The root of the word temptation means “to try” or “to test.” In this usage, the Bible has said that God has tempted His followers (as in the case of God “tempting” Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac). (See Genesis 22:1.) This usage, however, is not the modern usage employed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often inadvertently referred to as the Mormon Church). The Church of Jesus Christ, as with other Christian denominations, uses the word temptation to refer to Satan’s attempts to persuade God’s children to commit sin.
God Allows Temptation
God created a plan for us whereby we have our moral agency to choose to follow His commandments. This is in contrast to what Satan wants for us: to have no choice. If we are to have choices here on earth, then we must face opposition in those choices. Lehi, the first prophet in the Book of Mormon (a book of scripture unique to the Church of Jesus Christ and complementary to the Bible) gave a lengthy sermon on the need for opposition in this life:
- For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. . . . And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, . . . it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter. Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or or the other (2 Nephi 2:11, 15–16).
Because Heavenly Father values our ability to make choices, He allows for Satan to tempt us. We would be unable to follow God’s commandments if we didn’t have the option not to; if so, our obedience would be hollow. God values our decisions to choose His path when we have other choices available. Choosing the right when faced with spiritual opposition bolsters our own spirits and strengthens our faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
God does not, however, allow Satan unlimited power in temptation. For instance, children under the age of accountability (age eight as taught by the Church of Jesus Christ) cannot be tempted (Doctrine and Covenants 29:47). Heavenly Father will also not allow us to be tempted above what we can handle. This is a great blessing. Because our Heavenly Father knows and loves us so intimately, He will never allow us to be tempted more than we can bear. In cases of our own disobedience, however, we may put ourselves in unbearable situations, as in the cases of drug abuse and addiction or sexual immorality. In these instances, as in all instances, God still provides a way out through Jesus Christ.
The Grace of Jesus Christ Strengthens Us
While temptation is certainly an unavoidable part of this life, God has not left us defenseless. Because of the grace (or atonement) of Jesus Christ, we have access to a power greater than that of Satan’s. When we strive to follow in the footsteps of our Savior, our obedience gives us increased resilience to temptation, and when we do make mistakes, that atonement is what allows us to seek forgiveness and redemption.
Because of Jesus Christ, we get second chances. Christ, just as our Heavenly Father, values our choices and will not only encourage us to choose Him but will also comfort and heal us when we make choices contrary to His will. The way we become more like Him is by making choices, even ones that turn out to be mistakes; when we recognize those mistakes and seek to rectify them, we gain insight into the miraculous power of grace and come closer to our Redeemer through our repentance.
Temptation and the Millennium
The Millennium is the period of time following His Second Coming (one thousand years) where Jesus Christ will personally reign on the earth. One of the most remarkable aspects of the Millennium will be the lack of temptation. During this period Satan will be bound, unable to entice any of God’s children.
In the Doctrine and Covenants (a book of modern revelation for the Church of Jesus Christ), we learn that when Satan is bound, “he shall have no place in the hearts of the children of men” (45:55). From this statement we can extrapolate that Satan will be bound by the will of the people; otherwise, our choice would be moot, contradicting the will of God. Rather, the righteousness of God’s children will be so pronounced and strong that they will be impervious to any temptation, therefore binding Satan. We can strive to bind Satan in our own lives through our righteous and obedient choices. Because God gave us the right to choose, we can always choose against Satan and temptation.
Repentance and Temptation
We will all succumb to temptation throughout our lives; in fact, that’s what mortality is about — learning to follow Jesus Christ through our good and bad choices. Heavenly Father knew that we would all make mistakes, and that because of those mistakes, we would need a Redeemer. Jesus Christ lived a perfect life in mortality so that He could suffer for our sins and die for us on the cross. These monumental acts are what makes it possible for us to repent and someday be resurrected. The power invoked by this sacrifice will always be stronger and more effective than any power Satan can wield. Yes, Satan is smart and cunning, but God and His Son are loving, compassionate, and forgiving — the power carried in those eternal traits will always overcome hatred and sin.
When we make mistakes, we can always turn to our Savior in humility and ask for forgiveness and the ability to change. The grace of Jesus Christ is what enables us to change our hearts to become more like His. When we seek Christ with a humble and intent heart, we can overcome anything, even our previous sins.
Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love us deeply and have made it possible for us to be perfected in Christ so that we may live with God again. Temptation is real and is there so that we may not only be able to choose between right and wrong, but also so that we may come unto Christ when we do give in to that temptation. The plan God has devised for His children is wondrous and miraculous, and even the role played by temptation is designed to bring us unto Him.