Question: What does putting on the “whole armour of God” mean?
Answer: Elder Harold B. Lee provides an understanding of the need to be armored against the strategies of Satan:
“It was [Paul] who imagined a man shielded by armour to protect the vital parts of the body in order that he should be kept on his course through life. He prefaced that illustration by saying, ‘For we wrestle not against principalities but against the wickedness in high places, against the power of darkness. Wherefore put on the whole armour of God that ye may be able to stand.’ (Ephesians 6:12–14)
“Now notice the nature of the armour that he puts on the man whom he is now preparing to withstand the powers of darkness. He said, ‘Therefore stand, having your loins girt about with truth.’ Now the loins is that part of the body between the lower rib and the hip into which you will recognize are the vital organs which have to do with reproduction...And so he was saying that that part of the body was one of the most vulnerable. We should have our loins girt about with armour.
“And then next we would have a breastplate over the heart. Now in the scriptures you will remember that the heart has always been used to typify our conduct. You remember the Master saying,
‘From out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. For the good man out of the abundance of his heart bringeth forth good. But the evil man from out of the abundance of his heart bringeth forth evil.’ (Matthew 12:34–35) And so we would have a breastplate over the heart.
“And then he said we would have the feet shod with the kind of armour that would protect our feet, suggesting the feet as the objectives, the goals of life which we should have guided by some kind of armour and protected from getting off on the wrong foot. And finally we should have a helmet on our heads....our thoughts.
“We have the four parts of the body that … [are] 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.” (“Feet Shod with the Preparation of the Gospel of Peace,” Harold B. Lee, Address to Brigham Young University MIA, 9 Nov. 1954, p. 2)
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10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles (temptations) of the devil.
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood (against evil people), but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
13 Wherefore (therefore) take unto you the whole armour of God (the Gospel), that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate (the protection) of righteousness;
15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: (The word of God cuts through false doctrines)
18 Praying always with all prayer (in all your prayers) and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto (to that end) with all perseverance and supplication (keep praying faithfully) for all saints;
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N. Eldon Tanner, First Counselor in the First Presidency:
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....”
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...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...
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...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.
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Sources: Come, Follow Me–For Individuals and Families, p. 156; The New Testament Made Easier, Part 2, Volume 3, by David J. Ridges, 245; Excepts from General Conference, April 1979, “Put on the Whole Armor of God,” by N. Eldon Tanner, First Counselor in the First Presidency.