The Ministry of Angels
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
This was such a beautiful talk. I took out my favorite portions, but I really loved it all. Click here for the entire talk.
From the beginning down through the dispensations, God has used angels as
His emissaries in conveying love and concern for His children. Time in this
setting does not allow even a cursory examination of the scriptures or our own
latter-day history, which are so filled with accounts of angels ministering to
those on earth, but it is rich doctrine and rich history indeed.
beings are not seen. Sometimes they are. But seen or unseen they are always
near. Sometimes their assignments are very grand and have significance for the
whole world. Sometimes the messages are more private. Occasionally the angelic
purpose is to warn. But most often it is to comfort, to provide some form of
merciful attention, guidance in difficult times. When in Lehi’s dream he found
himself in a frightening place, “a dark and dreary waste,” as he described it,
he was met by an angel, “a man . . . dressed in a white
robe; . . . he spake unto me,” Lehi said, “and bade me
Lehi did follow him to safety and ultimately to the path of salvation.
I really had never given this topic much thought. But what a wonderful thing for us to remember- that we are not alone.
But I testify that angels are still sent to help us, even as they were sent
to help Adam and Eve, to help the prophets, and indeed to help the Savior of the
I ask everyone within the sound of my voice to take heart, be filled with
faith, and remember the Lord has said He “would fight [our] battles, [our]
children’s battles, and [the battles of our] children’s children.”10
And what do we do to merit such a defense? We are to “search diligently, pray
always, and be believing[. Then] all things shall work together for [our] good,
if [we] walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith [we] have
The latter days are not a time to fear and tremble. They are a time to be
believing and remember our covenants.
Sometimes I think that such promises are beyond me- I like how he tells us what is required to receive such blessings- to search diligently, pray always and be believing.- I can do that. We can do that.
Referring to his childhood on a large Idaho farm, Brother Barrus spoke of
his nightly assignment to round up the cows at milking time. Because the cows
pastured in a field bordered by the occasionally treacherous Teton River, the
strict rule in the Barrus household was that during the spring flood season the
children were never to go after any cows who ventured across the river. They
were always to return home and seek mature help.
One Saturday just after his
seventh birthday, Brother Barrus’s parents promised the family a night at the
movies if the chores were done on time. But when young Clyn arrived at the
pasture, the cows he sought had crossed the river, even though it was running at
high flood stage. Knowing his rare night at the movies was in jeopardy, he
decided to go after the cows himself, even though he had been warned many times
never to do so.
As the seven-year-old urged his old horse, Banner, down into
the cold, swift stream, the horse’s head barely cleared the water. An adult
sitting on the horse would have been safe, but at Brother Barrus’s tender age,
the current completely covered him except when the horse lunged forward several
times, bringing Clyn’s head above water just enough to gasp for air.
turn to Brother Barrus’s own words:
“When Banner finally climbed the other
bank, I realized that my life had been in grave danger and that I had done a
terrible thing—I had knowingly disobeyed my father. I felt that I could redeem
myself only by bringing the cows home safely. Maybe then my father would forgive
me. But it was already dusk, and I didn’t know for sure where I was. Despair
overwhelmed me. I was wet and cold, lost and afraid.
“I climbed down from old
Banner, fell to the ground by his feet, and began to cry. Between thick sobs, I
tried to offer a prayer, repeating over and over to my Father in Heaven, ‘I’m
sorry. Forgive me! I’m sorry. Forgive me!’
“I prayed for a long time. When I
finally looked up, I saw through my tears a figure dressed in white walking
toward me. In the dark, I felt certain it must be an angel sent in answer to my
prayers. I did not move or make a sound as the figure approached, so overwhelmed
was I by what I saw. Would the Lord really send an angel to me, who had been so
“Then a familiar voice said, ‘Son, I’ve been looking for you.’
In the darkness I recognized the voice of my father and ran to his outstretched
arms. He held me tightly, then said gently, ‘I was worried. I’m glad I found
“I tried to tell him how sorry I was, but only disjointed words came
out of my trembling lips—’Thank
you . . . darkness . . . afraid . . . river . . . alone.’
Later that night I learned that when I had not returned from the pasture, my
father had come looking for me. When neither I nor the cows were to be found, he
knew I had crossed the river and was in danger. Because it was dark and time was
of the essence, he removed his clothes down to his long white thermal underwear,
tied his shoes around his neck, and swam a treacherous river to rescue a wayward
beloved brothers and sisters, I testify of angels, both the heavenly and the
mortal kind. In doing so I am testifying that God never leaves us alone, never
leaves us unaided in the challenges that we face. “[N]or will he, so long as
time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man [or woman
or child] upon the face thereof to be saved.”13
On occasions, global or personal, we may feel we are distanced from God, shut
out from heaven, lost, alone in dark and dreary places. Often enough that
distress can be of our own making, but even then the Father of us all is
watching and assisting. And always there are those angels who come and go all
around us, seen and unseen, known and unknown, mortal and immortal.
all believe more readily in, and have more gratitude for, the Lord’s promise as
contained in one of President Monson’s favorite scriptures: “I will go before
your face. I will be on your right hand and on your
left, . . . my Spirit shall be in your [heart], and mine
angels round about you, to bear you up.”14
In the process of praying for those angels to attend us, may we all try to be a
little more angelic ourselves—with a kind word, a strong arm, a declaration of
faith and “the covenant wherewith [we] have covenanted.”15
Perhaps then we can be emissaries sent from God when someone, perhaps a Primary
child, is crying,
“Darkness . . . afraid . . . river
. . . alone.”
A few years ago, while serving as the leader of the teenage girls in my congregation, I was preparing a message for a special meeting that we were having with them. While I was preparing what I would say, I had one of the most overwhelming feelings of my life. The feeling was that I needed to tell these girls that they were not alone in their tough times-- specifically that family members who had passed away are helping them. The impression came to me to share this so strongly, and I knew that it was a thought that was not mine. This was a testimony to me that this was true. Angels do minister among us. Funny how the scripture that was the basis for the message that I was preparing was the same one that Elder Holland used in this talk: "Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good."
I can imagine in the future, after I have passed away, what job would I like more than to help and look after my grand children, (wait- hopefully my great great grandchildren). To comfort them, and be with them.
This talk also made me think about being an angel here on earth. Elder Holland mentions that his wife is an angel. I think I complain too much about kids and messes to warrant such a title. No, I don't think DH would describe me as an angel. But I wish he could. I will work on that.