How Can I Recognize the Temptations of the Devil?

The Book of Mormon teaches that there is a being in the universe who is trying to harm us and to thwart God’s plan. His name is Satan (שָׂטָן – the Hebrew word for “adversary”), and he is commonly known as the devil, from the Greek word diabolos (διάβολος), which means “slanderer.” He was once an angel of God, but he rebelled and became miserable forever (2 Nephi 2:17-18). Now, his goals and his tactics are the opposite of God’s:

Satan is not only God’s adversary; he’s our adversary too (Alma 12:5). He is not loyal to the people who follow him, “but doth speedily drag them down to hell” (Alma 30:60).

In Lehi’s dream, the temptations of the devil were represented by mists of darkness, “which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men” (1 Nephi 8:23, 1 Nephi 12:17). Throughout the Book of Mormon, we read about Satan having power over people’s hearts (2 Nephi 30:18, Ether 15:19), hardening people’s hearts (3 Nephi 1:22), getting hold upon people’s hearts (Alma 8:9, Alma 10:25, Alma 27:12, Ether 15:19), stirring up people’s hearts (Helaman 6:21, Helaman 16:22-23), and leading away people’s hearts (3 Nephi 2:3, 3 Nephi 6:16). But we are also told that the choice is ours, that God has made it possible for us to overcome the temptations of the devil (2 Nephi 2:26-27). Still, the danger is real, and the Savior warned us to “watch and pray always, lest ye be tempted by the devil, and ye be led away captive by him” (3 Nephi 18:15, 18).

Fortunately, the Book of Mormon provides a number of examples of messages that the devil attempts to place in our hearts. An awareness that these messages come from the devil can help us detect and reject them:

  1. There is no devil.” It’s harder to defend against an attack which you can’t see. If Satan can convince you that he doesn’t exist, you will be less likely to recognize his temptations. (See 2 Nephi 28:22.)
  2. It’s okay to commit a little sin.” If Satan can get you to ask, “How bad is it?” instead of, “What is the right thing to do?” then he is in a win-win situation. You are now choosing between bad and worse instead of between good and evil. (See 2 Nephi 28:8.)
  3. Nobody will know.” Any time you’re tempted to hide something that you’re doing, that’s a red flag. The reality is that things tend to come to light over time. And we can’t hide anything from God. (See 2 Nephi 27:272 Nephi 28:9, Isaiah 29:15).
  4. Believers are naive.” Nobody wants to be seen as gullible or foolish. If Satan can convince you that believers are unsophisticated, then he may be able to persuade you to reject their beliefs by association rather than considering those beliefs objectively. (See Alma 30:16, 27, 3 Nephi 2:1-2.)
  5. Don’t pray.” If you feel uncomfortable or disinclined to pray, that is an indication that you are being tempted. Satan would like to disrupt communication between you and your Father in Heaven. A particularly insidious version of this temptation is to convince you that you are unworthy to pray or that God doesn’t want to hear from you. The truth is that God always wants to hear from you, which is why the Savior urged us to “pray always.” (See 2 Nephi 32:8-9, 3 Nephi 18:15, 18.)

Today, I will watch for Satan’s attempts to influence me. I will remember that he does not have my best interests at heart, and that, unlike our Heavenly Father, he does not reward those who obey him. I will strive to detect and reject temptations as soon as they enter my mind and heart.

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