Sunday, November 15, 2009

Doctrine and Covenants Lesson #43 "Take Upon You My Whole Armour"


     Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
     For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
     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:
                                                              (Ephesians 6:11-17)


     ...Moroni, had prepared his people with breastplates and with arm–shields, yea, and also shields to defend their heads, and also they were dressed with thick clothing--
     Now the army of Zerahemnah was not prepared with any such thing; they had only their swords and their cimeters, their bows and their arrows, their stones and their slings; and they were naked, save it were a skin which was girded about their loins; yea, all were naked, save it were the Zoramites and the Amalekites;
     But they were not armed with breastplates, nor shields—therefore, they were exceedingly afraid of the armies of the Nephites because of their armor, notwithstanding their number being so much greater than the Nephites.
                                                                  (Alma 43:19-21)

Just as Moroni outfitted his soldiers with armour which Zerahemnah's army did not have, we as Christian Soldiers have armour that Satan and his troops do not have.  It doesn't matter if there are less in the Army of God; the armour makes each member much less vulnerable and much more able in battle than the soldiers of Satan.  With the Armour of God, we are certain to win.


The loins were considered the seat of the emotions and passions in Biblical times.  Jesus said things such as, "My bowels are filled with compassion toward you." (See, for example, 3 Nephi 17:6.)  The reproductive organs are also in the loins.  The human passions and emotions can be  protected from sin and error by being "girt about with truth," which is a knowledge of things as they were, as they are, and as they will be (D&C 93:24). Truth gives us the ability and the perspective to make virtuous and compassionate choices.  "Girding up your loins" was the action of pulling up the long robe to make a shorter skirt and tying it around the waist, converting the attire to make it suitable for work or battle.  Therefore, it implies action, not just squelching passion or remaining innocent.  We must use our passions and our emotions to reach out virtuously and compassionately, to do the work of the Lord in service to others, and to act in ways of truth. "But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God" (John 3:21). 


The heart, in Biblical times, refered to thoughts and motives:  "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8). "Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matt. 5:28). "And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?" (Matt. 9:4)  "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts" (Matt. 15:19).  The protection for the heart, or in other words, the thoughts and motives, is the breastplate of righteousness.  Paul defined righteousness very specifically for us, when in his Epistle to the Thessalonians he refered to this breastplate of righteousness as "the breastplate faith and love" (1 Thess. 5:8). This aligns perfectly with the two great commandments, to love God and to love our neighbor (Matt. 22:36-39).  Our motives will always be correct if they are based on faith in God and love for him and for others.  They will always be incorrect if they are based on anything else.


The feet symbolize our foundation, and also our motion.  If our feet are shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, there is neither a better foundation, nor a better direction. "And this is my gospel—repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom" (D&C 39:6).  With the purity provided by the Atonement through repentance, the covenant of baptism, and the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, our foundation is sure, and as long as we continue to repent, continue to keep our covenants, and continue to listen to the Holy Ghost, nothing will be able to shake us from our firm stand, and we will always be moving in a heavenward direction.


The helmet of salvation protects the head, of course.  If the heart, in Biblical times, was the center of thought, what would the head be?  One interpretation might be that it is the center of receiving direction from others (the ears), providing direction and focus to the rest of the body (the eyes), and giving direction to others (the mouth).  If we are wearing the helmet of salvation, we are going to be attuned to the voice of the Lord, and we are going to have the things of eternity, or our salvation, as our priority and our direction in all that we do.  Eight times the Savior said, "He who hath ears to hear, let him hear," as he preached his gospel.  He also said, "And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things" (D&C 88:67).  Having ears to hear the Lord, and eyes single to his glory, our words will be as the words of the Lord.  "If ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels" (2 Nephi 31:13).


As an active defensive measure, we have the shield of faith.  A shield can protect any one of the other body parts, as an attack is waged against it.  The greater our faith, the larger and thicker the shield of protection against the wiles of the devil.  A shield requires active use, however; it is not simply a force field.  We must watch for the fiery darts, and block them with our faith.  Hard trials may come upon us, injustices may be done to us, or doubts may be inflicted upon our beliefs.  We must actively call upon our faith to endure the challenges, be healed from the hurts, or outlast the doubts.


Lastly we have the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.  The sword is the only weapon needed in the battle against evil.  It is the only article of the Armour of God to be used in the offense; its purpose is not just to defend or protect, but to conquer.  "And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God"  (Alma 31:5).  The preaching of the Word was very effective for Ammon and the Sons of Mosiah, and brought many Lamanites to become converts to the Church and friends of the Nephites.  "They did lay down the weapons of their rebellion, that they did not fight against God any more, neither against any of their brethren" (Alma 23:7).  The sword of the Spirit can also be effective for us against our enemies, if we use it in harmony with the breastplate of faith and love, as did Ammon with his benelovent service to the King of the Lamanites.


Every bit of the Armour of God pertains directly to Jesus Christ and his Atonement, and is employed only through his grace.  The words of Alma the Younger to his son, Shiblon: "And now, my son, I have told you this that ye may learn wisdom, that ye may learn of me that there is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ. Behold, he is the life and the light of the world. Behold, he is the word of truth and righteousness"  (Alma 38:9).

(For Elder Harold B. Lee's interpretation of the armour of God [some elements of which were included here], see, or the LDS Institute manual, The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, p. 352-353.)

1 comment:

Nancy Wyatt Jensen said...

Skyler Westergard gave a great additional insight in Sunday School today. He said the shield of faith is the first defense. If we are still working on the other areas, faith can protect us.