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Who is the angel Moroni?

angel Moroni

The angel Moroni does not appear in the Bible, but he is a featured character in the theology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), or Mormonism. According to LDS teaching, Moroni is the angel that appeared to Joseph Smith on several occasions, beginning in 1823. A bronze statue of the angel Moroni blowing a trumpet stands atop the Mormon temple in Salt Lake City, and an image of Moroni is often found in Mormon literature.

According to LDS theology, Moroni started out as a human being. He was the son of the prophet Mormon (for whom the Book of Mormon is named). Mormon began writing his message on golden tablets, and after his death his son Moroni finished the work and buried the tablets in what would become western New York. (All of this was said to happen prior to any European contact with the Americas.) After Moroni’s death, he became an angel and eventually appeared to Joseph Smith, telling him the location of the tablets and giving him the ability to translate them. Smith published his alleged translation as the Book of Mormon. Moroni also allegedly appeared to several other witnesses who would vouch for the veracity of Smith’s claims.

Initially, Joseph Smith simply referred to an angel, without giving his name. Later, he identified the angel as Moroni. There is some contradiction, as in other documents the angel is named Nephi, another character in the Book of Mormon. The official LDS explanation is that the identification as Nephi is simply an editorial error made by one of the later editors of Smith’s works—Moroni is the correct identification of the angel.

According to LDS teaching, the angel Moroni is also identified as the angel in Revelation 14:6: “Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people.” The angel Moroni figures prominently in Mormon architecture, most notably as the figure perched atop the spires of many Mormon temples.

The question remains as to whether or not an angel actually did appear to Joseph Smith or if he simply invented the stories. Those who believe the angel Moroni is an invention point out that Moroni is the name of the capital city of the Comoro Islands off the coast of Madagascar. One of the islands is itself named Camora, and Smith named the hill in which he supposedly discovered the golden tablets “Cumorah.” Prior to his “revelation,” Smith had been involved in treasure hunting and might have been drawn to the stories of Captain Kidd, who mapped the Coromo Islands.

On the other hand, it is entirely possible that an angel did appear to Joseph Smith and identify himself as Moroni. Paul explains what the response should be when an angel approaches anyone with a gospel message that differs from what is revealed in the New Testament: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!” (Galatians 1:8). The “gospel” of Mormonism is “a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people . . . are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6–7). Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), and it is entirely possible that other evil spirits could do the same. If a being calling itself “Moroni” exists, it is not a heavenly angel.

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This page last updated: January 4, 2022