D&C 76:25-29; Moses 4:3; D&C 27:15-18; 42:21-24; 59:6; 63:16; 121:45-46; 51:9; 97:8; and For the Strength of Youth pamphlet.
The Great and Eternal Conflict
As tragic events continue to unfold at home and abroad, it becomes increasingly evident that “there are two powers on the earth and in the midst of the inhabitants of the earth-the power of God and the power of the devil. In our history we have had some very peculiar experiences. When God has had a people on the earth, it matters not in what age, Lucifer, the son of the morning, and the millions of fallen spirits that were cast out of heaven, have warred against God, against Christ, against the work of God, and against the people of God. And they are not backward in doing it in our day and generation. Whenever the Lord set His hand to perform any work, those powers labored to overthrow it” (President Wilford W. Woodruff, Deseret Evening News, 17 Oct. 1896; cited in Ensign, Nov. 1986, 43).
War in Heaven
What was the nature of the conflict in pre-mortality? President John Taylor taught, “Satan … wanted to deprive man of his agency” (Mediation and Atonement, 142). Hence, the battle was over our prerogative and power to continue choosing for ourselves in mortality as we had done in heaven (see Alma 13:2-5). A simple enough choice it would seem. However, we understand from the scriptural record that Lucifer’s revolt centered on his own lust for eternal power, glory, and ascendancy. “…For behold, the devil was before Adam, for he rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency” (D&C 29:36; emphasis added). In Moses’ account of Satan’s rebellion the tenor of the language and the number of times Lucifer refers to himself illuminates his profound personal preoccupation (see Moses 4:1). By contrast, the Savior’s selflessness is stunning-he simply responded “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever” (Moses 4:2).
Lucifer had distinguished himself in the pre-mortal realm. Joseph and Sidney were given to know “an angel of God who was in authority… [and was] a son of the morning” had “rebelled against the Only Begotten Son… [and] was thrust down from the presence of God and the Son, and was called Perdition” (D&C 76:25-26). While many of the “morning stars sang together” it was truly “all the sons of God [who] shouted for joy” (Job 38:7), for they were not concerned with self, but with each other! Lucifer had some indicator that he wasn’t yet a “son” (see Moses 4:1). Clearly, for one who was so fanatically fond of himself, Father’s call and Jehovah’s acceptance as the chosen Redeemer spelled secondary status through the eternities for Lucifer and his lieutenants. Sadly, these would not appreciate nor accept a plan that would not give them the preeminence.
Cleverly, Lucifer would cloak his ulterior motives under the guise of selflessness. He brazenly boasted, “I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it” (Moses 4:1). But for the bravado, Lucifer’s claim might have seemed like a noble and
loving gesture when in fact it was nothing but a mockery of the real
cost of salvation-which, Father had clearly stated, would come at the terrible but absolutely essential cost of Jehovah’s self-sacrifice.
President Taylor explains: “For if man had his agency, it would seem that necessarily the Lord would be subject to him [man]; as is stated, ‘For it behooveth the Great Creator that he suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh, and die for all men, that all men might become subject unto him’ [2 Ne. 9:5-7]. The Lord being thus subjected to man, He would be placed in the lowest position to which it was possible for Him to descend; because of the weakness, the corruption and the fallibility of human nature. But if man had his free agency, this necessarily would be the result, and hence, as it is said, Jesus descended below all things that He might be raised above all things; and hence also, while Satan’s calculation was to deprive man of his free agency, and to prevent himself or the Only Begotten from being subject to this humiliation and infamy, the Lord’s plan was to give man his agency, provide a redeemer, and suffer that redeemer to endure all the results incidental to such a position, and thus, by offering himself as a substitute and conquering death, hell and the grave, he would ultimately subjugate all things unto himself; and at the same time make it possible for man to obtain an exaltation that he never could have had without his agency” (John Taylor, The Mediation and Atonement, 142).
Thankfully, “Lucifer utterly failed in the preexistence to destroy agency and force salvation [a philosophical impossibility] upon all men. Had he succeeded, the salvation he sponsored would in reality have been damnation, for it would not have raised men to the high status enjoyed by the Eternal Father” (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 657). To be sure, Satan’s conception of ‘salvation’ really meant ‘subjection’ to him (see Mosiah 16:11). On the other hand, if we continue to “yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and [put] off the natural man,” then salvation entails becoming “a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord” (Mosiah 3:19). In this truly ‘saved’ state we will enjoy having all things subject to us (D&C 132:20). At that day, being “wise, yet harmless” (Alma 18:22) we shall know fully the goodness of our God and Savior for their preservation of agency and accomplishment of the Atonement.
We know from multiple sources (Rev. 12:3-13; D&C 29:36-39; Moses 4:3) that Lucifer as Satan and the hosts of spirits that follow him are upon the earth. Here they “maketh war with the saints of God, and encompasseth them round about” (D&C 76:29). How are we to wage and win such a war? The metaphor of God’s armor as revealed in D&C 27 and Ephesians 6:11-17 is a marvelous means of illustrating the specific powers available through the Lord’s gospel that can protect us from evil and prepare us to return triumphant to our Father’s Kingdom.
Historical Context of D&C 27
Joseph Smith received section 27 of the Doctrine and Covenants while on his way to purchase wine for a sacrament meeting in Harmony, Pennsylvania (see Section heading). He was warned, “that [he] shall not purchase wine neither strong drink of your enemies” (D&C 27:3). Evidently there were those in the area bent on poisoning the fledgling Church membership as a means of thwarting the Lord’s work.
The flow of D&C 27 is as follows:
1-4-The particular symbols of the Savior’s sacrifice in the sacrament are governed only by the ‘singleness of eye’ of those who partake of them.
vv. 5-14-Prior to the Second Coming the Savior and his servants from earlier dispensations will meet with specifically invited members of the latter-day Church to hold a special Sacrament Meeting.
vv. 15-18-Rejoice in and prepare for this meeting by defending against the evil forces that are seeking to destroy the Lord’s work on the earth.
Any mention of “enemies” to Joseph Smith would be immediately relevant to the young prophet. In his own words, “It seems as though the adversary was aware, at a very early period of my life, that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom; else why should the powers of darkness combine against me? Why the opposition and persecution that arose against me, almost from my infancy? (JS-H 1:20). Beginning with the First Vision and culminating in his martyrdom, Joseph Smith was well acquainted with “powers” and “the rulers of the darkness of this world” (Ephesians 6:12). So it has been-and always will be-with those who choose Christ over the world.
The Armor of the Lord
Elder Carlos E. Asay once shared a powerful dream he had concerning the Lord’s armor:
“As a small boy in grammar school, I had a teacher who made King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table come alive. She caused me to become so obsessed with stories of knights that I played and dreamed that I was one. One evening I dreamed that I was a white knight on a white horse riding over the greens of England. Suddenly, without warning, a knight dressed in black armor and mounted on a black horse appeared at the edge of the forest. We measured each other carefully, lowered our lances, and charged at full gallop. The lances struck target and both of us were knocked off our steeds.
“I scrambled to my feet knowing that swords would be drawn and that hand-to-hand combat was imminent. Fear gripped my heart as I saw my opponent rushing toward me flashing a long, gleaming sword. Instinctively, I reached to my side and drew forth from the scabbard my weapon. That is when the dream turned into a nightmare! For in my hand was a small, dinky dagger-not a long, gleaming sword. I woke up in a cold sweat screaming for help.
“Many times since that nightmarish experience, I have wondered about the serviceability of the Saints, particularly the young Latter-day Saints. When God calls you to serve, are you positioned in the scabbard and ready to be drawn? When the Lord draws you forth as his instrument in combating evil forces, what does he have in his hand-a long, gleaming sword or a dinky dagger?… The saving virtue of a sword is related to its strength, sharpness, cleanliness, and the hand which guides it. Is it not the same with people?… I would pray that you would seek strength of character, sharpness of mind, and cleanliness of soul so as to become gleaming swords of righteousness. By doing this, there will be no embarrassment, no disappointment, and no nightmare when he draws you out in battling the powers of darkness.” (Elder Carlos E. Asay, “Instruments of Righteousness,” New Era, June 1983, 4-5).
What is the Lord’s Armor?
Elder Harold B. Lee addressed the student body at Brigham Young University nearly half a century ago about the armor of God imagery. “We have the fours parts of the body that the Apostle Paul said or saw to be the most vulnerable to the powers of darkness. The loins, typifying virtue, chastity. The heart typifying our conduct. Our feet, our goals or objectives in life and finally our head, our thoughts” (Elder Harold B. Lee, “Feet Shod with the Preparation of the Gospel of Peace,” BYU Speeches of the Year, Provo, 9 Nov. 1954, 2). Following are specific attributes Elder Lee ascribed to each part of the armor:
Girdle/Apron-Truth. “Truth, the Lord said, was knowledge of things as they are, things as they were and thing as they are to come [D&C 93:24]…. What is going to guide us along the path of proper morals or proper choices? It will be the knowledge of truth. There must be a standard by which we measure our conduct else how shall we know what is right?” (“Feet Shod,” 3).
Why is truth symbolically tied to the loins as a girdle? One answer may be that, especially in these latter-days, the truth about gender and sexuality is constantly being debated and perverted. However, by hearkening carefully to the prophets (especially the Proclamation on the Family) we can avoid these satanic deceptions about our very identities and destinies. Elder Packer has said, “Without a knowledge of the gospel plan, transgression seems natural, innocent, even justified.
There is no greater protection from the adversary than for us to know the truth-to know the plan!” (Boyd K. Packer,Our Father’s Plan, 1984, 27). As Alma taught his son, “see that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love” (Alma 38:12). The key is to bridle-not seek to eradicate, change, or let run wild! The Lord had set the bounds. When we stay within them we are filled with love. When we proudly ignore or alter those bounds we are robbed of love and will instead “drink the dregs of a bitter cup” (Alma 40:26).
Breastplate-Righteousness. “And the heart, what kind of a breastplate shall protect our conduct in life? We shall have over our hearts a breastplate of righteousness” (“Feet Shod,” 3). As per above, the heart typifies our conduct, therefore, the strength of the Lord’s armor to protect our vital organs is directly proportional to the diligence and heed we give to the Lord’s commandments.
The Lord taught Joseph Smith that if he would “let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence was strong in the presence of God” (D&C 121:45). In another revelation, Joseph was taught that the final judgment will not only be “according to their works,” but also “the desire of their hearts” will be computed in as well.
Shoes/leggings-Gospel of Peace.
“Preparation is the word used in Eph. 6:15 [and D&C 27:16], where it means ‘equipment.’ He who desires victory in this conflict, must have the entire equipment of the gospel. This includes the holy Priesthood, the ordinances of the Church, continuous revelation, and all other divinely-appointed means of salvation” (Smith and Sjodahl, Introduction to and Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, 138). This description sounds like Obadiah’s references to those in latter-days who would act as “saviours” on “mount Zion” (Obad. 1:21).
Shield-Faith. The armor-bearer held “in his hand a shield and in his other hand a sword, which were the weapons of those days. That shield was the shield of faith” (“Feet Shod,” 7). Solomon declared, “He is a shield unto them that put their trust in Him” (Prov. 30:5). Also, “burning arrows were used in warfare anciently. It was necessary to extinguish these ‘fiery darts,’ and the shield was useful for this purpose” (Smith and Sjodahl, 138).
Helmet-Salvation. “Did you ever hear of that kind of helmet?… The helmet of salvation. What is salvation? Salvation is to be saved. Saved from what? Saved from death and saved from sin” (“Feet Shod,” 6). Further, being free from guilt associated with past sin and from discouragement in conquering current weaknesses is a significant attribute of the helmet of salvation. Also, we must remember that Joseph Smith taught, “It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance” (D&C 131:6).
Sword-Spirit. “…the sword was the sword of the spirit which is the Word of God. I can’t think of any more powerful weapons than faith and a knowledge of the scriptures in the which are contained the Word of God” (“Feet Shod,” 7). It should be noted that the sword is the only offensive weapon. The Spirit directs the word for each situation. The Savior himself is the perfect example of how knowledge of the scriptures is like wielding a double-edged broadsword “which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil” (Hel. 3:29). Recall when Jesus was being tempted after his fast. “Jesus deflected each temptation with scripture. ‘It is written . . . . it is written again . . . . it is written . . . .'[Matthew 4:4,7,10]. Think on it carefully. When facing perdition himself, the Lord drew upon scriptures for protection” (Elder Packer, Ensign, May 2000, 7).
Greatest Battles in the Silent Chambers of Our Souls
Armed in the gospel we will be “able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). Of course, not all of these battles will take place in public places. “You will never have a better opportunity to be a greater hero in a more crucial battle than in the battle you will face today and in the immediate future. Be warned that some of the greatest battles you will face will be fought within the silent chambers of your own soul. David’s battles in the field against the foe were not as critical as David’s battles in the palace against a lustful eye. We will each find our own battlefield” (Ezra Taft Benson, “In His Steps,” 1979 Devotional Speeches of the Year, 60).
Perhaps the most sought after prize of the adversary is the home-where both family and marriage live. Satan knows that he will never be privileged to live with or in either one. His misery drives him to destroy ours (see 2 Ne. 2:27). Thankfully prophets have declared simple but significant steps we can take to ensure the Lord’s full protection of these treasures. Listen to President Kimball on total fidelity in marriage:
“When the Lord says all thy heart, it allows for no sharing nor dividing nor depriving…. The words none else eliminate everyone and everything. The spouse then becomes preeminent in the life of the husband or wife, and neither social life nor occupational life nor political life nor any other interest nor person nor thing shall ever take precedence over the companion spouse…. Marriage presupposes total allegiance and total fidelity…. Any divergence is sin; any sharing of the heart is transgression. As we should have ‘an eye single to the glory of God,’ so should we have an eye, an ear, a heart single to the marriage and the spouse and family” (Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle, 142-43).
President Hinckley has also warned: “You men of the Melchizedek Priesthood, you cannot be unfaithful or untrue to your wives, to your families, to your priesthood responsibilities if you are to be valiant in moving the work of the Lord forward in this great battle for truth and salvation. You cannot be dishonest and unscrupulous in your business affairs without tarnishing your armor” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, Nov. 1986, 43.)
Finally, Elder L. Tom Perry has beautifully written about the symbolic nature of parents ‘arming’ their children against the world:
“We were dressed in our home each morning, not only with hats and raincoats and boots to protect us from physical storm, but even more carefully our parents dressed us each day in the armor of God. As we would kneel in family prayer and listen to our father, a bearer of the priesthood, pour out his soul to the Lord for the protection of his family against the fiery darts of the wicked, one more layer was added to our shield of faith. While our shield was being made strong, theirs was always available, for they were available and we knew it” (Elder L. Tom Perry, “Build Your Shield of Faith,” Ensign, May 1974, 98ff).
“The Future Never Looked Brighter”
We do live in troubled times and we are engaged in the war over our souls, but we have the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to protect and guide us through. Our present prophet declared nearly two decades ago: “The war goes on. It is waged across the world over the issues of agency and compulsion. It is waged by an army of missionaries over the issues of truth and error. It is waged in our own lives, day in and day out, in our homes, in our work, in our school associations; it is waged over questions of love and respect, of loyalty and fidelity, of obedience and integrity. We are all involved in it… each of us. We are winning, and the future never looked brighter (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The War We Are Winning,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 42-43).