Archive | February, 2013

The Whole Armor of God: Part Three – The Sword

25 Feb

I was going to just do a single article here, but found it was simply too long. So I am separating it into three parts. The First is a description of the Armor; the second discusses how we put the armor on; and the third tells of the Sword. I hope you appreciate this.

In Ephesians chapter six, verses thirteen through seventeen, it says:

“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 girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate 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 sword is the only weapon we are given in the war we face every day against Satan.  While the armor protects us, the sword allows us to go on the offensive.  We are told in the doctrine and covenants “Behold, I am God; give heed to my word, which is quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword, to the dividing asunder of both joints and marrow; therefore give heed unto my word.” (D&C 6:2211:2; 12:2; 14:2)  This is the power of the Sword of the Spirit.  Sharper than a two-edged sword, it will divide both joint and marrow.  This can be our sword in our struggle against the forces of Satan.  In Isaiah chapter 49 verse 2 we read:  “And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me.”  We wield this sword every time we open our mouths and speak the truth of Christ.  When we have the Spirit of God so that our words become “the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation” then they can be as dangerous as a sword to the enemies of truth.

So how do we sharpen our mouths to be our weapons?  One way is by not only reading, but understanding the scriptures.  But not only the scriptures contained in the standard works, but all the words that God has inspired his servants to speak in all times and places.  We also have available to us other resources, such as the ensign and other church magazines.  We have the lesson manuals that have been prepared for our instruction.  We have a number of books that have been commissioned by the church and written for our benefit.  We should seek out all the words of God, and strive to understand them so that we will have the knowledge needed in wielding the Sword of the Spirit.

But are our mouths swords yet?  No.  The next step is explained in Ephesians chapter 6 verse 18:  “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.”  It says here that a critical step of using our mouths as weapons is in kneeling for prayer each day.  However, it takes more than a simple prayer in the morning and one at night, we should go through the day with a prayer in our hearts and a desire to be connected to the Spirit.

Are our mouths swords yet?  They could be, but at this point we still have our weapon in its sheath.  Next comes for many the hardest part; the use of our knowledge against the forces of Satan; commonly known as missionary work.  There are many times throughout our day that a simple truth boldly spoken and without fear will cut down lies and open the way for the Spirit to speak to the hearts of men.

President Brigham Young said: “When I saw a man without eloquence, or talents for public speaking, who could only say, ‘I know, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of the Lord,’ the Holy Ghost proceeding from that individual illuminate[d] my understanding, and light, glory, and immortality [were] before me.” He said that he was encircled and filled by them, and he knew for himself that the testimony of the man was true (DNW, 9 Feb. 1854, 4).”

The words of one unlearned man, spoken by the spirit, was sufficient to convince others of the truth.  Truly he wielded the Sword of the Spirit.

If we have a knowledge and understanding of the scriptures, a connection with the spirit and the boldness to use our knowledge, we finally have our weapon sharpened, polished, and drawn.  Only then are we ready and able to do our part in the great war for the souls of men.

Advertisements

The Whole Armor of God: Part Two – Putting It On

25 Feb

I was going to just do a single article here, but found it was simply too long. So I am separating it into three parts. The First is a description of the Armor; the second discusses how we put the armor on; and the third tells of the Sword. I hope you appreciate this.

We have now discussed what the whole armor of God is.  When we take on the Full Armor we are protecting ourselves, in all aspects of life, against all types of temptation.  But how then do we put on this armor?  Is it something that we can wear occasionally and then put it off as it suits us?  Can we wear the breastplate of righteousness if your hearts swell with pride and our desires do not focus on righteousness?  Can we place the helmet of salvation on a head that only thinks of worldly treasures and the honors of men?  How do we prepare ourselves to wear the full armor of God and protect ourselves in this world of sin.

In reading a few pass conference ensigns I have found two great statements that tell us perfectly how we may put on this armor and gain the protection that we all need.

In April, 2001, Elder Neal A. Maxwell said “As sovereigns, choosing to yield to the Highest Sovereign is our highest act of choice. It is the only surrender which is also a victory! The putting off of the natural man makes possible the putting on of the whole armor of God, which would not fully fit before!”  Is this not a great statement.  I think we are all familiar with King Benjamin’s statement that the Natural man is an enemy to God unless he yields to the spirit.  We must put off the natural man before we can wear the whole armor of God, and thus we must yield to the enticing of the spirit.

In October of 2011, J. Devn Cornish Of the Seventy said “…in our prayers we may begin the protective process of putting on the whole armor of God by looking forward to the day ahead and asking for help with the sometimes frightening things we may face. Please, my friends, do not forget to ask the Lord to protect and be with you.”  Once we have put off the natural man we must then turn to God in prayer for assistance in putting on his armor which will protect us throughout our lives.

The Whole Armor of God: Part One – The Armor

25 Feb

I was going to just do a single article here, but found it was simply too long. So I am separating it into three parts. The First is a description of the Armor; the second discusses how we put the armor on; and the third tells of the Sword. I hope you appreciate this.

Song: Whole Armor of God

What soldier enters life’s battle field
Without a sword; without a shield.
I take my sword and shield each day
When I kneel down and humbly pray.

I take my place in the ranks of youth.
I know His words and I love the truth.
Prepared to do my part in this war,
I know what it is I’m fighting for.

With helmet in place, with sword in hand;
With the shield of faith we are worthy to stand;
With the gospel of peace of feet are shod;
We have on the armor of God.

This is a portion of the lyrics to the song from the church Seminary video “The Whole Armor of God.” I am sure that most of us are familiar with Paul’s analogy on which this song is based. But how well do we understand the meaning of his words? Does the symbolism of this profound metaphor really sink in to our hearts and our minds and stir us to greater faith?
I can still remember when, as a student in Seminary, my teacher taught us the full meaning of Paul’s words, and the depth of that meaning has remained with me too this day. In this article I want to pass on that teaching so that all may come to more fully appreciate these words that they may truly know that they have indeed taken upon them the whole armor of God.

Paul, in his epistles to the Ephesians, describes the world in which he and those early saints found themselves. He writes “Finally my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 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.” (Ephesians 6: 10-12)
Christ tells us that this armor is still necessary for us in these last days, and he commands us once again to put it on. Turning now to his words, recorded in section 27 of the Doctrine and Covenants, we read “Wherefore, lift up your hearts and rejoice, and gird up your loins, and take upon you my whole armor, that ye may be able to withstand the evil day, having done all, that ye may be able to stand.”  (D&C 27: 15)

In the Doctrine and Covenants the pieces of armor are listed in the same order and with the same names as they were by Paul in his epistle. In both accounts we are told that it is by taking on this armor that we are enabled to do all that will allow us to stand in the evil day when the judgments of God come upon the world.
So, what is the armor, and what is the deeper meaning of this very powerful metaphor? In section 27 we read the following, and the same list is found in Ephesians chapter 6: “Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace…Taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of my spirit…”
In this we have five pieces of armor and one weapon. I will speak only of the armor at this time, and will speak of the sword at a future time.
Let us consider each piece of armor as it is listed, and keep in mind that this refers to Roman armor, which was the common armor of the time of Paul. Each piece of the Roman armor was specifically designed to protect major organs. So let us look at the armor that we are to wear.

First we are told to have our “loins girt with truth.” What are the loins? They are the lower abdomen and upper legs. In the days of Rome soldiers would wear a skirt made of metal slates around their waist, which extended to their knees. This was known as girting the loins, and was designed to protect the organs involved in reproduction. Thus the loins symbolize chastity and purity. It is truth that protects us from the harmful effects of sexual immorality and keeps us chaste and pure. When we understand the truth of our existence, that we are all children of our Father; that knowledge should inspire us to remain chaste, so that He may send His children to be raised in righteous families.
I think it is also important to note that this is the first thing we are commanded to take upon us. It seems that in Paul’s day, as well as ours, sexual immorality was prevalent, prompting him to first encourage chastity in the saints before he spoke of anything else.

The second piece of armor is the Breastplate of Righteousness. I believe we all understand that the breastplate protects the chest; the primary organ being the heart. Just as the loins carried symbolism, so too does the heart. Christ declared that “…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.” (Matthew 12: 34-35)The heart has long been a symbol of desire, and thus the motivation for our conduct. If our desires are righteous then our conduct will be righteous. We must put on the Breastplate of Righteousness to protect our general conduct and actions from the temptations of Satan.

Next we have our “feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” The feet are now protected; and what do the feet do? They are the organ of transportation. They are our means of moving from one place to another. We could not reach our destination without the use of our feet. Thus they become a symbol of goals, and the power to attain them. We have protected ourselves from immorality, and have guarded our conduct. Now we much set our feet on the path that is the Gospel of Peace and never be turned from that path, or we risk falling to the powers of darkness.

Now, the shield is listed next, but first I will talk about the helmet. We are told that it is the Helmet of Salvation. The helmet covers the head, and thus protects the brain, or mind of man. The function of this organ is that of thought. If our thoughts are constantly turned to the salvation of our Christ; if we keep Him and His sacrifice always in our mind, than our thoughts will constantly have that protection that will chase away wicked ideas that are placed there by the adversary. It is commonly understood that no one performs an action without first thinking about it. One does not commit sin without first having considered what that sin is. We must protect our thoughts so that our actions will always reflect that salvation God has promised us.

The last armor is the Shield of Faith. Paul says “Above all taking the shield of faith,” placing this one piece in greater importance than all the others. The shield is a very versatile armor. While it is worm on the arm it can be maneuvered in many ways making it the primary defense of a soldier. It can be moved to block attacks from all direction, and thus is able to protect all the same areas the rest of the armor. It truly is the first line of defense for the soldier. In the same way our faith is our first defense against all the temptations of this life. It is not enough to know the truth, to think on the salvation of God, or to have the goal in mind. We must first believe, for God has declared that “without faith it is impossible to please [God]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11: 6) And just as the shield can be maneuvered to guard any part of the body, so too must faith be strong enough that it can protect all aspects of our lives.

Faith and Evidence of Miracles

19 Feb

In a recent discussion on another blog I was told that we have thousands of witnesses to the miracles of Christ and his apostles, and yet relatively none for those of Joseph Smith or others in the modern day. In this blog I attempted to outline what constitutes evidence and what does not, and by so doing proved that we actually have very little in the way of actual evidence for any of the actions of Christ or the early saints. I was, of course, told I was wrong and my words were twisted into mockeries of what I was actually, saying, but that is to be expected.
I have decided to give a run down of what I posted there.

First, what is evidence? For the purpose of scripture and miracles we are not really able to examine physical evidence, but must rely only on personal testimony of those who actually witnessed the event.
An eyewitness account is the testimony of one who was present during the event and thus has a first hand knowledge of what happened.
Hearsay is that testimony provided by a person who was not actually present, but gained their knowledge through the testimony of others. As dictionary.com gives it hearsay is “unverified, unofficial information gained or acquired from another and not part of one’s direct knowledge.”
In law there is what is known as the Hearsay Rule, which states “that testimony or documents which quote persons not in court are not admissible. Because the person who supposedly knew the facts is not in court to state his/her exact words, the trier of fact cannot judge the demeanor and credibility of the alleged first-hand witness, and the other party’s lawyer cannot cross-examine (ask questions of) him or her.” (law.com)
What this means is that a second hand witness is not considered credible evidence that will allow a person to rightly judge the truth of a matter being presented.

So, what evidence do we actually have of the miracles performed, either anciently, or in the modern day? Let us use this hearsay rule to judge some the events described in the Bible and the modern day.
First let us consider the birth of Christ, for it was a great miracle. What are the the accounts of this event. Matthew and Luke give the only accounts of this event. Following the Hearsay Rule we are at once obliged to dismiss both accounts as hearsay as neither man was present for any of the events that they record. Thus, using this rule, we see that there is no direct evidence for the miracle of Christ’s birth.
Next let us consider an event that had many witnesses; the feeding of the five thousand. We get four different accounts of this event: Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9, and John 6. Let us again apply the hearsay rule to this event. There is no evidence that Luke was actually present, and thus this account can be dismissed as hearsay. The same can be said of Mark, and thus his gospel is classified as hearsay. However, Matthew and John, being of the disciples of Christ that took part in the event, are eyewitnesses and thus credible testimonies. So, we have two witnesses to this event, and that is all. Now, some claim that we have the five thousand as witnesses, as well as the rest of the disciples. The problem with this claim is that we do not have their testimonies. We can accept that they were there based on the two testimonies we have, but we cannot claim them as evidence because we do not have their testimonies.
Lastly, let us consider the ascension of Christ. This event, when, 40 days after his resurrection, Christ ascended into heaven and two angels declared he would return again in like manner, is mentioned only by Mark and Luke. Luke speaks of it briefly in his gospel, and in more detail in the Acts of the Apostles. However, even though it is stated that the eleven disciples witnessed the event, Mark and Luke were not present, and thus their accounts again fail the test of the hearsay rule.

Looking at these three examples we see that the actual evidence for the miracles of the Bible is very little indeed. We have no direct evidence for the circumstances of the birth of Christ, or for his ascension. As for his miracles, we have no more than two eyewitness accounts, which, though acceptable, is not the great amount people like to claim.
I do not want anyone assuming that I am claiming these events did not happen, and that we should not believe that they did. That is not my intention. I am merely pointing out that if we are to base our faith in these events on the available evidence we would have little to base our faith in.

In comparison, let us look at a few miracles of the modern day. We have a record of Joseph Smith casting a devil out of Newel Knight, as testified to by him and Joseph Smith. We also have the healing of dozens along the Mississippi river in 1839, as testified to by Wilford Woodruff, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and many others. See a brief list of modern miracles here (http://en.fairmormon.org/Joseph_Smith/Healings_and_miracles), and judge for yourself based on the hearsay rule.
In this I do not claim any greater evidence than that which we have for the Bible. The evidence of any miracles is scanty at best, and those determined not to believe it will always find reasons for that rejection.

I want all to understand that I believe firmly in all the events that are recorded in the Bible. However, that faith is not based on actual evidence that is available to us. It is based on the testimony of the spirit, where our faith must be firmly set. If we are only to believe what we have evidence for we would believe very little.

Our First Estate or the Pre-Earth Life: Part IV

8 Feb

In the article titled “The Gospel part II: The Plan of Salvation” I spoke of three different estates that we must pass through in order to attain exaltation in Celestial Glory. Of these the first estate is our Preexistence as spirit children of our Heavenly Father. This series is written to give a more in depth explanation of what that estate was, and what happened there.

This brings us to the third event; the War in Heaven. We read in the Joseph Smith Translation of Revelation 12: 6-8
“And there was war in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought against Michael; And the dragon prevailed not against Michael, neither the child, nor the woman which was the church of God, who had been delivered of her pains, and brought forth the kingdom of our God and his Christ. Neither was there place found in heaven for the great dragon, who was cast out; that old serpent called the devil, and also called Satan, which deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into the earth; and his angels were cast out with him.”
Take note of one thing. This war was fought between the followers of God and the followers of Satan, but it was Michael that lead the heavenly host that eventually cast Satan out. Who is Michael? We learn in Doctrine and Covenants 27: 11 that Michael is “Adam, the father of all, the prince of all, the ancient of days” So Christ did not lead the faithful against the Rebels, but Adam, who was then blessed with being the first of all men to live on this earth, and thus be the prince over it. Thus we see that greatness of Adam in the preexistence.

But, returning to the subject of the War in Heaven, I think some can be said of the nature of this war. In the great vision of the degrees of Glory that Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon enjoyed, they record the following:
“…we beheld Satan, that old serpent, even the devil, who rebelled against God, and sought to take the kingdom of our God and his Christ—Wherefore, he maketh war with the saints of God, and encompasseth them round about. And we saw a vision of the sufferings of those with whom he made war and overcame…” (D&C 76: 28-29)
From this we can see the type of warfare that was waged, both in heaven and here on earth. This was not a battle with swords and armor, or guns and tanks. It was a war of words; a debate between Lucifer and Michael and all the rest. It was a court intrigue that Satan was attempting, through which he hoped to dethrone God and take his place. He works on earth through that same subtle intrigue, still making war on those who chose God in the preexistence.

There are two more things concerning this war that it is important to remember. The first is known by all members of the church, and that is that one third of children of God sided with Satan in that great war, and were cast out with him. In Revelation John tells us that the Dragon, who is Satan, “drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth.” (Revelation 12: 4) This is confirmed in D&C 29: 36-37 “the devil…rebelled against me… and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency; And they were thrust down, and thus came the devil and his angels”
However, what many people may not realize is the power by which Michael was enabled to win in this war and cast Lucifer and his followers out of heaven. In Revelation 12: 10-11 we read “And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”
Even in the preexistence we relied on the atoning sacrifice of Christ to bring about that first victory in which Satan was cast out. By the word of the Testimony of the faithful, believing on the sacrifice that was to come in our mortal lives, Satan was cast out of Heaven and became the devil. It is an encouraging thought that what saves us in this life is what saved us in then. For if it worked once, it will work again.

Our First Estate or Pre-Earth Life: Part III

1 Feb

In the article titled “The Gospel part II: The Plan of Salvation” I spoke of three different estates that we must pass through in order to attain exaltation in Celestial Glory. Of these the first estate is our Preexistence as spirit children of our Heavenly Father. This series is written to give a more in depth explanation of what that estate was, and what happened there.

Having already shown the doctrine from the Bible, and discussed the generalities of what happened there, I will now turn to a specific event that occurred in our First Estate. The event that I wish to discuss in the counsel that was held in heaven. As we have seen, we had been taught and tested, and through all this we had progressed, until there came a point at which we could progress no more as spirits. At this time God began His preparations for our mortal life. From Abraham we get the greatest knowledge of these events, as recorded in the third chapter of the Book of Abraham, verses 22-28.

22-23 “…the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the [spirits]…before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; And God saw these souls that they were good, and he said: These I will make my rulers…”

Here we have the first step of the counsel, in which God selected from among his children those who had gained the most talents, and had proven themselves through their faith to be good. These he chose out of all the others to hold positions of authority in mortal life. We read further:

24-25 “And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them”

Once the rulers were chosen from among the most faithful of the spirits, Christ, himself being among them and being like unto God himself, took the floor and the plan was set for those rulers to join with Christ in forming this world so that we could be born into mortal life, in which we would again be tested in our obedience to the laws of the Father.
I find this important to note: Christ was like God in heaven, and held great authority in this counsel, for it was he who lead the great and noble spirit children of the Father; but even in this he still defers all law back to the Father.

The last part of this counsel is touched on only briefly by Abraham. He writes in verses 27-28 “And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first. And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him.”

It was in this great counsel that God asked all of us who we would accept as the savior of the world. Two stood up to vie for the position, and when Christ was chosen (one like unto the son of man) the other rebelled against God, and drew many after him. Much can be said concerning this contest, but for our purposes we need only understand this. Christ was the savior, chosen by God, and having the right to it as our eldest brother. The choice was given as our final test, to see who would uphold the plan set by God, and who would not. As Abraham shows one stood up to challenge that plan, and “many followed after him.”

(See Also Moses 4: 1-4)