What does it mean to be a “stranger in the world”? That’s a lonely idea, right up there with one of the saddest words in our language—homeless.  Paul tells the Gentile converts, “Now, therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the Saints” (Ephesians 2:19). Being a stranger in the world is what it means to be without Christ in our journey. A stranger in the world is exiled from Him and from home. That would be lonely, indeed.


What does it mean to be a “stranger in the world”? That’s a lonely idea, right up there with one of the saddest words in our language—homeless.  Paul tells the Gentile converts, “Now, therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the Saints” (Ephesians 2:19). Being a stranger in the world is what it means to be without Christ in our journey. A stranger in the world is exiled from Him and from home. That would be lonely, indeed.


Hello we’re Scot and Maurine Proctor and this is Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast. This week the topic is “For the Perfecting of the Saints” and we are studying the book of Ephesians. You can find the transcripts for these podcasts at latterdaysaintmag.com/podcast and while you are there, sign up for free for Meridian’s daily magazine, bringing you all the news of the Church, inspirational stories and so much more from a hundred top writers.


We first learned about Paul’s experience in Ephesus in Acts 19. Ephesus was an important coastal trade city on the Mediterranean in what was then called Asia Minor, but is today’s Turkey. The population was estimated at as much as a quarter of a million, and even today its magnificent ruins speak of a beautiful ancient city.

Paul chose Ephesus as the hub for spreading the gospel through the province of Asia, though as we remember, this was the place, also, where a temple to Diana or Artemis stood which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  A riot arose led by the silversmiths, who were making profits off of making silver shrines to Diana. Paul had disturbed their market with his preaching. According to them, “he had turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands” (Acts 19: 26).


So, in Ephesians, Paul is writing a people who had responded deeply to his teachings even though they lived in a world drenched in paganism and idolatry. They have already exhibited courage and faith to be church members.

The date of the writing is about 61AD, and Paul is in Rome in prison. He asks the Ephesians for their prayers because he is a gospel “ambassador in bonds” (Eph. 6:19-10). He was guarded and chained at least part of the time, yet he regards his circumstances as a wonderful opportunity to teach, calling himself “the prisoner of the Lord”(Eph. 4:1).

Paul is not writing the Ephesians to speak of any problems they have as he was with the Corinthians. Instead he has given them what is widely considered some of the deepest doctrine in the New Testament—a vision of the intentions and purposes of God that sweeps from eternity to eternity.


We sometimes cherry pick our favorite verses in Ephesians. We often hear about being “built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets” or “putting the whole armor of Christ”, and so we tend to think these are all separate ideas. Instead, Paul is giving us a large view of the Savior’s work from before the foundations of the world to the end.

Paul tells the church members in Ephesus

“He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

“Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will” (Eph. 1: 4,5)


That the Lord hath chosen us before the foundation of the world is a powerful concept, but there’s a word here that has thrown off whole branches of Christianity.

That word predestinated in Greek really means foreordained. The Greek word, here is proorizo, which contains the prefix pro meaning before hand and the verb for marking off or determining (horizo). It is clear that in order to provide the most benefit for His children, the Lord planned the earth, and where and when we would come, in advance. The sweep of history has the Lord’s hand upon it. This does not mean, however, that God has ordered whatever comes to pass, because He has given his agency.


The difference between predestinated and foreordained revolves around that idea of agency. Predestinated negates free agency. According to Calvinist theology, “the elect” of God and the damned were chosen in advance, and there was nothing you could do to change that or escape your destiny. You were not a child of God, but His creation who was favored or not favored. God’s planning was done without consulting you as a passive creature who was merely acted upon. Salvation was superimposed upon you or not. Heaven or hell was your predestined inheritance according to God’s will. It’s a pernicious doctrine.

What glorious light the restoration shines on these false ideas. Instead of passive creatures, we are God’s children whom He offers the marvelous blessing of development to be like Him. As agents, we had the freedom to make choices then and now to wholeheartedly receive this great gift of development. He will be our support, our guide, our deliverer in this process, and design all of existence to that end. We get to choose to freely embrace His purposes with us.

Paul outlines a scheme of timing and assignment where God “determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation” (Acts 17:26, RSV), all designed for our good and designed to maintain our agency.


Instead of predestination, what Paul is saying in Ephesians is that some of God’s children have been foreordained to receive His gospel on this earth. Why some and not others? Alma tells us in the Book of Mormon:

And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being acalled and bprepared from the cfoundation of the world according to the dforeknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to echoose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great ffaith, are gcalled with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such” (Alma 13:3).


Those who have the gospel on this earth have special privileges and opportunities, but this does not mean that we are better than others. It does mean that in our love of the Lord, we were willing to take upon ourselves certain responsibilities for our brothers and sisters.

Scot, I remember you used to teach the 14-year-olds in our ward, and when you would ask a question, one girl would raise her hand and say, “Pick me! Pick me!” You loved that enthusiasm and it seems like those of us who were able to have the gospel and the covenants in this life had that kind of enthusiasm for the Lord’s plans. “Pick me. Pick me.” We wanted to come to this mortal experience and share the opportunity for the covenant as far and wide as we possibly can. The Lord said to us, in essence, I will give you this gift of the gospel and you, in turn, will seek to bring my children to the light so they will know the gospel.


Paul refers to those with the gospel as “saints”, which means to be holy. That is also our calling. Though we may fall far from it, we are to seek with all our hearts, to not be of this world, but set apart in our devotion to Jesus Christ and His saving mission for all.

In the organization of this world, before this earth was, we were foreordained or foredesignated for certain stewardships and callings, based on our faith, our gifts, and our willingness. Joseph Smith 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 that I was ordained to this very office in that Grand Council.”



Scot, every year we take a tour to Egypt and visit the ancient temple of Karnak that is more than 4,000 years old. We visit a hall that is 54,000 square feet, the largest religious room in the world, full of 134 enormous columns that go from floor to ceiling. It is staggering to think how ancient this massive hall is and how sophisticated the work in a time so far back in dim history that we hardly know it. And every year, we always ask the same question, “What is the oldest thing in this room?” Our fellow travelers gaze up at these massive columns, search the room trying to determine what is oldest, and we always answer the same thing. “You are. You are the oldest thing in this room. Your spirit is more ancient that you can conceive. The Lord has had his hand in your life since then and since then your hope has been in the redemptive blood of Jesus Christ.”

The pre-mortal world and the council that was held there are a mystery of God to those who are not taught—and this mystery was kept secret for ages–but this knowledge gives those to whom it is revealed a profound understanding of their life and mission on earth.


Dispensation of the Fulness of Times

Now Paul, who tells us about the beginning of time sweeps to the end, reminding those who have the gospel that throughout time they will abound in the “riches of His grace.”

Paul writes, “That in the adispensation of the fulness of times he might bgather together in one call things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him” (Eph. 1:10).

What does this mean? What is a dispensation? It is a dispensing or giving out of knowledge and authority. So a dispensation is a period of time when there is at least one authorized servant on earth who bears the holy priesthood and the keys. The authority and keys are delegated from God to act and administer in His name. We think of this earth as a series of seven dispensations.


The heads of those dispensations are:

  • Adam.
  • Enoch.
  • Noah.
  • Abraham.
  • Moses.
  • Jesus Christ.
  • Joseph Smith.

Our dispensation, which is to prepare the way for the coming of the Savior, is called the dispensation of the fulness of times. Joseph Smith described it this way:

“The work of the Lord in these last days, is one of vast magnitude and almost beyond the comprehension of mortals. . . It is truly the dispensation of the fullness of times, when all things which are in Christ Jesus, whether in heaven or on the earth, shall be gathered together in Him, and when all things shall be restored, as spoken of by all the holy prophets since the world began; for in it will take place the glorious fulfillment of the promises made to the fathers, while the manifestations of the power of the Most High will be great, glorious, and sublime.” (History of the Church, 4:185.)


Joseph echoes Paul here, “”The dispensation of the fulness of times will bring to light the things that have been revealed in all former dispensations, also other things that have not been before revealed. He shall send Elijah the prophet…and restore all things in Christ.”

He also said, “”Now the purpose . . . in the winding up scene of the last dispensation is, that all things pertaining to that dispensation should be conducted precisely in accordance with the preceding dispensations.”

We can see God’s work as one long continuum from that pre-mortal council leading up to the dispensation of the fulness of times. In that story people are called to play their essential parts. Paul speaks of the ultimate end–the unity of all the heavens and the earth when “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth” (Philip. 2:10 NKJB)


Work shall be done for the dead. All will hear the gospel who never heard it before. In those final scenes of restoration, Christ is at the center, uniting all the work on heaven and earth.

It is hard to comprehend that we get to be a part of this dispensation of the fulness of times and play our small part. Paul prays for those with the gospel:

17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of awisdom and brevelation in the knowledge of him:

18 The eyes of your aunderstanding being benlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the criches of the glory of his dinheritance in the saints. (Ephesians 1: 17,18).

Grace and Works


Maurine, there are some scriptures in Ephesians 2 that have sparked endless discussions between Protestants and Latter-day Saints. They are:

For by agrace are ye bsaved through cfaith

Not of works, lest any man should aboast.

Richard Lloyd Anderson wrote of Christian denominations who insist on grace without works: “So the tracts begin on salvation through Christ. Yet no one commanded works more firmly than did Christ, who closed his most urgent sermon with the warning that hearing without doing will bring destruction (Matt. 7:226-27). The true gospel is taught when all its parts are taught, not when one principle is isolated form the rest.

“Like the balance in Romans of initial grace and final works, the first three chapters of Ephesians emphasize grace while the last three emphasize the works that must follow grace for salvation. Besides a dozen times that grace and its synonyms appear in Ephesians, two dozen specific commandments are added to illustrate how the Saints must live for exaltation. In reality, Paul preached that neither faith alone nor works alone would result in salvation. In Ephesians both are blended and balanced…Ephesians teaches the great truth that God made this world as a place for men and women to achieve good works.” Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul, http://www.gospelink.com/library/document/31273?highlight=1#m_18



Paul’s challenge, as we’ve talked about, was to bring together new converts who were not a natural fit with each other. They were Jews and Gentiles, the circumcised and the uncircumcised, people of many nations and ethnicities. They did share this as Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:

12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and astrangers from the bcovenants of promise, having no chope, and dwithout God in the world:

13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

14 For he is our apeace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle bwall of partition between us;

They didn’t have to have Abraham’s blood in their veins to be part of the covenant. It was Christ’s blood that opened the door for them and everyone. That last image about breaking down the wall of partition between us is a reference to the shoulder-high wall between the Gentiles or the ritually impure who could not enter the temple grounds in Jerusalem and the Jews who could. In fact, there was a threatening sign at the gate that said this: “No foreigner 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.”


Jesus’s blood hath broken down the wall. The kingdom that they all belonged to now was the kingdom of God.

Paul said:

19 Now therefore ye are no more astrangers and foreigners, but bfellowcitizens with the csaints, and of the dhousehold of God;

I am reminded that we were able to interview then Elder Dallin H. Oaks in the Philippines at the time of the Cebu City Temple dedication. He told us that, of course, members of the Church have each inherited the culture of their own lands. These have strengths and limitations. When people join the Church, they strive to assimilate the culture of the kingdom of God. That means they leave some of the shortcomings of their own culture and are born again into something greater. That is why we can look across the nations of this world and our fellow Latter-day Saints in any nation or culture are people we feel a deep kinship with. We are no more strangers and foreigners to each other, but citizens of the same kingdom, bought with the blood of Jesus Christ.


Paul says that this unity is “built upon the foundation of the aapostles and bprophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief ccorner stone” (Ephesians 2:20) Paul is insisting that only living apostles can bring that kind of godliness to the Saints.

Paul said there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all” (Ephesians 4:5,6)

But how can there be one Lord, one faith, one baptism when there are a multitude of opinions about God, faith and baptism? Look at the vastly different doctrines that Christian churches embrace today. Consider the multiple ideas about God, man and the mysteries of our own identity. Each shouts with a tumult of opinions, “Lo here. Lo there. Here is truth.”


I grew up in small town, Rolla, Missouri, where there were 54 different Christian denominations, each one with their own truths or their own take on the various truths of the scriptures.

Apostles and prophets who are designated by the Lord as His authorities end this war of words. They can teach us about one Lord, one faith, and one baptism because they are His representatives on earth.

The Lord’s church is organized among other reasons that we can come to a unity of doctrine and understanding. We don’t fight about who is our leader or which idea we like better because the Lord has designated his leaders.


I remember once having a discussion with a very well-informed friend from another faith. He asked a really provocative question. “Why do people follow the prophet in your faith? They are obedient in a way I’ve seen in no other faith, paying tithing, serving in callings and so much more. Why do they do this?”

I could only answer, “Because we believe our prophet really is a prophet. We have a witness and then we go to work.”


Paul spoke of the early government of the church and its purposes this way:

11 And he agave some, bapostles; and some, cprophets; and some, devangelists; and some, epastors and fteachers;

12 For the aperfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the bedifying of the body of Christ:

13 Till we all come in the aunity of the faith, and of the bknowledge of the Son of God, unto a cperfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

14 That we henceforth be no more achildren, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of bdoctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

15 But speaking the atruth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the bheadeven Christ:


Just recently President Russell M. Nelson gave a talk at BYU directed to all the Young Adults of the Church. He sounded like Paul in inviting members to have conviction about the prophets and apostles. https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/president-nelson-byu-transcript-september-2019

He said, “Truth is truth. Some things are simply true. The arbiter of truth is God.”

Understanding that divine law is consistent and eternal, he said, helped him as a doctor.

“In medical school I had been taught that if one touched the beating heart, it would stop beating. However, one of the first laws we discovered in the lab was that we could touch the heart of an animal without losing its heartbeat. This finding opened the door later to uncovering another law that made more complex open-heart operations possible.

“We learned that if we added potassium chloride to blood flowing into the coronary arteries, thereby altering the normal sodium/potassium ratio, the heart would stop beating instantly. Then, when we nourished the heart with blood that had a normal sodium/potassium ratio, the heart would spring back to its normal beating pattern. Literally we could turn the heart off long enough to repair it, and then turn it back on again.”


President Nelson continued: “Decades later when I explained this to a group of medical students, one prominent professor asked, ‘But what if it doesn’t work?’ “My answer? It always works, because it is based on divine law.

“Divine law is incontrovertible! The same can be said of the law of gravity, and the laws of foil and lift that allow airplanes to fly. Each is an absolute truth. Doctors or pilots do not have the power to change those laws, but their understanding of them safeguards lives.”


“So it is with prophets and apostles.” President Nelson said, “Sometimes we as leaders of the Church are criticized for holding firm to the laws of God, defending the Savior’s doctrine, and resisting the social pressures of our day. But our commission as ordained Apostles is ‘to go into all the world to preach [His] gospel unto every creature.’ That means we are commanded to teach truth.

“In doing so, sometimes we are accused of being uncaring as we teach the Father’s requirements for exaltation in the celestial kingdom. But wouldn’t it be far more uncaring for us not to tell the truth—not to teach what God has revealed?

“It is precisely because we do care deeply about all of God’s children that we proclaim His truth. We may not always tell people what they want to hear. Prophets are rarely popular. But we will always teach the truth!”

I am thankful to live in a season on this earth with apostles and prophets who are more interested in truth than popularity.


And you know, Maurine, how I specifically study our apostles and their teachings in my daily devotions in addition to my daily study of the scriptures.  I love the apostles.  I love the strength they give to me.  I love their firm, steadfast and immovable faith.  I choose one apostle at a time and begin at the start of his ministry and carefully study each talk he has given.  I recently finished studying Dallin H. Oaks and all the talks he has given as an apostle in the past 35 years.  I was so personally strengthened by his testimony every day—it came to feel like he was talking to me and calling me to understand his words and his witness.  I’m currently studying Elder Neil L. Anderson and he truly helps bring me to a unity of the faith, as Paul said.  He strengthens my witness of Christ.  He strengthens my faith in this great work.  I have come to know, as I have been doing this practice for many, many years, that these special witnesses really know the Lord.  They know Him.

The Whole Armor of God


Paul gives us a great image in Ephesians that would have resonated with his listeners who lived under Roman rule with its marching soldiers keeping order. How do we negotiate life on this earth?

As one said, “Life here is like being behind enemy lines, at night, alone, in the dark, and, of course, there will be casualties.” So we won’t be one of those casualties, Paul renders this advice.

11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

12 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.


He is saying, of course, that our worst enemies are not flesh and blood, however difficult or even evil they may be, but our wrestle is against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness. We fight for our eternal life against Satan and his army of darkness who want us to be miserable like they are. This battle began in the pre-mortal world with the war in heaven and has intensified for us in mortality. It is a battle of ideas. We can’t see these minions who rage against us, but they are real and lethal as they whisper to us and fling their fiery darts into our minds and hearts.

Just as the Holy Ghost communicates to us through whisperings, so does Satan and the dark angels who follow him. One writer said, “Both sides are broadcasting urgent messages to influence our thoughts, feelings and choices.” “Satan is clever and well trained with thousands of years of experiences behind him. He has become superbly efficient and increasingly determined.”


President Harold B. Lee warned us to “make no mistake about his reality as a personality, even though he does not possess a physical body. Since the beginning of time, he, with his hosts…have waged relentless war to destroy the free agency of man.”

We learn in Revelation where Satan and that third part of the hosts of heaven who followed him were cast. It is “into the earth”, right here where we are  (Revelation 12:9).

Let us not make the mistake of assuming that Satan isn’t real, or that he is just a personification of evil. He exists. Just as the Book of Mormon is a testimony of the reality of Jesus Christ, the book also insists upon and testifies of the reality of Satan. We are told very specifically that the devil has a kingdom and that he rages in the hearts of men and stirs them up to anger against that which is good.

Often you can feel it when you are being attacked. It may be a darkness, a depression, a loss of hope and vision. It might be a subtle idea that makes you denigrate yourself or others. One thing you can be sure of is that Satan and his army will never bring you those fruits of the spirit that Paul talked about in Galatians—love, joy, peace and goodness. We have a litmus test about who is behind our feelings and ideas.


Paul continues:

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having your loins agirt about with btruth, and having on the cbreastplate of drighteousness;

15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of apeace;

16 Above all, taking the shield of afaith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery bdarts of the wicked.

17 And take the helmet of asalvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

18 aPraying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all bperseverance and supplication for all saints.

The whole armor of God is our spiritual weapon and defense against the rulers of darkness. It is also referred to as the “armour of light” (Rom. 13:12) and the “armor of righteousness” (2 Cor. 6:70).


Alonso Gaskill said, “’Anciently “the proof of a warrior’s prowess [was] in his successful return from battle.’ In theological terms, the proof of a person’s spiritual prowess lies in his or her ability to successfully regain God’s presence at the conclusion of this earthly battle against Satan and sin.”

What’s the meaning of each piece of this armor? First, those who follow Christ are commissioned to “gird their loins with truth.” This implies that in this wicked world that knowing the truth will protect us from being deceived or from becoming morally unclean. The loins represent the procreative powers. Internalized truth protects us from those who would misguide us into believing that unchastity or immorality is cool, modern, or sophisticated.


Next is the breastplate of righteousness, which is worn over our heart, which is the symbol of our feelings, choices and inclinations. Sacrificing a broken heart and a contrite spirit to the Lord signifies where our entire spirit lies. We have given our all to the Savior. We submit to Him and his shaping of us. We are not holding back any part of ourselves.

Having our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace matters more than we might think. One of the most significant components of a soldier’s battle gear are his shoes, because his feet have to bear up all the armament and weaponry he carries. Feet symbolize the path we follow and the direction we choose in life. Shod with preparation means that in advance we prepare for service and challenge and that we find a sure footing in life. Instead of relying on the tumult of the world, we put our feet on solid ground. The Greek here implies walking with stability or solidity.

An image jumps to mind. If you want to render someone vulnerable, especially in a difficult terrain, steal their shoes.


Next is the shield of faith which serves to deflect the “fiery darts”. A shield means protection. “I can’t think of any more powerful weapons,” President Harold B. Lee stated, “than faith and a knowledge of the scriptures in the which are contained the Word of God. One so armored and one so prepared with those weapons is prepared to go out against the enemy [and] is more to be feared than the enemies of the light.” The faith that moves us to seek the Lord with all our hearts and read His word daily, begins to give us the mind of the Lord. We are not so easily fooled or misled by Satan’s whisperings, darkness and discouragement.


The helmet of salvation is a sturdy helmet that protects the brain, eyes and ears. President Lee said, “Our head or our intellect is the controlling member of our body. It must be well protected against the enemy, for ‘as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.’ (Proverbs 23:7.) But now in order for this helmet to be effective, it must be of an exquisite design. It must be of a supermaterial to be effective in our eternal conflict with the invisible enemy of all righteousness. Ours is to be the ‘helmet of salvation.’ Salvation means the attainment of the eternal right to live in the presence of God the Father and the Son as a reward for a good life in mortality.

“With the goal of salvation ever in our mind’s eye as the ultimate to be achieved, our thinking and our decisions which determine action will always challenge all that would jeopardize that glorious future state…Our intellects, so protected, must always measure learning by the gospel criteria: Is it true? Is it uplifting? Will it benefit mankind? In the choices of life—our friends, our education, our vocation, our companion in marriage—all these and more must be made with an eye single to eternal life.”

” Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye in Holy Places, http://www.gospelink.com/library/document/7354?highlight=1


The final key to protection is “the sword of the Spirit” which is “the word of God.” Alonso Gaskill said, the “implication is that the scriptures, covenants, and teachings of the living prophets, combined with the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, will ensure our ability to return victorious from the raging spiritual battle of mortal life.”

The scriptures and personal revelation are our defense. We can hear that in the words, “Pray always, lest you enter into temptation and lose your reward.”


We’re Scot and Maurine Proctor and this has been Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast.


Next week we will be studying Philippians and Colossians in a lesson titled “I Can do All Things Through Christ Which Strengtheneth Me”. I have that phrase on my desk. Thanks to Paul Cardall for the music and for all of you who study with us. See you next week.