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Cover image via Gospel Media Library.
As we consider Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, we might ask ourselves what we know about Ephesus and Paul’s relationship to it. Next to Rome, Ephesus was the most important city visited by Paul. It has been called the third capital of Christianity. Ephesus was located about a mile from the sea coast, and was the great religious, commercial, and political center of Asia. It was noteworthy because of two notable structures there. First, the great theater which had a seating capacity of 50,000 people, and second, the temple of Diana which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was 342 feet long and 164 feet wide, made of shining marble, supported by columns 56 feet high, and was 220 years in building. This made it the center of the influence of Diana worship we read about in Acts 19. (See Barclay’s study Bible) I visited this city years ago, and was blown away by the wide streets made of marble!
We know that Paul laid the foundation of the church in Ephesus upon returning from his second missionary journey (Acts 18:19‑21) and he was based there for three years during his third missionary journey (Acts 19:1‑20:1). Given that type of relationship with the Ephesian saints, did you notice the conspicuous absence of any personal greetings in this epistle that are found in all of his other epistles?Some have argued that it was originally written as a circular letter to the province of Asia and that our copy came down to us from the Ephesian copy. Ephesians is also different from other letters in that there don’t seem to be any specific opponents that Paul is arguing against. Some scholars think that it was written to newly baptized members to help them make the transition from investigator to member of the church—something like our new member discussions. Be that as it may, there is plenty of relevant material for those of us who have been members for a bit longer!
Even though this is a relatively short letter, Paul covers a number of topics which center around the phrase “in Christ.” Paul uses this phrase 85 times in his epistles, so it is apparent that this concept is important to him. For the most part, he uses this phrase to describe the relationship between Christ and his followers. Eph. 2:5‑6 Normally we would expect this to say that we “sit in heavenly places with Christ Jesus” but it says “sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” What does it mean for us to be “in Christ?” 2 Cor. 5:17‑21 “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.” Paul uses the phrase “new creature” here. In Ephesians 4:24, he uses the phrase “new man.” 2 Cor. 5:21 speaks of Christ being made sin “for us,” that we might be made “the righteousness of God” in him. This is what Robert Millet calls “the great exchange.” Christ takes the sin and imputes righteousness to us. Perhaps some synonymous phrases for “in Christ” might be “in covenant,” “in union,” “in harmony.”
Larry Tippetts shared this entry in his journal. “A great New Testament scholar used an analogy to explain this phrase [“in Christ”]—the analogy of air, or the atmosphere. We cannot live physically unless the air is in us and we are in the air. Otherwise we cannot breathe, and we will die. I think the analogy is an apt one when speaking of what it means to be a spiritually reborn disciple of Christ. Without Christ in us, we are bound to think, feel, speak, and act in ways that are unbecoming His disciple. We are spiritually dead (or at least, dying). The dangerous thing about spiritual death is it can happen so gradually that we are not even aware of what is happening to us. That is why it is so critically important to seek the Lord daily, and do so especially when we are not feeling close to Him.”
When I taught Institute, no matter what the subject of the class was, we instructors were encouraged to give a lesson on the “Plan of Salvation” before we started teaching the specific course material. That way, the students could see where the things we were learning fit into the big picture. It is like looking at the picture on the puzzle box so you know where the individual pieces fit in.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is structured in a similar way. He begins by describing the big picture but as he goes along, he focuses on more specific aspects of that big picture and gradually moves to more specific subjects within the big picture. It looks something like this:
God’s Cosmic Plan
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter‑day Saints, we call God’s cosmic plan the Plan of Salvation. We can see that Paul begins by referring to the pre-mortal existence as he endeavors to make his point to the Ephesians. Eph. 1:3‑5 assumes an understanding of the pre-mortal life. “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.”
Paul begins before the creation of the world and moves to the latter part of this earth’s existence verse 10: “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.” Spatially, the scope is equally grand, moving from the heavenly places, (1:3) to the world, (1:4) (“he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world,” and includes our relationship to Christ in heaven and on earth (1:10). Abr. 3:23‑24 also speaks about God knowing Abraham “before he was born.”
How has God foreknown us? We know that mortality is not the beginning of our existence. We are the children of heavenly parents, and we were nurtured by them in the pre-mortal existence. We were taught truth in that sphere, and we had agency to accept it and act upon it. This might come as a shock to some, but we could even use our agency to make poor choices. These choices would be atoned for by the Lord Jesus Christ, and when we entered mortality as infants, we became, “once again, innocent before God.” (See D&C 93:38) “Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God.” To fully understand the ramifications of these verses, we have to consider the events described in Moses 4:1‑4, where we can read the account of how Satan sought to destroy the agency of mankind.
Perhaps no other New Testament book contains so many doctrines that are thought of as distinctively part of the restored Church of Jesus Christ as does Ephesians. Eph. 1:4 “God hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world.” Because certain spirits made a commitment to Christ in the pre-mortal life, they were elected or foreordained to be identified with Christ’s church on the earth. Peter also speaks of the elect of God (1 Pet 1:2) This election constituted a foreordained opportunity, not a guarantee of realizing that hope.
Like Israel itself (Deuteronomy 32:8), the Church was first organized in the premortal world ages before it was organized on the earth. Those foreordained were doubtless “given” to Christ in the councils of heaven before the world was organized. (Abraham 3:22) All this was done without compulsion and each person acted as a free agent.
The understanding of the doctrine of election was changed by Augustine in the 4th century and Calvin in the 16th. This doctrine arose because of the difficulty of reconciling the idea of man’s free will with God’s omniscience. It sounds something like this – “If God already knows what choices I’m going to make, then He knows whether I will inherit damnation or glory.” They taught a doctrine of unconditional election or pre-destination to salvation or damnation which robs God of His justice, and negates the agency of mankind in the guise of God’s omniscience.Wikipedia says this about predestination: In the words of the Westminster Confession of Faith, God “freely and unchangeably ordained whatsoever comes to pass.” The second use of the word “predestination” applies this concept to salvation, and refers to the belief that God appointed the eternal destiny of some to salvation by grace, while leaving the remainder to receive eternal damnation for all their sins, even their original sin.” Many Christians have struggled to understand this doctrine. (D&C 38:26) They wonder how a loving father could consign some of his children to salvation, but leave others without this blessing. The correct understanding of this doctrine rings true – it “slides right down.” After all, we learned truth in the pre-mortal existence, and when we hear it again, we recognize it. Those who were foreordained to perform labors in mortality have responsibilities, not necessarily privileges!
Eph 1:5, 11 reads: “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” Predestinate in Greek is pro(h)orizo – the Greek horizo is a term of planning, surveying or measuring – and means “to mark off,” as the English “horizon” is the distance marked off by your eyes. The KJV and some others intentionally state the Calvinistic doctrine that God decided in advance that there would be a plan of salvation, a Savior, and men and women who were the subjects of salvation. Calvinism taught that God chose the saved in advance, voiding the agency of mankind. But this word also applies to Jesus (Acts 4:28), and he accepted his calling freely, insisting that he had his agency to choose (John 10:18, Matt 26:53). Thus, every “predestinate” passage should be translated by non-Calvinistic terms such as “pre-appoint,” “foreordain” or “plan in advance.” In commenting on his translation of this passage, Thomas Wayment says, “Greek makes no distinction between foreordain and predestinate. The two words have taken on nuanced meanings in theological discussions which are foreign to Paul’s writings, and Paul uses the words in a sense of preplanning or preparing.” (Thomas A. Wayment, The New Testament: A Translation for Latter-day Saints – A study Bible
(Religious Studies Center, BYU: Provo, Utah, 2019, p. 341)
Joseph Smith also traced his calling to before the foundation of the world. (D&C 127:2) He also said, “Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of heaven before this world was. I suppose I was ordained to this very office in that Grand Council.” (History of the Church 6:364)
So, how does a knowledge of the pre-mortal existence help us to be “in Christ?” Eph. 1:17‑20
I believe that it is so that God might “give unto [us] the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him,” and that “the eyes of [our] understanding being enlightened,” we might know of the “riches of his glory” that are in store for us as part of the “inheritance” of the saints. We know that God has raised Christ from the dead and “set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.” He has promised us that, as his children, we are worthy to be joint heirs with Christ of this glory!
This is the goal of the cosmic plan which was instituted in the pre-mortal councils of heaven. The earthly mechanism by which this can be achieved is now given, where Paul adjusts his telephoto lens and hones in on the church.
Eph. 4:1‑5 The mechanism that has been established to help us “walk worthy of the calling wherewith [we] were called”is the church organized by Jesus Christ. Paul uses the language of citizenship to describe membership in the church. For the readers of this epistle, this comparison would have been much more compelling than perhaps it is to us. A person received his identity, by and large, from his citizenship in a particular city‑state. Exile was one of the sterner penalties that could be imposed upon an individual. Knowing this, Paul uses this image to describe the conversions of his Gentile readers.
Eph. 2:11‑12 describes their pre‑conversion status – “apart from Christ,” being “alienated from the society of Israel,” and “foreigners to the covenants of promise.” Thus, they were “without hope,” and “without God in the world.” But as a result of their conversion, the Gentiles have now become full citizens on a par with those from the house of Israel.
Eph. 2:16‑20 He has brought together those who were called “uncircumcision” by those who were called “circumcision” into the new covenant of Christ. Instead of being separated by this ordinance from the law of Moses, Christ has instituted the new covenant, which is available to all. For through Him, “we both have access to the Father.” It isn’t birth lineage that determines our heavenly reward, but whether we are willing to make and keep sacred covenants!
Eph 2:14 You might wonder what Paul is speaking of here. Is sounds like a metaphor – having “broken down the middle wall of partition between us.” But there actually was such a wall separating the Court of the Gentiles from the Court of Israel on the temple mount in Jerusalem.
When King Herod had rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem between 19 and 9 BC, he enclosed the outer court with colonnades, called Solomon’s Porch. This large separated area was referred to as the Court of the Gentiles because the “gentiles” (non-Jews from any race or religion) were permitted to enter this great open courtyard of the Temple area. They could walk within it, but they were forbidden to go any further than the outer court. They, and all ritually unclean Israelites, were excluded from entering into any of the inner courts which were accessed by crossing a low barrier or soreg. (This barrier may be viewed on the maps of the Jerusalem Temple in your scriptures.) Warning signs in Greek and Latin were placed along this fence giving strict notice that the penalty for such trespass was death. The Romans permitted the Jewish authorities to carry out the death penalty for this offence, even if the offender were a Roman citizen. The engraved block of limestone was discovered in Jerusalem in 1871. Its dimensions are about 22 inches high by 33 inches long. Each letter was nearly 1- ½ inches high and originally painted with red ink against the white limestone.
Josephus, the Jewish historian of the first century A.D., wrote about these warning signs that were placed on the barrier wall that separated the court of the gentiles from the other courts in the Temple. Not until 1871 did archaeologists actually discover one written in Greek. Its seven-line inscription reads as follows:
IS TO GO BEYOND THE BALUSTRADE
AND THE PLAZA OF THE TEMPLE ZONE
WHOEVER IS CAUGHT DOING SO
WILL HAVE HIMSELF TO BLAME
FOR HIS DEATH
WHICH WILL FOLLOW
It seems ironic that the life that would be required for the Gentiles to cross this barrier was the life of the Savior himself. “He hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.” The iron curtain of the law of Moses is broken down. The veil barring access to God has been rent. (Mark 15:38) It is replaced with UNIFYING law of Christ.
One in Christ
The central thought of the letter to the Ephesians is that Jesus has brought to a disunited world the way to unity. Unity comes through faith in Christ, and it is the Church’s task to proclaim this message to all the world. Now Paul addresses the issue of how this unity is to be achieved.
The divine order of heaven is one of delegation and stewardship. To help us in mortality to make and keep sacred covenants, the formal organization of the church was instituted. Note that the foundation of this church in Eph. 2:20 is built upon “apostles and prophets,” with Christ being the “chief corner stone.”
According toEph. 4:11-12, what is the purpose of these officers – apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers? The Barclay Study Bible adds these insights: “Their aim is that the members of the Church should be “fully equipped.” (This is translated as “perfected” in the King James Version.) The word Paul uses for equipped is interesting. It is katartismos (Greek #2677), which comes from the verb katartizein (Greek #2675). The word is used in surgery for setting a broken limb or for putting a joint back into its place. In politics, it is used for bringing together opposing factions so that government can go on. In the New Testament it is used of mending nets (Mark 1:19), and of disciplining an offender until he is fit to take his place again within the fellowship of the Church (Galatians 6:1). The basic idea of the word is that of putting a thing into the condition in which it ought to be. It is the function of the office-bearers of the Church to see that the members of the Church are so educated, so guided, so cared for, so sought out when they go astray, that they become what they ought to be.
Ephesians 4:12 KJV describes this as:
1) perfecting of the saints How does the church “perfect” the saints? By providing them with the ordinances that will enable them to enter into covenants. Moroni 10:32‑33
2) the work of the ministry What is the work of the ministry? To take the message of salvation to the world. So that everyone can enjoy the blessings of being “in Christ.”
3) edifying of the body of Christ In Ephesians, the body of Christ represents the members of the church. In other words, the church is established to build up the members, so that they can remain “in Christ.”
The next two verses add a fourth purpose- “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:13-14 NIV) The aim of these prophets, apostles and other officers is that the members of the Church should arrive at perfect unity. They must never allow parties to form in the Church nor do anything which would cause differences among its members.
4) to ward off apostasy
Christ’s church required apostles and prophets as the foundation upon which it was built (Ephesians 2:20). The presence of apostles and prophets is one of the unique features of the Restored Church when compared to other Christian churches. The fact that we are not in a “unity of faith” yet suggests that the apostles were not meant just for the early years of the Church. (Ephesians 2:18-19; 4:11-14)
Neil L. Andersen, in 2018 General Conference describes how this might be accomplished – through listening to the prophet:
Why are we so willing to follow the voice of our prophet? For those diligently seeking eternal life, the prophet’s voice brings spiritual safety in very turbulent times.
We live on a planet clamoring with a million voices. The internet, our smartphones, our bloated boxes of entertainment all plead for our attention and thrust their influence upon us, hoping we will buy their products and adopt their standards.
The seemingly endless array of information and opinion remind us of the scriptural warnings of being “tossed to and fro,”(Eph. 4:14) “driven with the wind,”(James 1:6) and overcome by the “cunning craftiness” of those who “lie in wait to deceive.”(Eph. 4:14)
Anchoring our souls to the Lord Jesus Christ requires listening to those He sends. Following the prophet in a world of commotion is like being wrapped in a soothing, warm blanket on a freezing cold day.
One of my favorite phrases is found in Ephesians 4:13, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, even unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” I have known many men such as this, who have built my faith through their edifying power of character. I love how the Greek word translated as “perfect” is teleios, which really means “full-grown.” Strong’s Concordance adds this –
mature (consummated) from going through the necessary stages to reach the end–goal, i.e. developed into a consummating completion by fulfilling the necessary process (spiritual journey). See 5056 (telos).
[This root (tel-) means “reaching the end (aim).” It is well-illustrated with the old pirate’s telescope, unfolding (extending out) one stage at a time to function at full-strength (capacity effectiveness).]
Elder Soares said this in October 2018 General Conference: “My beloved companions in the work of the Lord, I believe we can do much better and should do better in welcoming new friends into the Church. I invite you to consider what we can do to be more embracing, accepting, and helpful to them, starting this very next Sunday. Be careful not to let your Church assignments get in the way of welcoming new friends at Church meetings and activities. After all, these souls are precious before the eyes of God and are much more important than programs and activities. If we minister to our new friends with our hearts full of pure love as the Savior did, I promise you, in His name, that He will assist us in our efforts. When we act as faithful ministers, as the Savior did, our new friends will have the help they need to remain strong, dedicated, and faithful to the end. These children of God will feel like they are ‘no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints.’ (Ephesians 2:19) I promise you that they will recognize the presence of our Savior, Jesus Christ, in His own Church.”
In chapter 5, and the first part of 6, Paul hones his lens a little more and concentrates on the household. The ancient household was a little different to our modern nuclear family. It not only included parents and children but also slaves. This is related to the church because the Christian churches of the first century were house churches. Eph. 5:20-21 “Give thanks always to God in all things . . . submitting yourselves to one another in the fear (reverence) of God.” This verse is the key to the household code. The prophet Joseph made some comments on this subject.
It is the place of the man to stand at the head of his family and be lord of his own house, not to rule over his wife as a tyrant, neither as one who is fearful or jealous that his wife will get out of her place and prevent him from exercising his authority. It is his duty to be a man of God—for a man of God is a man of wisdom—ready at all times to obtain from the scriptures, the revelations, and from on high, such instructions as are necessary for the edification and salvation of his household.
And on the other hand, it is the duty of the wife to be in subjection to her husband at all times, not as a servant, neither as one who fears a tyrant or a master, but as one who in meekness and the love of God regards the laws and institutions of heaven [and] looks up to her husband for instruction, edification and comfort.
God will hold the husband responsible, ultimately, for the direction of the family. God has always been a God of order. He chooses a covenant people to preach the gospel to the world. He chooses a prophet, and he delegates to the Twelve and the Seventy. Being a prophet doesn’t make him any better than a member of the Twelve or the Seventy. A Bishop reports to the Stake President, but that doesn’t make him inferior to the that Stake President in any way. Neither does a woman submitting to a righteous husband make her inferior in any way to that husband. In light of current terminology by the Brethren about marriage consisting of “equal partners,” as well as the recent changes in the temple, Joseph’s statement about the man being the head and the wife being subject to him may be difficult for some to understand, although he explains himself well. My understanding of the Greek word for “head” [kephale] is that it can also mean “source,” which has a much better connotation than something like “boss.” Paul also emphasizes that submitting is two-way (Ephesians 5:21), and requires the man to love (sacrifice for) his wife as Christ loved (sacrificed for the Church) Ephesians 5:25.
The key here is in Eph. 5:23‑25. In our family relationships we treat each other as Christ treats us. Eph 6:1 Children should obey parents. But the same principle applies. Eph 6:4 ”Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord.” You just can’t run over your kids roughshod. You must nurture them just as you do your wife. Paternity is not a free check to servitude. Balance nurture of children and admonition – leniency and discipline. If a child has too much leniency, he becomes spoiled. If a child has too much discipline, he becomes rebellious. Everyone has to submit to others – even Christ submits to the Father. If we are to be “in Christ” we have to learn how to do this.
President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke to the youth on January 22, 2013, during the 100 Years in Seminary broadcast. He said “Our youth are being raised in enemy territory. . . . he (the adversary) is in homes, entertainment, the media, language—everything around you” (“How to Survive in Enemy Territory”). That is a scary statement. As parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents—we need to arm our youth with the gospel of Jesus Christ and be good examples. How can we do this?
At the time Paul composed his letter to the Ephesians, he was writing from prison. Being a prisoner of the Roman Empire, Paul would have had close interactions with Roman soldiers. It is in the soldier’s armor that Paul finds a fitting metaphor for how God has equipped us with protection from a powerful spiritual enemy. We need to arm ourselves to be able to “survive in enemy territory,” as President Packer has said. This armor needs to be worn at all times, even within the “safety” of our own homes, because Satan’s influence can be felt even there through the technology which both blesses us, and makes us vulnerable to the influence of the world.
The weapons Satan uses today are difficult to identify at times. We can easily identify blatantly false statements as untrue, but today Satan attacks faith in more subtle ways. He will use the “thousand pinpricks” method to weaken faith. Small, innocent-looking material can “poison by degrees” the seemingly strong faith of even the “very elect.” Youth, as well as adults, need to remain vigilant.
I enjoyed the perspective on this subject given by retired BYU football coach LaVell Edwards in his BYU Devotional entitled “Take upon Yourself the Whole Armor of God.” (April 10, 2001) Although it is lengthy, it is worth reading to the end. In our modern world, “armor” seems antiquated, but who can dispute the necessity of NFL players wearing football helmets and other protective gear?
As the scripture states, we should have our “loins girt about with truth.” To recognize truth, to be truthful, and to be honest with others, we first have to be honest and truthful with ourselves. Self-deception is deadly. Deceiving ourselves leaves us open to Satan’s ways—such as blaming others for our poor choices, justifying a little white lie, and cheating on a test. However, being honest with ourselves allows us to learn who we are and what we are all about. It helps our minds and hearts be open to further truth and inspiration. . .
The scripture continues with “having on the breastplate of righteousness.” Being righteous means being upright, moral, and virtuous. It is something we have to work on every day. We have to keep progressing or we will regress. We have to continue studying, praying, and trying to live the Lord’s teachings and commandments to gain and maintain a life of righteousness. I believe righteousness also includes service to others. A righteous person is aware of others’ needs and acts on that awareness through service.
We are in an era of dot-coms, computers, and the Internet. It is easy to get caught up in all these wonderful inventions and let them control our lives, forgetting about the world and humanity around us. Our human interaction and having compassion and concern for each other are far more important than technology in trying to live Christlike lives. . .
The next phrase of the scripture is “and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” Preparation brings peace as it frees us to pursue our goals. In this era of violence in every medium, peace is a treasured feeling and one we want to keep with us as much as possible. To me, preparation is the key to success in any endeavor. . .
The next item of protection in the armor of God is “taking the shield of faith.” In the Book of Mormon, the warriors used shields to protect them from the swords, spears, arrows, and other weapons of their foes. In football, the quarterback has an offensive line that forms a pocket in front of him to shield him from the opponents. Faith is our shield, our pocket of protection. It is our shield from the many weapons that Satan bombards us with every day, such as despair, indecisiveness, procrastination, depression, and anger. Faith lifts us up, gives us hope, and makes seemingly insurmountable challenges possible to overcome.
Life can be discouraging, and it isn’t always fair. But with faith and an eternal perspective, we can make it through the hard times. We tend to think that we are the only ones with problems; in reality, everyone has problems, even President Hinckley. He said, “My life has been rich because it has been filled with problems to solve and associations to savor” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Standing for Something [New York: Times Books, 2000], xi). . .
The last part of the protective equipment the scripture mentions is “the sword of my Spirit.” The most powerful part of our protective armor, the most powerful weapon we have against evil, is the Spirit of the Lord. He has promised us that we will have His Spirit with us if we are trying to do as He has asked. With the Spirit we know better how to use the rest of our armor to full advantage. . .
In Ephesians 6:18, the armor includes “praying always.” In the wars described in the Book of Mormon, it took a long time for the soldiers in the field to communicate with their leaders back at headquarters when they were in trouble, needed supplies or guidance, or even wanted to tell of triumphs and victories. We, on the other hand, can have constant and instant communication with our leader, the Lord, through prayer. Prayer is the stabilizing weapon we have against Satan. The more constant our prayers, the less opportunity there is for him to find a crack in our armor.
Prayer is a special one-to-one, soul-to-soul communication with our Heavenly Father, a time when we can ask for help in our battles, small and large. It is also a time to thank Him for His help as we safely come through each struggle, as He helps us keep our armor intact, as He blesses us while we try to keep progressing. One thing I had to learn the hard way was that prayer shouldn’t be a last resort. Too often we depend only on our own skills or the help of others when prayer should be a part of every solution…
I would like to add one more item of protection to help us foil the adversary: surrounding ourselves with good people. Remember those special young men, the sons of Helaman, who had been taught by their mothers to have total faith in the Lord and came to the aid of their people in war? We never know when we are going to have a chink in our armor and need stripling warriors there who will help us, who will lift us, who will help us repair that crack. . .
We all need our stripling warriors—family, friends, and leaders who have high values, who are loyal and fearless in their righteous desires, who know truth, and who have immense faith. I hope we can all be stripling warriors for others as they discover the cracks in their armor. . .
When we take upon ourselves the whole armor of God, it is much like the football player going into the game with all of his protective gear on. It gives him self-confidence and a freedom to play to his full ability. Take off his helmet or his pads, and he will become tentative in his playing and will render himself ineffective.
The struggle to find ourselves is very real, and that is why God has given us this armor: that we might recognize truth and understand ourselves, that we might have faith because of the gift of salvation, that we might attain righteousness to help us overcome the evils of life. If we don’t use this armor we’ve been given, we will, like the football player, become tentative in our choices and decisions and leave ourselves open to the adversary.
I love that last insight by Coach Edwards. The player who removes his helmet and pads loses self-confidence and his actions become tentative. He cannot play with full power. He cannot play to his full potential. So too is it with those of us who sit in the bleachers. To play our best game, we need to take upon us the full armor of God.
Most of the armor is defensive (helmet, breastplate, etc.) but he sword (the Spirit) is offensive. Notice that verse 12 of Ephesians 6 points out that we wrestle “not against flesh and blood,” but against “the darkness of this world.” A good cross reference to the idea spiritual warfare is Romans 13:12, “Let us put on the armor of light.” Light is an offensive weapon for it always dispels darkness. We might do well to consider what our “armor of light” might consist of. Might we consider our temple clothing as being a powerful shield against evil?
So, how do we become “in Christ?”
1) Understand the Plan of Salvation and our divine heritage.
2) Make full use of the two institutions that God has placed on earth to enable us to attain our divine potential – the Church and the family.
3) Protect ourselves spiritually just as we would physically from the “wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). Put on our “armor of light.”
 Elders’ Journal, August 1838, 61‑62 as cited in Joseph Smith’s Commentary on the Bible, ed. Kent P. Jackson (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1994) 200.