguished in this manner from a righteous spirit or angel sent from God. The just man will not attempt to deceive (see D&C 129:7); an angel of Satan will not refrain from trying to deceive” (Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, 2nd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2001], 321).
Doctrine and Covenants 130:9. What is the destiny of this earth and those who will dwell upon it?
President Brigham Young taught:
“When it [the earth] becomes celestialized, it will be like the sun, and be prepared for the habitation of the Saints and be brought back into the presence of the Father and the Son. It will not then be an opake body as it now is, but it will be like the stars of the firmament, full of light and glory; it will be a body of light.—John compared it, in its celestialized state, to a sea of glass” (“Sermon,” Deseret News, Jun. 15, 1859, 114).
About two years later he said:
“This earth, when it becomes purified and sanctified, or celestialized, will become like a sea of glass, and a person by looking into it can know things past, present, and to come; though none but celestialized beings can enjoy this privilege; they will look into the earth, and the things they desire to know will be exhibited to them, the same as the face is seen by looking into a mirror” (“Remarks,” Deseret News, Jul. 3, 1861, 137).
Doctrine and Covenants 130:22–23. The Godhead
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles firmly declared the reality of the Godhead:
“Our first and foremost article of faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is ‘We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost’ [Articles of Faith 1:1]. We believe these three divine persons constituting a single Godhead are united in purpose, in manner, in testimony, in mission. We believe Them to be filled with the same godly sense of mercy and love, justice and grace, patience, forgiveness, and redemption. I think it is accurate to say we believe They are one in every significant and eternal aspect imaginable except believing Them to be three persons combined in one substance, a Trinitarian notion never set forth in the scriptures because it is not true.
“Indeed no less a source than the stalwart Harper’s Bible Dictionary records that ‘the formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the [New Testament]’ [Paul F. Achtemeier, ed. (1985), 1099; emphasis added].
“So any criticism that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not hold the contemporary Christian view of God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost is not a comment about our commitment to Christ but rather a recognition (accurate, I might add) that our view of the Godhead breaks with post–New Testament Christian history and returns to the doctrine taught by Jesus Himself. …
“We declare it is self-evident from the scriptures that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are separate persons, three divine beings” (“The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2007, 40, 41).