How Do I Avoid Temptation?

Driving is a privilege, not a right

Privileges are freedoms that we earn by obeying certain boundaries or rules.

Rights are moral guarantees of individual choice and dignity.

Picture a man, let’s say he is a single dad of the cutest kindergartener you have ever seen.  She has long pigtails and loves doing cartwheels.  The dad is struggling to get by in life, as we all are.  He has had some hard times, made some mistakes, and has ended up with a suspended driver’s license because of things he has done.
workers-659885_640One day, the man is hired for a job which is 25 miles from his apartment, and it pays enough money for him and his cute daughter to start improving their quality of life over time.  “How am I to get to work?” the man asks himself.  He feels that he should be able to drive to work, since it is for a good reason, even if that means he is violating the legal suspension on his driver’s license.  Once the man justifies breaking the law to drive to the job site, he begins to justify driving to the grocery store, to a local park, etc.  Once the snowball of justification starts rolling, it is very difficult to stop (and no, the snowball isn’t licensed, either).

When a police officer pulls him over and gives him a ticket for driving on a suspended license, what rights and privileges are involved?  What should happen?

The man would say that he has a right to earn a living, support his daughter, and improve his station in life.  Driving a car is the only way he can exercise his right, so he is justified.

The law would counter that although the man has a right to work, support his family, and improve his life, he does not have a right to drive.  Driving is a privilege and he does not have that privilege because he lost it by breaking laws in the past.

The cause may be just, but the means may not be.

gavel-568417_640The man has framed his claim in absolutes.  He believes there are no other options available to him.  The judge, peering over the rims of his glasses from atop the bench in the courtroom, will sympathize with the man’s plight and then find him guilty.  There will be a lecture about how the man could reach his goals and stay within the boundaries of the law.  For instance, the man could find a carpool, could bike for his health, could find a train or bus route, could move closer to the new job, could find a closer job, etc.

Big consequences from small mistakes

Carlos Asay said, “Sin, much like habit, can enter one’s life in a seemingly innocuous way. It can begin small and occupy only a corner of our lives. Yet, if left unattended, countenanced, and allowed to flourish, it can consume one’s soul.”

Isn’t it always the case that big consequences always result from a series of very small decisions?

You don’t burn your hand on the stove flame-580342_640by placing it directly on a hot burner as your first mistake.  Instead, you get more casual over time, as you are used to being around the heat.  You get more lax because you think you know the boundaries, and then suddenly you get burned.  You immediately know what happened and what mistake you made, and you mentally reassess your boundaries and are more vigilant for a time.

Similarly, “[Satan] leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever.”  2 N 26:22.  Enoch warned that “he saw angels descending out of heaven; and he heard a loud voice saying: Wo, wo be unto the inhabitants of the earth.  And he beheld Satan; and he had a great chain in his hand, and it veiled the whole face of the earth with darkness; and he looked up and laughed, and his angels rejoiced.” Moses 7:25-26.

The chain held by Satan is the same as the “chains of hell” in Alma 12:11, “the bands of iniquity” in Mosiah 23:12, the “chains of darkness” in 2 Peter 2:4, and “the everlasting chains of death” in Alma 36:18.

It’s always the small decisions that constitute the flaxen cords which, individually, create nearly zero impediment to our freedom, but collectively bind us and remove our freedom entirely.  Samuel Johnson said, “The chains of habit are too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken”  (International Dictionary of Thoughts, p. 348).

I saw a neat example of this once.  I can’t recall the speaker.  He brought in a Little Tikes toddler basketball stand and a small foam basketball.  He chose from the crowd a missionary who was a former basketball star.  He handed him the ball and asked him to make a basket from a mere four feet away.  He did so easily.
chain-109302_640Then the speaker pulled out a length of chain, and laid that over his wrist as weight.  He made the second shot after missing one.  Then more and more lengths of chain were added, and more and more shots attempted, until the poor fellow could not even lift his arms.  Slowly, the weight and restriction of the chains began to limit his ability to shoot the ball.  I’ve never forgotten that lesson, though I very often forget to apply it.

Elder Richard G. Scott said, “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.” clarifies, “Temptation is a test of a person’s ability to choose good instead of evil. It is an enticement to sin and follow Satan instead of God. Part of the experience of this life is to learn to overcome temptation and to choose right over wrong.”

Top Ten Ways To Avoid Temptation

1.  Be strict in following even the “small” commandments.  “Be wise in the days of your probation; strip yourselves of all uncleanness; … ask with a firmness unshaken, that ye will yield to no temptations, but that ye will serve the true and living God.” (Mormon 9:28).

2. Learn from our parents / leaders.  “And now, my son, remember the words which I have spoken unto you; trust not those secret plans unto this people, but teach them an everlasting hatred against sin and iniquity.  Preach unto them repentance, and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ; teach them to humble themselves and to be meek and lowly in heart; teach them to withstand every temptation of the devil, with their faith on the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Alma 37:32-33).

3. Study the Scriptures.  “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 Nephi 15:24).

4. Go to the temple often.  President Thomas S. Monson advised us, “As we love the temple, touch the temple, and attend the temple, our lives will reflect our faith. As we come to these holy houses of God, as we remember the covenants we make within, we shall be able to bear every trial and overcome each temptation.”  (Be Your Best Self (1979), 56).

5. Fill your thoughts and time with good things.  “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21).

6. Recognize the source of each temptation.  “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.”  (James 1:13-14).

7. Surround yourself with a strong support group of family and friends.  President Gordon B. Hinckley warned us in 2004, “As you walk the road of life, be careful of your friends. They can make you or break you. Be generous in helping the unfortunate and those in distress.  But bind to you friends of your own kind, friends who will encourage you, stand with you, live as you desire to live; who will enjoy the same kind of entertainment; and who will resist the evil that you determine to resist.”

8. Pray.  “Ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.  Therefore you must always pray unto the Father in my name.” (3 Nephi 18:18-19).  Call upon God for strength, “Get thee hence, Satan.” (Moses 1:12-22).

9. Run away.  Joseph, tempted by Potiphar’s wife to lie with her, responded, “There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”  (Genesis 39:9).  When she attempted to seduce him, he] “fled, and got him out.”  (Genesis 39:12).  The Savior “suffered temptations but gave no heed unto them” (D&C 20:22).

10. Be humble.  “[B]eware of pride, lest thou shouldst enter into temptation.” (Doc & Cov 23:1).

President Hinckley encouraged us, “I wish to emphasize that if you make a mistake, it can be forgiven, it can be overcome, it can be lived above.
You can go on to success and happiness. But I hope that such an experience will not come your way, and I am confident it will not if you will set your mind and pray for the strength to walk the high road, which at times may be lonely but which will lead to peace and happiness and joy supernal in this life and everlastingly hereafter.”

Mormons are Christians, and we work hard to avoid putting ourselves in positions that could easily lead to temptation.  To what end do we avoid temptations?  “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”  (James 1:12).

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