The Angel Moroni is an angel that Joseph Smith, Jr. said visited him on numerous occasions, beginning on September 22 1823. The angel was the guardian of the golden plates, which Smith said were buried in a hill near his home in western New York, and which he said were the source material for the Book of Mormon. Moroni is an important figure in the theology of the Latter Day Saint movement, and is featured prominently in Mormon architecture and art. Three Witnesses besides Joseph Smith said they saw Moroni in 1829 visions, as did several other witnesses who each said they had their own vision.
Moroni is said to be the same person as a Book of Mormon prophet-warrior named Moroni, who was the last to write in the golden plates. The book says that Moroni buried them before he died after a great battle between two pre-Columbian civilizations. After he died, he was resurrected, became an angel, and was tasked with guarding the golden plates, and with eventually directing Joseph Smith to their location in the 1820s. According to Latter Day Saint movement theology, Moroni still has the plates and several other Book of Mormon artifacts in his possession.
There have been two conflicting identifications for the angel who appeared to Smith in 1823 and directed him to the golden plates. The first name Smith provided for this angel was Moroni. In 1835, while preparing the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, he made additions to an earlier revelation regarding sacramental wine, and indicated a number of angels that would come to the earth after the Second Coming and drink wine with Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery . Among those angels, the revelation listed "Moroni, whom I have sent unto you to reveal the book of Mormon, containing the fulness of my everlasting gospel; to whom I have committed the keys of the record of the stick of Ephraim" (id.). Around this time, Oliver Cowdery was writing a history of Joseph Smith in which he identified the angel as the prophet Moroni from the Book of Mormon . In July 1838, Smith wrote an article for the church periodical Elders' Journal, in the form of questions and answers, that stated the following:
However, on May 2 1838, a few months before Smith's statement in Elders' Journal, Smith began dictating a church history that included a detailed account of his visits from the angel . Smith seems to have identified the angel as "Nephi", which is the name of the Book of Mormon's first narrator . Smith's apparent 1838 identification as "Nephi" was left unchanged when the 1838 history was published in 1842 in Times and Seasons, which Smith edited himself , and in Millennial Star . In the latter, an editorial referred to the 1823 vision and praised "the glorious ministry and message of the angel Nephi" . After Smith's death, the identification as "Nephi" was repeated when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published its first edition of the Pearl of Great Price . It was also repeated in 1853 when Smith's mother Lucy Mack Smith published a history of her son .
As a further complication, Mary Whitmer, mother to one of the Three Witnesses and four of the Eight Witnesses, said she had a vision of the golden plates, shown to her by an angel whom she always called "Brother Nephi" , who may or may not have been the same angel to which Smith referred.
Nevertheless, based on Smith's statement that the angel was "Moroni," and based on both prior and later publications, most Latter Day Saints view Smith's 1838 identification of the angel as Nephi as a mistake, perhaps on the part of the transcriber or a later editor. In the version of Smith's 1838 history published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, as well as the portion canonized by that denomination as the Pearl of Great Price, the name "Nephi" has been changed by editors to read "Moroni". The Community of Christ publishes the original story, including the identification of "Nephi", but indicates "Moroni" in a footnote.
Joseph Smith described Moroni as an angel of light. Until 1979, the introduction page of the Doctrine and Covenants stated that "Joseph Smith received visitations from Moroni, an angel of light". Some Christians view this description as an evidence that Moroni is in fact Lucifer or one of his fallen angels, since Paul states in that Satan masquerades himself as an angel of light. In addition to the Bible, other Latter-day Saint scriptures refer to the devil transforming himself into (or "nigh unto," meaning similar to or having the appearance of) an angel of light, indicating that the devil mimics God's angels who could also be described using the same terminology. Latter-day Saint apologists point to the apostle John's instructions on how to test spirits to know "whether they are of God" (1 John 4:1-3), and Moroni's revelations to Joseph Smith pass the test of "[confessing] that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.
In addition to Joseph Smith, several other early Mormons said they had visions where they saw the angel Moroni. Three Witnesses said they saw the angel in 1829: Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris. Other early Mormons who said they saw Moroni include Emma Hale Smith, Hyrum Smith, Luke S. Johnson, Zera Pulsipher, W. W. Phelps, John P. Greene and his wife Rhoda, John Taylor, Oliver Granger, Heber C. Kimball, Lucy Harris, and Harrison Burgess. Mary Whitmer may also have seen Moroni, although she referred to the angel she saw as "Brother Nephi."
According to the Book of Mormon, Moroni was the son of Mormon, the prophet for whom the Book of Mormon is ostensibly named. He may have been named after Captain Moroni, a much earlier Book of Mormon figure. Before Mormon's death in battle, he passed the golden plates to Moroni. Moroni then finished writing on the plates and concluded his record, presumably burying them in the hill Cumorah in western New York.
Because of his instrumentality in the restoration of the gospel, Moroni is commonly identified by Latter-day Saints as the angel mentioned in , "having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people."
The image of the angel Moroni blowing a trumpet is commonly used as an unofficial symbol of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Moroni appears on the cover of some editions of the Book of Mormon, and statues of the angel stand atop many LDS temples, most statues facing eastward. The image of Moroni is a registered trademark of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Latter-day Saint apologists have reasoned that this line of argument commits the logical error of appeal to probability; they also point out that it is unlikely that Smith had access to material which would have referred to the then-small settlement of Moroni.