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Angels and Satan


Catholic Doctrine

Catholic doctrine defines angels as “...spiritual creatures who glorify God without ceasing and who serve his saving plans for other creatures” (Catechism 350). This definition is given in the present tense: Angels exist today and are hard at work. Saint Thomas Aquinas said "The angels work together for the benefit of us all" (St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I, 114, 3, ad 3).

Angels are venerated in the Catholic Church as both surrounding Jesus Christ and helping to fulfill his mission. ”Guardian angels...[are] assigned to protect and intercede for each person” (Catechism, glossary). While guardian angels are singled out as protectors, Catholic doctrine calls for each of the faithful in Christ to have an angel by his or her side to intercede to protect and guide. The help of angels is seen as powerful and mysterious, yet beneficial to the entire Church, including the liturgy.

See Catechism 334 to 336; 350 to 353; and glossary.

Latter-day Saint Doctrine

Latter-day Saint doctrine provides extensive detail on angels, defining different types of angels and their origin. Angels are broadly defined as “messengers sent from God” (Gospel Principles 22). President Joseph F. Smith concerning angels revealed: “When messengers are sent to minister to the inhabitants of this earth, they are not strangers, but from the ranks of our kindred, friends, and fellow-beings and fellow-servants” (Gospel Doctrine, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1970, 435–36).
Joseph Smith taught that angels are connected to the earth. He said they are beings “...who belong to it [the earth] or have belonged to it” (Dean Jarman, “Questions and Answers,” Tambuli, Apr. 1984, 22).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie describes five specific types of angels in his book, Mormon Doctrine (1979 Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, Utah, 35-37):

  • Pre-existent Spirits: These are the spirits of those who have not yet come to the earth.

  • Spirits of Just Men Made Perfect: These are the spirits of those who have lived righteously on earth, have died, and are awaiting their Resurrection. These individuals are referred to as “just men made perfect” (Heb 12:22-24). The visit of Gabriel to Zacharias and to Mary illustrates this kind of being.

  • Translated Beings: These are translated beings that function as angels, as was the case with the appearance of Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1–3). The Apostle John was translated and became a ministering angel (John 21:22-23)

  • Resurrected Personages: These are resurrected beings that serve as angels (Matt. 27:52-53). The appearances of Moroni and John the Baptist to Joseph Smith illustrate this type of angel.

  • Righteous Mortal Men: These are holy men living on earth that are occasionally referred to as angels as they act as ministers for God such as those that appeared to Lot to warn him of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19).

Suspiciously absent from this list of angelic types is the “guardian angel.” President Joseph Fielding Smith taught that help may be rendered by ministering angels during times of need, but that the true guardian angel for the children of men on earth is “...the power and direction available through the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954, 1:54).

Moroni (a Book of Mormon prophet) proclaimed that “It is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men” (Moroni 7:37). Faith is the prerequisite for the appearance and ministry of angelic beings.
The purposes of angels are many. Consider the following list of angelic actions compiled by Larry E. Dahl, Associate Professor Of Church History And Doctrine, Brigham Young University (“I Have a Question”, the Ensign, March 1988, 21):

  • Announce and testify of events pertaining to God’s work and glory (Matt. 1:20–21, Matt. 28:1–6; Luke 1:11–20, Luke 2:8–14; Rev. 14)

  • Preach the gospel and minister “unto the children of men, to make manifest concerning the coming of Christ” (Moro. 7:22; Moses 5:58);

  • Declare “the word of Christ unto chosen vessels of the Lord, that they may bear testimony of him” (Moro. 7:31; Mosiah 3:1–27);

  • Bring to earth “their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the power of their priesthood” (D&C 128:21; D&C 27:12; D&C 110:11–16; JS—H 1:68–70);

  • Protect and guide the servants of God in times of trouble so that they may accomplish his purposes (Acts 5:18–20; Dan. 3:28; 1 Ne. 3:29; Hel. 5);

  • Bring comfort, instruction, and warnings to faithful individuals in times of need (Gen. 16:7; Ex. 23:20–23; Matt. 2:13, 19–20; 1 Ne. 11:14–15:30; Alma 8:14–18).

Church leaders have affirmed the reality of angels in numerous blessings, sermons, and other accounts.

See chapter 7 in Catholic Roots, Mormon Harvest for a more comprehensive explanation and commentary on Angels

Satan and His Followers

Catholic Doctrine

The Catechism defines Satan and those who follow him as the following: “Satan or the devil and the other demons are fallen angels who have freely refused to serve God and his plan. Their choice against God is definitive. They try to associate man in their revolt against God” (Catechism 414).

Once a good angel created in the order of God, Satan willfully committed sin against God by rejecting his divine rule and has become “...a liar and the father of all lies” (John 8:44). Satan’s followers, called demons, were also righteous before becoming evil by their own free will. For Satan and his followers, there is no opportunity for repentance in this world or the next, as their sin against God is unforgivable and outside of the mercy of God.

Satan is a creature of pure spirit, giving him power and influence over God’s children as the “ruler of this world” (Catechism 2864). As the evil one, Satan (or the devil) sought to lead away Christ from his ministry on earth, just as he and his followers today seek to lure man into disobedience against God. In this he was successful with Adam and Eve—bringing upon them sin and death. Satan desires to block the plan of God through deception and sin, steeping the world in wickedness and corruption.
God allows Satan to have influence and power: “…Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries - of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature- to each man and to society, the action is permitted by divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history. It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but "we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him" (Catechism 395).

Although a force of evil, Satan’s power is not infinite: He lacks the ability to prevent the building of the kingdom of God. Christ came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8) and will triumph, dealing Satan a clear defeat at the appointed time. The triumph of man over evil is petitioned by all Christians in the Lord’s Prayer, “...but deliver us from evil...,” showing the confidence of the victory already won by Christ in the defeat of Satan.

See Catechism 391 to 395, 414, 2851, 2852, 2864, and glossary.

Latter-day Saint Doctrine

Latter-day Saint doctrine on Satan and his followers begins with the following definition of Satan from the Apostle Bruce R. McConkie: “Satan (or the Devil – literally meaning slanderer), is a spirit son of God who was born in the morning of the pre-existence (D&C 76:25-26). Endowed with agency, the free power of choice, he chose the evil part from the beginning, thus placing himself in eternal opposition to the divine will. He was “a liar from the beginning” (Mormon Doctrine, Bruce R. McConkie; 1979 Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, Utah, 192).

God created all things, including all beings as his spirit children. Satan, or Lucifer as he was once called, was a spirit son of our Heavenly Father in the premortal existence and enjoyed great stature as a valiant spirit. Satan became angry when Jesus Christ was chosen to be our savior, as Lucifer wanted the glory of this role for himself. Satan’s anger led to a war in heaven (Rev. 12:7). The spirits who followed Satan fought against Jesus Christ and his followers—we were among those who chose Jesus Christ.

Because of Satan’s rebellion, he and his followers—one third of the spirits of heaven (Rev 12:4)—were cast out. Their punishment was separation from God and loss of any opportunity to take on a mortal body. As the “sons of perdition,” these evil spirits were and are eternally damned; there is for them no possibility of forgiveness.

Revelation 12:4 says that these evil spirits were cast down to the earth, the same earth we live in today. Being without a mortal body, these spirits retain their knowledge of their premortal existence and suffer constantly from the knowledge of their loss, which they know is hopelessly eternal. Thus, with Satan as their leader, they seek to destroy the plan of our Heaven Father by persuading us continually to break the commandments of God and to do evil. Satan’s plan is to deceive us, keep us from returning to our Heavenly Father, and to be miserable as he and his followers are. The Book of Mormon states that Satan seeks “...the misery of all mankind… for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (2 Nephi 2:18, 27).

Satan accomplishes his goals through deception and cunning, leading away many into sin. He is the master deceiver. He is able to imitate the gifts of the spirit, including prophecy, tongues, healings, visions, and other miracles (Gospel Principles, 149 and Exodus 7:8-22). Satan’s army of seduced mortals includes false prophets, false healers and miracle workers, fortune tellers, paranormal mediums, and others who engage in practices that lead us away from Christ and the plan of Heavenly Father. God will reveal to those who seek discernment the falsehood of these seduced mortals—people who are under the influence of Satan and are an abomination to the Lord (Isaiah 47:12-14; Deuteronomy 18:9-10).

Satan can use the most subtle means to deceive us. In doing so, he can cause us to give up our freedom of choice: He can tempt us into following him in ways that have terrible—and frequently inevitable—consequences. For instance, Satan leverages our passions and human emotions to lead us into breaking the law of chastity through pre-marital sex, adultery, and yielding to sexual express of same-sex attraction. Satan can accomplish this in degrees by leading people into wearing immodest clothing, encouraging immoral or improper thoughts, viewing or listening to inappropriate movies and music, and performing suggestive acts. He uses lewd distortions of dancing, music, and other delightful activities to bring us into sin. Satan preys especially upon those who are “...lonely, confused, or depressed. He chooses this time of weakness to tempt us…” (Gospel Principles, 250).

Satan will have the power to tempt us until the second coming of Jesus Christ. During the thousand year reign of Christ before the Final Judgment (known as the millennium), Satan will be bound and have no power to tempt those living on the earth at that time (Rev. 20:2). At the end of millennium, Satan will be set free once again (Rev. 20:3) as part of a last epic struggle before the Final Judgment. In that final battle, Satan and his followers will be soundly defeated and cast into outer darkness for all eternity.

Our Heavenly Father has given us clear guidance on how we can avoid the temptation and bondage of Satan. We will never be tempted beyond our capacity to resist (1 Cor. 10:13), but only if we put forth the effort ourselves to pray regularly and petition God for help in resisting the temptations of Satan.

See chapter 7 in Catholic Roots, Mormon Harvest for a more comprehensive explanation and commentary on Satan and his followers.

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