By Orson Pratt
(New-York Messenger No. 13, 27 September 1845. Digitized by the Smith-Pettit Foundation, a PDF of the original document can be found HERE.)
Additions by Samuel Warren Shaffer marked in brackets
Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation. Heb 1:14.
O ye angels! Ye messengers of light! Ye inhabitants of distant worlds!
Who are ye?
Whence your origin?
And what your future destiny?
Are ye of the same species with man?
Were ye begotten by the same parents?
Were ye composed of the same kind of elements?
Were ye fashioned in the same likeness and image of man?
If ye are of the same species-begotten of the same parents-composed of the same kind of spiritual matter, and fashioned in the same image, then are not both classes brothers and sisters-of one common origin?
If so, why are one class commonly called men, and the other angels?
Is it not merely to designate and distinguish between different classes of the same order of beings, according to their advancement in the different stages of their existence?
Into how many grand divisions may the angels be divided?
They may be divided into four grand divisions as follows: -
First spirits or angels, who have never been incorporated with flesh and bones.
Second spirits or angels, embodied in a mortal tabernacle.
Third, spirits or angels disembodied, but waiting for the resurrection.
And fourth, spirits or angels, embodied in an immortal tabernacle.
These four grand divisions of angels, may still further be divided into fourteen different classes as follows: -
First Grand Division
1. Angels never embodied, who kept their first estate.
2. Angels never embodied, who rebelled and kept not their first estate.
Second Grand Division
1. Mortal men, who hear and obey the gospel.
2. Mortal men, who never heard the gospel.
3. Mortal men, who hear the gospel but do not obey it.
4. Mortal men, who hear the gospel and obey it, but afterward fall away and become sons of perdition.
[5. Mortal women, who are submissive and righteous to their Patriarchal head. I added this because I think any Patriarch who has a wonderful and tender woman who is his help meet would confess that she is an Angel, in that she is a messenger from God, even if that message is simply the degree to which God loves us and is willing to bless us.]
Third Grand Division
1. Disembodied spirits in Celestial paradise, or place of happiness.
2. Disembodied spirits in Terrestial paradise, or prison.
3. Disembodied spirits in Telestial paradise, or outer darkness.
4. Disembodied spirits of the sons of perdition, the most degraded of all.
Fourth Grand Division
1. Resurrection, Celestial angels.
2. Resurrection, Terrestial angels.
3. Resurrection, Telestial angels.
4. Resurrection, sons of perdition.
[5. Translated, Celestial angels.]
[6. Translated, Terrestial angels.]
[I added the Translated angel designation as Orson Pratt himself later discusses this designation, but must have forgotten it or omitted it for the sake of room. In all I have added three additional angel designations bringing the total number to seventeen classes of angels.]
All of these classes of beings were in their origin, the sons and daughters of God-begotten by or unto him before this world was made.
The “first born” of all his numerous family was Jesus Christ. He is ‘the first born of every creature.’-Col 1:15. “The Beginning of the creation of God.” Rev 3:14. “The bright and morning star.” Rev 22:16. At what period in eternity our oldest brother was born, we know not. If we were to judge from the analogy of nature, we should suppose that a period equal to many millions of our years, must have intervened between his birth and the organization of our present globe. If there is any analogy between the present process and laws of the generation of our bodies and previous process and laws of generation of our spirits; that is, if in the former world it requires nearly or quite the same length of time to organize, develop and to bring forth the SPIRITUAL EMBRYO, that it requires in the present world to organize, develop, and bring forth the tabernacle, then we can form a faint idea of the vast length of time which must have intervened.
As we pass along with this subject, let us make a few mathematical calculations, founded, however, upon suppositions which are very imperfect data.
Suppose that the whole number of spirits designed to take tabernacles in this world were the offspring of the same parents-begotten and born of the same father and mother, at an average rate of one per year. What length of time would it require for the production of so great a family? In order to give a correct solution of this question, it would be necessary to know the precise number of inhabitants, designed for this globe. But on the supposition that the earth stands eight thousand years, with an average population of five hundred millions every fifty years-then the whole population would amount to (80,000,000,000) eighty thousand million. [Eighty Billion] Hence upon these suppositions 80,000,000,000 of years must have intervened between the birth day of the oldest and youngest. Add to the whole amount of the human family, one-third part of the host of heaven who fell, and the sum would be increased to one hundred and twenty million, which, upon the foregoing suppositions would be the age of the “first born.” But let us extend our calculation still further, and take into consideration the inhabitants of the thirty worlds of our “Solar system.” Let us suppose them to exist 8000 of our years, and be peopled in proportion to their surfaces in the same ratio of our world. What would be the amount of inhabitants?
The extent of surface upon these thirty worlds is equal to (12,750) twelve thousand seven hundred and fifty times the surface of our globe: hence the whole number of inhabitants would amount to (1,020,000,000,000,000) one thousand and twenty million of millions: If all these spirits or angels were born of the same parents at the average rate of one per year, then upwards of one thousand billion of years must have elapsed between the birth day of the oldest and youngest.
If they were brought into existence at the rate of one per minute, it would still require the vast period of (1,900,000,000) nineteen hundred million of years. At the rate of one per second, (30,000,000) thirty million of years.
If we were still to extend our calculations beyond the limits of the Solar system, and take into consideration the inhabitants of the innumerable systems of worlds existing in the vast immensity of space, our imaginations would be altogether overpowered, and our limited capacities incapable of conceiving any rational idea of the immense unlimited number of beings.
Should any contend that these were all the offspring of the same parents, we would ask where is the mind so expansive and powerful as to grasp within its conceptions the countless ages of eternity requisite for the production of so numerous a progeny?
Would it not, therefore, be more reasonable to suppose that the countless number of spirits who have their abode upon such a vast variety of worlds, are the offspring, not of one pair, but of many; and that the law of increase is not confined to God alone, or to one pair, but is extended to other beings.
[It is also possible that beings who did not become exalted in previous worlds, but went to another degree of glory, have a means to be adopted by our Father without the necessity of having another spiritual birth, and come to this world to try the tests of life again. This is just speculation however, even though it would help solve the vast numbers.]
(New-York Messenger No. 16, 18 October 1845. Digitized by the Smith-Pettit Foundation, a PDF of the original document can be found HERE.)
Who were the Angels sent to Adam immediately after the fall? (See Book of Mormon and other revelations).
Were they disembodied Angels then living in their first estate, or were they Angels incorporated with flesh and bones, having been raised from the dead or translated in some former world? Let those who know, answer.
If spirits only administer in the world of spirits, and Angels of flesh and bones only administer to flesh and bones, then it follows that the angels who administered to Adam, must have been fleshly beings of some former world.
But there are instances of spiritual bodies, administering to fleshly bodies, as for instance, the exhibition of Jesus Christ to the brother of Jared on the mount where he shows him the body of his spirit, and informs him that all men had a preexistence, that is, were created in the beginning after the image and likeness of the body of his spirit. (see Book of Mormon). Again the administration of the spirit of Samuel to the witch of Endor and Saul, the administration of the spirit of Noah, called Gabriel, to Daniel, Zechariah, and Mary.
There is a difference in the appearance of the spirits of just men, and those immortal beings raised from the dead or translated. If the first become visible, they must appear in brightness with exceeding great splendor and glory. They have no tabernacle in which to hide the brightness of their glory, when visible to mortal eyes; the second can display their glory, or veil it from mortal gaze, by the interposition of the fleshly tabernacle.
Hence the second in this respect, hold a pre-eminence above the first, being possessed of the superior power of administering in brightness and glory, or appearing like common mortal men according to their own will and pleasure.
As an example of the exceeding great glory of the first, witness the description of Gabriel by Daniel; so great was his brightness, that this man of God could not stand in his presence, but was overpowered and fell to the ground, and did not regain his natural strength for some days after.
As examples of the administration of the second, read the description of Jesus appearing to the two disciples, who did not know him from a stranger, though he was a resurrected being. He was known to them by his breaking bread and vanishing from their sight. In many of his other administrations after his resurrection, we do not read that the disciples had any difficulty in gazing upon him, and conversing with him in the most familiar manner. His glory was veiled from their view.
But unto Saul of Tarsus, and unto John the revelator, he permitted his glory to shine forth, which in the first instance was so great as to injure and destroy the natural vision; and in the second, caused as good a man as John to fall as dead at his feet.
Angels of flesh and bones were no doubt such as took dinner with Abraham, and afterwards took a long pleasant walk with him towards Sodom and tarried all night with Lot, and waited upon him out of the city next morning. These angels were occasionally fond of a good wrestle, hence we find Jacob wrestling with one all night; both seem to have been equally matched, at least neither of them was able to conquer by his physical strength alone; the only way that the angel could prevail, was by taking the advantage of his own mental powers, and performing a miracle by crippling Jacob.
But says one, where did these angels get their flesh and bones, seeing that none on this globe had as yet been raised from the dead? We answer, that they had no doubt come on a mission-(if not a pleasure excursion), from the city of Zion, which was translated with Enoch. Such angels as these were frequently seen before the Messiah came. At the resurrection of Christ, the translated angels of the city of Zion, received a great addition to their numbers by the resurrection of the saints who came out of their graves in those days. These saints immediately after leaving the grave, condescended to appear unto many. We have no account, however, of their showing their glory to any man.
When the apostle exhorts the Christian church to be careful to entertain strangers, for in so doing some had entertained angels unawares; he no doubt had reference to these kind of angels, who could come in disguise by hiding their glory in fleshly bodies.
But among all the different classes of angels, how many have a right and legal authority to minister to the saints?
We would answer, none but those who are under a celestial law.
For the saints are governed by a celestial law, administered by a celestial Priesthood, and no beings or angels under an inferior law or priesthood, can administer unto any beings or saints under a superior law and priesthood, for this would be a violation of the order of heaven.
But, enquires one, cannot the seven or eight classes of angels, who are under an inferior law, become visible to man, and have power and influence over him?
We answer, that they may be permitted to visit men, and converse with them, but men have no right to receive their teaching; for they hold not the keys of authority, neither understand the celestial law, and are without the priesthood; therefore they who hearken to their visions or their teaching, are captivated and brought in bondage to the inferior or lower kingdoms, where they will be more or less miserable and wretched according to the nature and degree of wickedness existing in such kingdoms.
Perhaps some may enquire, how the saints can distinguish between angels of authority, and such as have no authority, seeing there are so many different classes?
We answer, that no one can distinguish correctly, without the keys of the priesthood, obtained through the ordinances of endowment.
Without these keys, man is liable to be deceived by numberous orders and classes of beings, presenting false visions and revelations to his mind, for instance, saints apostatize from this church, and while in a state of apostacy, they have the awful wickedness and presumption to administer sacred ordinances in the name of the Lord. To such abominable characters, the Lord in his wrath permits the devil, or some of his angels, or some other of the lower order of beings to show them false visions and revelations; thus he suffers them to swallow down strong delusions because they apostatized from his kingdom, till finally they fill up their measure of iniquity, and are full ripened for the burning. Let the saints therefore, beware of apostasy, and apostates, such as Rigdon, [I disagree with the assertion that Sidney Rigdon fell] McLellin, Hinkle, Etc., lest ye be consumed in their wickedness, like the rebellious among the ancient Israelites. For the Lord is not to be trifled with, though he bears long with them, for their destruction is sure, (without severe repentance,) and will come suddenly and unexpectedly upon them, like the whirlwind, and they shall not escape.
[I am glad Orson Pratt remembered to add in the condition, “without severe repentance,” as this is the condition I have found myself in, in the past. I did repent long and sincerely for my false translations and revelations, and I can absolutely witness that this is the case and that Orson Pratt’s words here are true.]
[Below I have added a new diagram of the plan of salvation based off of the new information this article provides.]
New-York Messenger digitized by the Smith-Pettit Foundation, a PDF of the original document can be found HERE.