My inquiry stems from hearing numerous General Authorities this past General Conference speak on the administration of angels and how the Deacons of the Church have those keys. I am pretty well-read in the gospel, yet I have never run across an answer as to “how” the Deacons can actually use those keys. Is there some ritual ordinance that is required to call ministering angels? Is the ministration simply a ministration and guidance of angels while Deacons are performing their duties? Or can they actually call on angels to minister? Any information would be helpful.
I don’t think that the scripture on the ministering of angels specifically mentions deacons, but cites the Aaronic Priesthood. Here is the referenced Section 13 of the Doctrine and Covenants–
Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.
There are two concepts that may be considered in regards to this scripture. In the recent General Conference several instances were cited where angels did administer to members of the Aaronic Priesthood. What may not be fully appreciated is that when an angel administers to someone he seldom makes himself visible. Rather he puts thoughts into the mind and feelings into the heart of the Aaronic Priesthood bearer to whom he is administering, giving him aid and suggestions to bless his life. It may be in the form of avoiding danger, encouraging righteous action or clean thoughts, and most often in answer to sincere prayer for help, as was mentioned in the conference.
Let me give you an example of the subtle ministering of angels. This was an experience, however, of an Elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood who happened to be on a mission. He was my son. On their preparation day, he and his companion took a hike into the hills west of Mendoza, Argentina. Just west of the city the mountains rise abruptly, much like in Denver, Colorado. The hike was rather extensive, as they went to the top of the first range of hills. As they started down it was evening, and they mistakenly took a different canyon on the way back. It was a cloudy night, with no moon, and so the darkness was rather complete. Since they had taken the wrong canyon down they could not see the lights of the city, so it was very dark, and they had to feel their way down the canyon one footstep at a time.
At a certain point along the way my son thought, “I think I’ll pick up a couple of rocks and throw them ahead to get an idea of what it may be like by the sound they make.” So he did so. The first rock that he threw ahead, he waited to hear the sound of the rock hitting the ground, but heard nothing. So he threw a couple more rocks, and still heard no sound of their falling. So he and his companion went back up the canyon a short distance and settled down for the night.
When light came in the morning they went back down to where they had stopped and observed just a few feet ahead a sheer cliff that dropped down about 1000 feet!
To me that was a clear and unmistakable example of the ministering of angels to those two missionaries.
Now let’s talk about the Keys to the ministering of angels. President Joseph F. Smith, had this to say on the subject–
I say that the Priesthood, which is the agency of our heavenly Father, holds the keys of the ministering of angels. What is a key? It is the right or privilege which belongs to and comes with the Priesthood, to have communication with God. Is not that a key? Most decidedly. We may not enjoy the blessings, or key, very much, but the key is in the Priesthood. It is the right to enjoy the blessing of communication with the heavens, and the privilege and authority to administer in the ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ, to preach the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins. That is a key (Improvement Era, Vol. 14, December, 1910, p. 176).
Let’s think a minute about the kind of a person to whom an angel might administer. In the first place it would seem that righteousness on the part of the person would be an important factor, and certainly prayer would usually be a factor. Who would be more righteous than a recently baptized person, whose sins had been forgiven by compliance with that sacred ordinance? The Aaronic Priesthood, as stated by John in the above revelation, has the keys to repentance and baptism. Would not that fact alone qualify the recipient for the ministering of angels? The keys to the administering of angels would be used each time a Priest would baptize a person.