The following was originally printed in the November-December 2013 edition of Mormonism Researched. To request a free subscription, please visit here.
According to Christian theologian G.W. Bromiley, heavenly messengers known as angels are “God’s ambassadors. They belong to his heavenly court and service. Their mission in heaven is to praise him (Rev. 4:5). They devote themselves to doing his will (Ps. 103:20) and in this activity they behold his face (Matt. 18:10). Since heaven comes down to earth, they also have a mission on earth. They accompany God in his work of creation (Job 38:7), though they themselves are also creatures (Ps. 148:2, 5)” (Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, p. 46).
When Christ was born in Bethlehem, His incarnation was announced by a multitude of angels singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14.)
Mormonism, like Christianity, includes the existence and role of angels in its theology. Probably the most well-known among Latter-day Saints is the angel Moroni who allegedly told Joseph Smith where he could find the gold plates he had personally buried centuries earlier.
However, on this subject Mormonism once again diverges from the biblical text. Bromiley correctly notes that angels are creatures by citing Psalm 148. This psalm of praise to God the Creator, specifically lists angels as that which God “commanded and they were created (vss. 2, 5).”
That angels are a special creation is refuted by numerous Mormon leaders. Mormonism has long proffered the notion that Gods, angels, and men are of the same species. Brigham Young stated,
“Angels are those beings who have been on an earth like this, and have passed through the same ordeals that we are now passing through. . . They are persons who have lived upon an earth, but did not magnify the Priesthood in that high degree that many others have done who have become Gods, even the sons of God. . . They belong to the same family that we do; but they have proven themselves worthy only of an exaltation to the state of angels, whereas we have the privilege of obtaining not only the same exaltation they enjoy, but of going further until we become Gods, even the sons of God” (Journal of Discourses 9:36).
Mormon Apostle Parley P. Pratt stated,
“Angels are of the same race as men. They are, in fact, men who have passed from the rudimental state to the higher spheres of progressive being. Some have died and risen again to life, and are consequently possessed of a divine, human body of flesh and bones, immortal and eternal. They eat, drink, sing and converse like other men. Some of them hold the keys of Apostleship and Priesthood, by which they teach, instruct, bless, and perform miracles and many mighty works” (Key to the Science of Theology, 1978 ed., p.69).
According to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism,
“All people, including angels, are the offspring of God. In form angels are like human beings. They do not, of course, have the wings artists symbolically show (TPJS, p.162)” (1:40).
Writing for the book LDS Beliefs, BYU professor Robert L. Millet notes,
“Angels are not, as traditional Christians aver, special creations of God. Rather, they are human beings who minister for the Lord” (p.36).
Bear this in mind when you see the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing the carols Angels We Have Heard on High, Hark! the Herald Angels Sing, or The First Noel.
For additional articles on doctrine and theology, click here.