(This article was adapted from Rescuing Wayward Children. Click here to learn more. Receive the entire Pillars of Zion series free. Click here.)
As we work to reclaim our wayward children, we are not alone. Often angels are dispatched to help us. These angels include our ancestors, whose love and concern for the child equals ours.
Redemption is the work of celestial people; thus it is the work of angels, as Heavenly Father employs them. We receive continual support in our quest to rescue our wayward children. As both Hezekiah and Elisha testified, there are many more which stand to help us than the powers that oppose our children and us.[i] Joseph Smith taught, “The spirits of the just are exalted to a greater and more glorious work; hence they are blessed in their departure to the world of spirits. Enveloped in flaming fire, they are not far from us, and know and understand our thoughts, feelings, and motions, and are often pained therewith.”[ii]
Angels are agents of the Holy Ghost and speak and act by his power.[iii] That the keys of the ministering of angels[iv] have been restored should fill us with hope and faith. By virtue of the powers attendant to the Aaronic Priesthood, parents have the right to ask for angelic help in behalf of their children.
We all know that sometimes angels are those who now live on this earth, but often, angelic help comes in the form of our ancestors, they who perhaps understand better than we the power of the “welding link”[v] that binds us together through temple ordinances. They enjoy a clearer view of the importance of the children’s and their fathers’ hearts being turned to each other, and the sealing that must be set in place and not allowed to be broken lest “the earth will be smitten with a curse.”[vi] The Prophet Joseph revealed,
And now, my dearly beloved brethren and sisters, let me assure you that these are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over, as pertaining to our salvation. For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation, as Paul said concerning the fathers-that they without us cannot be made perfect-neither can we without our dead be made perfect.[vii]
Heaven and earth are partners in the cosmic work of salvation. Neither can we be made perfect without our fathers (we need their help) nor can they be made perfect without us (we provide them the saving ordinances). When we bless them with saving ordinances, they are suddenly endowed with power to help save our/their children. Elder Boyd K. Packer wrote, “Brother Widtsoe reaffirmed that those who give themselves with all their might and main to this work [genealogical and temple work] receive help from the other side. Whoever seeks to help those on the other side receives help in return in all the affairs of life.'”[viii]
In this mutual redemptive effort, the hearts of the children and their fathers are turned to each other, or welded together, and the “promises made to the fathers” are planted “in the hearts of the children.”[ix] What promises? The promises of the Abrahamic covenant, which include the promise of salvation and eventual godhood. That is, as the fathers have covenanted to save us, their children, so we have covenanted to save them.
Angels are not Strangers
Our deceased ancestors, therefore, become ministering servants-angels of God-and their redemptive work continues. President Joseph F. Smith said, “When messengers are sent to minister to the inhabitants of this earth, they are not strangers, but from the ranks of our kindred, friends, and fellow-beings and fellow-servants.”[x] Additionally, in his vision of the spirit world, he declared, “I beheld that the faithful elders [including sisters] of this dispensation, when they depart from mortal life, continue their labors in the preaching of the gospel of repentance and redemption, through the sacrifice of the Only Begotten Son of God, among those who are in darkness and under the bondage of sin in the great world of the spirits of the dead.”[xi]
Of the reality of ministering ancestral angels, a mother from Utah wrote,
One of my most precious experiences occurred when my wayward son had visited me and left me in tears once again. This child is like trying to hug a porcupine! He believes he is doing himself and everyone else a favor when he tells things the way they are.’ That evening, I had been alone at home. Everyone in my support system was unavailable: my husband was away serving in a Church calling, my youngest son was at work, and my parents were out of town. I was completely defenseless when my son began to hurl unkind accusations and angry words. I remember the searing pain and agony I felt in the wake of his tirade. When he stomped out the door, I sank to the floor and sobbed. I felt myself spiraling into despair and loneliness. I thought that I had nowhere to run and nobody to turn to. As I wept uncontrollably, I realized that I wasn’t alone; all I needed to do was talk to my Heavenly Father and ask for comfort.
What occurred then was unexpectedly beautiful and priceless. As I poured out my agony and begged not to be alone, I asked for someone to come be with me and help me through this horrible time. Soon, I began to feel a warmth creep across my body. Immediately to my right, I sensed the presence of a grandfather to whom I had been particularly close in my youth. Then, to my left, I sensed the presence of my husband’s grandmother, whom I had met only twice in our early marriage. She was sympathetic to my plight; she had lived her life without seeing any of her sons active in the Church. As these two family members stayed with me, I felt surrounded by love, peace, and the knowledge that families are connected in this life and the next.
My husband and I have had many experiences with ancestors helping us, but this experience was especially sweet because it came to me in such a difficult moment. It was a vivid reminder that we are never alone. When we need help we will be ministered to by spirits who love us, know us, and want to help us succeed.
Angelic Ministration is Central to the Restored Gospel
To discount the reality of the ministering of angels is to deny one of the supernal blessings of the restored gospel. As Moroni was closing the Book of Mormon, he exhorted us to believe in miracles and in the ministering of angels: “Wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.
At the April 2006 General Conference, President James E. Faust, quoting Joseph F. Smith, confirmed,
In ancient and modern times angels have appeared and given instruction, warnings, and direction, which benefited the people they visited. We do not consciously realize the extent to which ministering angels affect our lives. President Joseph F. Smith said, “In like manner our fathers and mothers, brothers, sisters and friends who have passed away from this earth, having been faithful, and worthy to enjoy these rights and privileges, may have a mission given them to visit their relatives and friends upon the earth again, bringing from the divine Presence messages of love, of warning, or reproof and instruction, to those whom they had learned to love in the flesh.” Many of us feel that we have had this experience. Their ministry has been and is an important part of the gospel.[xiii]
Assembling the Powers of Earth and Heaven
We must not despair. In working with our wayward children, God will assemble all the powers of heaven and earth to achieve His glorious work. Whether our children have strayed from the path of truth, become lost by following a forbidden path, or consciously rebelled and run away to a far county, their Heavenly Father can find and rescue them. Even when they are so broken that they are no longer recognizable, He will patiently put them back together until they can bring forth good fruit.
No matter their choices and situations, God loves them and is constantly working to save and redeem them. And so are their family and friends that have gone before. We are never alone in the work of redemption.
This article is associated with my book, Rescuing Wayward Children. Click here to learn more. Receive the entire Pillars of Zion series free. Click here. Would you like to help our Internet missionary project? Click here: www.gospelideals.org.
[x] Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine: Selections from the Sermons and Writings of Joseph F. Smith, 435.