Church News and Events

Avoiding Temptation Easier Than Resisting, Elder Robbins says

  By Marianne Holman, Church News staff writer

  • 24 September 2013

Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Seventy speaks during a campus devotional at Brigham Young University on September 17.  Photo by Marcos Escalona, BYU.

It is easier to avoid temptation than it is to resist temptation, Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Seventy said during a devotional held at BYU on September 17.

“I invite you to think about your greatest temptations and then ponder and pray about what you can do to avoid them in the future, rather than trying to resist them,” he said. “I then invite you to wisely follow through on the avoidance revelation that comes to you.”

Quoting Proverbs 4:14–15, Elder Robbins said, “Enter not into the path of the wicked. … Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.”

“The wisdom of Solomon in this passage is to be discovered in the word avoid,” he said. “He had discovered, as all wise people do, one of life’s most helpful guiding principles: it is easier to avoid temptation than it is to resist temptation.”

Using the desire of wanting to eat a chocolate chip cookie as an example, Elder Robbins spoke of the importance of overcoming temptation through avoiding it in the first place, rather than just resisting.

“It is easier for me to not have the cookies in the house than it is to walk though the front door and smell two dozen of them fresh out of the oven—warm and moist and smelling good.”

The cookie metaphor represents the many temptations individuals face in life today. Avoiding temptation is an act of faith and one of the foremost principles taught by the Savior.

“This entreaty of the Savior to avoid temptation consists of two acts of faith—to watch and to pray,” he said. “The Guide to the Scriptures teaches us that to watch means ‘to be vigilant, to [be on] guard,’ which is wise advice in defending ourselves against a very real and ever-lurking enemy. And the corollary to the Savior’s wise advice to pray to avoid temptation is that without prayer we will not have the spiritual strength or stamina to win this battle on our own.”

Elder Robbins shared some insights to help individuals “enter not into temptation.” The first step individuals should take to avoid temptation is to close the door on it and avoid it completely.

“Many pray to be delivered from temptation, but they leave the doorway to temptation cracked just a bit, convincing themselves that nibbling isn’t partaking and that the Lord will justify in committing a little sin,” Elder Robbins taught. “An age-old proverb states, ‘An open door may tempt a saint.’ ”

Leaving the door ajar allows Satan access to the pleasure center of an individual, and from there he is able to confuse, he said. “The key is to not leave the door cracked open. Satan cannot open the door from outside.”

Another example of what individuals can do to close the door on temptation and act in faith is for dieters to get rid of junk food in the cupboard and not go to the grocery store when hungry. For Internet junkies it may mean deleting a game on their phone that they are addicted to or not connecting with old boyfriends or girlfriends on their social media site when married. It may also mean putting a filter on television and Internet access so that offensive content will be blocked or even breaking up with a significant other who does not demonstrate virtuous thoughts or behavior.

Through pondering and praying about what they can do to avoid their greatest temptations, individuals are able to receive revelation that will help them avoid being tempted in the future.

“When we yield to temptation just once, we give Satan ammunition in the form of a memory,” he said.

“What makes Satan the tempter is his ability to plant thoughts in our mind. In a moment of weakness, he can tempt us with the memory of our experience, which multiplies the potency of the temptation, like the mouth-watering memory of enjoying a delicious chocolate chip cookie.”

Elder Robbins warned listeners of becoming desensitized in their media choices and against passionate kissing. “Avoiding temptation should be our first line of defense.”