Seeing Angels in 2005

June 19, 2005    By: Geoff J @ 10:43 pm   Category: Mormon Culture/Practices,Personal Revelation

I have a friend the recently saw angels in the temple. I’m happy for her. But the fact is I’m not particularly envious. Seeing angels isn’t really high on my list of desired spiritual gifts. As a result I suspect I am highly unlikely to see any until I start really wanting to and asking to.

This friend is a relatively recent convert who is half Chinese (her mother was raised in China). She has the advantage of a Chinese heritage where visits from dead relatives are fully expected. I find it unsurprising that she would receive angelic visits as a result. She wanted them and she probably fully expected them. And what better place for visits from ancestors than in the place where she was doing vicarious work for them? I do not doubt she actually saw these angels at all. The fact is that her culture aided her in generating the type of faith that allows for such a manifestation. I think it is a wonderful thing.

I, on the other hand, am about as Westernized and Americanized as one can get. My parents are converts and we have ancestors that arrived on the Mayflower. In my culture we don’t expect or seek to see angels. But is that such a bad thing? Am I missing a lot by not seeing angels?

I listed all the gifts of the spirit I could find in the scriptural summaries of such gifts in a previous post. I have concluded that I currently get all of the Spiritual Gifts I seek. These include:

� Power to teach the word of wisdom
� Power to teach the word of knowledge
� Great faith
� Healing
� Working mighty miracles
� Power to prophesy
� Knowing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God
� Believing those that know this
� Knowing the differences of administration
� Knowing the diversities of operations
� Discernment

That is all but three of the gifts I found in my cursory combing of the relevant scriptures. The other three are:

� Beholding ministering angels
� Speak in tongues
� Interpret tongues

I have no doubt those other three are available upon asking too. I know lots of people who have received them. I just haven’t had much need (or desire) for any of those yet. I suppose if the need ever arose I could get them too. But they would probably require some extra work on my part because they are pretty foreign to my culture.

So why all the wailing and gnashing of teeth in the Bloggernacle about our not having the Gifts of the Spirit today? As far as I can tell all the gifts of the spirit are there for the asking right now.

20 Comments »

  1. I’m so delighted to read this post today.

    This morming as I was reading in the Doctrine and Covenants, I was struck by the notion that we recieve a knowledge of the things we ask for in faith. If we don’t ask for these gifts–and along with asking, work all these things out in our minds, then we simply arn’t going to get them.

    I also like that you’re content not having the gifts you do not desire or need, because the Lord tells us “Trifle not with these things; do not ask for that which you ought not” (D&C 8:10).

    Comment by Crystal — June 20, 2005 @ 7:54 am

  2. I for one, have been very interested in seeing angels, conversing with angels, etc. I’m also interested in seer stones. I wonder if any GAs or above Mormons have bothered using one in the past 50 years.

    In my culture we don’t expect or seek to see angels.

    So why all the wailing and gnashing of teeth in the Bloggernacle about our not having the Gifts of the Spirit today? As far as I can tell all the gifts of the spirit are there for the asking right now.

    Can it be that our culture is so deist and/or locked into the Age of Reason that faith in the miraculous Gifts are so lacking?

    The question that haunts this culture is: Is it lack of faith or lack of gifts?

    The mind is so powerful that a person can cause themselves to see whatever they want to see. I read Skeptic Magazine to help give myself a balance view of the world. They have some online articles that are very interesting, particularly the article concerning their investigation into Benny Hinn’s “healings”. They were allowed to track several people who were healed. They documented their medical problems, documented their healings and documented the after effects. In one case, a woman had severe back problems. After being “healed” by Benny Hinn, she got up dancing. She REALLY did have severe back problems. She REALLY did believe she was healed. She REALLY did dance without pain. They followed up with her later. After 2 weeks, the effects of the healings were gone. IN fact she was in worse shape than before the “healing” since her dancing had caused her to crush a vertibrae in her back. She was so “high” on the “annointing” she REALLY could feel no pain, unfortunately, pain is helpful in telling you not to hurt yourself further. When they tried to explain to her that she had merely pysched herself out and was never healed, she refused to believe them saying that it was her subsequent lack of faith that had caused her condition to worsen and the healing to leave her.

    This is the ultimate problem in trying to keep things real. Imagination, hullicination, hypnotism can greatly alter our perception of reality. How can you have the right amount of faith to have a miracles, etc, without going into the Imaginary World where you see what you want to see even when what you see is not what is there.

    Did that lady REALLY see an angel, or did her heightened imagination coupled with her cultural background make it appear in her mind’s eye?

    For those who complain that they are seeing fewer gifts: Could they be right in the sense that they are more aware of reality and are not likely to be over-imgainative than past Christian cultures or other cultures? Or is it a lack of faith? Or are they not spiritual prepared? I don’t know if we can ever truly answer that correctly.

    On a side not/but somewhat related: The one thing that attracted me here on my google search was regarding your blog entry that was actually linked to another blog entry regarding quantum physics and how light can change its mind or direction after hitting a mirror to go to the other side after the mirror is changed to make it appear as if they light light had hit it at the different angle all along. [I did a poor job in describing it/perhaps Geoff can find that link again so others can read it.] That did more to increase my faith in miracles than anything else in the past 10 years. It allowed me to see the possibility of the impossible through a mechanical/realist view. Since that time, I’ve had a minor miraculous experience, but a signficant miraculous experience to myself nonetheless. My current view is that for a “miracle” to happen, you must be the mirror. When light or quantum particles, etc looks for its clues on where to be, you must be the biggest clue to alter it. Your faith allows you to be that mirror and can cause miraculous events.

    Comment by Speaking Up — June 20, 2005 @ 7:55 am

  3. Fact is, there was a time when those latter three gifts were _not_ foreign to our culture. We’ve assimilated Western scientific skepticism more than we know, I think, and in my experience many people would be slightly weirded out if you were to tell them you were going to seek the gift of tongues as, say, Eliza Snow experienced it. The gnashing and wailing and so forth are perhaps simply an expression of regret that these days in America doing so would take “extra work,” because we’re not as childishly accepting (in the Mosiah 3 sense) of these things as we used to be.

    Comment by Matt Bowman — June 20, 2005 @ 7:57 am

  4. I felt and saw people hovering around me when I almost died and was in the ICU (CCU? whichever is worse) for a day or two. I never thought of them as ministering angels but I guess that’s exactly what they were. They weren’t beings of light or anything, just people.

    I’m not a skeptical person by any means, though, if that makes you feel better. :)

    Comment by Susan M — June 20, 2005 @ 8:13 am

  5. In Guatemala I encountered people *all the time* that had dreams with spiritual significance. They were always telling us that someone appeared to them in a dream and told them to listen to the gringos in white shirts or something to that effect. I have no doubt they had such dreams. Not that that had a great affect on their permanence in the Church once baptized.

    Comment by Rusty — June 20, 2005 @ 8:33 am

  6. …because we’re not as childishly accepting (in the Mosiah 3 sense) of these things as we used to be. – Matt

    Here’s another topic I internally fight over all the time (child-like faith). My wife and I have a 2 year old. When its time to eat, he doesn’t want to wait and pray before he digs in, he wants to get to business. Since, we often serve hot food, we have to warn him not to dig in immediately, that its hot, and if we pray over the food and ask for it to cool down, it’ll happen. (It also helps him to get over his initial animal response and pray).

    Now, the basic mechanic is, that we pray and by the time the prayer is finished (1-3 minutes depending on the other child’s interruptions, etc.) , the food is cooler. So my 2 year old thinks that the prayer was answered and the food was made cooler due to that prayer – rather than the food getting naturally cooler due to time and heat dispersal.

    Well, one day we served something (I don’t remember the exact item), but it was one of those things that can still be very hot in the middle even after the exterior has cooled. Well, he asked to pray over the hot food before we even suggested it (he saw the steam rising). So we pray over the food, and afterward he immediately goes for a bite, despite our urgings to blow on it and test it first. In other words, his child-like faith was so strong he BELIEVE or KNEW it would be cooler. And why not? He had always been that way before. However, as he took the large hot bite of food, he quickly realized that THIS time it was different. It was too hot. I laughed and I internally cried at the same time as his facial reaction went quickly through the wide gambit of emotions of confusion, pain and anger. (Don’t worry it was hot, but not 1st degree burn hot. He ate the rest of the meal without any problems, but diffinately blew on every bite).

    Child-like faith in action meeting reality and disappointment. I still don’t know what to think about this or how it fits into my world-view. I want to have child-like faith, but I don’t want to get burned. I’ve seen to many burn victims in my life.

    Comment by Speaking Up — June 20, 2005 @ 8:59 am

  7. My thoughts exactly Speaking Up

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — June 20, 2005 @ 9:27 am

  8. I don’t disagree on the reason for the disparity, Geoff. I will however state that the early culture of the Saints was condusive to regular manifestations of the gifts of the Spirit. While I have had many experiences with the gifts, it is not nearly with regularity as the early saints. Couple this with the lack of some of the more extraordinary gifts, and the sum is something that I believe is not desirable. I consequently tend to see it as more of a problem, I guess.

    Comment by J. Stapley — June 20, 2005 @ 9:40 am

  9. Child-like faith in action meeting reality and disappointment. I still don’t know what to think about this or how it fits into my world-view. I want to have child-like faith, but I don’t want to get burned. I’ve seen to many burn victims in my life.

    Oh, absolutely. I think we often take the ‘be like a little child’ thing much too far and use it as an excuse for complacency, willful ignorance and an entirely unjustified suspicion of intellectual inquiry. On the other hand, I also think that cynicism and self-consciousness can inhibit spiritual experience. A couple months ago in my sister’s ward, a woman got up in testimony meeting and told us about how she had a vision of Joseph Smith, and she knew it was him and therefore, that the Church was true, because he had blue eyes, _just like in the Work and the Glory_. I bent over in my seat and bit my hand to keep myself from laughing out loud. I still find the whole thing slightly ludicrous, but there’s also something worthwhile in the simple sincerity of her faith.

    Comment by Matt Bowman — June 20, 2005 @ 10:03 am

  10. Speaking Up: Did that lady REALLY see an angel, or did her heightened imagination coupled with her cultural background make it appear in her mind’s eye?

    I suspect this question is indicative of the problem. When you say “REALLY see an angel” I suspect you mean “with her physical eyes in a way that anyone else (wicked or righteous) would have seen too.” This kind of measurable, repeatable upon experimentation type of view of these events that many of us require for something to be “real” could be a major part of the problem. The 19th century saints were not so bogged down. Consider the description Joseph gave of a visit he and Oliver had from Christ and others in the Kirtland temple in section 110:

    THE veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened.

    Again in the marvelous vision in section 76 when the savior visited:

    19 And while we meditated upon these things, the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings and they were opened, and the glory of the Lord shone round about.

    20 And we beheld the glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father, and received of his fulness;

    21 And saw the holy angels, and them who are sanctified before his throne, worshiping God, and the Lamb, who worship him forever and ever.

    22 And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!

    23 For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father-

    24 That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.

    According to the records, you and I could have been in the rooms and could have had no knowledge of this. The “eyes of our understanding” are very real, but they are not the eyes of our body. It is hard to tell how often the eyes of the body were ever used to see angels or visions in the past.

    But why should it matter? If a real God can appear to us in some sort of 3-D video-conference inside our brain then why is that any different than a physical presence? If someone in Australia could do that and communicate with your brain does the fact that he is in Australia diminish the message? Would he have to use a Star Trek transporter to make it a valid conversation? The important part is that it is God or and angel and that the message is so clear it is as if the person was physically there. (And of course God and other resurrected beings can choose to physically appear too.)

    Comment by Geoff J — June 20, 2005 @ 3:30 pm

  11. Re #6 — What you are describing there is not actual faith but false belief. Alma said actual faith is “hope for things which are not seen, which are true.”

    The method he gives to add to our real faith is to experiment and experiment and experiment.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 20, 2005 @ 3:45 pm

  12. J,

    I wonder if it is impossible to have our cake and eat it too with this. I suspect that if we withdrew as a people completely from modern culture and truly made a physical effort to separate ourselve as Zion from the restof the world (Babylon) we would get that culture back. But is it really worth it? I’m not sure.

    By integrating with what the scripures call spiritual Babylon we’ve gotten pretty good at the entry-level spirituality and it has done wonders for the numbers of convert baptisms. (How many converts do you think we’d have had if we required all converts to leave the world and move to a center place of Zion where we kept the worl out entirely?) But we certainly lose power at the high end of the spiritual spectrum by being dual citizens (of Babylon and Zion).

    Comment by Geoff J — June 20, 2005 @ 3:55 pm

  13. Interesting. If we are just comparing members of the church to the entire population, whether we were geographically isolated or not, we would still be a miniscule percentage of the world population. So from that perspective, I don’t see much of an advantage.

    But if the question is whether or not we can establish zion, I’m not sure, but I hope so. You’ve posted before on the posibility of the Lord’s return being a function of the Church’s agency. I’m not sure about that either, but I find the prospect fascinating. It seems to me that the entire purpose of the church is not convert baptisms (I know, three-fold mission, yadda yadda), but the establishment of zion.

    If any people in the history of the church had a chance at it, though, it would have been those who were able to share the communion of the Spirit together. It would have been those who had the faith for the extraordinary. No?

    Comment by J. Stapley — June 20, 2005 @ 8:37 pm

  14. Speaking Up,

    Thought your comment about teaching your child about prayers being answered and having faith interesting. Personally, I find that it’s much better to just be straight forward with my children in daily life, spiritual matters, etc. For instance, “Wait for the food to cool down or you will get burned.” Instead of tying the ordinary to the extraordinary. Then when the extraordinary comes around (and it will) the child will definitely know it.

    Eventually that child will be old enough to understand that dad was full of crud and food always cools down whether it’s been prayed upon or not. Then when he/she is really trying to get a testimony of their own they will look back at events like these and say, “Dad wasn’t straight forward on the food so how do I know he’s being straightforward when it comes to Jesus Christ.”

    I think that part of what makes our culture so skeptical is that dishonesty (I’m not calling you dishonest SU) is so rampant we don’t know who to trust is telling us the truth.

    Sheesh, I didn’t intend to sound so jaded.

    Comment by Kristen J — June 21, 2005 @ 1:34 am

  15. Except most of us do the same with Santa Claus and no one calls us “dishonest” for so doing…

    Comment by Jennifer R. — June 21, 2005 @ 8:28 am

  16. Actually, I don’t do that with Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, etc. My husband and I decided a long time ago that when our children asked us if any of those characters were real, regardless of the child’s age, we would tell them the truth because of the very reason I stated in my previous comment.

    It’s funny though, most people I’ve told that to usually tell me that I’m no fun, too serious, etc. I guess I just feel my credibility as a their parents is way more important than Santa.

    By the way, our oldest child, who is only 8, has already asked us if God was real. She did a lot of contemplating about life and such around the time of her baptism. We told her yes and she knows that we tell it to her straight on these kinds of things.

    Comment by kristen j — June 21, 2005 @ 8:56 am

  17. Re #6-What you are describing there is not actual faith but false belief. Alma said actual faith is “hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” – Geoff

    False belief to believe that God answers prayers?! Or do you mean false belief to believe that God will answer every prayer? Or do you mean false belief that God does miracles? Of false belief that God would bother to cool down the food of a 2 year old? I’m not sure what you think is the false belief there.

    The food does cool naturally. True. My wife wanted my son to wait to pray before eating and uses the “pray to cool down the food” card. I support her because I do that “yes, dear” thing sometimes (pick your battles men… pick your battles!).

    [Personally I don't care much for praying over food. I can't think of a more redundant and repetitive prayer than a food prayer. I do this with my family since my wife is so adamant about it. I thank God for all I have at night and I feel that repeating it again at supper is just more vain repetition. I've gotten food poisoning after praying over food, so I don't see it as a protective measure either. But, thats a whole diff. topic so....]

    To my son, it appears that prayer works. Not a bad thing to teach your son, but maybe an altogether unrealistic thing if he starts to believe that God is a magic box that produces whatever you ask for. Since I’m still confused over why God seems to answer some prayers and not others, I do not know exactly how to teach expectant results from prayer to my son. So I just go with the standards for now, of praying for good things (and what’s not good about asking God to cool down your food a bit before eating it?) with faith and expecting answers. Maybe the Blog-World participants here can give me some pointers. I’m willing to learn.

    Thought your comment about teaching your child about prayers being answered and having faith interesting. – Kristen

    I want my son to have great faith. I still believe that somehow, a person can get answers all the time from prayer. I’m still trying to figure out the somehow (seer stones? more faith? special type of prayer? being more worthy?)

    I agree with your Santa Claus stuff Kristen. I actually go along with the J.W.s on the present giving thing too. I don’t want to have to have an excuse (Christmas, Birth Days, etc) to give my son a gift. (Although this leads my wife to accuse me of spoiling). So, we dont’ put up the pagan Christmas tree, we don’t talk about Santa Claus, and we tell my son that we give gifts to him on Christ’s birthday to celebrate since He’s not here right now and we take the scripture, what you have done to the least of these, you have done unto me to heart.

    When you say “REALLY see an angel” I suspect you mean “with her physical eyes in a way that anyone else (wicked or righteous) would have seen too.” – Geoff

    Let me clarify, being somewhat trained as a skeptic, when I say “REALLY see an angel” I mean, is she seeing just what she wants to see: her own personal hallucination and that it could had just as easilty been reproduced using drugs or hypnotism (suggestion)? Also, she not only wasnt’ using her physical eyes, but
    1) she wasnt’ seeing anything that God used his powers for her to see, 2) she wasn’t seeing anything that was there in either a physical or spiritual sense,
    3) she didn’t receive a telegram or teleconference or any other form of communication from an outside source

    that all she saw was something that existed only in her own mind?

    An example would be one of those UFO abducted people who swear up and down they were picked up by aliens and given some probing. It didn’t happen people! But, to them, it was very real.

    Thats what I’m asking… that’s the difficulty in discerning stories like that. Because its really difficult to tell. She may had seen with her spiritual eyes an honest to goodness angel in the temple, but she also might had been so worked up about going that she psyched herself out and she saw her own personal hallucination.

    For her story, does it really matter what she saw? Maybe. If this was a hallucination and she believes it… maybe next time the angel appears again and tells her some false doctrine (maybe some Benny Hinn preaching she picked up subconsciously while cruising the TV channels), she might believe it hook line and sinker. Heck, an angel told her!

    This is why signs are so useless for the most part. Because when you show a sign to a skeptic, they are really good at telling you that it wasn’t a sign and why.

    It’s also why false signs are a useful tool of Satan (think the Fatima prophesies [catholic] and the sun sign that backed it up), because those that are into signs, can be led to believe lots of false things.

    The key is did she feel the Spirit and did the Spirit testify to the accuracy of the sighting/vision?

    And really thats the only key any one has about any sign or angel sighting.

    Comment by Speaking Up — June 21, 2005 @ 10:00 am

  18. Good comment, Speaking Up.

    First, my quote of Alma was mostly a definition clarification. Alma says that if our hope is for something that is true then it is faith. Therefore if we sincerely hope for something that is not true it is not (at least by Alma’s definition) actual faith. The definition of faith is of course a large topic… Maybe I’ll post some thoughts on that and we can talk about here later on…

    The key is did she feel the Spirit and did the Spirit testify to the accuracy of the sighting/vision?

    And really thats the only key any one has about any sign or angel sighting.

    That is of course the key to any communication from God. That is why serious skeptics have difficulty with spiritual things in general. All of the naturally skeptical questions about an angel sighting apply to every communication we receive from God. A skeptic can always claim every prompting and revelation is a hallucination and the person that experienced the communication from the outside has only her testimony of the event as support. Such is life.

    God seems to have intentionally made his methods of communication with humankind indiscernible to modern measurement devices. Faith is still the only method to tap into that Celestial information source.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 21, 2005 @ 10:34 am

  19. Up, what’s evil about things like Fatima? Aren’t we suppose to add to the faith of others, not tear down what they already have? I’ve been to Lourdes twice and thought the whole experience was kind of neat. The healing water tastes great too.

    Comment by Steve (FSF) — June 22, 2005 @ 7:01 am

  20. Concerning Fatima and other possible signs deserves its own blog entry.

    But to answer Steve’s question: The dancing sun sign that was produced to give a sign to the unbelievers seemed like a mass hallucination. I wasn’t there, so I can’t say exactly but based on what I read, it didn’t seem very uplifting or spiritual to those who witnessed it. In fact most were terrified. Based on those reports it seems more like the sign was a production of Satan than God. Of course it could had been a complexed production of man, but who knows?

    Aren’t we suppose to add to the faith of others, not tear down what they already have? – Steve (FSF)

    Should we add to the faith of others in something that’s not true? Should we use Paul’s techniques of squeezing a belief in the Invisible God into Christianity? Paul’s techniques were diffinately effective in adding members, but in the end I think it helped to contribute more to apostacy and false beliefs infiltrating the Catholic church. Its a two edged sword. It gives you Easter on a fertility Pagan holiday and Christmas during the pagan Celebration of the Invincible Sun. Harmless? Maybe… I’ll let each decide for themselves.

    Comment by Speaking Up — June 22, 2005 @ 10:05 am

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