by Matthew L. Bowen

The expressions “armed with righteousness” (1 Nephi 14:14) and “clothed with righteousness” (Psalm 132:9) occur one time each in the scriptures. Evidence found elsewhere within scripture suggests that these two phrases derive from a single Hebrew idiom. One of the most important prophetic texts in the Book of Mormon, which gives [Page 334]readers a vision of the church that would be established after the book’s coming forth occurs, as part of Nephi’s vision of the Tree of Life (1 Nephi 11–14) in 1 Nephi 14:14:

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.

Psalm 132, a temple hymn, contains the liturgical lines, “Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness; and let thy saints shout for joy” (Psalm 132:9).

In this study, I examine Nephi’s prophetic statement, “and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory,” in the context of imagery from the Hebrew Bible—including temple imagery—and from the standpoint of Alma’s teaching on Melchizedek and priesthood in Alma 13. Unpacking this language and imagery helps us better understand the plea from the prophet Joseph Smith during his dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland temple on 27 March 1836 and how those words apply to us in our present circumstances:

And we ask thee, Holy Father, that thy servants may go forth from this house armed with thy power, and that thy name may be upon them, and thy glory be round about them, and thine angels have charge over them; And from this place they may bear exceedingly great and glorious tidings, in truth, unto the ends of the earth, that they may know that this is thy work, and that thou hast put forth thy hand, to fulfil that which thou hast spoken by the mouths of the prophets, concerning the last days. (Doctrine and Covenants 109:22–23)

Understanding 1 Nephi 14:14 as a temple text not only helps us better understand the Prophet’s petition in Doctrine and Covenants 109:22–23, but it also helps us better understand the overarching purpose of latter-day temples and the urgency of building them. This urgency has been a driving force in the ongoing restoration from the beginning. (See, for example, Doctrine and Covenants 36:8 where the Lord declared on 9 December 1830 to Edward Partridge that he [Page 335]would “suddenly come to [his] temple.”1) That urgency only continues to accelerate.

To be “armed with righteousness” or “clothed with righteousness” is to be “armed with [the Lord’s] power” and to “have [his] name upon us.” These are all references to receiving priesthood authority (see Doctrine and Covenants 113:8). We need to be so armed, clothed, empowered, and authorized to “withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13; Doctrine and Covenants 27:15). In other words, being so invested will protect us against temptation, evil, and give us power to prevail in life’s battles. Having “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14) and having taken upon us his name, we receive strength to “let God prevail”2 and “to survive spiritually.”

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