How to Fortify Yourself and Family against Temptation.
1. Watch and pray always.
The Savior gave this sobering warning to the Nephite disciples:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always, lest ye be tempted by the devil, and ye be led away captive by him (3Nephi 18:15).
Then Christ repeated this saying to the multitude, but ended with an expanded warning:
Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, 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, ye must always pray unto the Father in my name. (3 Nephi 18:18-20)
We don’t often speak of the importance of being watchful. This implies (1) constant awareness of temptations that do and will confront us, (2) getting educated about more serious temptations and addictions and what to do about them. These may include such temptations as pornography and other sexual addictions or immoral behavior, illegal drugs and abusing addictive prescription drugs, domestic abuse, unfair and deceptive business practices, etc., and (3) sounding a warning to those we love about Satan-inspired thinking and practices.
This also suggests the importance of parents carefully explaining “the facts of life” early to their children before they are confronted with them from unwelcome sources. We should give them counsel on how to cope with awakening sexual desires. We can also include in our daily prayers the desire not to be led into temptation.
If we or our loved ones are plagued with a particular temptation, we can fast and pray for deliverance. Nephi taught this powerful principle: “. . the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those who he hath chosen because of their faith, to make them mighty, even unto the power of deliverance.” (1 Nephi 1:20) He may have been speaking of deliverance from mortal enemies, but the scripture could apply just as well to deliverance from temptations and addictions.
2. Feast on the words of Christ.
At the close of his ministry, Nephi taught, “. . feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.” This does not mean we will be guided in every detail of our lives. However, the principles governing a righteous life are spelled out in the scriptures and in the words of our inspired leaders in general conference and elsewhere. (2 Nephi 32:3) It isn’t just knowing what to do to protect ourselves from temptation that is important, but the frame of mind that comes from feasting on the words of Christ. We are lifted to a higher level of thinking and feeling and thus become less vulnerable to temptation.
3. Banish undesirable seeds of thought.
Speaking of the relationship of unclean thoughts and immorality, Elder Spencer W. Kimball said:
“To want, to desire, to crave – that is to lust. So when a thought is born which starts a chain reaction, a sin has already been committed. If the thought is sown, then develops into lust, it is almost certain to bring eventually the full harvest of the act, of the heinous sin of adultery. . .
“. . . adultery is not the result of a sincle thought. There first is a deterioration of thinking. Many sinful chain-thoughts have been coursing through the offender’s mind before the physical sin is committed.
“Yes, as a man thinketh, so does he. If he thinks it long enough he is likely to do it, whether it be theft, moral sin, or suicide. Thus the time to protect against the calamity is when the thought begins to shape itself. Destroy the seed and the plant will never grow.
“Man alone, of all creatures of earth, can change his thought pattern and become the architect of his destiny. (Miracle of Forgiveness,” pp. 113-14)
4. Keep constructively busy.
When touring in Burlingame, California, I saw a large sign above the entrance to an elementary school which proclaimed: “While you have youth and health and strength, fill your life with beautiful things.” What a great admonition! We can avoid many temptations by assuring that we and our loved ones are constantly busy doing worthwhile projects and enjoying uplifting entertainment.
5. Use distractors.
We can also be prepared to use engaging “distractors” that take our minds away from temptation when it confronts us. It is hard to think tempting thoughts while driving in for a layup in a basketball game. A round of golf or diving or swimming laps around a pool can quickly banish tempting thoughts from our minds. An uplifting movie or book can also be an effective deterrent.
During the October 1973 General Conference, Elder Boyd K. Packer suggested we distract tempting thought patterns by humming our favorite hymn when we are tempted. Here is his formula:
“This is what I would teach you. Choose from among the sacred music of the Church a favorite hymn, one with words that are uplifting and music that is reverent, one that makes you feel something akin to inspiration. Remember President Lee’s counsel; perhaps “I Am A Child of God” would do. Go over it in your mind carefully. Memorize it. Even though you have had no musical training, you can think through a hymn.
“Now, use this hymn as the place for your thoughts to go. Make it your emergency channel. Whenever you find these shady actors have slipped from the sidelines of your thinking onto the stage of your mind, put on this record, as it were.
“As the music begins and as the words form in your thoughts, the unworthy ones will slip shamefully away. It will change the whole mood on the stage of your mind. Because it is uplifting and clean, the baser thoughts will disappear. For while virtue, by choice, will not associate with filth, evil cannot tolerate the presence of light.
“In due time you will find yourself, on occasion, humming the music inwardly. As you retrace your thoughts, you discover some influence from the world about you encouraged an unworthy thought to move on stage in your mind, and the music almost automatically began. . .
“There are many references in the scriptures, both ancient and modern, that attest to the influence of righteous music. The Lord, Himself, was prepared for His greatest test through its influence, for the scripture records: ‘And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.’ ” (Mark 14:26.)
This advice has been put to song, which you can download here (with Flash player):
6. Choose friends wisely.
As social beings, we tend to form “reference groups” that shape our values and behavior. While we can’t choose the family into which we are born, we can choose our friends. It is vital that we and our family members engage socially with those whose standards support our own. It is also wise to seek employment and other group activities where the atmosphere is uplifting.
7. Seek professional help when necessary.
Some temptations are so addictive that we need professional help to overcome them. This can include drug and sexual addictions, domestic abuse, and even criminal activities. Some problems are helped with medication, Of course, the best outcomes will occur when professional help is strengthened by the spiritual practices mentioned above. With God on your side, repentance can be achieved with all its attendant spiritual benefits.
8. Offer thanks for God’s help
As we go through our daily activities, we need to frequently give thanks to God for his help in delivering us from the temptations that surround us.