Updated on January 17, 2022
Doug Tales 49: What Joseph Smith Said and Did, Part Three
Doug Mendenhall explores Joseph Smith’s teachings about angels of light and angels of darkness in Conquering Spiritual Evil, Volume One (2012), on pages 37-40:
It appears that the adversary and his minions have their own bounds, limits, and laws that control and govern them just as the Lord does with His angels. This very plainly shows the concept of opposition in all things. As previously mentioned in D&C 121:4 it states: “O Lord God Almighty, maker of heaven, earth, and seas, and of all things that in them are, and who controllest and subjectest the devil, and the dark and benighted dominion of Sheol…” It is the Lord God Almighty that sets the bounds, limits, laws, dominions, and controls of the devil and his hosts.
God also sets the bounds of angels and what they are allowed to do, say, and minister. Joseph and many of his companions pierced the veil and saw angels, conversed with them, and were administered to by them. “Angels shall guard his (Bishop Whitney’s) house, and shall guard the lives of his posterity… Many of my brethren who received the ordinance [of anointing] with me saw glorious visions also. Angels ministered unto them as well as to myself. . .Others [high councilors] were ministered unto by holy angels.” (History of the Church 2:288, 381, 382)
Yet as previously mentioned they also have their bounds, limits, and laws by which they operate. For example, Joseph Smith indicated, “If an Angel or spirit appears offer him your hand; if he is a spirit from God he will stand still and not offer you his hand. If from the Devil he will either shrink back from you or offer his hand, which if he does you will feel nothing, but be deceived. A good Spirit will not deceive. Angels are beings who have bodies and appear to men in the form of man.” (Words of Joseph Smith, p. 44)
Also in the minutes of the General Conference in Nauvoo, “[President Joseph Smith] explained the difference between an angel and a ministering spirit; the one a resurrected or translated body, with its spirit ministering to embodied spirits—the other a disembodied spirit, visiting and ministering to disembodied spirits. Jesus Christ became a ministering spirit (while His body was lying in the sepulcher) to the spirits in prison, to fulfill an important part of His mission, without which He could not have perfected His work, or entered into His rest. After His resurrection He appeared as an angel to His disciples.” (History of the Church 4:425) Therefore, “[God] set the ordinances to be the same forever and ever, and set Adam to watch over them, to reveal them from heaven to man, or to send angels to reveal them. ‘Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?’ (Hebrews 1:14). These angels are under the direction of Michael or Adam, who acts under the direction of the Lord. From the above quotation we learn that Paul perfectly understood the purposes of God in relation to His connection with man, and that glorious and perfect order which He established in Himself, whereby he sent forth power, revelations, and glory.” (History of the Church 4:208)
From these quotes we can see a gradation in spirits, translated beings, and resurrected beings of light. I am sure there are many “levels” within each of these realms, depending on the amount of light and understanding we gained while in this mortal probation. We discuss angels and archangels in our church, with Michael being declared an archangel. “But, behold, verily I say unto you, before the earth shall pass away, Michael, mine archangel, shall sound his trump, and then shall all the dead awake, for their graves shall be opened, and they shall come forth—yea, even all.” (D&C 29:26)
Since there is a hierarchy among beings of light, would the same be true with beings of darkness? Years ago I was discussing with my daughter, Denise, the concept of a gradation of dark entities. When the Lord declared that some only come out “by fasting and prayer,” He showed us that this is a true principle. Denise made the comment that there are “little devils” that she called a “number one” and said that they go all the way up to the adversary which she called a “number ten.” Later she would tell me that she really should have said that their gradation should go from one to one-hundred. She mentioned that the nines and tens on her former scale were devils you didn’t want to mess with; they were extremely powerful. That would make sense if we look at these as being the opposite of the Lord and His archangels, otherwise it would be impossible to be “tempted in proportion to the vision, revelation, or manifestation you have received.” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 3:206) There is a balance that is required even in these things.
We also discussed possible reasons why the average person can’t see beings of light or beings of darkness. She mentioned how she had been shown how everything vibrates at a different rate and light beings vibrate at a higher rate or frequency than we do. It requires our spiritual eyes to be opened to see them. As Joseph F. Smith said in D&C, section 138, verse 11: “As I pondered over these things which are written, the eyes of my understanding were opened…” Or with Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in section 110, verse 1: “The veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened.” And finally with Joseph and Sidney Rigdon in section 76, verse 12: “By the power of the Spirit our eyes were opened …”
Shortly after talking to Denise I listened to a scientist talk about a discovery through experiments that the energy/light spectrum is huge and that we see very little of it. He went on to explain that if the full energy/light spectrum that has been measured was as tall as the Empire State building which is one hundred stories tall, and the energy/light spectrum that we humans see was shown on the side of that building it would be tiny in comparison. He stated that the energy/light spectrum that we humans can detect is about the thickness of a grain of sand. That means there is so much more out there that we can’t see or even imagine. King Benjamin was right; man really is small when compared to the workings of God. We really are a speck of sand on the seashore. Yet God knows us and loves us as much as any of His creations. His only desire is to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39)