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A couple different important things happening this week. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were working on The Book of Mormon translation when they came across references to baptism. They went out to the woods to pray and were visited by John the Baptist who restored the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood. After receiving the Aaronic priesthood, they were able to baptize each other and bind themselves in a covenant to the Savior.
Doctrine and Covenants 13:1 Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.
Now the depth of what is occurring in these moments is astounding. Having the priesthood to administer to the gospel of repentance is staggering in and of itself. However, I want to focus on the “keys of the ministering of angels.” This was a teaching that always puzzled me to an extent as I was growing up. In my mind, I was picturing a deacon calling down an angel. I’m sure if the Lord had specific purposes for that scenario, it would happen. However, more often than not, I think that these keys look a little different than I pictured as a child.
To enjoy the companionship of angels
What is it about the Aaronic priesthood that allows for us to enjoy the ministering of angels? How does a 12 year old have the power to unlock that gift for people? Well, it partially depends on what kind of angel you’re talking about.
In the church, we believe in angels on both sides of the veil. Angels are simply servants of the Lord and serve in various capacities. While we, as humans, tend to draw a very definitive line between this world and the next, the Lord sees both sides of the veil as one big whole. He has jobs that need to be accomplished on both sides of the veil, and He uses angels on both sides to accomplish those purposes.
Now, I want to talk about righteous humans on this side of the veil during this post, but first, I want to talk about angels from the other side. I’m specifically speaking about heavenly ministrations from beings who have walked the earth previously or who will come to walk the earth in a coming time. But what is it about the Aaronic priesthood that makes these ministrations possible?
I see the direct connections in a couple of ways.
The Aaronic priesthood gives men the authority to baptize. What does baptism do for us? Well, to put a mind-boggling topic into a concise sentence, baptism allows for us to access the Atonement fully. We enter into a covenant with Christ, and Christ is able to step in and pay for our sins. Because there is no other way to wash away our sins, we need that covenant to be clean. We need to be clean in order to have the presence of angels. If you take away the Aaronic priesthood and its keys, we can’t get baptized or remain cleansed by the Atonement, and the privilege of the ministering of angels is taken away.
Elder Oaks taught this important truth about the ministering of angels.
“The ministering of angels is one of the manifestations of that Spirit…When I was young, I thought such personal appearances were the only meaning of the ministering of angels…”
Sometimes the Lord is speaking of personal appearances from angels. I truly believe that.
Doctrine and Covenants 67:13 Ye are not able to abide the presence of God now, neither the ministering of angels; wherefore, continue in patience until ye are perfected.
Continue growing until you can abide the presence of angels, and eventually your Savior. This growth and continued cleanliness also occurs by the power of the Aaronic priesthood. The Aaronic priesthood gives man the power to baptize, but it also delivers the power to distribute the ordinance of the sacrament. The sacrament allows us to be periodically cleansed. This cleansing allows us to continue to hear the Lord, follow Him, and grow to be able to abide His presence.
But as Elder Oaks taught, the ministering of angels is a manifestation of the spirit, and it is not exclusive to personal appearances. This could mean any number of things, but I like to believe that we enjoy the ministering of angels far more often than we think we do. I couldn’t find any really specific doctrine that tells us how the angels are specifically influencing our daily lives, but to me, it makes sense that the Lord would work the same on both sides of the veil.
Just as a friend or family member can give an embrace or kind thought, I believe that angels can deliver those same messages. Just as a friend or family member can place help in your path, I believe that angels can provide those same tender mercies.
To become those angels
The idea of receiving the presence of an angel sounds exciting, and why shouldn’t it be? I think we can get ourselves in trouble when we attempt to seek out angels, but I don’t think it’s wrong to be happy about the idea in the same way we would be happy about reuniting with an old friend.
One thought that has come back to me while preparing this post is the idea that we would do well to view eternity in the way that God does. As I mentioned earlier, He doesn’t view the line between our world and the spirit world as so definitive. He just sees His children at various stages in their progression. When it really comes down to it, we are all angels from the other side.
We know that we chose to come to earth and follow God’s planning, so I’m making assumptions that we were assisting with the work before we came here. What does that mean in plain terms? It means that we were angels.
Whether we’ve chosen to remain those angels on this side of the veil is another story. I suppose that depends on whether we’ve continued to run the Lord’s errands while we’re here and can’t physically see Him.
We can have mortal angels sent to us on this side of the veil. I’m sure many of us have had experiences where someone stepped in and became that angel they needed.
But I think the one of the most important functions of the Aaronic priesthood is its ability for us to become those ministering angels.
The Aaronic priesthood enables the Spirit to remain present in our lives. With the Spirit as our guide, we can play the same role as the ministering angels we think about from the other side. To bring back the words of Elder Oaks, we can be one of the manifestations of the Spirit in the lives of those we love.
Having heavenly help is so crucial to our ability to succeed in this life. Even beyond the power our covenants bring us, we desperately need tender mercies that often come in the form of various kinds of ministering angels. But becoming the angels that deliver those tender mercies is the most important thing we can accomplish here. By delivering messages from the Spirit in the form of hugs, texts, meals, and conversations, we not only bless the lives of others but ourselves. Being able to deliver those tender mercies helps us ascend together towards the Lord.
So much of this message has revolved around the ministering of angels, but we cannot forget the importance of the Aaronic priesthood in this doctrine. It is the Aaronic priesthood (which is the Lord’s power) that cleanses us and binds us to the Savior so that these beautiful blessings can be manifest. That Aaronic priesthood was restored through John the Baptist to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in a different sacred grove of trees. It is a real power, and it is the Lord’s power. We can receive the presence of angels and become angels ourselves through the power that the Lord chose to bestow upon the children of men through the prophet Joseph Smith.