A story about Joseph Smith and his bodyguard Allen Stout provides yet another example of an encounter with a translated person who concealed his angelic status while fulfilling his mission upon the earth. As Joseph Smith and Allen Stout were walking on a road west of the Mississippi River, “they saw a man walking along a road leading in from the south and coming towards them. The Prophet told Allen to remain where he was while he stepped over to speak with this pedestrian. Allen turned his back towards them and for a time forgot the Prophet and became engaged with his own thoughts, while he stood whipping a low bush with the cane he carried.
“The hand of the Prophet upon his shoulder aroused him. The Prophet said, ‘We must return immediately to Nauvoo.’ They walked silently and rapidly. Allen became very sorrowful over his recreancy to his duty and could not refrain from weeping. The Prophet asked him why he wept. Allen confessed, ‘I am an insufficient bodyguard—criminally neglectful of your welfare. I allowed that man you met to speak with you without even being ready to defend if he attacked you. He could have killed you and made his escape without my knowing who he is, which way he went or what he even looks like. You will have to dispense with my services and take a guard on which you can depend. Your life is too precious to be trusted to my care.’
“The Prophet then said, ‘That man would not harm me. You saw John the Revelator.’”1
Another account, related by David Whitmer, one of the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon, likewise demonstrates that translated or resurrected beings can hide the fact that they are angels: “When I was returning to Fayette with Joseph and Oliver, all of us riding in the wagon, Oliver and I on an old fashioned wooden spring seat and Joseph behind us, we were suddenly approached by a very pleasant, nice looking old man in a clear open place, who saluted us with ‘Good morning, it is very warm,’ at the same instant wiping his face or forehead with his hand. We returned the salutation and by a sign from Joseph I invited him to ride if he was going our way, but he said very pleasantly, ‘No, I am going to Cumorah.’ This was something new to me, I did not know what Cumorah meant, and as I looked enquiringly at Joseph, the old man instantly disappeared so that I did not see him again.
“ . . . He was, I should think, about 5 feet 9 or 10 inches and heavy set. . . . He was dressed in a suit of brown, woolen clothes; his hair and beard were white. . . . I also remember that he had a sort of knapsack on his back, and something was in it which was shaped like a book. It was the messenger who had the plates.”2
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Although angels are a vital part of Latter-day Saint history and doctrine, their roles and purposes are often misunderstood. In this inspiring volume, author Donald W. Parry discusses in a clear and understandable waywhat we can learn from the scriptures and from modern prophets and apostles about angels and their missions.
Here you will find answers to such questions as the following:
What are angels?
What powers and abilities are angels given?
How do angels communicate with mortals?
What are the assigned missions and roles of angels?
How do angels reveal truth and teach the doctrines of the gospel?
How do angels minister to and comfort mortals?
What is the role of guardian angels in the modern world?
When just the thought of someone watching out for us can give us hope in challenging times, to realize that angels minister light, love, and power to us, whether we are aware of them or not, gives us unparalleled understanding, comfort, and peace.
^1. McConkie, Remembering Joseph, 210–11.
^2. Baugh, “Parting the Veil,” in Welch and Carlson, Opening the Heavens, 269–70; see also Jenson, Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia, 1:267; Whitmer, “Old Man Instantly Disappeared,” in Best-Loved Stories, 38–39.