Lesson 40: Avoiding and Overcoming Temptation

Aaronic Priesthood Manual 2, (1993), 151–54


Each young man will understand how he can avoid and overcome temptation.


  1. 1.

    Materials needed:

    1. a.

      Scriptures for each young man.

    2. b.

      Pencils for marking scriptures.

  2. 2.

    If the Family Home Evening Video Supplement 2 (53277) is available in your area, show segment 10, “The Test.”


A young man faced with strong temptations may feel powerless to resist. But with the Lord’s help he can choose the right. He can defeat Satan. He can overcome temptation. Of course, the best time to make decisions is now, before he is faced with temptation. Help the young men learn to avoid and resist temptation.

Suggested Lesson Development


Story and discussion

Elder Boyd K. Packer recalls an experience he had at a game reserve in Africa:

“We stopped at a water hole to watch the animals come to drink. It was very dry that season and there was not much water, really just muddy spots. When the elephants stepped into the soft mud the water would seep into the depression and the animals would drink from the elephant tracks.

“The antelope, particularly, were very nervous. They would approach the mud hole, only to turn and run away in great fright. I could see there were no lions about and asked the guide why they didn’t drink. His answer … was ‘Crocodiles.’

“I knew he must be joking and asked him seriously, ‘What is the problem?’ The answer again: ‘Crocodiles.’

“‘Nonsense,’ I said. ‘There are no crocodiles out there. Anyone can see that.’ …

“Anyone would know that you can’t hide a crocodile in an elephant track.

“He could tell I did not believe him and determined, I suppose, to teach me a lesson. We drove to another location where the car was on an embankment above the muddy hole where we could look down. ‘There,’ he said. ‘See for yourself.’

“I couldn’t see anything except the mud, a little water, and the nervous animals in the distance. Then all at once I saw it!—a large crocodile, settled in the mud, waiting for some unsuspecting animal to get thirsty enough to come for a drink.

“Suddenly I became a believer! When he could see I was willing to listen, he continued with the lesson. ‘There are crocodiles all over the park,’ he said, ‘not just in the rivers. We don’t have any water without a crocodile somewhere near it, and you’d better count on it’” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1976, p. 45; or Ensign, May 1976, pp. 30–31).

  • In what ways are temptations like crocodiles? (They are often disguised to look harmless, appealing, or even nonexistent. But they both can destroy us.)

  • What was Elder Packer’s attitude when the guide first told him that crocodiles were nearby? (Disbelief. He thought that he knew better, that there was no danger.)

  • Have you ever had such an attitude toward temptation?

  • Why is such an attitude dangerous? (It may cause us to become complacent and fail to heed warnings.)

  • How can we keep from being caught by “spiritual crocodiles”—temptations? (We can beware of temptations and avoid places where we know we will be tempted. We can also listen to the guides the Lord has given us.)

  • Whom has the Lord given as guides to warn us of spiritual crocodiles? (Our parents; teachers; and priesthood leaders, including the prophet.)

The Best Way to Resist Temptation Is to Avoid It

Quotations and discussion

Explain that with all of Satan’s tools and skill, we may wonder how we can resist Satan’s temptations. We are not powerless. Share the following statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith: “All beings who have bodies have power over those who have not. The devil has no power over us only as we permit him” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], p. 181; italics added).

  • How do we permit Satan to have power over us? (By listening to his temptations and by placing ourselves in tempting situations.)

Elder Hartman Rector, Jr., of the Seventy, taught an important principle for overcoming temptation:

“In my experience, I have found that it is very, very dangerous to fly just high enough to miss the treetops. I spent twenty-six years flying the navy’s airplanes. It was very exciting to see how close I could fly to the trees … , and it is extremely dangerous. When you are flying just high enough to miss the trees and your engine coughs once, you are in the trees.

“Now let’s pretend that the navy had a commandment—‘Thou shalt not fly thy airplane in the trees.’ As a matter of fact, they did have such a commandment. In order to really be free of the commandment, it becomes necessary for me to add a commandment of my own to the navy’s commandment, such as ‘Thou shalt not fly thy airplane closer than 5,000 feet to the trees.’ When you do this, you make the navy’s commandment of not flying in the trees easy to live, and the safety factor is tremendously increased” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1972, p. 172; or Ensign, Jan. 1973, p. 131).

  • Following Elder Rector’s counsel, what rules could you set for yourself to make it easier to live the Word of Wisdom? (Possible answers might include choosing good friends; not going to parties where you know people will be drinking or taking drugs; and holding your own parties, where you can control the atmosphere and refreshments.)

  • What rules could you set that would make it easier for you to be chaste? (Answers might include not attending immodest movies, never looking at pornography, and not entering a house alone with someone of the opposite sex.)

Making Important Decisions in Advance Helps Us Resist Temptation

Adviser presentation

Explain that we should not only avoid tempting situations, but we should decide ahead of time how we will resist temptations if we ever find ourselves in difficult situations. We should make the decision in advance while we are free to decide and not wait until we are faced with the temptation.

Quotation and discussion

Share the following quotation from President Spencer W. Kimball:

“When I was a little boy … I heard my teachers tell me over and over: ‘We do not drink; we do not smoke; we do not drink tea or coffee; the Lord has proscribed that.’ …

“Then as I was out alone, milking the cows, or putting up the hay, I had time to think. I mulled it over in my mind and made this decision: ‘I, Spencer Kimball, will never taste any form of liquor. I, Spencer Kimball, will never touch tobacco. I will never drink coffee, nor will I ever touch tea—not because I can explain why I shouldn’t, except that the Lord said not to.’ … I made up my mind.

“That’s the point I am trying to make. I made up my mind then, as a little boy: ‘I will never touch those things.’ And so, having made up my mind, it was easy to follow it, and I did not yield. There were many temptations that came along, but I did not even analyze it; I did not stop and measure it and say, ‘Well, shall I or shall I not?’ I always said to myself: ‘But I made up my mind I would not. Therefore, I do not’” (in Conference Report, Stockholm Sweden Area Conference 1974, p. 86).

  • If friends offered you a cigarette, what would you do? Would you have to decide, or have you already made up your mind, as President Kimball did, that you will keep the Word of Wisdom no matter what?

  • What other commandments have you decided you will keep regardless of the temptation?

  • Once you have decided to be worthy to go on a mission, what other decisions are already made for you? (That you will not break the Word of Wisdom, be unchaste, and so forth.)

God Can Deliver Us from Temptation

Scriptures, chalkboard, and discussion

Explain that despite our best efforts to avoid temptation, we will still be tempted at times.

Have the young men read and underline 1 Corinthians 10:13.

  • According to this verse, what have we been promised? (That God will always provide a way for us to escape from temptation. This escape may mean not knowingly involving ourselves in tempting situations. We cannot go seeking temptation and expect the Lord to protect us.)

Emphasize that the Lord will always provide a way for us to escape temptation, but it is up to us to take the way he provides. We must choose to escape.

Read and underline Doctrine and Covenants 31:12.

  • What counsel does this scripture give us for combating temptation? (Pray always. Write prayer on the chalkboard.)

  • What are other things we can do to overcome temptation? (We can replace bad thoughts with good ones by thinking of the words of a hymn or reciting a favorite scripture. We can change our environment if it is the source of the temptation. For example, we can turn off the television set or walk out of the movie. Sometimes it helps to call a friend or talk to a parent so that we do not have to face the temptation alone.)

  • What has helped you resist temptation?

Write the young men’s responses on the chalkboard.

Case study

Relate the following case study in your own words.

Robert’s friends invited him to go to a new movie. Robert knew that it had some bad scenes in it and felt that he should not go. But when he told his friends no, they teased him and called him names. “Everyone’s seen that movie,” they said. “It can’t hurt you.”

  • What should Robert do in this situation?

Finally, Robert gave in to their pressure and decided to go. The following week in church and many times afterwards, bad words and images from the movie would pop into Robert’s head when he least expected them. He didn’t try to think of them—he didn’t even want to think of them—but he had a hard time removing them from his mind.

  • How did Robert allow the devil to have power over him? (By putting himself in a compromising situation, by listening to his friends’ arguments.)

  • What was the result?

  • Once he had seen the movie, how could he keep the bad scenes from it out of his mind?

  • How could he have avoided the temptation?



We do not have to give in to temptation. President David O. McKay said:

“To the men of the priesthood I give this caution. Your weakest point will be the point at which Satan tries to tempt you, and will try to win you, and if you have made it weak yourself before you have undertaken to serve the Lord, he will add to that weakness. Resist him and you will gain in strength. He will tempt you in another point. Resist him and he becomes weaker and you become stronger, until you can say, no matter what your surroundings may be, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve’ (Luke 4:8)” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1969, p. 94; or Improvement Era, June 1969, p. 28).


Challenge the young men to avoid temptation, to make important decisions ahead of time, and to pray constantly so that they can overcome Satan and his temptations and gain eternal life.