Sunday, August 2, 2009

I Wonder Who the Pope's Guardian Angel is...

A few weeks ago Catholic Pope Benedict XVI fractured his right wrist when he fell while on vacation. When queried about his misfortune, he stated that “[u]nfortunately, my own guardian angel did not prevent my injury, certainly following superior orders.” (See article reported in Breitbart here)

I wonder if he was being coy, or if he truly believes there is some being on the other side of the veil dedicated to his safety and protection. Admittedly, I do not know Catholic doctrine well enough to affirm this. However, I am somewhat versed in Latter-day Saint teachings.

Do Latter-day Saints believe in guardian angels? Is there a spiritual being assigned to each mortal to aid us through mortality? If there is such a thing, could we potentially offend that being and lose any offered protection?

By revelation Joseph Smith learned that “there are no angels who minister to this earth but those who do belong or have belonged to it” (D&C 130:5). Thus, Joseph F. Smith observed that:

When messengers are sent to minister to the inhabitants of this earth, they are not strangers, but from among our kindred, friends, and fellow-beings and fellow-servants. The ancient prophets who died were those who came to visit their fellow creatures upon the earth. . . . Our fathers and mothers, brothers, sisters and friends who have passed away from this earth, having been faithful, and worthy to enjoy these rights and privileges, may have a mission given them to visit their relatives and friends upon the earth again, bringing from the divine Presence messages of love, of warning, or reproof and instruction, to those whom they had learned to love in the flesh” (Gospel Doctrine, pp. 435-437) (emphasis added).

So, who is it that protects the Pope? A former prophet of the Lord, or maybe a deceased relative?

The scriptures are replete with instances where angels have been marshaled to protect the Saints. One of my favorite instances took place when an army from Syria surrounded the city of Dothan to take Elisha prisoner. Having arisen early, one of Elisha’s young disciples discovered the trap that had been laid for the prophet and feared greatly. Untroubled, Elisha responded:

Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.

And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

And when they came down to him, Elisha prayed unto the Lord, and said, Smite this people, I pray thee, with blindness. And he smote them with blindness according to the word of Elisha” (2 Kings 6:16-18) (emphasis added).

Nephi and Sam were spared from Laman and Lemuel through the intervention of an angel of the Lord (1 Ne. 3:29); Daniel had an angel as his companion when he was thrown into the lions’ den (Daniel 6:22); Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego also enjoyed the company of an angel (Jesus Christ himself) when they were cast into the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:25); Helaman’s sons, Nephi and Lehi, were protected by fire from those who sought to kill them, “and behold, they saw the heavens open; and angels came down out of heaven and ministered unto them,” before some 300 witnesses (Helaman 5:21-49).

Similar instances have happened in our dispensation, also. On one occasion, Joseph Smith saw Brigham Young in a vision “standing in a strange land in the far South and West in a desert place on a rock in the midst of about a dozen men of color. He was preaching to them in their own tongue, and the angel of God standing above his head, with a drawn sword in his hand, protecting him.” Commenting, Joseph said, “But he did not see it” (History of the Church, 2:381) (emphasis added).

In the April 1973 General Conference of the Church, Pres. Harold B. Lee shared the following experience:

May I impose upon you for a moment to express appreciation for something that happened to me some time ago, years ago. I was suffering from an ulcer condition that was becoming worse and worse. We had been touring a mission; my wife, Joan, and I were impressed the next morning that we should get home as quickly as possible, although we had planned to stay for some other meetings.

On the way across the country, we were sitting in the forward section of the airplane. Some of our Church members were in the next section. As we approached a certain point en route, someone laid his hand upon my head. I looked up; I could see no one. That happened again before we arrived home, again with the same experience. Who it was, by what means or what medium, I may never know, except I knew that I was receiving a blessing that I came a few hours later to know I needed most desperately.

As soon as we arrived home, my wife very anxiously called the doctor. It was now about 11 o’clock at night. He called me to come to the telephone, and he asked me how I was, and I said, ‘Well, I am very tired. I think I will be all right.’ But shortly thereafter, there came massive hemorrhages which, had they occurred while we were in flight, I wouldn’t be here today talking about it” (“Stand Ye in Holy Places,” Ensign, Oct 2008, pp. 44–49) (emphasis added).

Since the passing of my grandfather and mother I have, on at least one occasion, felt a distinct impression from one of them. Specifically, I was prompted to encourage a cousin to serve a mission. The feeling I received was one that my cousin needed to serve a mission so as to prepare himself spiritually to be a worthy husband and father to several children waiting to enter mortality.

I think that when a righteous man or woman dies, they do not cease to love their family still in mortality, they probably don't cease to pray for them, nor labor in their behalf. And in some instances, they may be given the opportunity to serve as “guardian angels” to their estranged loved ones. Elder Charles W. Penrose of the Quorum of the 12 (1911-1925) stated the following:

As the living are not in their mortal condition, able to see and converse with the dead, so it is rational to believe, the inhabitants of the spiritual domain are, in the normal condition, shut out from intercourse with men in the flesh. By permission of the Lord, persons on either side of the veil may be manifest to those on the other, but this will certainly be by law and according to the order which God has established” (“Masterpieces of Latter-day Saint Leaders,” Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1953), pp. 66-67) (emphasis added).

It is comforting to think that my deceased loved ones may be watching over me and, when permitted, protecting me. It only seems rational that those who found joy in their family during mortality will only have those feelings intensified on the other side of the veil. Thus, most of us have likely entertained “guardian angels” unaware.


music4mormons said...

Even though we do believe in angels we don't believe that there are Angels sent to keep the prophet from any harm unless God has a more important work for him to do. I mean, an omniscient God with all-power and numberless concourses of angels on hand shouldn't have a hard time keeping his #1 man covered if he wanted to. But, God's plan is not about avoiding injury and mishap, so bad things happen to even the greatest people. No need to claim there was something more important going on. I hope the Pope was being coy.

Ian said...

His angel must be none other than Peter himself...

Nate said...

Peter Rabbit...

-I bet the South Park reference will be lost on this crowd.