The Angel Moroni
Brigham Young University-Idaho Devotional, March 11, 2003
by Elder Glen L. Rudd
The Book of Mormon is a book that you should all be acquainted with. It was published in 1830. Eleven days after the book was printed, the Church was organized. It’s been in the world now for over 170 years. And just two years ago, on the last day of February in the year 2000, the 100 millionth Book of Mormon was printed. 100 million! When you stop and think about Church history, read about the problems that the Prophet Joseph and the others had in getting that book printed, I’m sure that one of the greatest miracles in the whole history of the world is the Book of Mormon itself. 100 million copies! That book has converted and brought millions of people into the Church, but there are millions of others who have rejected it and have gone their own way without using it. If you young people haven’t already learned to love the Book of Mormon and to appreciate it, now is the time to start.
I told my wife and my two sons (who are here; they are my personal body guards today to help me get out of here without getting tarred and feathered), I told them to be sure and bring scriptures with them because I was positive President Bednar would ask you to raise your scriptures up. I brought this little one and raised it up. And I’m grateful I had one. My wife had one, and the boys had one. And most all of you do.
The Book of Mormon is such a magnificent book that it’s amazing to me that we don’t spend more time with it and use it more. If we could read a little bit every day, it would be a marvelous thing. When you have a day when you’re discouraged or a day when you have had a “bad hair day”, or when you are going to have a test or have to give a big speech, read the Book of Mormon, just a page or two! It’s amazing. After you’ve read the Book of Mormon and made it a part of your life and a part of your heart and a part of your mind, then any single page will lift you up and bless you.
Now, I have with me today three Books of Mormon. I have one here that my father gave me 65 years ago. For over 40 years this book went on my missions and went with me around the Church as I traveled. I spent about 35 years traveling around the Church going to stake conferences and other meetings, and I learned to love this book. But the thing I loved most was that my father, who was an inactive member of the Church and who at that time I thought he didn’t even know there was such a thing as the Book of Mormon, my father gave me this book and he wrote in it, “To Glen, from Dad, who is proud of you in your determination to do that which you believe is right.” Now, that book has helped me to try to do what is right. This Book of Mormon is a treasure of mine. I’ve gone through life gathering a lot of treasures.
I have another Book of Mormon here which came out about 1980. It has some footnotes and chapter headings in it, so I put my old book away. For the last 22 years I’ve carried this book with me almost everywhere I’ve gone. In the back of it is a copy of my patriarchal blessing. In the front of it is a copy of the blessing I received from the First Presidency when I was ordained a Seventy and set apart to be a General Authority.
These books have blessed me. They have touched my life. I have another book with me here which I don’t know that you can see very well. It’s a little tiny Book of Mormon, and it is an interesting book. The only time it’s been worth anything was a few minutes ago when President Bednar asked us to hold up our scriptures. I held it up! As far as I know it is the only Book of Mormon that has ever been in outer space. James Lovell and Buzz Aldren (who have both been on the moon) were the astronauts who flew in Gemini 12, which was launched in November of 1966.
When I was presiding over the Florida Mission, the Elders out on Cape Canaveral and in that area bought this little book. They all signed it, and then they gave it to Dr. Pincock, who was a Latter-day Saint doctor and also the flight surgeon. When Buzz Aldren and James Lovell were put in the space capsule to go out around the world for the next two or three days, they took this Book of Mormon with them. Dr. Pincock asked them to put it in their space suit. He said, “When you splash down out in the middle of the Pacific, I’ll be the one there to open the hatch and see if you’re both alive. Before you get out, you’ll give me that book. Don’t give it to anyone else.”
The missionaries got it from Dr. Pincock and then presented it to me as the president of the mission. Now this book sat on our mantelpiece, for about 15 years. People looked at it. Everyone wanted to just pick it up. You know this book is just something to look at, a novelty, but it has never done a bit of good until a few minutes ago. I needed it right then. No one has ever read this book. This book has never touched anyone’s heart. This book has never done a single thing to upgrade or to help an individual. It’s just a book that went around the world, time and time again, several million miles for 94 hours and 33 minutes in outer space. When it came back the astronauts signed it, and then it was given to me. As I said, it hasn’t done a bit of good. These other books have been wonderful; they have blessed my life; they have kept me on the straight and narrow path; they have been with me night and day in airplanes and trains and ships. And wherever I’ve gone, they have been by me as companions.
The Book of Mormon has lots of uses. I hope you use it properly. I gave a speech one night in a home in our ward where there were some inactive people who wanted to ask questions. As we sat in a circle, I said to the lady of the house, “By any chance do you have a Book of Mormon?” She said, “Oh yes, we have a big one.” And she went over to the bookcase and among all the books there was a nice Book of Mormon. She handed it to me. It was brand new and looked to me like it had never been opened. When I opened it (we were sitting in a circle), out of the Book of Mormon fell 20 or 25, $20 bills. Four or five hundred dollars fell on the floor. Her husband almost fainted. He jumped straight up, and she fainted. She didn’t faint, but she got pale. Everybody looked, and there was not a sound. She finally said, “I knew no one would ever read that book so I’ve been hiding money in it, holding out on my husband.” Well, she had used it as a bank. She had used it because she knew it was never going to be touched in her home. I don’t want any of you to use your Book of Mormon that way, it is not a bank.
I remember meeting a man down in Alabama years ago. I went down to put him in charge of the welfare work in that part of the world. I said, “Stan, how did you get into the Church?” He told me he was a convert. He said, “Well, when I was a young boy I worked for the city, and I worked out at the city dumps.” He said, “I was out one day, and they had just dumped a lot of garbage, and my job was to spread it out.” And he said, “Right on the top of a big pile laid a book. It had a picture on it.” And he said, “It looked brand new. I picked that book up, and it was brand new.” He said, “It looked to me like no one had ever opened it, and it said on the cover Book of Mormon. He said, “I thought, this is too good to throw away, so I put it in my back pocket and took it home. I put it on the dresser in my bedroom, and I went to school the next day and forgot about it. When I came home, my mother was all upset.” She said, “Stan where did you get the horrible book that is full of lies and terrible stories and awful things. You go get it right now and throw it in the garbage.” Stan said, “That’s where I got it!” She said, “Whatever you do, promise me you won’t ever open it, or read it, or have anything to do with it.”
He said, “You know she made such a fuss. She kept after me and made such a terrible fuss, that I decided I better read it. So, I read it.” And he said, “After I read it, I got a hold of the Elders and I had them baptize me into the Church.” At the time he told me this he was on the High Council.
I have friend who grew up in the Catholic Church with a desire to be a Catholic minister all of his life. He wanted to become a priest and a bishop. The old Catholic father who taught him prophesied. He said, “Gary, if you’ll just live the way you ought to, someday you’ll be a priest and someday you’ll be a bishop.” Gary said, “I was headed for the ministry, and then just by chance someone gave me a book called the Book of Mormon.” He said, “I read that book. I knew it was true. I got a hold of the Elders.” He said, “You know, believe it or not, I became a priest. I was baptized, and then I was a priest.” Then he said, “A few years passed and I became a bishop.” He said, “You know that old Catholic father really knew how to prophesy, didn’t he?” He said to me, “That book changed my whole life.”
Today that man is not only a priest and bishop, but he is one of the General Authorities of the Church presiding as a member of an area presidency in one of the foreign countries. While I was a General Authority, I toured his mission and had him tell me all of his stories about how he grew up as a Catholic and what the Book of Mormon had really done for him.
When you read the Book of Mormon, you young people, I hope you’ll meet individual people. I hope they are not just names on a page–Lehi, Nephi, King Benjamin, Mosiah, Alma the Younger, Alma the Elder, and other great people like Abinadi and the brother of Jared. You know those were real people. They did live. They lived here on the American Continent. You know I hope someday in the hereafter I will be able to go to stake conference and hear some of them preach. No one has ever told me they are going to do that, but I’ve got an idea they will. I think we will be holding many conferences, and the Brethren that will come around speaking will be men like Alma and King Benjamin and some of those others.
Now, I have traveled for years and years with the modern prophets of God. Men like President Harold B. Lee, who helped raise me and who married my wife and me and who was so good to us. Men like President Kimball, President Benson, President Hunter and President Romney. I traveled with these great men who led the church and went with them on many assignments. I traveled with President Hinckley, President Packer, President Monson, President Perry, Elder Haight and President Faust. These men are great men because of the Book of Mormon. They are what they are today because of the Book of Mormon. So, I wanted to say something to you about it. I hope that you will just resolve in your heart to fall in love with this magnificent book. There is no other book in all the world like the Book Mormon.
Now, I have a friend who is a sculptor. When he was a young man, he went on a mission. While he was on his mission, they had a little fair back in Des Moines, Iowa, and he sculptured a small statue of the angel Moroni. It was in the Church exhibit in the fair. While he was there, Elder Spencer W. Kimball, then of the Quorum of the Twelve, was in Iowa and he saw this little sculpture and he shook hands with this young man. He said to him, “Young man, you’ll do much work for the Church.” That little prophesy is coming true today because he is the man who is sculpturing all of the Moroni’s that are being put on the small temples that are built all around the world. He recently did one for the Nauvoo Temple. He made a sample and took it to President Hinckley. On the original Nauvoo Temple the angel was laying down horizontal, so he made a sketch of that and then he did a standing one. President Hinckley said he wanted Moroni standing up for that marvelous temple back in Nauvoo.
Now that statue is 6-foot, 8-inches tall and is now on the top of that great temple. He did another one like it for the Reno Temple. I said to him, “How big is the one on the Salt Lake Temple?” He said, “It is about 12- to 13-feet high.” But he said, “The largest Moroni in the whole Church is the one on the Los Angeles Temple; it is over 18-feet tall.” Then he told me an interesting story.
He said, “I have a granddaughter. This granddaughter is a sweet, lovely girl. She came to me one day and said, ‘Grandpa, if I read all of the scriptures all the way through will you make a Moroni for me?’” And he told me this while we were working in the temple one day and in the hallway. He said, “I told her I would be glad to do that if she would read all of the scriptures.” And I smiled and said, “I hope she can do it.” Then I said, “Now Karl, if you are going to do that for her, you know I am always reading the scriptures. I read them all the time. What do I have to do?” You know I have a kind face, and he looked at me and he said, “Well, I’ll make one for you.”
So, in a few months, this young girl came to her grandfather and told him that she had read the scriptures. Now I would like to invite Julie Quilter to come up to the stand with me. Julie is here. She’s a senior at this great school. Where are you Julie?
Julie, your grandfather made you a special Moroni, didn’t he? “Yes.” Did you read the Scriptures? “Yes.” Good for you.
This is her sculpture. I got it from him the other day. So we brought it up here. Would you pick it up? Are you strong enough? Isn’t that wonderful to read the scriptures? Isn’t it wonderful to have a grandfather who can do something like this?
My wife and I have been worried about this since the other day when Julie’s grandfather put it in the trunk of my car. We hope we get it home. But, Julie, if it gets broke, it is not my fault. You’re the one who put it up here on the table.
I want to talk to you now about Moroni. Moroni is one of the great men in all of the history of the world. What a tremendous thing to think about an individual who lived on this earth and did what he did and accomplished all he did. I want to ask you a question, and you ask yourself, How long has it been since anyone came right up to you and said, “What do you know about Moroni?” I don’t suppose anybody has asked you that very much lately.
I have a friend down in Florida in the mission who used to sell automobiles, mainly used cars. A man by the name of Dale McCullers came to him one day. Dale was an All-American football player and played four years in professional football. He moved to the little town of Live Oak, Florida. He went to my friend Morris Poole and said, “Mr. Poole, I would like to buy a car off you, a little truck.” And Morris said, “I’ll get you a truck. It will take me two or three weeks. What color?” He said, “I don’t care what color or what kind, just a little old pick-up truck.” So he said to him as he was leaving (Morris Pool, a member of the Church, said to Dale, a nonmember), “I’ll get you your truck, but I have got to ask you a question. What do you know about Moroni?” And Dale McCullers looked at Morris and said, “Moroni who?” And he said, “Oooh, I don’t think he has a second name. I have never thought of that my whole life, but you’ve got to learn all about Moroni.” Dale said, “If he hasn’t got a second name, I don’t want to hear anything about him.” Morris said, “I am coming to your house tomorrow night because I have to tell you all about Moroni.”
So he and his wife went over and told him the story, talked to him about the gospel, and three weeks later Morris delivered the truck and baptized Dale into the Church. Dale became an active member of the Church. Right now, he is serving as a stake president in one of the stakes just north of Jacksonville, Florida, in the southern part of Georgia. Just about a month ago now, Morris died and Dale drove over to Live Oak to be a speaker at his funeral.
That question, What do you know about Moroni, is a magnificent question. When you are going out into the mission field or when you just meet people, this is a good question to ask them. And then tell them about him. You know, he is one of the most influential men that the world has ever known. He was a prophet, a warrior, a scribe, and many other things. He was the son of a great man named Mormon.
Mormon was also a prophet, a leader, and the person who translated much of the Book of Mormon. Both Moroni and Mormon wrote that they had been visited by the Savior of the world and the three Nephites who were still living on the earth.
We know that Moroni lived a long time after the Nephites were killed off, by the unrighteous Laminates. He lived alone for about 36 or 37 years, all by himself. He finished writing what he had to write; then he hid up the plates. We know nothing about the loneliness of this great soul except that he did die. We don’t know when or how or how old he was. Some of the Brethren have felt that he was 80 years of age. Some say he was over 70. So he was pretty well up in years when he passed away. But, he was a resurrected being who after 1400 years appeared at the bedside of the Prophet Joseph Smith on the 21st day of September in 1823. That was three years after Joseph had the original first vision. Moroni lived in the fifth century of time. He was the last witness of the people who lived in that area of time. He testified that he had seen the resurrected Christ. He is also the most recent person who has lived and died on this earth who we know has been resurrected. This great man I’m talking about, I see him in my mind; a great soul. I’ll bet he was about 6’3″ or 6’4″ and had muscles bigger than mine and was really handsome and wonderful; but you wonder what happened during those years of loneliness. You wonder how many times he might have been nursed in sickness or in accident or warned of danger by the three Nephites who did appear to him. (They had the privilege of living on the earth and doing whatever they were allowed to do.) And he testified, “But behold, my father [Mormon] and I have seen them, and they have ministered unto us.” He tells us that we shall know that, “I have seen Jesus.” That you should know, and that is the testimony for each of you. This is a man who had seen the Savior. He bore his testimony, and he said, “that he talked with me face to face, and that he told me in plain humility, even as a man telleth another in [his] own language, concerning these things [that he wanted to tell him].”
Now let me tell you a little something, an interesting story, that some of you may not have heard. In the early days of the Church, Orson Hyde was called to be one of the original Twelve Apostles by the Prophet Joseph. He served under three presidents of the Church–the Prophet Joseph, Brigham Young, and John Taylor. He was one of the great Apostles of this dispensation of time. He gave a talk in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on July 4, 1854. That’s only seven years after they came into the valley. (Now, it’s not the Tabernacle we know now, but the one they originally built.) That talk was a patriotic talk about America. He called Moroni the “guardian angel of America.” He said, “That same angel of God that appeared to Joseph Smith presides over the destiny of the United States of America.” Elder Hyde said that he [Moroni] was in the camp with George Washington. He [Moroni] helped George Washington when he had trouble. He said that same angel was with Christopher Columbus and gave him deep impressions and dreams and visions respecting the new world. He said that same angel was with Columbus on the stormy deep. He guided his frail vessel to the desired haven, and he calmed the troubled elements.
Most people never think much about him; but Moroni is still active and busy and doing all those necessary things to help bring about the full restoration of the gospel. We honor Moroni. There are 14 Latter-day Saint hymns that we sing like, “The Morning Breaks,” that’s about Moroni; and “What Was Witnessed in the Heavens?”; “An Angel from on High”; “I Saw a Mighty Angel Fly”; and ten others. These beautiful hymns that we sing in the Church are all because of the angel Moroni.
Moroni had the great privilege, as he walked across this American Continent, of finding a place and designating the place where the St. George temple was to be built. He also designated where the Manti Temple was to be. And it’s been written that he designated Kirtland and Nauvoo and probably others. Moroni appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith 22 different times during the life of the Prophet Joseph that we know of.
Now, I want to tell you the names of some of the people that saw Moroni. We all know he talked to Joseph Smith who saw him. We know that Oliver Cowdery saw him as did David Whitmer and Martin Harris.
Oliver Cowdery was excommunicated from the Church and was out of the Church for ten years, and then he was rebaptized and brought back into the Church and had a strong testimony of the great vision, the great experience that he had with the angel Moroni where he had seen those plates. Oliver Cowdery incidentally died in the Church. He was hoping to come across the country out to the valley, but he got sick and died. He was only 43 years of age and one of the greatest men in the history of our Church.
David Whitmer, one of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon, was also excommunicated. He lived until he was past 80 years of age. He never came back into the Church, but he never denied that he had seen the angel Moroni and had seen the plates.
Martin Harris was excommunicated, and was out of harmony with the Church but finally came out West. He was invited to speak in the Tabernacle. He was re-baptized into the Church and lived out his life in the northern part of the state of Utah.
Now, those four men saw him. But so did Emma Smith, the wife of the Prophet Joseph, and Mary Whitmer. Mary Whitmer was the mother of David Whitmer and the four other Whitmers who were all witnesses of the Book of Mormon. It was in her home that the Brethren organized the Church; and while they were there holding the meetings of organization, she was doing the cooking and all the hard work for the men. She went out into the barn to milk a cow; and while she was out in that barn, Moroni appeared to her and showed her the plates and gave to her a testimony that she never forgot.
Moroni appeared to a man by the name of Luke Johnson. I don’t know why, but I’ve always had a warm feeling toward Luke. I guess I like the name Johnson. I guess I like the name Luke. Anyway, he saw the angel Moroni. He handled the plates. He was one of the original Apostles, but he was excommunicated from the Church. However, he saw the error of his ways and came back and was rebaptized into the Church. Luke came out West with Brigham Young and the others and went down into the west part of Utah out south of Tooele, Utah. There he was ordained a bishop and served as a bishop in the Church. He had been one of the original Apostles and was a humble wonderful man and one who had seen Moroni.
Lucy Harris, the wife of Martin Harris, was a problem. If my wife wasn’t here, I’d say she was a pain in the rear end as far as the Brethren all went because she was constantly causing trouble to Joseph Smith. She wanted to see those plates so bad. She went out digging out in the field. And one day she was digging out there trying to find where the plates had been hidden and a big snake came up and scared her half to death, and she quit digging. For some reason I don’t know, she had some kind of a dream where Moroni bore his testimony to her.
The ninth man to see Moroni was a man named Zera Pulsipher. He was a minister of another church. He had a vision in his barn. While he was out in the barn one day, a light descended upon him in the middle of this barn, and he looked up and saw Moroni. And Moroni blessed his life and showed him the plates. He became a Seventy in the Church. He became a high priest and became a patriarch. He’s the man who converted and baptized Wilford Woodruff into the Church in 1833.
I tell you W. W. Phelps saw Moroni. He was cut off from the Church twice; but he kept coming back. He died in full fellowship. He wrote “Praise to the Man” and some of the other wonderful hymns that we sing.
John P. Green saw Moroni. He was a brother-in-law of Brigham Young, and he gave the book to Brigham Young. Rhoda Young, his wife, who was the sister of Brigham Young, also had the privilege of seeing Moroni.
John Taylor, who became one of the Apostles and later the President of the Church, as a young man had a vision. Long before he joined the church, he had a vision and he saw an angel of heaven holding a trumpet in his mouth sending a message out to the nations of the world. He didn’t understand what it was until he joined the Church, and then he understood the great mission of this man Moroni.
Oliver Granger was met by Moroni. Moroni actually knelt down and prayed with him and put his arm on the back of this man so the man could feel him as he talked with him.
Just before Heber C. Kimball died (Heber C. Kimball was one of the original Apostles who became a counselor to Brigham Young for many, many years), 21 years after they entered into the Salt Lake Valley, Heber C. Kimball had a visit from Moroni. Moroni explained to him that his work on earth was concluded and that he would soon die. I think if I remember right, it was just the night before he passed away.
Now, I have given you the names of sixteen people who had the privilege of seeing the angel Moroni. There’s one other; I can’t find the truth on this one, but I am positive in my own mind that Hyrum Smith, the Prophet’s brother, also had a chance to see Moroni.
Now, you’ve got a chance to see a statue of him on the temples, not all of them, but on most all of the temples there is an angel Moroni sculpture. It’s there to remind us of the Book of Mormon. It is there to remind us of what a tremendous thing it is to have lived, and died, and to have been resurrected.
I hope with all my heart that you wonderful young people will fall in love with the Book of Mormon, that when you read about these great men in the Book of Mormon, that they will come off of the pages to you not only as a name but as an individual. They were all different. Some were tall, some were quiet, and some were short. I don’t know what they all were; but I have kind of fallen in love with them. And some day, if the Lord let’s me in the next world, I want to go to conference and hear them preach.
May God bless you now. May he bless you to be strong in the faith. May he bless you to live the way the Book of Mormon teaches us to live. May he bless you to be worthy of the prayers of your mothers and your fathers, especially you girls. Remember they pray. They do more than just worry. May God bless you all. And may he bless this great school and all who have to do with it. May he be close to us and aid and strengthen you as you journey through life. God is good to us. I hope that you let Him give you every blessing He wants to give you. And this I do as I bear testimony to you that the gospel is true, in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Footnote: Most of the material used in preparing this talk has come from a book by H. Donl Peterson, Moroni – Ancient Prophet Modern Messenger. Some material is from the talks and writings of Elder Stirling W. Sill.