We read this verse without noticing what is odd about it.
Alma 12:29 Therefore he sent angels to converse with them, who caused men to behold of his glory.
The context of this verse is that Alma has taught about the fall, and now he is explaining that God was offering man a time to repent and therefore needed to let mankind know about it.
Alma 12:27 … but it was appointed unto men that they must die; and after death, they must come to judgment, even that same judgment of which we have spoken, which is the end.
28 And after God had appointed that these things should come unto man, behold, then he saw that it was expedient that man should know concerning the things whereof he had appointed unto them;
But when we read “he sent angels to converse with them, who caused men to behold of his glory” we fail to ask the question “why?”. Why does he send angels, who cause men to behold of his glory? Why does he not just appear to those men and tell them all about it himself?
The answer is found in the vision of the degrees of glory. That vision is not just a description of final rewards. It is also grand exposition of ministration and the means by which salvation is gained. The same truths that govern God’s kingdom in the eternities govern it here.
From D&C 76 we learn that those in the telestial kingdom do not enjoy the presence of the Father and the Son. They cannot. They can enjoy the ministration of the terrestrial and the ministration of the Holy Ghost.
We also learn in D&C 76 that those in the terrestrial kingdom can enjoy the presence of the Father and the Son at times, but they cannot dwell with the father and the son.
These are truths that do not change. They are the same now as they will be after the resurrection.
Thus, in this life as well, the telestial do not enjoy the ministration of the celestial. And that is why Alma writes “he sent angels to converse with them, who caused men to behold of his glory”. A man living a telestial law cannot enjoy the presence of the Father and the Son.
Rather, just as in the eternities, the Father and the Son minister to the Terrestrial, and the Terrestrial and the holy Ghost minister to the Telestial. Thus angels, who have learned to live up to a Terrestrial law are sent, to teach telestial man to behold of God’s glory.
And how can a telestial man behold God’s glory? By learning to live up to a terrestrial law. The text may just as well have said that angels appeared to man to teach them to come up to their level, in order that the Father and the Son could appear to man to bring him yet higher.
This the the Ladder that Jacob saw between heaven and earth, with angels going up and down it. I suppose Jacob called stairs, but Joseph Smith called it a ladder, and said that the principle three rungs were the three degrees of glory.
And what are the angels going up and down it for? Because in this are they glorified. Because that is part of how they learn to ascend to a higher point themselves.
How can I seek to find exaltation? Why by teaching others to come up to my level, and by learning from those higher than myself to come up to theirs.
Joseph Smith said: God is not willing to let me gratify you; but I must teach the Elders, and they should teach you. God made Aaron to be the mouthpiece for the children of Israel, and He will make me be god to you in His stead, and the Elders to be mouth for me; and if you don’t like it, you must lump it. I have been giving Elder Adams instruction in some principles to speak to you, and if he makes a mistake, I will get up and correct him. (April 8, 1844.) DHC 6:318-320.
When you and I are baptized we begin at the bottom rung. We get baptized and we start to learn to live like those in a glorified telestial kingdom live. That is nothing like an unglorified fallen telestial world, for they are all part of the kingdom of God. As those who join the kingdom of God here on earth, they enjoy the ministering of the Holy Ghost. The terrestrial may also minister to them, just as they do here.
Now, you may say, what about Joseph Smith’s first vision? Well that is what makes him such a remarkable man. From the light of Christ and a mistranslated bible alone he was able to learn to live a level of purity normally only found in a glorified terrestrial world. Consider his sins, when he spoke of them. He said he was guilty of levity, and of keeping jovial company. Could he have been guilty of any dark or malignant sin and enjoyed the presence of the Father and the Son? Indeed no. He lived as purely as Adam and Eve in the garden of eden while only having the light of Christ and the bible as his guide.
Adam and Eve lived in a terrestrial world. Did the Father and the Son live there? No, but they came and visited and offered instruction, just as they do to those who will live in the terrestrial kingdom.