“Put on the Whole Armor of God”

N. Eldon Tanner


 

This is an inspiring sight indeed—the greatest body of men which could be assembled anywhere on the earth, and for the greatest reason. I am always awed by looking out at this audience as I think of all you priesthood holders gathered together in 1,547 buildings throughout the world.

What a great army of the priesthood with the power of God delegated to you to act in his name! I feel a tremendous responsibility as I contemplate the purpose of this gathering.

It seems fitting to recall the words of a song entitled “We Are All Enlisted.” Since these words fit into the theme of my message tonight, I should like to repeat some of them as they apply to us as priesthood holders:

We are all enlisted till the conflict is o’er. …
Soldiers in the army, there’s a bright crown in store;
We shall win and wear it by and by.
Haste to the battle, quick to the field,
Truth is our helmet, buckler, and shield.
Stand by our colors—proudly they wave. …
Hark! ’tis our Captain calls you today;
Lose not a moment, make no delay!
Fight for our Savior, come, come away! …
Fighting for a kingdom, and the world is our foe. …
Glad to join the army, we will sing as we go;
We shall gain the victory by and by.
Dangers may gather—why should we fear?
Jesus, our Leader, ever is near.
He will protect us, comfort and cheer.

The text of my address is from Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians:

“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. …

“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.” (Eph. 6:11–18.)

The great unrest in the world today and the wars and rumors of wars are affecting us greatly; but as Paul says, our greatest and most deadly struggle will be “not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, [and] against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

Paul then warned the Ephesians, which warning is applicable to us today, that we can only withstand the evils which surround us by putting on the whole armor of God, which he then described.

I should like to give you from the scriptures some examples which show how those who are clothed in such armor, which means keeping all the commandments of God, are able to withstand the adversary, or their enemies. Let me tell you about David (see 1 Sam. 17).

The Philistines were at war with Israel, and Goliath, the Philistine, was challenging Israel to send a man to fight him, with the understanding that the losers would be slaves of the conquerors.

We are told that Goliath had a helmet of brass upon his head and was armed with a coat of mail; that he had brass upon his legs and between his shoulders; that the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam; that his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron; and a shieldbearer went before him.

On the other hand, when David agreed to meet the Philistine he took only his staff and chose five smooth stones out of the brook and put them in his shepherd’s bag.

When Goliath saw this young man the Israelites had sent to challenge him, he was disdainful and said: “Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.

“Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.

“This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; … that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.” (1 Sam. 17:44–46.)

Then David, clothed with the armor of God, took a stone from his bag and, with his sling, shot it into the forehead of Goliath, an unprotected part of his body, and he fell dead.

Now, President Romney has told you tonight what happened to David after he became king because he did not continue to have the whole armor of God. We must put on the whole armor of God, or we will be vulnerable to temptation in those areas where we have weaknesses and where we have failed to give ourselves the protection offered through keeping the commandments.

Another example of the protection which comes from the whole armor of God is found in the life of Joseph who was sold into Egypt (see Gen. 37, Gen. 39–47). From his youth he was a faithful and true young man, always keeping the commandments of God.

Because he was favored by his father, Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him and plotted to kill him; but his brother Reuben prevailed upon them to spare his life and to cast him into a pit, from which he was later rescued, taken to Egypt, and sold to Potiphar, captain of the king’s guard.

Potiphar soon recognized his worth and made him overseer over all that he had. The Bible says that “Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured” (Gen. 39:6).

Thus it was that his master’s wife desired him, but Joseph refused her advances, and he fled from her. She caught hold of his cloak, which he left in her hand. This she used as evidence against him.

Her husband believed her lies and cast Joseph into prison, where he remained many years, when he was summoned before Pharaoh, the king.

It seems that the king had a dream which none of his wise men nor magicians could interpret, and someone remembered that Joseph had interpreted dreams while in prison which came to pass as predicted.

When Pharaoh related his dream unto Joseph, he was able to interpret it and to warn about the seven years of plenty to be followed by seven years of famine which were to come upon Egypt, and to give instructions to the king as to what he should do.

Joseph made it very clear that the interpretation came from God, who through this dream was directing Pharaoh. Because he knew that God was with Joseph, Pharaoh appointed him to be ruler over all the land of Egypt, and in this position he was later able to save his own family from starvation. I think you all know the story.

Joseph had arrayed himself in the whole armor of God, and God was with him through his tribulations, which he withstood; and, continuing to keep the commandments and to call upon God for help and strength, he was blessed and able to do what God required of him.

It is important that we make up our minds early in life as to what we will do and what we will not do. Long before the moment of temptation comes we should have determined that we will resist that cigarette, that drink of whiskey, that act of immorality, or anything that will keep us from enjoying the companionship of the Spirit of the Lord.

We all have different weaknesses and temptations, and we should examine our lives to find out what those weaknesses are and where we should put on extra armor so we can do what is right and not submit to temptation.

Now another example: I suppose no one had more or greater experiences regarding the protection which comes from wearing the whole armor of God than did Daniel (see Dan. 1–2, Dan. 6). At the summons of King Nebuchadnezzar, he, with other chosen children of Israel, was brought to live in the king’s palace for certain training.

They were to be carefully nourished for three years, at which time they would stand before the king. Apparently they were to be fed with the choicest of food, including the king’s meat and wine.

Daniel and his three friends, whom we know as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, begged permission to refuse the king’s meat and wine, and the prince who had charge over them told Daniel that the king would be very angry if they appeared less healthy and fair to look upon than the others through their failure to eat the king’s fare.

So Daniel asked for a period of ten days in which they might eat pulse, meaning vegetables, and drink water, and then be compared with the others who were eating and drinking the king’s fare—meat and wine.

After ten days they looked better and appeared healthier than all the others, so they were allowed to continue.

At the end of three years, when they were brought before the king, we are told that among them all was found none like Daniel and his three friends, and in all matters of wisdom and understanding, the king found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers in his realm.

What a great parallel with the promise given in our Word of Wisdom that “all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;

“And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;

“And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.

“And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them.” (D&C 89:18–21.)

Each of these promises was fulfilled in behalf of Daniel and his friends in the following accounts of their most interesting experiences.

King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream which troubled him but which he could not recall. He was about to put to death all of his wise men and astrologers, including Daniel and his friends, because none could tell him the dream nor the interpretation. But Daniel asked the king for a little time and promised that he would tell him the dream and its interpretation.

After Daniel pleaded with the Lord, the secret was revealed to him in a vision, and he was able to tell the king his dream and the interpretation. But he made it very clear to the king that the secret had been revealed by the God in heaven, and its purpose was to let the king know some of the events that would come to pass concerning his kingdom and how the kingdom of God would eventually be established upon the earth.

The king was greatly impressed and said to Daniel, “Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret” (Dan. 2:47).

Daniel was still in favor with the next two succeeding kings, but the king’s advisers were jealous and tried to find some reason to discredit Daniel. They could find none, but knowing of Daniel’s prayers to his God, contrived to have the king issue a decree that anyone asking a petition of any god or man save the king should be cast into the den of lions.

You know what happened. In spite of this order, Daniel continued to pray. When he was seen, he was taken before the king, who, because of his regard for Daniel, was displeased with himself for issuing the decree and would have freed Daniel; but he was reminded that the law of the Medes and Persians required that no decree may be changed but must be carried out.

As Daniel was cast into the den of lions, the disturbed king said to him, “Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee” (Dan. 6:16).

He spent a sleepless night and went early to the den of lions, where he rejoiced to find Daniel still alive, who said to him, “My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt” (Dan. 6:22).

The king had Daniel brought out of the lions’ den and his accusers cast in, who were immediately killed by the hungry beasts.

Daniel, having kept all of the commandments, indeed had clothed himself in the whole armor of God. Are we prepared to act as did David and Joseph and Daniel—continuing to keep the commandments—and others whom we know to have been protected because they worshiped and served the true God and kept his commandments?

Consider the following questions:

Are we studying the scriptures so that we can increase our knowledge and faith and testimony regarding the gospel? Do we keep the commandments? Are we honest and truthful in our dealings? Do we keep the Sabbath day holy? Do we observe the Word of Wisdom? Do we pay an honest tithing? Do we attend our meetings and respond to the calls made of us by our authorities? Are we virtuous and clean and pure in heart and mind and deed?

Do we fight against the evils around us—pornography, abortion, tobacco, alcohol, drugs? Do we have the courage to stand up for our convictions? Can we truly say we are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ? Do we live peaceably with our neighbors and avoid gossip and backbiting and spreading unfounded rumors? Do we truly love our neighbors as ourselves?

If we can answer yes to these questions, then we will have on the whole armor of God, which will protect us from harm and preserve us from our enemies. If we must answer no to these questions, then our armor is weak, there is an unshielded place which can be found, a vulnerable area for attack, and we will be subject to injury or destruction by Satan, who will search until he finds our weaknesses, if we have them.

Examine your armor. Is there an unguarded or unprotected place? Determine now to add whatever part is missing. No matter how antiquated or lacking in parts your armor may be, always remember that it is within your power to make the necessary adjustments to complete your armor.

Through the great principle of repentance you can turn your life about and begin now clothing yourself with the armor of God through study, prayer, and a determination to serve God and keep his commandments.

May I conclude with the oath and covenant of the priesthood, which if observed and kept will provide a shield and a protection, with all the promised blessings for the faithful:

“For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.

“They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.

“And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord;

“For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me;

“And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father;

“And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.

“And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood.

“Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved.

“But whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world, nor in the world to come.” (D&C 84:33–41.)

Brethren, we are greatly blessed to know that God lives and we are his spirit children; that his son, Jesus Christ, gave his life so that we might be resurrected and enjoy eternal life.

We belong to the Church of Jesus Christ, which was reestablished through the Prophet Joseph Smith. We hold the priesthood of God, and the progress of the Church depends on us and how fully we magnify our callings and follow the instructions of our present-day prophet, President Spencer W. Kimball.

I exhort all of you to listen closely to his messages and follow him. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

President N. Eldon Tanner