"Angel Moroni" and Godhood
Everyone talks about the "Angel Moroni," but if he was a great prophet and
leader of the Nephites and was a righteous and devout man of God, why hasn't he attained
godhood along with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Doctrine and Covenants 132:17, 37)?
Stanley D. Barker and
Malin L. Jacobs
The question displays its author's misunderstanding of the meaning
of the term "angel" and its usage by the LDS in reference to Moroni. The
questioner seems to feel that the LDS believe that one cannot be both an angel and a god,
based on Doctrine and Covenants (D&C)132:37, which states:
. . . they [Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob] have entered into their
exaltation, according to the promises, and sit upon thrones, and are not angels but are
Verse 16, which the author of the question did not refer to, is also
. . . but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are
ministering servants, to minister to those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding,
and an eternal weight of glory.
This D&C 132 distinction between angels and gods refers
to one's condition after the resurrection and final judgment. However, this use is
only one of the meanings of "angel." The most common biblical usage is to
refer to a messenger of God.1 As such, the term
"angel" has been applied to men,2 non-mortal
beings,3 and even Christ himself.4
The devil has his own angels.5 Most LDS
references to angels are as messengers from God.6
Indeed, when Moroni introduced himself to Joseph Smith, he did not
refer to himself as an angel, but as a messenger.7
Joseph Smith's first reference to Moroni was as a messenger.8
Joseph Smith's history, as recorded in the Pearl of Great Price always uses the term
"messenger" to refer to Moroni.9 In
his 1832 historical account, Joseph did use the term "angels" in the context of
messengers, without referring to specific individuals.10
In the D&C Joseph did refer to Moroni as an angel in the context of a
messenger from God.11
Joseph Smith taught that Moroni is a resurrected being.12 Since he was resurrected prior to Christ's second
coming, the LDS view Moroni as having been a just man who will, if he has not already done
so, enter into godhood.
The LDS refer to Moroni as the "Angel Moroni" because of
his role as a messenger from God to Joseph Smith in the restoration of the gospel.
Earliest known discussion: This one.
1. Alexander Cruden, Cruden's Unabridged
Concordance to the OLD and NEW TESTAMENTS and THE APOCRYPHA (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker
Book House, 1953):10, entry "Angel." Hereafter referred to as Cruden.
Some may consider Cruden to be out-of-date, as he provides neither Hebrew nor Greek
examples, and is keyed to the Authorized Version (the King James Translation) of the
Bible. Nonetheless the usages and examples found therein for "angel" are
still in use. Those usages constitute the Christian religious milieu of Joseph
Smith, and hence provide the usages he would have been familiar with.
2. Cruden: 10. See for example Rev. 2:1,
3. Cruden: 10. See for example Rev. 22:8.
4. Cruden: 10, 576. Isaiah 63:9 specifically
uses the term "angel" to refer to the savior:
In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his
presence saved them. . .
Matthew Henry, commenting on this passage says:
. . . this is rather to be understood of Jesus Christ, the Eternal
Word, that Angel of whom God spake to Moses, (Exod. xiii. 20.) Whose voice Israel was
to obey. He is called Jehovah, Exod. xiii. 21: xiv. 21, 24. He is the
Angel of the covenant, God's Messenger to the world, Mal. iii.1. He is the Angel
of God's face, for his is the express Image of his person; and the glory of God
shines in the face of Christ. He that was to work out the eternal salvation, as an
earnest of that, wrought out the temporal salvations that were typical of it.
Rev. Matthew Henry, An Exposition of the Old and New Testament
(London: Frederick Westley and A. H. Davis, 1836), II:865. Hereafter referred to as Henry.
Malachi 3:1 refers to Christ as a messenger, which is the primary
job of angels:
. . .and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple,
even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come,
saith the lord of hosts.
The good reverend comments on this passage as follows:
. . . He is the messenger of the covenant; or the Angel of
the covenant, that blessed One that was sent from heaven to negociate a
peace and settle a correspondence, between God and man. He is the Angel, the Arch-angel,
the Lord of the angels, who received commission from the Father to bring man home to God
by a covenant of grace, who had revolted from him by the violation of the covenant of
innocency. Christ is the Angel of this covenant, by whose mediation it is
brought about and established, as God's covenant with Israel was made by the disposition
of angels. Acts vii. 53, Gal. iii. 19.
Henry, II: 1512.
If Christ is God, then it is clear that even God can be referred to
as an angel.
5. Cruden: 10. See Matt. 25:41.
6. Doctrine And Covenants 7, 27:16, 76:33,
133:53. Hereafter referred to as D&C. See also John A.
"What Is An Angel," The Improvement Era 46:2 (Feb. 1943), pp. 97, 127.
7. Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith
History 1: 33. Hereafter referred to as JSH.
8. JSH 1:44.
9. JSH 1:44, 46, 47, 49, 50, 52, 53, 54, 59,
10. Joseph begins the 1832 history as follows:
A History of the life of Joseph Smith Jr. an account of his
marvilous experience and of all the mighty acts which he doeth in the name of Jesus
Ch[r]ist the son of the living God of whom he beareth record and also an account of the
rise of the church of Christ in the eve of time according as the Lord
brought(t) forth and
established by his hand (firstly) he receiving the testamony from on high seccondly the
ministering of Angels thirdly the reception of the holy Priesthood by the ministring of
Aangels to adminster the letter of the Gospel . . .
Dean C. Jesse, ed., The Papers of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake
City, Utah. Corporation of the First Presidency, 1989), I: 3.
11. D&C 128:20.
12. Joseph Smith, jr., ed., The Elders Journal
(Far West, Missouri: 1838) I, 3 (July, 1838):42-3.