On February 9, 1843, the Prophet Joseph Smith made known “three grand keys” (D&C 129:9) for distinguishing the nature of ministering angels and spirits. These instructions are recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 129. Doctrine and Covenants 130 contains the Prophet’s teachings on various doctrines while meeting with Saints in Ramus, Illinois, on April 2, 1843.
If someone were to ask you if Latter-day Saints believe in angels, what would you tell them?
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. But most often it is to comfort, to provide some form of merciful attention, guidance in difficult times” (“The Ministry of Angels,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 29).
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.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 129:1–3, looking for an important difference between angels and spirits. (It may be helpful to know that the word just means righteous.) How are angels different from spirits?
Read Doctrine and Covenants 129:4–7, looking for a way to distinguish between angels and righteous spirits.
To fully understand verse 7, remember that because spirits do not have bodies of flesh and bones, they cannot clasp hands with mortals. If spirits pretend to have an ability they do not possess, that would be deceit, and a spirit who would attempt this would not be a “just man.” Therefore, the spirits of just men made perfect will not try to shake hands when a hand is extended toward them. From Doctrine and Covenants 129:7, we learn that true messengers sent from Heavenly Father will not deceive us.
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).
Read Doctrine and Covenants 129:8–9, looking for how to recognize an evil spirit who seeks to deceive by appearing as an angel of light. (It may help to know that the word administration in verse 9 refers to a manifestation or visit from an angel or a spirit.)
The following statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith may help you understand why evil spirits will always comply with the instructions in Doctrine and Covenants 129: “It would seem … that wicked spirits have their bounds, limits, and laws by which they are governed and controlled, and know their future destiny” (in History of the Church, 4:576).
In your scripture study journal, summarize what you have learned from Doctrine and Covenants 129 about the differences between angels, righteous spirits, and evil spirits. Explain what else, in addition to the instruction in these verses, Heavenly Father has given you to help you discern Satan’s deceptions.
On April 2, 1843, the Prophet 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 of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles preached a sermon and taught an interpretation of scripture that was not correct, which he had learned from his previous association with a different church. What responsibility did the Prophet have in this situation?
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 told Elder Hyde that he “was going to offer some corrections to his sermon.” Elder Hyde responded, “They shall be thankfully received” (in History of the Church, 5:323).
In his morning remarks, Orson Hyde had misinterpreted John 14:23. Take a moment to study this verse.
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.
Many people today either have no concept of God or, perhaps like Orson Hyde, who was once a Campbellite preacher, have an incorrect perception of the nature of Deity because of false traditions. We can help others understand Heavenly Father’s true nature and their relationship to Him.
Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: In conversations with people who have false traditions or beliefs about God, how can you be kind and understanding when you share what you know about God’s true nature—what He is really like?
Study Doctrine and Covenants 130:22–23, looking for truths the Prophet Joseph Smith taught about the Godhead. (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22–23 is a scripture mastery passage. You may want to mark it in a distinctive way to help you locate it in the future.)
Complete the following assignments in your scripture study journal:
From what you learn in Doctrine and Covenants 130:22–23, write two or three doctrines about the Godhead.
Write a sentence or two explaining how you could use the truths taught in verses 22–23 to teach others about the Godhead.
Why do you think it is important to understand that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are separate individuals with bodies of flesh and bones?
Many traditions about God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are based on ideas thought up by mortal men and women. Some of these ideas have developed as a result of debates between religious leaders. Our knowledge of the Godhead comes through revelation from God to His prophets. The following statements summarize revealed truths about the Godhead. As you read them, mark words and phrases that stand out to you.
“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” (Guide to the Scriptures, “God, Godhead”; scriptures.lds.org).
“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” (Guide to the Scriptures, “God, Godhead,” scriptures.lds.org). He is the Redeemer, and He 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.
In your scripture study journal, write a few sentences summarizing what you have learned about the Godhead. Explain which truths stood out to you and why. You may also want to include your testimony of the Godhead.
Review Doctrine and Covenants 130:2. As you do so, you may want to mark the words that teach the following doctrinal statement: The relationships we can have in heaven are the same as those we enjoy on earth, but they will include eternal glory. (The word sociality in verse 2 refers to the nature of our personal interactions and relationships.)
President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency shared his testimony of these eternal relationships: “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).
Complete the following assignments in your scripture study journal:
Answer the following question: How can knowing that our relationships on earth continue in eternal glory in heaven influence your interactions with others?
Think about one thing you can do to strengthen your relationships with others, especially members of your family. Then write a goal to do so.
Some additional doctrines taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith in Ramus, Illinois, are contained in Doctrine and Covenants 130:4–11. Read these verses, looking for the Prophet’s teachings about angels and about the future of the earth. 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.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “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, 41). To see how the doctrine of the Godhead is clearly taught in the scriptures, find at least three passages in the New Testament that teach the doctrine Elder Holland described. Using the scripture study aids, such as the Topical Guide, the index in your scriptures, and the Guide to the Scriptures, would be helpful. Write the references to the passages you find in your scripture study journal. You may also want to write them in your scriptures near Doctrine and Covenants 130:22–23.
Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: