Great teachers are few and far between, but history shows that the Apostle Paul was one of the truly outstanding ones. While studying for my next religion class, I came across Ephesians 6:14-18 where Paul tells his readers how to defend themselves against wickedness. He uses the image of a soldier’s armor to draw a comparison between fighting actual enemies and fighting spiritual opponents. Paul uses the image of spiritual armor previously, but he goes into more detail in his epistle to the Ephesians. Here are a few of his teachings about putting on the whole armor of God with emphasis added.
The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light (Romans 13:12).
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 (1 Thessalonians 5:8).
11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12 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. [Was he discussing places like the U.S. Congress?]
13 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.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness.
15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:11-17).
Paul lists the pieces of gear in the same order that a soldier would put it on his body or pick it up. This is true spiritually because the spiritual armor provides divine protection to our thoughts, intellect, feelings, and moral purity. A chart in the New Testament Student Manual, Religion 211-212, 411, gives the following information.
The belt or girt, which is tied around the waist, protects the loins. This piece of armor represents truth about the proper use of our reproductive organs, our chastity, and moral purity.
The breastplate is made of bronze or chain, and it protects the heart. This piece of armor represents righteousness and uprightness with God, which protect our affections, emotions, and loyalty.
The boots or rugged shoes are studded with nails for traction and made to protect the feet. This important piece of armor represents preparation of the gospel of peace. It protects our way in life, our actions, the places we go, and the goals we make.
The shield is a large oval made of two layers of wood that are held together with iron and leather. It protects the entire body. This essential piece of armor represents faith, and it protects our entire soul.
The helmet is made of bronze with leather straps and protects the head. This critical piece of armor represents salvation, and it protects our thoughts and our intellect.
The sword is made of steel and is the only weapon in the list. It protects the entire body. It represents the Spirit, which is the word of God, and it protects our whole soul.
As we can clearly see from the description above, this armor with the lone weapon is used in the battle for our very souls. Elder Robert C. Oaks of the Seventy explains the situation we face daily.
The weapons of eternal worth reflecting the whole armor of God are truth, righteousness, faith, prayer, and the word of God (see Eph. 6:13-18). These weapons are wielded in our minds, mouths, and movements. Every righteous thought, word, and deed is a victory for the Lord….
The stakes are extremely high. The prizes are the very souls of the sons and daughters of God, their eternal salvation. And these souls will be won or lost on the basis of virtue and cleanliness, on the basis of charity and service, and on the basis of faith and hope” (“Who’s on the Lord’s Side? Who?” Ensign, May 2005, 49-50).
Elder Oaks says that the armor of truth, righteousness, faith, prayer, and the word of God will protect our souls. He says that our souls will be won with virtue, cleanliness, charity, service, faith, and hope. Prophets and apostles counsel us frequently to keep our armor bright and to wear it diligently. They understand that we are in a spiritual battle for our souls. They know that Satan started this war in our premortal life and continues it here on earth. President Gordon B. Hinckley writes:
We are involved in an intense battle. It is a battle between right and wrong, between truth and error, between the design of the Almighty on the one hand and that of Lucifer on the other. For that reason, we desperately need moral men and women who stand on principle, to be involved in the political process. Otherwise, we abdicate power to those whose designs are almost entirely selfish. (See Stand A Little Taller, 15.)
We must believe President Hinckley in that there is right and wrong, truth and error in our world. We will be blessed as we stand for truth and righteousness at all times, in all places, and in all things. We must remember to wear our armor properly and consistently. President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles says that the home and family is the best place to forge a shield of faith that will “quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (Eph. 6:16).
The shield of faith is to be made and fitted in the family. No two can be exactly alike. Each must be handcrafted to individual specifications.
The plan designed by the Father contemplates that man and woman, husband and wife, working together, fit each child individually with a shield of faith made to buckle on so firmly that it can neither be pulled off nor penetrated by those fiery darts.
It takes the steady strength of a father to hammer out the metal of it and the tender hands of a mother to polish and fit it on. Sometimes one parent is left to do it alone. It is difficult, but it can be done.
In the Church we can teach about the materials from which a shield of faith is made: reverence, courage, chastity, repentance, forgiveness, compassion. In church we can learn how to assemble and fit them together. But the actual making of and fitting on of the shield of faith belongs in the family circle” (“The Shield of Faith,” Ensign, May 1995, 8).
Why is it important that we wear the whole armor of God? Let’s imagine a group of soldiers who decide that there are no enemies around? One takes off his helmet to let his head cool a little bit. Another lays down his sword and takes off his shield in order to rest for a few minutes. Still others decide to cool their feet in the stream of water. Suddenly, the enemy comes out of the surrounding woods and attacks. The soldiers are unable to repel the attackers because they are without some parts of their armor. The first soldier’s head is unprotected. The second one has to grab his sword and shield before he can join the battle. The soldiers who have taken off their boots have hopefully kept their swords handy.
Spiritually, the soldier without his helmet would not have control of his thoughts, which might have wandered far from the Lord. The soldier without his sword and shield would be questioning his faith because he stopped studying the scriptures. The group of soldiers with bare feet would not have firm goals in mind for their lives and could be led in the wrong paths.
I am sure that you can understand that we need all parts of the armor. We must keep our boots on our feet and ready to charge full speed ahead in our righteous goals. We must keep our helmet securely on our head in order to keep our thoughts pure. We must keep our loins protected in order to live chaste lives. We must keep our shield of faith firmly in place in order to protect us from the fiery darts of the adversary. We must keep the sword of truth sharp in order to teach the word of God with power and authority.
The Apostle Paul understood that we must stay strong in all the areas of the gospel, so he likened the doctrines and covenants to armor. This is a fitting symbol that helps us to remember to work on all areas in our lives. This is the only way that we can come through the battles of this life with our soul intact and ready to meet our Savior.