The ministering of angels is one of the central themes in the restoration narrative. John the Baptist, Peter, James and John, then the Kirtland trifecta of Moses, Elias and Elijah. Each of these angels bestowed on Joseph priesthood and keys. Dispensationalists, eager to systematize doctrine and narrative have also tried to incorporate another series of angels that don’t get as much attention, but nevertheless appear to have been very important to Joseph.

In September of 1842, Joseph was on the run. The apostasy of John Bennett was catching up with Saints as well as the State of Missouri. Earlier that summer Joseph revealed the Temple ordinances to a select few, and now he writes to his co-religionists on the doctrine of baptism for the dead and reaffirms some founding miracles of the restoration. He wrote of the great ramifications of the redemption of the dead and, perhaps to remind the saints of the potency of the restoration, he recounted various interactions he had had with divine messengers, including God. Included among this litany in the Times and Seasons was the reception of “the voice of Michael, the archangel; the voice of Gabriel, and of Raphael, and of divers angels.” This letter was later canonized.

In this same letter, Joseph identifies Michael as Adam, which Joseph had previously done. William Clayton recorded the May 16, 1841 discourse of the prophet which also identifies Gabriel:

The priesthood was first given to Adam; he obtained the first presidency and held the keys of it from generation to generation; he obtained it in the creation before the world was formed…he had dominion given him over every living creature. He is Michael the Archangel spoken of in the scriptures. Then to Noah who is Gabriel, he stands next in authority to Adam in the priesthood. He was called of God to this office, and was the father of all living in his day and to him was given the dominion. These men held keys first on earth and then in heaven.

We have to go to the early treasure-seeking days of the Smith family for connections to Raphael (as well as the invocation of these three angels together), and we have no hint at which prophet or patriarch Joseph thought he was. The invocations of the archangels is interesting, as at this same time Joseph went by the code name Baurach Ale, which appeared in the Times and Seasons and History of the Church. Apparently, this name is a Sephardic transliteration (enter Seixas) for “God bless you.” The name for archangel Barakiel has in some rare instances been given this translation.

It is not certain how wide spread ideas about archangels or Joseph’s possible numbering among them were, either in Nauvoo or Utah. One October 8, 1882, diary entry by Charles Ora Card (The Utah Years), is, perhaps, illustrative:

At the close of the fore noon meeting Apostle Erastus Snow Said when they were convened in the Kirtland Temple there was a young man wrought upon by the Spirit of prophecy & foretold that the prophet Jos Smith would be the Sixth Angel. (pg. 386)

The “sixth angel” is a likely reference to John’s eschaton, but it is still an interesting placement in the divine hierarchy.


  1. Too rushed to say much here, but I have a chapter on the use of angels, which is fascinatingly important in early Mormonism. Uriel, strangely, doesn’t get mentioned (a common archangelology is Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel).
    Incidentally, I do NOT (contra Butler and Quinn) find the mention of Raphael as particularly strong evidence of folk magic per se (though I don’t doubt folk magic in general terms), as notions of archangels are pervasive.

    Incidentally, “powers, principalities, and dominions” were widely regarded as designations of orders of angels in Smith’s world. Fascinating how the literal and angelic meanings for these intersect in early Mormonism. I have not yet seen Smith explicitly identify these as angels, despite the broader cultural context. Has anyone else?

  2. I’m fairly agnostic on the folk-magical ramifications of the invocation of Raphael in Nauvoo. From a documentary perspective, it is still a connection, though. I’m not at all familiar with your orders of angels, however, so I will just have to wait for the chapter.

  3. a connection to what, though, stapley? a connection to folk magic, or a connection to a wide variety of christian and para-christian invocations of the established archangels.

    i agree, though, that the invocation of raphael is fascinating.

  4. I see your point.

    A quick aside for those interested on variant translations of Barach Ale and other ties to the angel Barakiel, as well as placement of Joseph among the angels, see Ashurst-McGee’s thesis, fn 395, pg. 272.

  5. Irresponsibly, I have suggested that Raphael may have been a (premortal) name for either Moses or Abraham, according to early Mormon angelology.

  6. Interesting post. One of the things I am trying to track down is the earliest source that identifies Adam as Michael. I think I saw a letter by Oliver Cowdery that mentioned he heard about it for the first time 1833ish after returning to live in Kirtland[1]. Which means that knowledge wouldn’t have been conveyed to Oliver in a possible 1830 revelation (D&C 27 went through changes between 1833 and 1835). Elsewhere I argued that the inserted text was originally received in 1830 but not written down, but now I will likely have to concede at least this detail wasn’t known until later.

    [1] “Since I came down I have been informed from a proper source that the angel Michael is no less than our father Adam and Gabriel is Noah. I just drop this because I supposed that you would be pleased to know.”

  7. Keller, I couldn’t find that quote in the link.

    smb, those are two fine candidates.

  8. Doug Hudson says:

    So, if I understand correctly, these men (Adam, Noah, possibly others) were archangels in pre-mortality, then incarnated or were born as mortals, then re-assumed their positions after death? Or did they only assume archangel status after their mortal existence?

    Either way, its a fascinating theology, especially the possible implication that Joseph Smith himself was one such archangel.

  9. This is what I have in an old footnote of mine on Michael: See Marquardt 1999, 74 for discussion and sources. See also HC 3: 385, 4: 207; JD 1: 50, DC 128:21.

    A lot of this ties into the AoD interpretation of Daniel and the invocations of Michael in John’s Apocalypse.

  10. Archangels have the whiff of post-exilic religion-making to me. They do, however, make good comic book material.

  11. Kevin Barney says:

    Barach Ale would mean something like “God has blessed.” (The word “you” is not explicity present.) This actually shows up as a proper name in the KJV, Barachel, who was the father of Elihu.

    The i in Barakiel is presumably either a first person singular pronominal suffix, “God is my blessing,” or an archaic genitive case ending, “blessing of God,” assuming barak could be taken as a nominal form.

    (I’d be curious what Mark says about this in his footnote.)

    I remember when I listed to Einar Erickson DSS tapes on my mission, he loved to talk about Raphael and the other archangels, since they were prominent in the Book of Enoch.

  12. J. The quote is found in the last sentence of the second paragraph of the Jan. 1, 1834 letter to John Whitmer.

  13. Thanks, Keller. The search function was being case sensative.

  14. Wikipedia is a great source of learning to someone like me who’s basically ignorant. For example, this entry on Raphael is pretty comprehensive. And this entry on Michael even includes the fairly well-established LDS view that Michael and Adam are the same individual, but also includes the Jehovah’s Witness view that the arch angel Michael is the same being as Jesus.

    It may not be the most reliable source available, but Wiki is pretty good for the background material for this discussion.

  15. Unless I’m mising something, I find it interesting that in the scriptures it appears that when Gabriel speaks he always has a message about the savior…Daniel = time of His triumphial entry, to Eliz and Mary about birth of forerunner to Christ and of Christ Himself.

    Whereas Michael always seems to be on a battle mission.

    I say that only to observe that with their appearances to Joseph do fit either’s previous mode/purpose of operation.

  16. StillConfused says:

    So if Michael is Adam and Michael is Jesus, has it ever been argued that Adam is Jesus?

  17. To stillconfused #16

    Repeatedly. :-)

  18. Doug #8

    “Arch” added to angel simply indicates a chief angel or one with a high position among angels. Noah, Moses, Abraham Joseph Smith etc were all among “the noble and great ones” in the pre-mortal world, did great works here during mortality, and will gain exalted status in the next world.

    It is reasonable to propose that there are also more like Lucifer (was at one point an archangel) who had great potential but either abused the office and power they were given during their first estate, or will here on Earth,and will suffer the same fate he did.

  19. I know it is fairly common, but I think that we should be careful in how we use the “the noble and great ones” appellation. From the text we see that Abraham was numbered among them and there is a reasonable argument for Michael and the adversary in the text, but to go beyond that isn’t warranted. It is speculation, which is fine (I do a fair amount of that myself), but let’s acknowledge it as such.

  20. J. Stapley, And here I thought you were one, or is that speculation too!

  21. Thomas Parkin says:

    I’ve got nothing to add except to say that angels are really cool. And archangels are the coolest of the angels.

    Anyone ever read Harold Bloom’s Omens of the Millennium?
    Bloom also thinks that angels are really nifty.


  22. Doug Hudson says:

    Ok, so, as a non-Mormon, help me out: were they angels before they were mortals, and then angels again afterward? Does spirit=angel? Most Christian faiths distinguish between spirits (former mortals) and angels (never mortals), do Mormons make this distinction?

  23. Doug,

    In Mormon theology, spirits are beings without a body. Angels are resurected beings (with a body).

  24. KyleM, that isn’t necessarily correct. For example, Gabriel wasn’t resurrected when he visited Mary (and all the angels of the OT). Angels can be spirits of light or resurrected beings that have passed through mortality.

    Don, I would settle for pedestrian and half-way decent.

  25. I believe they (unresurrected beings) are termed ministering spirits rather than angels. But you are correct if you are implying that spirits can perform angelic duties. You are also correct if you are saying that both are generically lumped together with other beings (non-heavenly messengers) as angels. I’m pretty sure, though, that the definitions in D&C 129 are usually used to distinguish between the two.

    Of course, BRM said that basically anyone (permortal, mortal, postmortal) who isn’t an unrighteous mortal is an angel. I think there is some wiggle room.

  26. My second to lest sentence should end “can be an angel” rather than “is an angel.”

  27. mondo cool says:

    What about Rev. 22?

    8 And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things.
    9 Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.

    Seems that angels are not “genetically” different than the rest of us.

  28. That is an interesting comment, mondo cool. So far, I don’t think anyone has argued that they are “genetically” different from the rest of us. I’m also not sure that that verse addresses what you seem to imply that it addresses. To paraphrase, it says “The angel said, ‘don’t worship me because I am a just a servant like you and your brethren.'” No?

    I think if we want to make sense of the word “angel” from a Mormon perspective, we must concede that non-resurrected beings were angels for millennia, and may still be so.

  29. mondo cool says:

    J. Stapley (#28):
    I put that out there as a possibiliity. But, the phrase “of thy brethren” seems to suggest that the angel was identifying himself as coming from the group of prophets that John also was a member of. However, I freely and totally concede that I could be wrong.

    But, if not, this may help Doug Hudson #22 understand how Mormons arrive at their view of angels; i.e., we are the same type of beings with the designation of “angel” as being more to position or calling rather than a separate creation.

  30. But, if not, this may help Doug Hudson #22 understand how Mormons arrive at their view of angels; i.e., we are the same type of beings with the designation of “angel” as being more to position or calling rather than a separate creation.

    Ah, yes. Many Christians believe that angels are a separate creation and distinct from humans. Joseph definitely wasn’t down with that.

  31. #23 & 24 bring up an interesting possibility. Could these great, named archangels be exalted beings who then come to this earth as mortal beings (Gabriel => Noah). There is ample 19th century doctrine that would point to this as an option for Michael/Adam. It probably works for Jehovah/Jesus also.

  32. 31. I’m not sure I would jump into that boat, but it certainly would help explain the plurality of gods in the creation stories in Genesis and PGP.

  33. Doug Hudson says:

    Mondo Cool, your explanation (“angels” as a position rather than a separate class from spirit) is very helpful, thank you.

  34. Marjorie Conder says:

    Several years ago with a group of friends we had a protacted discussion about angels. In the end the bottom line was that angels were the “Celestial High Council”, since pretty much all they do is deliver messages (even when they do it with a drawn sword)for the Higher Ups.

  35. Adam Greenwood says:

    I was first exposed to the idea here:

    The idea of archangels incarnating as the great prophets like Joseph Smith is pretty neat but obviously highly speculative and, as in the article linked above, pretty rococo.

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