I’m not going to lie. This lesson has been a tough one for me. I have seen so many cartoon drawings of children wearing knight armor that I have had a difficult time taking the concept of the armor of God seriously. I appreciate what the illustrators have tried to do to help the youth visualize the use of the things God has given us to keep us safe, but I need to find another way of looking at these tools so I can approach them from an adult perspective.
Know your enemy
Lucifer (Satan) is not just a mischievous cat in the cartoon of Cinderella. Satan has gone to great lengths over the centuries to paint himself as something so ridiculous that no rational being can believe in him. And if they do believe in him, he comes across as more of a nuisance than any kind of real threat to mankind. By making people believe he has horns, cloven feet, like a cow or a goat, and carries a pitchfork to poke and torment his victims, he crosses over into the realm of fiction and fantasy.
But Lucifer is anything but fiction. He looks just like the rest of us, and he was a “son of the morning” in the premortal life, a being of great power and influence. His influence was so great that when he came out in open rebellion of God and His Christ he managed to convince one third part of the children of God to follow him even though they knew that failure would result in expulsion from heaven. Now that takes some skills!
Yes, there was a war in heaven, and Michael, the arch angel led the armies of God against the intended usurper. Lucifer and his followers were cast out of heaven and were consigned to earth. Here they would continue to wage a war of retribution for their loss. Their goal is to deprive our Father and Christ of as many souls as possible. Their motive is pride and spite, pure and simple.
What we need to remember is that Lucifer, now called Satan, the Devil, the Father of Lies, doesn’t care what happens to us. He and his ilk are free to roam the earth spreading lies and falsehoods to their hearts’ content. They can make all the false promises they want, and they do, but they never have the power to fully keep their promises, because when mortals leave this life and pass back into eternity Satan has no power to offer them anything for following him.
The war that began in heaven is now being waged here in mortality. It is not physical, but spiritual. This war is for our souls. Satan has his weapons, his priesthood powers, and his army of followers, both mortal and immortal. But so does our Father in Heaven. Fortunately, our Father has put restrictions on Satan so he cannot have an undue advantage over us.
What side we listen to, which promises we follow, are ultimately our choice, and our responsibility. We can either listen to the siren call of the world, ruled over by Satan or we can listen to the whisperings of the Spirit. The one we choose to follow will determine our eternal destiny.
Weapons of war
One of Satan’s greatest advantages in this life is his memory. Our memories were wiped clean when we entered mortality. He and his flock still have their memories. Satan and crew may not be able to read our thoughts, as God can, but he can read the presence or the lack of the presence of the Spirit and light of Christ within us. When we start to dwell on unclean things, the light of Christ dims a little, and he is allowed to fill that void and encourage us to go further with our thoughts.
Likewise, when we choose to expel the baser things from our thinking and feeling, the light of Christ and the Spirit strengthen us, and Satan’s ability to influence us is weakened.
The scriptures refer regularly to the fiery darts of the adversary, as in Doctrine and Covenants 27:17.
17 Taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked;
What is a fiery dart as used in warfare? A dart can be thrown or flung at someone. It is a very sharp, pointed object that is designed to pierce clothing and bury itself deeply within the enemy. Applying fire to the dart adds the bonus of causing them initial damage plus burning them within by fire as well. This causes extra suffering that lingers for a long time afterwards, sometimes causing irreparable damage.
The point to these descriptions of how Satan and his gang wage war is that they are out to hurt us in any way they can. Remember, this is not a physical war, no matter what mortals may do to each other as they follow the promptings of the Devil’s army. This is a spiritual war. What happens to us physically cannot hurt is in the eternities. Physical harm is only temporary. But spiritual harm is permanent. This is what Satan really wants. He wants to cripple us for all eternity. That is his payback. This is how he exacts his revenge on God, he hurts His children.
In this war with the hoards of Satan the Lord has not left us defenseless. We have the light of Christ given to everyone who comes to earth so we all have a sense of right and wrong. This is the most basic tool we have. Following our conscience (the light of Christ) will always lead us to do what is right.
Here is a list of the tools with scriptural mentions. This list comes from Doctrine and Covenants 27:15–18.
“Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth” When you gird yourself with something you wrap it around your body. Visualize wrapping yourself with a protective layer of truth in the battle of lies and deceit. Encasing yourself in truth will help you determine truth from error so you cannot be deceived.
“having on the breastplate of righteousness” A breastplate is designed to protect your most vital organs, especially your heart and lungs. Righteous living acts in just such a way. The gospel of Christ is not a metaphor or an idea, it is a way of being. When we live those teachings the Spirit changes our heart and helps us to feel toward others as the Savior feels toward us. This protection can only be “put on” by living the commandments we have been given by the Lord.
“and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” I had to look up the word preparation in the dictionary. I wasn’t happy with what I found in the modern dictionary, so I turned to the Webster’s 1828 Dictionary. This is the last definition given for preparation: Preparation of medicines, the process of fitting any substance for use in the art of healing.
A preparation is like an ointment or salve that is specifically designed and prepared for the healing of what ails you. The gospel of Christ is just such a preparation. It is designed to cure us of our spiritual maladies and in a world full of turmoil and chaos, bring peace to our soul. I find it interesting that throughout the scriptures the prophets talk about how beautiful are the feet of them that bring good tidings of peace.
When we take the spiritual cure of living the gospel of peace, we are restored, refreshed, and enlivened by the forgiveness of our sins. We find solace and comfort, no matter what may be going on around us. Truly the gospel is “good news.”
“Taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” Remember how I said earlier that a dart is meant to pierce through our protective layers and penetrate deep into our flesh? And remember how adding fire to that dart causes additional damage that is sometimes impossible to fully heal internally? These are the darts of doubt, the arrows of mistrust, and the javelins of despair that those who follow Satan are constantly throwing at us.
The only weapon that can extinguish such fiery darts is the trust we place in God and His plan, in Christ and His atoning sacrifice, and in the Holy Ghost’s promptings and promises. Only when we put our faith in the Godhead and move forward with peace in our hearts, because we have surrounded ourselves with truth, can we expect to come out relatively unscathed by the fiery darts of the adversary.
Believe in the promises of God then act on that belief, and he will prove Himself to you over and over again. God is faithful. He is worthy of your trust. But we must choose to believe in Him then act on that belief or there is no faith possible.
“And take the helmet of salvation” The helmet refers to our thoughts. Power in the priesthood, and in the gospel in general comes only through purity of thought. When we avail ourselves of the power of prayer and studying the scriptures, and fill our minds with the gospel of Christ, we gain power over our thoughts through the atonement of Christ.
One of Satan’s most subtle forms of attack comes from the thoughts he puts into our minds. We must be constantly vigilant to guard our thoughts from those things that would cause us to be critical of others, or would lead to feelings of vengeance or a lack of forgiveness. Thinking uncharitable thoughts only numbs us to the Spirit and strips us of the other pieces of God’s armor we have already put on. Guarding our thoughts as one of our most precious spiritual resources will surely lead to our salvation.
“and the sword of my Spirit” The sword is the only non-defensive piece of armor. It is the only piece of spiritual equipment that is meant to be used actively as well as defensively. Just as a sword can part through a sea of enemies, so too can the Spirit lead us past those who would put us down and keep us from our spiritual goals.
One of our most powerful weapons is the Holy Spirit. He is a member of the Godhead assigned to teach us about, and lead us to, all things that are godly in nature. Our Father has provided the laws upon which all blessings are based. Our Savior has provided us mercy to be forgiven through His atoning sacrifice. The Spirit is the member of the Godhead who gets into the trenches of this spiritual battle and leads us safely home.
This lesson has been a great blessing to me. I have finally learned to see the armor of God as something more than a cartoon drawing for the youth or the children. The Lord has blessed us with everything we need to prevent Satan from derailing us on our journey home. With the power we gain from pure thoughts, prayer, study of the scriptures, and living the gospel, the atoning sacrifice of our Savior provides us with mercy and forgiveness and grants us the salvation we all hope for.