Modern Commentary Related to Chapter XII
ANGELS AND SPIRITS.
Boast not your lightning wires to bear the news,
Such tardy means the Saints would never choose;
Too slow your fluid, and too short your wires
For heavenly converse, such as love inspires.
If man would fain commune with worlds above,
Angels transport the news on wings of love.
“Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” Heb. i. 14.
Angels are of the same race as men. They are, in fact, men who have passed from the rudimental state to the higher spheres of progressive being. They have died and risen again to life, and are consequently possessed of a divine, human body of flesh and bones, immortal and eternal. They eat, drink, sing and converse like other men. Some of them hold the keys of Apostleship and Priesthood, by which they teach, instruct, bless, and perform miracles and many mighty works. Translated men, like Enoch, Elijah, John the Apostle, and three of the Apostles of the Western Hemisphere, are also like the angels.
Angels are ministers, both to men upon the earth, and to the world of spirits. They pass from one world to another with more ease, and in less time than we pass from one city to another. They have not a single attribute which man has not. But their attributes are more matured, or more developed, than the attributes of men in this present sphere of existence.
Whenever the keys of Priesthood, or, in other words, the keys of the science of Theology, are enjoyed by man on the earth, the people thus privileged, are entitled to the ministering of angels, whose business with men on the earth, is to restore the keys of the Apostleship, when lost; to ordain men to the Apostleship, when there has been no Apostolic succession; to commit the keys of a new dispensation; to reveal the mysteries of history; the facts of present or past times; and to unfold the events of a future time. They are, sometimes, commissioned also to execute judgments upon individuals, cities or nations. They can be present in their glory, or, they can come in the form and appearance of other men. They can also be present without being visible to mortals.
When they come as other men, they will perhaps eat and drink, and wash their feet; and lodge with their friends. Hence, it is written—”Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
Their business is, also, to comfort and instruct individual members of the Church of the Saints; to heal them by the laying on of hands in the name of Jesus Christ, or to tell them what means to use in order to get well; to teach them good things, to sing them a good song, to warn them of approaching danger, or, to deliver them from prison, or from death.
These blessings have always been enjoyed by the people, or Church of the Saints, whenever such Church has existed on our planet. They are not peculiar to one dispensation more than another.
They were busy in the Patriarchal dispensation, in the Mosaic, and in the Gospel dispensations. They delivered Lot and destroyed Sodom.
They were busy with Moses and the Prophets. They foretold to Zechariah the birth of John. They predicted to Mary her conception, and the birth of Jesus Christ. They informed Joseph, her husband, of her situation. They announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds of Judea, and sang an anthem of peace on earth and good will to man, to hail him welcome. They attended on his footsteps, in all his sojourn on the earth. In fact, an angel was the instrument to open the gloomy prison of the sepulchre, and to call forth the sleeping body of the Messiah, the first to exclaim, “He is not here, but is risen.” Two angels in white raiment, were the first to announce his second advent, while he ascended up in the presence of his disciples. Thus, being delivered from the personal attendance on their Master on the earth, they turned their attention to the Apostles, opened the way for their ministry among Jew and Gentile, delivering them from prison and from danger, and revealing the mysteries which God saw fit to make known to the Saints of that age. And when all the other Apostles had fallen asleep, and the Apostle John had been banished, to dig in the coal mines of the lone isle of Patmos, they still were faithful to their charge. They followed him there, and there unfolded to him the events of all ages and generations.
The darkness of the middle ages; the corruptions of Anti-Christ, under the name of Christianity; the rivers of blood, and the oceans of tears, which would flow during eighteen centuries of error; the mighty angel who should again commit the Gospel to the earth, for every nation, kindred, tongue, and people; the judgments of God, in the downfall of error and mystery; the restitution or restoration of the Church of the Saints; their final triumph and dominion over the earth; the descent of Jesus Christ to reign over all kingdoms; the resurrection of the Saints, and their reign over the earth; the end of death, and sorrow, and tears, and weeping; were all, all foretold by the angel to the last of the Twelve.
Again, in the present age, have angels restored the Gospel. Again have they committed the keys of Apostleship. Again have they opened some of the events of the past, present, and future.
Again have they attended upon the footsteps of Apostles, Prophets, and holy Martyrs, from the cradle to the grave. Again have they aided in the ministry, and assisted to deliver from prisons, and from persecutions and death, the Saints of the Most High. And again are they about to execute vengeance on great and notable cities and nations of the earth.
O what an unspeakable blessing is the ministry of angels to mortal man! What a pleasing thought, that many who minister to us, and watch over us, are our near kindred—our fathers who have died and risen again in former ages, and who watch over their descendants with all the parental care and solicitude which characterize affectionate fathers and mothers on the earth.
Thrice happy are they who have lawful claim on their guardianship, and whose conduct does not grieve them, and constrain them to depart from their precious charge.
SPIRITS are those who have departed this life, and have not yet been raised from the dead.
These are of two kinds, viz.—Good and evil.
These two kinds also include many grades of good and evil.
The good spirits, in the superlative sense of the word, are they who, in this life, partook of the Holy Priesthood, and of the fulness of the Gospel.
This class of spirits minister to the heirs of salvation, both in this world and in the world of spirits. They can appear unto men, when permitted; but not having a fleshly tabernacle, they cannot hide their glory. Hence, an unembodied spirit, if it be a holy personage, will be surrounded with a halo of resplendent glory, or brightness, above the brightness of the sun.
Whereas, spirits not worthy to be glorified will appear without this brilliant halo; and, although they often attempt to pass as angels of light, there is more or less of darkness about them.
Many spirits of the departed, who are unhappy, linger in lonely wretchedness about the earth, and in the air, and especially about their ancient homesteads, and the places rendered dear to them by the memory of former scenes. The more wicked of these are the kind spoken of in Scripture, as “foul spirits,” “unclean spirits,” spirits who afflict persons in the flesh, and engender various diseases in the human system. They will sometimes enter human bodies, and will distract them, throw them into fits, cast them into the water, into the fire, &c. They will trouble them with dreams, nightmare, hysterics, fever, &c. They will also deform them in body and in features, by convulsions, cramps, contortions, &c., and will sometimes compel them to utter blasphemies, horrible curses, and even words of other languages. If permitted, they will often cause death. Some of these spirits are adulterous, and suggest to the mind all manner of lasciviousness, all kinds of evil thoughts and temptations.
A person, on looking another in the eye, who is possessed of an evil spirit, will feel a shock—a nervous feeling, which will, as it were, make his hair stand on end; in short, a shock resembling that produced in a nervous system by the sight of a serpent.
Some of these foul spirits, when possessing a person, will cause a disagreeable smell about the person thus possessed, which will be plainly manifest to the senses of those about him, even though the person thus afflicted should be washed and change his clothes every few minutes.
There are, in fact, most awful instances of the spirit of lust, and of bawdy and abominable words and actions, inspired and uttered by persons possessed of such spirits, even though the persons were virtuous and modest so long as they possessed their own agency.
Some of these spirits cause deafness, others dumbness, &c.
We can suggest no remedy for these multiplied evils, to which poor human nature is subject, except a good life, while we are in possession of our faculties, prayers and fastings of good and holy men, and the ministry of those who have power given them to rebuke evil spirits, and cast out devils, in the name of Jesus Christ.
Among the diversified spirits abroad in the world here are many religious spirits, which are not of God, but which deceive those who have not the keys of Apostleship and Priesthood, or, in other words, the keys of the science of Theology to guide them. Some of these spirits are manifested in the camp-meetings of certain sects, and in nearly all the excitements and confusions in religious meetings falsely called “revivals.” All the strange extacies, swoonings, screamings, shoutings, dancings, jumpings, and a thousand other ridiculous and unseemly manifestations, which neither edify nor instruct, are the fruits of these deceptive spirits.
We must, however, pity, rather than ridicule, or despise, the subjects or advocates of these deceptions. Many of them are honest, but they have no Apostles, nor other officers, nor gifts to detect evil, or to keep them from being led by every delusive spirit.
Real visions, or inspirations which would edify and instruct, they are taught to deny. Should Peter or Paul, or an angel from heaven, come among them, they would denounce him as an impostor, with the assertion that Apostles and angels were no longer needed.
There is still another class of unholy spirits at work in the world—spirits diverse from all these, far more intelligent, and, if possible, still more dangerous. These are, the spirit of divination, vision, foretelling, familiar spirits, “Animal Magnetism,” “Mesmerism,” &c., which reveal many and great truths mixed with the greatest errors, and also display much intelligence, but have not the keys of the science of Theology—the Holy Priesthood.
These spirits, generally, deny the divinity of Christ, and the great truths of the atonement, and of the resurrection of the body. Of such are the Shakers of the United States, and their revelations. They deny the resurrection of the body. From this source are the revelations of Emmanuel Swedenborg, which also deny the resurrection. From this source, also, are the revelations of Andrew Jackson Davis, of Poughkeepsie, New York, which deny the resurrection and the atonement. From this source are all the revelations which deny the ordinances of the Gospel, and the keys and gifts of the Holy Apostleship.
Last of all, these are they who climb up in some other way, besides the door, into the sheepfold; and who prophesy or work in their own name, and not in the name of Jesus Christ.
No man can do a miracle in the name and by the authority of Jesus
Christ, except he be a good man, and authorized by him.