In an emotional, humorous and uplifting early morning presentation, Jack S. Marshall taught several thousand Campus Education Week attendees Wednesday about the doctrines of ministering angels.
Marshall — who currently teaches at the University of Utah’s Institute of Religion — noted that while some people question the existence of angels, many statements by General Authorities point to the notion that ministering angels do exist and that they watch over, help, uplift and comfort people on earth.
He explained what ministering angels are by saying they are “of the same race” as people upon the earth, meaning there are no angels that weren’t designed to come the earth. Marshall said ministering angels can be spirits who have not been born into mortality or spirits that have lived upon earth and have passed on.
Marshall used quotes by General Authorities to illustrate that ministering angels are part of God’s plan of happiness. He quoted Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, who said Adam and Eve (and presumably the rest of the world’s population) came to earth, they knew life would be full of “thorns and thistles of every kind.”
“God knew the challenges that you and I would face, and he certainly knew how lonely and troubled they would sometimes feel,” Elder Holland said. “In times of special need, he would send angels, divine messengers, to bless his children and reassure them that Heaven was always very close and His help always very near.”
Further, ministering angels are a part of God’s plan because they help earthly beings progress, while earthly beings also help them progress. He pointed to Doctrine and Covenants 76:85–88, which says people in different degrees of glory “minister” unto each other.
“In the kingdoms, you will have messengers from a terrestrial world ministering to those of a telestial world,” Marshall said. “You’ll have those of the terrestrial world ministered to by a celestial world. … And why are they ministering to them? They are ministering to assist those of a lower kingdom. Could it be in a like manner that those who are beyond the veil, because they are in a sphere of higher understanding, to minister unto us to help them in their progression and us in our progression?”
He quoted President Joseph F. Smith and Elder John A. Widtsoe, who both spoke to the idea of ministering angels being able to comprehend what people on Earth are going through, thus being able to offer a special type of comfort in times of need.
“These are trying days, when Satan rages at home and abroad. Hard days. Evil and ugly days,” Elder Widtsoe said. “We stand helpless, as it seems, before them. We need help. We need strength. We need guidance. Perhaps if we would do our work in behalf of those of unseen world who hunger and crave the work we can do for them, the unseen world, in return, would give us help in this day of urgent need. … There is more power and strength there than we have here upon this earth.”
Marshall concluded his remarks by saying sometimes ministering angels are not spirits, but are people here on Earth. He told of a time in his life when his son and brother passed away within days of each other, and his daughter had just lost a newborn baby.
“I cannot tell you how depleted emotionally I was. There was nothing left. … I was on emotional empty,” Marshall said.
He said just when life seemed too overwhelming, he got a phone call from some of his best friends.
“That was what I needed,” Marshall said. “It may not sound like a big deal, but I was so grateful for those mortal angels who were sensitive enough to the Spirit to give me a call.”
He concluded by quoting Elder Holland, who said God will never leave his children to fend for themselves.
“‘Fear not, for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.’ … In the gospel of Jesus Christ, we have help from both sides of the veil,” Elder Holland said. “When disappointment and discouragement strike — and they will — we need to remember if our eyes are open, we would see horses with chariots of fire far as the eye can see riding at great speed to come to our protection.”