Episode 26. July 24, 2016. Today I want to talk about protecting ourselves in this often crazy world in which we live. The best way I know to do that is to put on the whole armor of God.
We learn about the whole armour of God in in Ephesians 6: 13-17:
“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”
There are six key pieces to this armor and I want to talk about each one of them briefly.
The six components are:
- Taking the helmet of salvation
- Having on the breastplate of righteousness
- Having our loins girt about with truth
- Having our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel
- Taking the shield of faith
- Taking the sword of the spirit
Number 1: The Helmet of Salvation
I want to start by reading 1 Thessalonians 5:8: “But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.”
Let me reemphasize the last part of this verse. “An helmet, the hope of salvation”. To me this verse reminds us that we must protect the most important knowledge we can have, and that is the knowledge of the hope of salvation that is available to us through the atonement of Jesus Christ and the Great Plan of Happiness. This is reinforced by King Benjamin as recorded in Mosiah chapter 4.
“…I say unto you, if ye have come to a knowledge of the goodness of God, and his matchless power, and his wisdom, and his patience, and his long-suffering towards the children of men; and also, the atonement which has been prepared from the foundation of the world, that thereby salvation might come to him that should put his trust in the Lord, and should be diligent in keeping his commandments, and continue in the faith even unto the end of his life , …I say, that this is the man who receiveth salvation, through the atonement which was prepared from the foundation of the world for all mankind…”
Having the helmet of salvation means that we know that Jesus Christ atoned for our sins and therefore, that we can repent and be forgiven. Truly this is the good news of the gospel. This knowledge protects us by giving us perspective and understanding of our purpose here on earth. It also protects us from the effects of sins for which we have not repented.
Number 2: The Breastplate of Righteousness
What does the breastplate protect? Among other things, it protects our most vital organ, the heart. As we know, the heart pumps blood throughout the body via the circulatory system, supplying oxygen and nutrients to the tissues and removing carbon dioxide and other wastes. Without a healthy heart, our quality of life is impacted and our lifespan is greatly decreased.
In Alma 49:24 we read: “There were about fifty who were wounded, who had been exposed to the arrows of the Lamanites through the pass, but they were shielded by their shields, and their breastplates, and their head-plates, insomuch that their wounds were upon their legs, many of which were very severe.”
So wherever the Nephites had armor, they received no injuries. Where they had none, they had wounds, many which were severe. This is on the physical side.
Now, let’s take this one step further and talk about the spiritual side of things. If we are filled with pride and self-importance, then our hearts can be considered hard and cold hearts of stone. This kind of heart would not need much protection. I mean rock is pretty hard already. However, a soft humble heart could be easily damaged and would need protection. Interestingly enough when we think of this in a spiritual sense, the exact opposite is true. When we have a soft heart, we are humble and teachable. We desire to do the Lord’s will and we are prepared to receive and act on promptings. When we make a mistake we are humble enough to admit it and then seek the strenthening and enabling power of the atonement to find forgiveness. This makes us more righteous and that righteousness becomes a great protection for us. Thus a broken heart and a contrite spirit is what makes for a breastplate of righteousness!
How do we develop a soft heart? We learn from 1 Ne 2:16 that if we are filled with great desires to know the mysteries of God and if we are willing to cry unto the Lord, then he will visit us as he did Nephi and soften our hearts.
Number 3: Loins Girt About with Truth
On page 26th of the For Strength of Youth pamplet we read: “When you obey God’s commandment to be sexually pure, you prepare yourself to make and keep sacred covenants in the temple. You prepare yourself to build a strong marriage and to bring children into the world as part of a loving family. You protect yourself from the emotional damage that always comes from sharing physical intimacies with someone outside of marriage.”
In Moroni 9:9 we learn that chastity and virtue is most pure and precious above all things.
In John Chapter 8, we learn that when we know the truth, that the truth shall make us free. Free from sin, free from the consequences of immorality. This is what I believe having our loins girt about with truth is all about.
In Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s book titled Of Souls, Symbols and Sacraments he explains that our bodies are gifts that should not be tarnished by immoral activities. He says that the Savior purchased our bodies with his blood in the Garden of Gethsemane and so we owe it to Him to keep them clean. He further explained that immorality damages both our bodies and our spirits and that immorality leads to hate and not love.
When our loins our girt with truth, we understand and receive the blessings and protections that come with being pure.
Number 4: Feet shod with the preparation of the gospel
I want to first refer to Abinadi’s words found in Mosiah 15: 15-18
“And O how beautiful upon the mountains were their feet! And again, how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that are still publishing peace! And again, how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who shall hereafter publish peace, yea, from this time henceforth and forever! And behold, I say unto you, this is not all. For O how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that is the founder of peace, yea, even the Lord, who has redeemed his people; yea, him who has granted salvation unto his people”
This scripture has significant meaning for the 74,000 full time missionaries serving today throughout the world. Why is having our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel a part of the armor of God? For me it about our worthiness and our willingness regardless of our age to be worthy and prepared to serve a mission. To take it a step further, when we willingly open our mouth to share the gospel with our friends there are great blessings available. In the Feb 1983 Ensign, President Kimball said this about these blessings: “Sharing the gospel brings peace and joy into our own lives, enlarges our own hearts and souls in behalf of others, increases our own faith, strengthens our own relationship with the Lord, and increases our own understanding of gospel truths.”
I think there is something else we can learn about the symbolism of having our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel. I believe there is great symbolism in the direction that our feet are pointed – since we always are traveling in that direction! If they are pointed towards the temple and the celestial kingdom, then we will travel in that direction.
Number 5: Shield of Faith
During the time of the Roman empire, Roman soldiers would build their shields out of wood and then cover them with leather. Why cover their shields with leather? Because in many of their battles, their enemies would shoot arrows with fire on their tips. Because the leather would not burn like the dried wood beneath it, one could say that it would “put out the fiery darts of the advesary”
In order to understand how faith might actually be a shield, I want to read
Jacob 1:5. “For because of faith and great anxiety, it truly had been made manifest unto us concerning our people, what things should happen unto them.”
Isn’t that interesting. When we have faith, we can know what things will happen to us in the future. Wouldn’t that be a great protection to all of us? When we have faith, we act differently from those who do not. The Prophet Joseph taught in the Lectures on Faith that all faith is built on knowledge. He said there are three levels of faith built on these three levels of knowledge:
- Knowledge that God exists. Isn’t it obvious that someone who believes in God acts very differently from someone who does not?
- Knowledge of God’s characteristics and attributes (which we can learn about in the scriptures – among other places) – when we understand his characteristics and attributes than our faith can be greater because we will understand his counsel better, we will know what to expect from Him and we can more easily align our lives to his will for us.
- Knowledge that our lives are in harmony with the will of God. When we know this there is nothing that we cannot ask save he will give it to us because he knows we will not ask amiss.
The more we know about God, the greater our own faith. This will protect us from doing things that would make us unhappy, I guess you could call these the personal fiery darts of the advesary. One more thing about the shield of faith. It happens to be the only piece of this defensive armor that isn’t fixed in place. The enemy of all righteousness will always target us wherever we are currently vulnerable. The good thing about a shield is that we can rely on it to help out if another part of our armor is weak. If people struggle with different parts of their testimony, and Satan tries to sow seeds of doubt on an obscure point, then as Elder Holland taught we can focus on our faith because “what we know will always trump what we do not know.”
Number 6: The Sword of the Spirit
Going back to the scripture in Ephesians that I started with, when it mentions the sword of the spirit, it plainly tells us what it is: It is the word of God.
Everything else I have mentioned today is a defensive piece of armor. The sword, however, is actually offensive. In other words you can impact others with the sword, all of these other pieces of armor just protect us.
So if this sword represents the word of God, why is it part of the whole armor of God? I want to offer up one explanation. In D&C 6:2 it says, Behold, I am God; give heed unto my word, which is quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword, to the dividing asunder of both joints and marrow; therefore give heed unto my words.
And in D&C 33:1 it says, Behold, I say unto you, my servants Ezra and Northrop, open ye your ears and hearken to the voice of the Lord your God, whose word is quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword, to the dividing asunder of the joints and marrow, soul and spirit; and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Lets me first say something about joints and marrow. Without the marrow, the joint is made up of bone and tissue that is essentially dead. Marrow on the other hand gives life as that is the origin of blood. Using this symbolism, I want to apply it to the sword of the spirit.
The sword of the spirit can help us divide asunder those things that are alive vs those things that are dead or better yet, the spiritual from the temporal. When we come to know the word of God, it fills us with the spirit – this is especially true of the Book of Mormon. The second scripture in D&C 33 even says that the word of God can help us discern thoughts and intents of the heart.
This, I believe makes it easy to see how important the sword of the spirit is to the whole armor of God. When we understand the word of God, it not only impacts us, but it can also influence others and help them to discern between spiritual and temporal things.
I want to share with you a statement made by a good friend of mine, Rob Ellis about the imagery of the sword of the spirit. Here is what he said: “The imagery made me think about how attackers can swarm you if all you have is defensive armor. But once you swing a sword, the attackers have to back up and give you more space. Every time we feel the Spirit, the clamor of the world dies down and we get more breathing space. Like the words of the hymn: ‘temptations lose their power when thou art nigh’.
That really helped me understand better how the sword of the spirit protects us.
In summary I want to reemphasize just how important it is for all of us to to put on the whole armor of God everyday of our lives:
- The helmet of salvation – knowing and understanding the plan of Salvation whose centerpiece is the atonement of Jesus Christ
- The breastplate of righteousness – living righteously every day of our lives, having a soft heart. Being humble, teachable, willing to listen for and act upon spiritual promptings.
- Loins girt about with truth – knowing the law of chastity and living it fully and completely.
- Feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace – keeping our feet pointed and walking towards the temple and a worthy mission regardless of our age.
- Shield of faith – developing greater faith by reading the scriptures and praying sincerely and then listening so that we can come to know God.
- Sword of the spirit – Having the spirit with us to discern between temporal things and eternal things and then making appropriate choices.
When we have put on the entire armor of God, truly the adversary can have no power over us and we will be protected.