I think my understanding of how angels help us has been wrong my whole life.
Every time I pictured angels helping people, it looked something like the angel Moroni with Joseph Smith, or when an angel appeared to Alma in the Book of Mormon, or when someone said they felt the presence of a loved one in the temple or heard a voice of warning in a time of danger.
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I never thought angels could be with us on an everyday basis actively protecting us, but then I heard this story.
My mom has always had a greater understanding of spiritual things than I do, and, shortly after my sister left on a mission, she gave a special prayer. She asked that her angels could be sent to watch over and help my sister.
Not long after, my mom said she felt like she was barraged with an incredible amount of negativity. She said she had constant, overwhelming feelings of worthlessness and defeat. And while almost everyone in my family noted the change in my mom's attitude at the time, we thought she was just missing my sister. We didn't know about the prayer or why my mom was really feeling this way.
Eventually, at a point when my sister was doing very well on her mission, my mom prayed to have her angels back. She said immediately after the prayer, she felt all the negativity disappear like someone had flipped the off switch on a constant blast of hateful attacks.
As I listened to her story, I didn't really know what to think about it. I believed her, but I had never heard anything like it before, and I wasn't sure what it meant. But I kept thinking about it throughout the week and I wondered how this could apply in my own life.
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Then, while I was listening to a Sunday school lesson, I heard the teacher give this quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley about what the ministering of angels means:
“That means, as I interpret it, that if you live worthy of the priesthood, you have the right to receive and enjoy the very power of heavenly beings to guide you, to protect you, to bless you.”
I felt like this was the answer I had been looking for. I excitedly texted my mom during Sunday school, showing her what I had found and what she probably knew all along. While I was looking for information on how angels help us on a daily basis, I found this quote from the prophet Joseph Smith when he was talking to the sisters of the Church:
"If you live up to your privileges, the angels cannot be restrained from being your associates."
These promises were exactly what my mom had been talking about. I just sat there in Sunday school a little dumbfounded. I had heard these things before growing up but I never really thought about what they meant in my daily life. I realized that angels care for us with more than just a passive interest, and, if we lived up to our privileges as Latter-day Saints, they would take an active role in our lives.
Sister Wendy Watson Nelson, the wife of President Russell M. Nelson, wrote about the active, everyday role angels can have in our lives in her book Covenant Keepers: Unlocking the Miracles God Wants for You. In this book, Sister Nelson quotes six words from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s April 2010 general conference address that she said changed her life: “Ask for angels to help you.”
She says this is not to be confused with praying to angels or expecting "fantasy angels with wings to magically fairy-dust our problems away," but rather we can pray to Heavenly Father for angels to aid us in our lives like my mom did with my sister.
"So, could you use a little more help in your life?" Sister Nelson writes. "If so, keep your covenants with more exactness than you ever have before! And then ask for angels (a.k.a. your ancestors and other loved ones) to help you with whatever you need. Or ask for them to be dispatched to help those you love!"
Looking back, I think I can see the moments where angels could have helped me in my everyday life. When I found myself trudging through a trial only to look up one day and see that it was over, then look back and see what I had gone through, I sometimes wondered how I made it. I knew I had help from family and friends during those times, but I think now I realize that I could have had help from angels as well.
After this experience, I know my understanding of angels and how they guide us is still not perfect, but I'm starting to see they are more a part of our everyday lives than we often think and they care for us more than we realize.
Lead image from Getty Images
Sometimes an artist doesn't tell us everything we need to know about an image but instead allows us to find what it means to us. In this Brian Kershisnik image he may be depicting those that have lost hope, or maybe someone who has lost faith, but it does seem to be something very important that has impacted her happiness. The beauty is not that she has lost something, but that she will find what is lost.