Thanks to General Conference, we get a double dose of the Book of Ephesians for our Come, Follow Me study, and it’s well worth the deep dive. Contained therein is one of the most iconic admonitions in scripture, in no small part due to the imagery invoked. I’m speaking, of course, of the Armor of God.
From Ephesians 6:
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 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:
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
This particular metaphor was so important that the Lord repeated it to Joseph Smith, as recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 27; it is worth noting none of the names of the particular pieces of armor were changed, which means that Paul had it right. Let’s have a closer look here at each part of the body and how it is protected:
Gird your loins with truth: The loins comprise the area extending from the bottom of the rib cage to the bottom of the pelvis. This is not only an incredibly vulnerable region of the body but also one about which a great many falsehoods are floating about; by protecting that part of our bodies with truth, we can avoid some of the adversary’s most devastating blows. Also, to gird one’s loins back in the day meant to hike up your robe and tie it up between your legs in a way that better enabled both movement and hard work. By telling us to gird our loins, Paul is telling us right off what’s ahead of us is not a stroll through a gentle field of daisies.
Breastplate of righteousness: The loins are below the rib cage; the breastplate covers what’s immediately above that. Just as your rib cage provides a measure of protection for the vital organs housed inside it, each of us already has some protection in this area — we all have areas where obedience to God’s laws comes more easily and naturally. But the flip side of that is also true: we each of us have gaps, places where we have no natural defenses. Righteousness — the deliberate choice to keep the commandments — not only fills in those gaps, it fortifies our natural strengths as well.
Feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace: We tend to take good shoes for granted, but all you have to do is think of the bloody trail of footprints in the snow between Missouri and Illinois to remember just how important strong footwear can be. “Preparation of the gospel of peace” may seem an odd thing for a soldier to wear, but a soldier fighting for a just cause does not delight in war. Having your feet so shod serves as a reminder to not go looking for a fight, and that there are better times to come, so as to keep you from being maimed by malice.
Shield of faith: A shield is the only active piece of true armor that you own; to use it properly, you must be actively aware of both your surroundings and your weak points. There’s no use pretending the latter doesn’t exist — they do, and Satan (aka Jerkface) knows where they are and is taking careful aim with a whole slew of fiery darts. Both the size of your shield and your skill in using it are directly proportional to your trust in God. Fiery darts hurt like hell (pun intended); block as many as you can.
The helmet of salvation: Salvation: the act of being saved, the state of having been saved, from harm. The head is the control center of the body, the center of the thought and reason that are essential to your agency. Christ is the source of our salvation. Let Him protect who you are. Let His atoning sacrifice guard your agency.
The sword of the spirit: The word of God is a sword, and not one of your own making; it can only be properly wielded according to the design of its Maker. Used properly, its offensive and defensive capabilities are second to none; used improperly, it will wound its wielder more deeply than whatever he was aiming toward.
It can be easy to look at this list and get a little overwhelmed — so much to do and learn, and holy crow does all that armor look heavy! Yeah, it can seem pretty heavy sometimes, especially when you’re comparing it to Satan’s counterfeit, which is merely a sort of spiritual anesthetic. (Hint: there’s always a counterfeit.) As always, his way is absolutely easier, but only in the short term; his way might mean you don’t feel the hits you’re taking, but that doesn’t make them any less real. And sooner or later, not only do you find yourself sporting a serious or even mortal injury, you find the anesthetic has worn off, and he’s left you to yourself. (See Alma 30:60)
So how do we keep from being overwhelmed? Well, just like a real person would be incapable of putting on an entire suit of armor at once, our Father in Heaven knows that we need to take this a step at a time. In fact, much like the Beatitudes, those steps are outlined for you in the very passage we are discussing:
First, seek truth.
Adhering to truth is righteousness.
Righteousness leads to the gospel and subsequently, peace.
Living the gospel leads to faith.
Faith leads to salvation, i.e., accepting and applying the Atonement of Christ.
Salvation grants access to the Spirit.
The war that began in heaven rages on, but our Father has not left us to our own devices. Follow these steps again and again and again (read in Elder Peter M. Johnson’s voice), and you will find increased protection from on high, increased personal strength, and a stronger love and appreciation for the Father and the Son who made it all possible. As was said by the only One ever walked this earth who wore that armor and wielded the sword perfectly:
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.John 16:33
- Come, Follow Me – For Individuals and Families: New Testament 2019: September 30-October 13.
- “Your Light – A Standard to All Nations” – President James E. Faust, April 2006
- “Do Not Fear” – President Boyd K. Packer, April 2004
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