Issue #6 - August 1993

The Keys of the Ministering of Angels

An angel came down from the mansions of glory
And told that a record was hid in Cumorah,
Containing the fullness of Jesus' Gospel,
And also the covenant to gather His people.
W.W. Phelps

We, in this latter-day gospel, have sewn into our experience the rich heritage and testimony of angelic ministry. Moroni, an angel from heaven revealed the Book of Mormon. (D&C26:2a) John the Baptist ordained Oliver and Joseph: "Upon you my fellow servants in the name of Messiah I confer the priesthood of Aaron' (C.H. Vol. 1:34-35). "The voice of Michael (the archangel) on the banks of the Susquehanna, detecting the Devil when he appeared as an angel of light" (D&C 110:20a). Peter, James, and John as they committed the keys of the kingdom and the dispensation of the gospel for the last time. (D&C 26:3b) There was Moses, Elias, Elijah, and Jesus (the angel of his presence) which appeared unto Joseph and Oliver in the Kirtland Temple. (C.H. Vol. 2:46-47) "The voice of Gabriel, and Raphael, and divers angels, from Michael or Adam down to the present time, all declaring each one their dispensations, their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the power of their priesthood... (D&C 110:21b-d).

Despite this deep spiritual ancestry there yet remains confusion regarding the keys of the ministering of angels. What exactly are these keys? How are they made operable? What do they unlock? For over thirty years, at different intervals, I have heard sermons and personal testimonies regarding the keys of the ministering of angels used in such a way that, to my mind, convey a very different meaning than is scripturally justified or intended, and which fails to capture the length and breadth of the field covered.

Where,or by whom this belief first found its place among our people I do not know. Honeycombed with the traditions of men and unauthorized practices, many have assumed, as well as taught, that this key enables in the men of the Aaronic priesthood, the puissance and privilege to pray for and receive, as well as send angelic ministry; especially in the absence of the Melchesidec priesthood. This, like so many traditions we have grown up with, has no suitable foundation in the incontrovertible word of God.

Keys are represented for us, in scripture, as the symbol of authority: "For the first born hold the right of presiding over this priesthood and the KEYS or AUTHORITY of the same" (D&C 68:2c). "The second priesthood is called the priesthood of Aaron ... the bishopric is the presidency of this priesthood and holds the KEYS or AUTHORITY of the same" (D&C 104:8a,c).

Men of the Aaronic priesthood have a key, or authority, similar to that of the angels. We have been instructed by Moroni that the office work of angels is "to call men to repentance, and to fulfill and to do the work of the covenants of the Father ... to prepare the way among the children of men ...(Moroni 7:32). Those after the order of Aaron have been charged in like manner with the responsibility to preach the preparatory gospel (D&C 83:4c) and call men to repentance and baptism, agreeably to the covenants and commandments.(D&C 104:10)

The angels of God are many, and their chief business is to wait upon those who shall be heirs of salvation. (Heb 1:14) They are, nevertheless, subject unto Christ, (Moroni 7:31) and not unto the brethren of the Aaronic priesthood. Some members of this priesthood, as well as those holding no priesthood at all, may be able to testify of a time when they prayed for and received angelic ministry. Such ministry came as a result of the faith exercised, as well as the historical setting or circumstance from which the petition emerged, with Christ answering the request, but not by virtue of the keys of the ministering of angels.

Those called and chosen to this ministry have, in a very real sense, this power already written into their character, waiting for the opportunity to fill the measure of their calling. It becomes more persistent and more direct as their disposition is shaped by the promptings of the Holy Spirit through their response to the divine call. This is illustrated with the following: "Trusting no one to be your teacher, nor your minister, except he [already] be a man of God, walking in His ways and keeping His commandments" (Mosiah 11:15). "And again, verily I say unto You, those who desire in their hearts, in meekness, to warn sinners to repentance, let them be ordained unto this power... (D&C 63:15a).

The men of this order then, need to be persuaded that they, like the angels, have the strength, influence, power, and authority to call men to repentance. Then they will truly represent the Lord Jesus, and their possession and rightful use of the keys of the ministering of angels will be demonstrated. The bearers of these keys are privileged men indeed, but they are also bearers of great and inescapable responsibility to prepare the way of the Lord and make His paths straight (Matthew 3:29).

Patrick S. McKay Sr.