Quotes on Temptation

See also: 1 Nephi 12:17

Everyone is subject to temptation.  It is an adversity that we must endure.  The Lord allows us to be tempted, knowing that sometimes we will fall.  But he expects us to repent and become strong enough to resist all temptation.  Overcoming temptation is a necessary part of working out our salvation.

“The Lord knows our bearing capacity, both as to coping and to comprehending, and He will not give us more to bear than we can manage at the moment, though to us it may seem otherwise.  (See D&C 50:40; 78:18.)  Just as no temptations will come to us from which we cannot escape or which we cannot bear, we will not be given more trials than we can sustain.”  (Neal Maxwell, Ensign, Nov. 1982, p. 67.) Relief Society Personal Study Guide 3, p. 76

Husbands and wives need each other.  Adam and Eve were tempted separately in the Garden of Eden.  There is strength in being together. — Ed Pinegar, 1994 BYU Women’s Conference

It is our own desires which determine the sizing and the attractiveness of various temptations.  We set our own thermostats as to temptations. — Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign, November 1996

While speaking to the youth in the April 1989 General Conference, Elder Boyd K. Packer said: “While your temptations are greater than were ours, that will be considered in the judgments of the Lord.  He said that ‘his mercies [are suited] according to the conditions of . . . men.’  (D&C 46:15.)  That is only just.” — Church News, March 22, 1997, p. 13

President George Albert Smith strongly cautioned, “If you cross to the devil’s side of the line one inch, you are in the tempter’s power, and if he is successful, you will not be able to think or even reason properly, because you will have lost the spirit of the Lord.” — President James E. Faust, “The Devil’s Throat,” Ensign, May 2003, p. 51

A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means.  This is an obvious lie.  Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is.  After all, you find out the strength of the [opposing] army by fighting against it, not by giving in.  You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down.  A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later.  That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness.  They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.  We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means – the only complete realist.  (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, pp. 124-25.) — Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone, “Things Too Wonderful for Me,” BYU Devotional Address, February 13, 2001, p. 7

There are three independent principles; the Spirit of God, the spirit of man, and the spirit of the devil.  All men have power to resist the devil.  They who have tabernacles, have power over those who have not. — Joseph Smith, Teachings, pp. 189-90; Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, p. 144

Victory will be yours.  There is not a person in this Church who needs to succumb to any of these forces [the “Evil Giants in our lives”].  You are a child of God.  You have His power within you to sustain you.  You have the right to call upon God to protect you.  Do not let Goliath frighten you.  Stand your ground and hold your place, and you will be triumphant.  As the years pass, you will look back with satisfaction upon the battles you have won in your individual lives.

When temptation comes your way, name that boastful, deceitful giant “Goliath!” and do with it as David did to the Philistine of Gath.  I humbly pray that God will bless each of you. — President Gordon B. Hinckley, “Overpowering the Goliaths in our Lives,” Ensign, January 2002, p. 5

The importance of not accommodating temptation in the least degree is underlined by the Savior’s example.  Did not he recognize the danger when he was on the mountain with his fallen brother, Lucifer, being solely tempted by that master tempter?   [See Matthew 4:1-11.]  He could have opened the door and flirted with danger by saying, “all right, Satan, I’ll listen to your proposition.  I need not succumb, I need not yield, I need not accept – but I’ll listen.”

Christ did not so rationalize.  He positively and promptly closed the discussion, and commanded: “Get thee hence, Satan,” meaning, likely, “Get out of my sight – get out of my presence – I will not listen – I will have nothing to do with you.”  Then, we read, “the devil leaveth him.”

This is our proper pattern, if we would prevent sin rather than be faced with the much more difficult task of curing it.  As I study the story of the Redeemer and his temptations, I am certain he spent his energies fortifying himself against temptation rather than battling with it to conquer it” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness [1969], 216-17). The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual, p. 6

When we are confronted with that which is evil and degrading – whether it be the wrong kind of music, a television program, or the Internet which places us in the wrong environment – how strengthening it is to remember the story of Joseph: “And [he] fled, and got him out” (Gen. 39:12).  He removed himself from the temptation. . . .

That same recognition will surely be with each of us as we are led and directed by His Holy Spirit.  Listen to the still, small voice when you are faced with a time of decision.  It will surely be a strong warning voice to tell you to turn off the wrong kind of music, to feel from the degrading television programs, or to get out o a Web page that will only bring evil thoughts into your mind.  The Holy Spirit will let you know when you are in forbidden territory. — Elder L. Tom Perry, “Becoming Men in Whom the Spirit of God Is,” Ensign, May 2002, p. 41

A person who commits sin without repenting does not have the protective influence of the Holy Ghost.  Therefore, an evil spirit enters and dwells therein, thus leaving him “unto himself.” . . .

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) has explained how this principle applies to the process of repentance:

“The devil knows where to tempt, where to put in his telling blows.  He finds the vulnerable spot.  Where one was weak before, he will be most easily tempted again.

“In abandoning sin one cannot merely wish for better conditions.  He must make them. . . . He must eliminate anything which would stir the old memories.

“Does this mean that the man who has quit smoking or drinking or had sex pollutions finds life empty for a time?  The things which engaged him and caught his fancy and occupied his thoughts are gone, and better substitutions have not yet filled the void.  This is Satan’s opportunity.  The man makes a start but may find the loss of the yesterday’s habits so great that he is enticed to return to his evil ways, and his lot thus becomes infinitely worsened. . . .

“Many who have discontinued bad habits have found that substitution is part of the answer, and have conquered a bad habit by replacing it with a good or harmless one.”

True repentance, then, is not merely eliminating the negative in our lives; it also must involve replacing the negative with positive attitudes and actions. — Elder Victor D. Cave, “The Parable of the Empty House,” Ensign, March 2003, p. 46

Satan’s three temptations of the Savior may be seen as paradigmatic of all human temptation (see David O. McKay, Gospel Ideals, p. 154, Salt Lake City, 1953).  Now, nearly every temptation that comes to you and me comes in one of those forms.  Classify them, and you will find that under one of those three nearly every given temptation that makes you and me spotted, ever so little maybe, comes to us as (1) a temptation of the appetite; (2) a yielding to the pride and fashion and vanity of those alienated from the things of God; or (3) a gratifying of the passion, or a desire for the riches of the world, or power among men. — President David O. McKay, Conference Report, October 1911, p. 59

In time one who makes decisions based upon circumstance is virtually assured to commit serious transgressions.  There is no iron rod of truth to keep that person in the right way.  He or she will continually be faced with many subtle temptations to make deviations from the commandments.  Those choices are justified by arguing that they are not that bad, that they are more socially acceptable and provide a broader base of friends.  A clever individual without foundation principles can at times acquire, temporarily, impressive accomplishments.  Yet that attainment is like a sand castle.  When the test of character comes, it crumbles, often taking others with it.  Despite how carefully a transgressor seeks to keep the violation of commandments hidden, in time they nearly always become publicly known.  Satan himself sees to that.  He and his minions are determined to cause the greatest possible harm to each of Father in Heaven’s children. One serious act of disobedience or violation of trust invariably raises questions of whether or not there are others.  The faith and confidence of others in that individual’s character is undermined. — Elder Richard G. Scott, “The Transforming Power of Faith and Character,” Ensign, November 2010, p. 43-46

The gift of discerning of spirits not only gives men and women who have it the power to discern the spirit with which others may be possessed or influenced, but it gives them the power to discern the spirit which influences themselves.  They are able to detect a false spirit and also to know when the Spirit of God reigns within them.  In private life this gift is of great importance to the Latter-day Saints. Possessing and exercising this gift they will not allow any evil influence to enter into their hearts or to prompt them in their thoughts, their words or their acts. 

They will repel it; and if perchance such a spirit should get possession of them, as soon as they witness its effects they will expel it or, in other words, refuse to be led or prompted by it. Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of President George Q. Cannon, 1:198–99

Let us not forget that Satan, a spirit brother of ours, is here on earth with a myriad of other spirit brothers.  They are among us for a purpose – they are doing all in their power to destroy us and handicap the work of the Lord.  Satan knows us – our desires, our weaknesses, our secrets.  He tempts us in a multitude of ways.  He attacks us where we are weak, not where we are strong.  He stirs us up to doubt, to question, to criticize, to hate, to be slothful, discouraged, sinful, and wicked.  He is at the bottom of dissension among the Saints.  He is ever near at hand to make attempts to overcome and lead us away.  I have in mind not only us in this meeting but people generally.  Undoubtedly Satan’s influence and power in the world today is greater than ever before. — Elder Joseph F. Merrill, Conference Report, April 1945

I think we will witness increasing evidence of Satan’s power as the kingdom of God grows stronger.  I believe Satan’s ever-expanding efforts are some proof of the truthfulness of this work.  In the future the opposition will be both more subtle and more open.  It will be masked in greater sophistication and cunning, but it will also be more blatant.  We will need greater spirituality to perceive all of the forms of evil and greater strength to resist it. — President James E. Faust, “The Great Imitator,” Ensign, November 1987, p. 33

We generally think of Satan attacking us at our weakest spot.  But weakness is not our only vulnerability. Satan can also attack us where we think we are strong in the very areas where we are proud of our strengths. He will approach us through the greatest talents and spiritual gifts we possess.  If we are not wary, Satan can cause our spiritual downfall by corrupting us through our strengths as well as by exploiting our weakness. — Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall,” Ensign, October 1994, p. 12

As your testimony is fortified, Satan will try harder to tempt you.  Resist his efforts. You will become stronger and his influence on you weaker.  Satan’s increasing influence in the world is allowed to provide an atmosphere in which to prove ourselves.  While he causes havoc today, Satan’s final destiny was fixed by Jesus Christ through His Atonement and Resurrection.  The devil will not triumph.

Even now, he must operate within bounds set by the Lord.  He cannot take away any blessing that has been earned.  He cannot alter character that has been woven from righteous decisions.  He has no power to destroy the eternal bonds forged in a holy temple between a husband, wife, and children.  He cannot quench true faith.  He cannot take away your testimony.  Yes, these things can be lost by succumbing to his temptations.  But he has no power in and of himself to destroy them. — Elder Richard G. Scott, General Conference, October 2001

“The cares of the world” (D&C 40:12), said the Lord, have taken many away from the real path, the real work, for the cares of the world quickly become our sole concern. Brigham’s favorite word for Satan’s trick was “decoy” –  the work ethic decoys us away from the work we should be doing.  Mammon is a jealous god and will not tolerate a competitor.  But we get the idea that the only virtues are business virtues. — Hugh Nibley, Approaching Zion, p. 444

The Devil cannot exercise his influence over us, only as we permit him to do so. . . . In the first place the spirit is pure, and under the special control and influence of the Lord, but the body is of the earth, and is subject to the power of the Devil, and is under the mighty influence of that fallen nature that is of the earth.  If the spirit yields to the body, the Devil then has power to overcome the body and spirit of that man, and he loses both. . . . When you are tempted . . . stop and let the spirit, which God has put into your tabernacles, take the lead.  If you do that, I will promise you that you will overcome all evil, and obtain eternal lives. Discourses of Brigham Young, pp. 69-70

In their inspired counsel we can find the answer to the spiritual crises of our age. In his dream, Lehi saw an iron rod which led through the mists of darkness.  He saw that if people would hold fast to that rod, they could avoid the rivers of filthiness, stay away from the forbidden paths, stop from wandering in the strange roads that lead to destruction. Later his son Nephi clearly explained the symbolism of the iron rod.  When Laman and Lemuel asked, “What meaneth the rod of iron?” Nephi answered, “It was the word of God; and

whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.” (1 Ne. 15:23–24)  Not only will the word of God lead us to the fruit which is desirable above all others, but in the word of God and through it we can find the power to resist temptation, the power to thwart the work of Satan and his emissaries. — President Ezra Taft Benson, “The Power of the Word,” Ensign, May 1986, p. 79

For true believers, the tugs and pulls of the world – including its pleasures, power, praise, money, and preeminence – have always been there.  Now, however, many once-helpful support systems are bent or broken.  Furthermore, the harmful things of the world are marketed by pervasive technology and hyped by a media barrage, potentially reaching almost every home and hamlet.  All this when many are already tuned out of spiritual things, saying, “I am rich, . . increased with goods, and have need of nothing “ (Rev. 3:17).

Contrastingly, the perks of discipleship are such that if we see a stretch limousine pulling up, we know it is not calling for us.  God’s plan is not the plan of pleasure; it is the “plan of happiness.” — Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “The Tugs and Pulls of the World,” Ensign, November 2000, pp. 35-37

Let us not forget that Satan, a spirit brother of ours, is here on earth with a myriad of other spirit brothers.  They are among us for a purpose – they are doing all in their power to destroy us and handicap the work of the Lord. Satan knows us, our desires, our weaknesses, our secrets.  He tempts us in a multitude of ways.  He attacks us where we are weak, not where we are strong.  He stirs us up to doubt, to question, to criticize, to hate, to be slothful, discouraged, sinful, and wicked.  He is at the bottom of dissension among the Saints.  He is ever near at hand to make attempts to overcome and lead us away.  I have in mind not only us in this meeting but people generally.  Undoubtedly Satan’s influence and power in the world today is greater than ever before. — Elder Joseph F. Merrill, Conference Report, April 1945

Many of our challenges are different from those faced by former pioneers but perhaps just as dangerous and surely as significant to our own salvation and the salvation of those who follow us. For example, as for life-threatening obstacles, the wolves that prowled around pioneer settlements were no more dangerous to their children than the drug dealers or pornographers who threaten our children.  Similarly, the early pioneers’ physical hunger posed no greater threat to their well-being than the spiritual hunger experienced by many in our day.

The children of earlier pioneers were required to do incredibly hard physical work to survive their environment.  That was no greater challenge than many of our young people now face from the absence of hard work, which results in spiritually corrosive challenges to discipline, responsibility, and self-worth.  Jesus taught: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28).

The foremost quality of our pioneers was faith.  With faith in God, they did what every pioneer does – they stepped forward into the unknown: a new religion, a new land, a new way of doing things.  With faith in their leaders and in one another, they stood fast against formidable opposition.  When their leader said, “This is the right place,” they trusted, and they stayed.  When other leaders said, “Do it this way,” they followed in faith. . . .

We praise what the pioneers’ unselfishness and sacrifice have done for us, but that is not enough.  We should also assure that these same qualities are guiding principles for each of us as we have opportunities to sacrifice for our nations, our families, our quorums, our members, and our Church.  This is especially important in societies that have exalted personal interest and individual rights to the point where these values seem to erase the principles of individual responsibility and sacrifice. — Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Following the Pioneers,” Ensign, November 1997, p. 72

I have many times repeated what my grandfather said. . . . In advising his family he said, “There is a line of demarcation, well defined.  On one side of the line is the Lord’s territory.  On the other side of the line is the devil’s territory.”  And he said, “If you will stay on the Lord’s side of the line, you are perfectly safe, because the adversary of all righteousness cannot cross the line.”  What does that mean?  It means to me that those who are living righteous lives, keeping all the commandments of our Heavenly Father, are perfectly safe, but not those who trifle with his advice and counsel. — President George Albert Smith, Conference Report, September 1949, pp. 5-6

Temptation is everywhere. The opportunities to do evil and to do good are everywhere, but we shouldn’t tempt temptation.  As one whimsical observer said, “When some people flee from temptation, they leave a forwarding address.”  If we don’t want to do wrong, we shouldn’t even entertain the idea.  If we don’t want temptation to follow us, we shouldn’t act as if we are interested.  No one ever fell over a precipice who never went near one. — Elder Richard L. Evans, Conference Report, April, 1970

We get sidetracked by submitting to temptations that divert us past the bounds of safety. Satan knows our weaknesses.  He puts attractive snares on our paths at just those moments when we are most vulnerable.  His intent is to lead us from the way that returns us to our Heavenly Father.  Sin may result from activities that begin innocently or that are perfectly legitimate in moderation, but in excess they can cause us to veer from the straight and narrow path to our destruction. — Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, “The Straight and Narrow Way,” Ensign, November 1990, p. 65

Satan will always work on the Saints of God to undermine their faith in priesthood keys. One way he does it is to point out the humanity of those who hold them.  He can in that way weaken our testimony and so cut us loose from the line of keys by which the Lord ties us to Him and can take us and our families home to Him and to our Heavenly Father.

Satan succeeded in undermining the testimony of men who had, with Joseph Smith, seen the heavens opened and heard the voices of angels.  The evidence of their physical eyes and ears was not enough when they no longer could feel the testimony that the priesthood keys were still in place with Joseph. — Elder Henry B. Eyring, “Faith and Keys,” Ensign, November 2004, p. 26

I have never been sorry on any occasion when I stood for what was right – even against severe criticism.  As you learn that truth, you will also discover that when you have taken a determined stand for right, when you have established personal standards and made covenants to keep them, when temptations come and you act according to your standards, you will be reinforced and given strength beyond your own capacity if that is needed.  Difficulty comes when you enter the battle of temptation without a fixed plan.  That is what Satan desires, for then you are ripe for defeat. — Elder Richard G. Scott, “Do What Is Right,” Ensign, June 1997, p. 53

When evil wants to strike out and disrupt the essence of God’s work, it attacks the family. It does so by attempting to disregard the law of chastity, to confuse gender, to desensitize violence, to make crude and blasphemous language the norm, and to make immoral and deviant behavior seem like the rule rather than the exception. — Elder M. Russell Ballard, “Let Our Voices Be Heard,” Ensign, November 2003, p. 18

Satan tempts me, as I suppose he does you all; but I tell Satan that I have nothing to do with him.  I tell him that he is a rebel, that he has tried to ruin the purposes of our Father, and I want nothing to do with him; I will try and not listen to any of his blandishments, nor let him whisper anything into my ear or my heart that would weaken my attachment and my devotion to my Father and to His Kingdom.  That is the way I feel.  I want nothing to do with Satan in any form.  I believe it is the duty of all of us, as the children of God, to be in this condition, and then, as far as we are concerned, Satan will be bound. — President George Q. Cannon, General Conference, October 1896

Day in and day out the same Lord who parted the Red Sea so that Israel might escape Egypt provides ways for us to escape temptation (see 1 Corinthians 10:13).  “By very small means,” Alma told his son, “the Lord . . . bringeth about the salvation of many souls” (Alma 37:7).  Scale, therefore, is not the sole measure of spiritual significance; for “out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33). — Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Men and Women of Christ, p. 87

If we are not serving Jesus, and if he is not in our thoughts and hearts, then the things of the world will draw us instead to them!   Moreover, the things of the world need not be sinister in order to be diverting and consuming. — Elder Neal A. Maxwell, BYU Speeches, 31 Mar 1991

The gift of discerning of spirits not only gives men and women who have it the power to discern the spirit with which others may be possessed or influenced, but it gives them the power to discern the spirit which influences themselves.  They are able to detect a false spirit and also to know when the Spirit of God reigns within them.  In private life this gift is of great importance to the Latter-day Saints. Possessing and exercising this gift they will not allow any evil influence to enter into their hearts or to prompt them in their thoughts, their words or their acts.  They will repel it; and if perchance such a spirit should get possession of them, as soon as they witness its effects they will expel it or, in other words, refuse to be led or prompted by it. Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of President George Q. Cannon, 1:198-99

I think we will witness increasing evidence of Satan’s power as the kingdom of God grows stronger.  I believe Satan’s ever-expanding efforts are some proof of the truthfulness of this work.  In the future the opposition will be both more subtle and more open.  It will be masked in greater sophistication and cunning, but it will also be more blatant.  We will need greater spirituality to perceive all of the forms of evil and greater strength to resist it. — President James E. Faust, “The Great Imitator,” Ensign, November 1987, p. 33

What we are speaking about is so much more than merely deflecting temptations for which we somehow do not feel responsible.  Remember, brothers and sisters, it is our own desires which determine the sizing and the attractiveness of various temptations.   We set our thermostats as to temptations.

Thus educating and training our desires clearly requires understanding the truths of the gospel, yet even more is involved.  President Brigham Young confirmed, saying, “It is evident that many who understand the truth do not govern themselves by it; consequently, no matter how true and beautiful truth is, you have to take the passions of the people and mould them to the law of God” (in Journal of Discourses, 7:55).

“Do you,” President Young asked, “think that people will obey the truth because it is true, unless they love it?  No, they will not” (in Journal of Discourses, 7:55).  Thus knowing gospel truths and doctrines is profoundly important, but we must also come to love them.  When we love them, they will move us and help our desires and outward works to become more holy. — Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “According to the Desire of [Our] Hearts,” October 1996 General Conference

Satan’s methods of deception are enticing:  music, movies and other media, and the glitter of a good time.  When Satan’s lies succeed in deceiving us, we become vulnerable to his power. . . .

Satan also seeks to deceive us about right and wrong and persuade us that there is no such thing as sin.  This detour typically starts off with what seems to be only a small departure. . . . What all of these departures have in common is that each of them is addictive.  Addiction is a condition in which we surrender part of our power of choice. When we do that we give the devil power over us. — Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign, November 2004, pp. 44-45

If I am tempted to speak an evil word, I will keep my lips locked together . . . I will keep bad feelings under and actually smother them to death, then they are gone.  But as sure as I let them out they will live and afflict me.  If I smother them in myself, if I actually choke them to death, destroy the life, the power, the vigor thereof, they will pass off and leave me clear of fault, and pure, so far as that is concerned; and no man or woman on earth knows that I have ever been tempted to indulge in wicked feelings.  Keep them to yourselves. Discourses of Brigham Young, 80

When the Devil cannot overcome an individual through temptation to commit wickedness, when he sees that a person is determined to walk in the line and travel straight forward into the celestial kingdom, he will adopt a course of flattery, will strive to exercise a pleasing influence and move along smoothly with him, and when he sees an opportunity he will try to turn him out of the way, if it is only to the extent of a hair’s breadth. — Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 3:318

The sooner an individual resists temptation to do, say, or think wrong, while he has light to correct his judgment, the quicker he will gain strength and power to overcome every temptation to evil. — Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 6:94