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What happened to Guardian Angels?

Guardian Angel

Early teachings and beliefs about guardian angels were almost lost to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who grew up after WWII due to Joseph Fielding Smith, Jr., John A. Widtsoe and Bruce R. McConkie. A belief in guardian angels, although still not very strong among members, was brought back by David O. McKay, Spencer W. Kimball and Harold B. Lee, then was taught by Hugh Nibley and supported by Dallin H. Oaks. These men drew upon their own childhood, missionary and other personal experiences and began once again to speak of guardian angels.

Many of the original beliefs of the Mormon faith have been contained for years in its Hymnal. Beliefs in guardian angels and recording angels survived the assaults of Joseph Fielding Smith, John A. Widtsoe and Bruce R. McConkie in hymn #96, Dearest Children, God Is Near You. The Hymnal is a true link to the past and changes to this book should be very carefully watched and guarded.

Long ago, but not that far away, members were taught and believed in Guardian Angels:

"Farewell address," to Orson Hyde, Missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, to Palestine in Asia.
Times and Seasons, 1840, Vol.2, p.467

Farewell dear brother in the Lord,
The time has come that we must part,
Perhaps on earth no more to meet,
Oh! how the thought doth wring my heart.

But go you must, for 'tis the will,
Of him who bled upon the cross;
May his blest arm, uphold you still,
When you're upon the billows tost.

May health, and pace, your steps attend,
And guardian angels go before,
To guard your path and be your friend,
And land you safe on Asia's shore...

Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Six 1843-44, p.368
"In the evening I attended meeting in the Seventies' Hall. George J. Adams preached and I made some observations afterwards, and related a dream which I had a short time since. I thought I was riding out in my carriage, and my guardian angel was along with me. We went past the Temple and had not gone much further before we espied two large snakes so fast locked together that neither of them had any power. I inquired of my guide what I was to understand by that. He answered, 'Those snakes represent Dr. Foster and Chauncey L. Higbee. They are your enemies and desire to destroy you; but you see they are so fast locked together that they have no power of themselves to hurt you.' I then thought I was riding up Mulholland street, but my guardian angel was not along with me. On arriving at the prairie, I was overtaken and seized by William and Wilson Law and others, saying, 'Ah, ah! we have got you at last! We will secure you and put you in a safe place!' and, without any ceremony dragged me out of my carriage, tied my hands behind me, and threw me into a deep, dry pit, where I remained in a perfectly helpless condition, and they went away. While struggling to get out, I heard Wilson Law screaming for help hard by. I managed to unloose myself so as to make a spring, when I caught hold of some grass which grew at the edge of the pit."

Times and Seasons, 1845, Vol.6, p.796
"Our Prophet has been slain, and the burden of the kingdom has fallen upon us (the Twelve) and our lives are sought after; but while the angel that administers to man is still in attendance, his life is protected, for the guardian angel is stronger than death; but when he is withdrawn humanity is easily overcome. Hence it was with the Son of God while upon the cross, that even he, the Savior of the world could but exclaim: My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me! Referring to the protecting angel whom the Lord had called away, leaving Jesus in the arms of death; that he might be taken away from this world of misery and pain to the mansions of God, where he should turn and rule the nations with a rod of iron. For proof of my assertion I have only to call upon the same individual who exclaimed on the cross: My God why hast thou taken away my protecting angel." (Note: I don't think this is what Jesus said on the cross. The Gospel writer has Jesus quoting the beginning of Psalm 22.)

Journal of Discourses, Vol.6, p.369, Orson Hyde, July 4, 1854
"When Justice is satisfied, and the blood of martyrs atoned for, the guardian angel of America will return to his station, resume his charge, and restore the Constitution of our country to the respect and veneration of the people; for it was given by the inspiration of our God."

Journal of Discourses, Vol.2, p.343 - p.344, Orson Pratt, February 18, 1855
"We heard a most excellent discourse last Sunday about the angels being sent to the various nations of the earth, to superintend the affairs and destinies thereof; also about each person upon the face of the whole earth having his guardian angel from the time that he comes into the world. The Holy Spirit acts in conjunction with those angels, and in places where they cannot be, for there are a great many places where those angels cannot be present, and the Holy Spirit being omnipresent is in every place at the same moment of time, regulating the seasons, and governing the planets in their courses. There would have to be a vast number of angels to be present in every place at the same instant of time, directing the movements of each particle of matter throughout the vast extent of space; consequently this is attended to by that All-powerful Spirit that exists in inexhaustible quantities throughout the universe."

Journal of Discourses, Vol.8, p.258, Heber C. Kimball, December 16, 1860
You have frequently heard of brother Hyde, brother Russell, and myself being afflicted with devils in England. There were legions of them came upon us and sought to destroy us: but we were not alone; our guardian angels were there to assist us, and they delivered us out of the danger, and out of the power of our enemies.

Guardian Angels

Journal of Discourses, Vol.13, p.75 - p.76, Brigham Young, December 10th, 1868
"All people have their guardian angels. Whether our departed dead guard us is not for me to say. I can say we have our guardian angels."

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.93
"Hyrum Smith also was subjected to a similar ordeal. He, too, had to make the sacrifice of all his home endearments. He was one of the most noble and exemplary men that ever stood upon the earth. But, like his brother Joseph and the patriarchs of early ages, he counted the consolations of home as secondary to the providences of the Great Creator; and committing his wife and children to the keeping of the guardian angels of their presence, he passed from the sheltering roof of his humble abode and obeyed the stern command of men whose mission was to slaughter the innocent." p.208 "Go, Brother, be faithful, and God will protect you And bear you in safety across the great deep; And your guardian angel will bring you instruction, And whisper sweet comfort to you when you sleep."

Guardian Angel

George Q. Cannon (c.1890), Gospel Truth, Vol. 1, p.83
Lord Jesus plainly informs us concerning certain agencies which the Father uses to watch over his little ones- guardian angels, who always behold His face in heaven. They watch over those who are put in their charge, and no one can offend or despise them with impunity.

David O. McKay, Conference Report, October 1919, p.181
"I remember on one occasion when I was seven thousand miles from here, when President James McMurrin was attending a conference in Scotland, that in a priesthood meeting the power of God was so manifest that one man present in that little room jumped to his feet and said, 'Brethren, there are angels in this room,' and strong men began to weep, not for fear, not for sorrow, but out of the fulness of their souls, which left them a testimony of the truth of that statement. The man's declaration did not impress me very much; but the Spirit present did impress me; but when President McMurrin, a brother to Joseph, arose and said, 'Yes, there are angels in this room, and one of them is the guardian angel of that young man sitting there' -- and he pointed to a young Elder whom I knew and who was in our conference -- he was weeping as though his soul would overflow, 'and,' continued President McMurrin, 'the other is the guardian angel of that young man there,' and pointed to a boy with whom I had been associated and with whom I have been since. I knew by inspiration that what President McMurrin said was true. Why there was not one in the room who did not know it."

Stephen L. Chipman, Conference Report, April 1927, p.132
"I do not feel to regret the accident very much. I am hardly well yet, but I believe that I will get better, and all of the others who were hurt in the accident are better. The young lady who had to be in the hospital so long with her head crushed is well again. ... When the doctor was waiting upon me for my foot upon one occasion, he remarked to my good wife who was present: 'That is one time when the guardian angels did not have charge of you.' My wife said: 'Doctor, you are mistaken, that is the very time when they did have charge of us, and they saved every one of us.' It would have been an easy matter for every one of the party to have been killed, but the Lord preserved our lives, and I hope that those who are injured, and their parents and friends, will appreciate the kindness of the Lord in the preservation of our lives."

Hyrum G. Smith, Conference Report, October 1928, p.82 (THE SEEDS OF CHANGE ARE HERE: A BRIDGE FROM BRIGHAM YOUNG TO J.F. SMITH JR)
"I have been asked many times concerning a promise that is frequently given in blessings to the effect that the person would be guided by the influence and promptings of his guardian angel. These people have said: 'Brother Smith, who is our guardian angel?' The spirits of our departed loved ones, as well as other spirits, may be appointed to act as our guardian angels, but they are special and come by appointment, while the Holy Spirit yields a constant influence over our lives for our guidance and protection."

James R. Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, Vol.6, p.134
The Lord loves you. His angels are always near to help you. Your guardian angels stand by you to see that no harm shall touch you, no evil thought disturb you. HEBER J. GRANT, October, 1941 J. REUBEN CLARK, JR., DAVID O. MCKAY, First Presidency.

I'm your Guardian Angel. Henry Travers as Clarence. American popular belief in guardian angles in the late 1940's was best exemplified by the 1946 classic Frank Capra film, It's a Wonderful Life. This movie also supported the view, consistent with contemporary Mormon beliefs (see the above 1928 Hyrum G. Smith comment), that guardian angels were not constantly assigned to each person (at least not to every adult). However, the prayers of an individual needing help together with prayers from friends and family could result in God sending an angel to help the person who was in very great difficulty. The guardian angel sent to help George Bailey was an "angel second class" who had lived on this earth before and was now waiting for the chance to earn his wings. Even teachers of the late 1940's are portrayed as getting into the act by telling children that "every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings".

Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.

Smith and Sjodahl, Doctrine and Covenants Commentary, 1954, Sec. 84, p.507-p.508
"The first Christians believed in guardian angels. Luke says the angel of the Lord on one occasion opened the prison doors by night and liberated the Apostles (Acts 5:19); and on another occasion Peter was set free by an angel, and when he appeared among the Saints at the house of Mary, the mother of Mark, they at first said, 'It is his angel' (Acts 12:15). Paul asks, 'Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?' (Heb. 1:14. Comp. Ps. 91:11, 12; Matt. 4:6, 7)."

Now we enter the DARK AGES for Guardian Angels in Mormon history (1954-1968):

Joseph Fielding Smith, Jr., Doctrines of Salvation, 1954, Vol.1, p.54
"THE TRUE GUARDIAN ANGEL. We have often heard of guardian angels attending us and many patriarchs have spoken of such protection. There are times no doubt when some unseen power directs us and leads us from harm. However, the true guardian angel given to every man who comes into the world is the Light of Truth or Spirit of Christ."

John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, p.402 - p.403 (HE FULLY SUPPORTS the view of J.F.Smith, Jr)
"Undoubtedly angels often guard us from accidents and harm, from temptation and sin. They may properly be spoken of as guardian angels. Many people have borne and may bear testimony to the guidance and protection that they have received from sources beyond their natural vision. Without the help that we receive from the constant presence of the Holy Spirit, and from possible holy angels, the difficulties of life would be greatly multiplied. The common belief, however, that to every person born into the world is assigned a guardian angel to be with that person constantly, is not supported by available evidence. It is a very comforting thought, but at present without proof of its correctness. An angel may be a guardian angel though he come only as assigned to give us special help. In fact, the constant presence of the Holy Ghost would seem to make such a constant, angelic companionship unnecessary. So, until further knowledge is obtained, we may say that angels may be sent to guard us according to our need; but we cannot say with certainty that there is a special guardian angel, to be with every person constantly."

Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1966, p.341 (HE FULLY SUPPORTS J.F.Smith, Jr in this short explanation.)
"See ANGELS, GIFT OF THE HOLY GHOST, LIGHT OF CHRIST, MINISTERING OF ANGELS, RECORDING ANGELS. There is an old and false sectarian tradition to the effect that all men -- or if not that, at least the righteous -- have guardian angels, heavenly beings of some sort who attend them and exercise some sort of preserving and guarding care. It is true that there are many specific instances in which angels, by special assignment, have performed particular works whereby faithful people have been guarded and preserved. The angel of the Lord's presence saved Israel (Isa. 63:7-9), and an angel preserved Daniel when he was cast into the den of lions, for instance. (Dan. 6:22.) But to suppose that either all men or all righteous men have heavenly beings acting as guardians for them runs counter to the basic revealed facts relative to the manner in which the Lord exercises his benevolent watchfulness over his mortal children. The fact that angels have intervened to preserve someone in a particular peril does not establish the fact that all people generally have guardian angels, anymore than the fact that angels have ministered to selected prophets would prove that angels have ministered to all men. Actually the preserving care of the Lord is exercised through the Light of Christ. (D. & C. 84:44-48; Moro. 7:12-19.) Every person born into the world is endowed with the guidance and enlightenment of this power. By following its promptings God- fearing persons frequently are guarded against evils. Members of the Church, in addition, have the gift of the Holy Ghost, a special heavenly endowment whereby they may receive such guidance and enlightenment as will result in their being guarded and preserved in perilous circumstances. (D. & C. 8:2-4.) Expressions of patriarchs or others relative to guardian angels must be interpreted either as figurative statements or as utterances having reference to special instances of guarding care of a miraculous nature, instances comparable to Daniel's experience in the lion's den. (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, pp. 49-54.)"

We begin to see again the light of truth, the light of tradition...

David O. McKay, Conference Report, October 1968, p.86 (Repeating his story of 1919 - Is it now safe to talk about guardian angels again?)
"I was profoundly impressed, however, when President James L. McMurrin, president of the European Mission, arose and confirmed that statement by pointing to one brother sitting just in front of me and saying, 'Yes, brethren, there are angels in this room, and one of them is the guardian angel of that young man sitting there,' and he designated one who afterward became a patriarch in the Woodruff Stake of the Church, John Young."

Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, 1969, p.224
"The automobile may be a blessing or a curse like water which can save a dying man or drown him; like fire which can warm freezing bodies or burn them to death; like atomic power which can drive vessels or despoil cities. The car can transport its occupants to home, school or temple. It can also take them to remote places, to moral dangers where consciences are silenced, righteous inhibitions deadened and guardian angels anesthetized. In short order, the car can transport a couple, youthful or otherwise, great distances from safe harbors. It can impart dangerous privacy and stimulate temptation."

Spencer W. Kimball, Conference Report October 1970, p.72
"And the books will be opened and my guardian angel will stand by me and as he opens the book he will say, 'Look,' and I will look and say: 'How beautiful.' And the angel will say, 'That is what you could have been,' and then he will turn the leaf and say, 'This is what you have been.'"

Hartman and Connie Rector, No More Strangers, Vol 1
The Rectors tried to bring back a belief in guardian angels in an indirect fashion helping us to believe that we in this life could be like and strive to become guardian angels:
p. 11, "On a sad and boring Sunday afternoon, light streamed into the home with two young Americans. Only half in fun, she later called them the family's guardian angels. Hence the goal of angels which she set for her children."
p. 16 "My marriage had been destroyed by vice and intemperance, and I therefore accepted the Word of Wisdom as a blessing from heaven. Also I found in those two young men what I had been seeking since my separation from my husband; I found models for my children who had been left without a father. I kidded the missionaries and called them our guardian angels, and I instituted in our home a goal for which my children could strive: the goal of angels!"

Paul R. Cheesman and C. Wilfred Griggs, Scriptures for the Modern World, 1984, p.15-16,26
The present and future calling of Moroni is being the guardian angel of America. "Moroni still has important assignments in these days. He is custodian of the sealed plates, he will deliver the sealed portion to a designated prophet in the future, he will be the fifth angel of the Apocalypse (see D&C 88:103), he is the guardian angel of America, aiding the Nephites and Lamanites, and he will testify at the judgment bar."

Bishop Robert D. Hales, Saturday Afternoon Session: April 1986, (Continuing the Hartman Rector theme of our being a guardian angel to others)
There are many Christian acts of charity in our community that have come to my attention. There are many guardian angels in our communities who care for the transients with a hot meal and a warm place to sleep for an evening. There are many who take custody of orphans and homeless to share their quiet love and compassion. Alma (34:28) says if Saints turn away the needy, they are "as hypocrites who do deny the faith."

Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye In Holy Places, 1988, p.142-143
"Let us see what Parley P. Pratt said about this matter: In all ages and dispensations God has revealed many important instructions and warning to men by means of dreams. When the outward organs of thought and perception are released from their activity, the nerves unstrung, the whole of mortal humanity lies hushed in quiet slumbers in order to renew its strength and vigor, it is then that the spiritual organs are at liberty in a certain degree to assume their wanted functions, to recall some faint outline, some confused and half-defined recollections of that heavenly world, and those endearing scenes of their former estate from which they have descended in order to obtain and mature a tabernacle of flesh. Their kindred spirit, their guardian angels, then hover about them with the fondest affection the most anxious solicitude."

Guardian Angel

Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, 1989, Vol.9, Ch.9, p.279
"Israel, Israel, God is calling," we often sing, "Babylon the great is falling." But we have taken our stand between them; Brigham Young speaks of Latter-day Saints who want to take Babylon by one hand and Zion by the other--it won't work. Since World War II, it seems that we have been steadily converging with Babylon while diverging from some of the old teachings. Latter-day Saint children of the rising generation have never heard of their Guardian Angel, or of the recording of our every deed in a book in heaven; they were never told as we were as children that "it is a sin to kill a fly," and have never heard that satirical little verse which General Authorities used to quote in stake conference: "Money, O Money, thy praises I'll sing! Thou art my Savior, my God and my King!" That would be quite unthinkable today, a kind of sacrilege. Because some of the old teachings are still preserved in the temple, certain anomalies appear to the younger generation. A bishop told me this month that people coming to renew their recommends when they are asked whether they keep all their covenants frequently answer no, explaining that they do not keep the law of consecration. A General Authority recently told me that the important thing is to observe the law of consecration "spiritually." Yes indeed, say I, and the law of tithing also--how much better to observe it spiritually than in a gross, material way--a great comfort to the rich. And yet the express purpose of both those laws is to test the degree of our attachment to material things, not to provide an exercise in "spiritual" semantics.

Hugh Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, (1988-1990) p.303
"We used to say much more about guardian angels in the Church. We used to teach much more of that doctrine, always taught it to our kids. We don't do it anymore. I don't know why not, because it's a very real thing, the presence of another world."

Hugh Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, (1988-1990) p.305
"Some people have been through untold battles without any scars at all. Porter Rockwell was shot at more than a duck in a shooting gallery, but he was never harmed. There are such people, you know, that just walk right through. And this happens often. There are some stories about that, but there are guardian angels. There is such a thing; we are being watched."

Guardian Angel

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Priesthood Session: October 1992
All over the world, faithful Latter-day Saints are protected from the powers of the evil one and his servants until they have finished their missions in mortality. For some the mortal mission is brief, as with some valiant young men who have lost their lives in missionary service. But for most of us the mortal journey is long, and we continue our course with the protection of guardian angels.

Many of the original beliefs of the Mormon faith have been contained for years in its Hymnal. Beliefs in guardian angels and recording angels survived the assaults of Joseph Fielding Smith, John A. Widtsoe and Bruce R. McConkie in hymn #96, Dearest Children, God Is Near You. Other teachings about the shortness of time before Christ's second coming have been saved in hymn #266, The Time Is Far Spent. The Hymnal is a true link to the past and changes to this book should be very carefully watched and guarded.

Guardian Angel

Dearest Children, God Is Near You
Verse 2:
"Dearest children, holy angels
Watch your actions night and day,
And they keep a faithful record
Of the good and bad you say.
Cherish virtue! Cherish virtue!
God will bless the pure in heart."

Lastly, in the current Mormon culture is a song written by Carol Lynn Pearson for a musical called "My Turn on Earth". In this musical is a child's lullaby that my daughter sings at an LDS girl's camp every summer. It is a song about Guardian Angels and has a refrain something like this:

Guardian Angel

Angel Lullaby from My Turn on Earth

So sleep, sleep 'til the darkness ends
guarded by your angel friends.
So sleep, sleep 'til the darkness ends
guarded by your angel friends.



My daughter was surprised when I told her that one of her favorite songs from camp was a song about Guardian Angels. "Do we believe in Guardian Angels?", she asked me. WELL, DO WE?

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