Illustrations by Michael Mullan
When we think of temptation, we sometimes imagine an unseen, demonic voice whispering in our ears, “Do it. You know you want to.” Often we associate it with enticements to sexual transgression or stealing. But just as “there are divers ways and means” to commit sin (Mosiah 4:29), there are just as many ways to be tempted.
In fact, many of the most common temptations go undetected. But they can really damage our spirits. And giving in to them can lead to more serious sins.
Because they’re small or stealthy, these unnoticed temptations can slip in under our radar. They’re like UFOs—unrecognized fiendish onslaughts—that fly at us from the enemy of our souls.
Here are just a few examples of these UFOs.
The first thing Satan tempted Adam and Eve’s children with wasn’t sexual sin, murder, or stealing. After Adam and Eve were taught about the plan of salvation and Jesus Christ’s role in that plan, they taught it to their children (see Moses 5:5–12). But then “Satan came among them, … and he commanded them, saying: Believe it not; and they believed it not, and they loved Satan more than God. And men began from that time forth to be carnal, sensual, and devilish” (Moses 5:13; emphasis added). Their first temptation was unbelief; then came the other sins. Satan doesn’t want you to believe in the prophets’ teachings about Heavenly Father’s plan or Jesus Christ’s Atonement.
A bad attitude
Sometimes we just can’t imagine anything positive happening around us. Maybe we didn’t get our way when our family or friends were choosing an activity, or maybe we just don’t feel like going to school, church, seminary, or Mutual today for whatever reason. Whatever causes it, when we have a bad attitude, we’re halfway to having a bad experience and ruining the experience for others. Satan would very much like you to go down this path. Instead, have patience and “be of good cheer” (D&C 78:18).
The Lord has told us not to take sacred things lightly (see D&C 6:12) and to get rid of our “light-mindedness” (D&C 88:121). Does this mean we can’t ever laugh and have fun? Of course not. But it does mean that certain things are off-limits when it comes to what we talk and joke about. Laughing with friends is fine. Telling or laughing at jokes about sex or jokes that belittle the Savior, His servants, the temple, or any other sacred things—that’s definitely not OK.
Valuing outward success or glamor more than goodness
Some people have accomplishments, wealth, fame, beauty, or intelligence. These aren’t inherently bad things, but we shouldn’t forget the best qualities to look up to and aim for. As President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, has said: “When I was younger, I was impressed by those who were educated, accomplished, successful, and applauded by the world. But over the years, I have come to the realization that I am far more impressed by those wonderful and blessed souls who are truly good and without guile” (“Lord, Is It I?” Oct. 2014 general conference).
Always blaming others and never taking responsibility
This is a surefire way to make certain we never learn, never grow, never progress. And guess who would love to see that happen? (Hint: It’s not your Heavenly Father.) So, regardless of your circumstances, take responsibility for your successes and failures, and learn from every experience.
Placing yourself above others
It’s not just what we do but also how we think and feel about others that matters. The beginning of loving our neighbors is to view them as our equals. As the Lord has commanded us, “Let every man esteem his brother as himself” (D&C 38:24). So, the level of your self-esteem should be the same as the level of your “other-esteem.” If Satan can get you to think of other people (and not just their actions) as beneath you, then he’s gotten you to reject the basis for much of Jesus Christ’s teaching.
Putting yourself down
Tearing yourself down can be just as detrimental to your spiritual growth as tearing others down. The temptation to do so comes from the source of all other temptations. “He who was thrust down in the first estate delights to have us put ourselves down. Self-contempt is of Satan; there is none of it in heaven” (Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Oct. 1976 general conference).
Being “clever” (a.k.a. insulting people, with flourish)
This is a temptation that seems to be strongest in the digital realm. For some reason, snark has more value than civility or graciousness for some people there. Do you want people to see your sharp, caustic wit—or your kind and tender heart? Are you interested in “destroying” someone, leaving their charred remains on the scorched terrain of an online flame war—or are you interested in being a disciple of Jesus Christ? Being a citizen of “Clever-Clever Land” may make us feel good for a moment, but lasting joy comes from being a citizen of Zion.
Taking a needed break is one thing. Being lazy is another. If we always choose ease and comfort over effort and hard work, we’re accepting a mediocre version of ourselves. If Satan can’t get us to be bad right away, he’ll settle for mediocre for a start. As President Thomas S. Monson has taught, “Men cannot … rest content with mediocrity once they see excellence is within their reach” (“To the Rescue,” Apr. 2001 general conference). Catch the vision of the potential your Heavenly Father and the Savior see. Rest when you need to, but then be excellent.
Placing great value on being busy
Life can get busy. But we’re often tempted to place greater meaning and value on being busy than it really deserves. As President Uchtdorf has taught: “Sad to say, we [sometimes] wear our busyness as a badge of honor, as though being busy, by itself, was an accomplishment or sign of a superior life” (“Of Regrets and Resolutions,” Oct. 2012 general conference). This temptation can distract us from what really matters most.
Making yourself look better than you really are (a.k.a. lying)
Sometimes we’re tempted to “lie a little” (2 Nephi 28:8)—you know, not big stuff, just a little. We generally do this to gain or maintain some sort of advantage for ourselves, like keeping up an image or standing among our peers or in our own minds. Though it seems harmless, it isn’t—at least not to our souls.
Quarreling with siblings
We know this is wrong, but for some it’s such a normal part of life that they don’t think about it. According to the scriptures, if we quarrel with our siblings, we’re serving the devil (see Mosiah 4:14). That may sound a bit strong, but think about it. Whom else could it possibly serve? Just don’t do it, no matter how hard it may be to resist.
Too busy? Running late? Don’t have anything to say? Whatever is going through your head when you skip your morning and evening prayers, it’s not coming from a good place. “The evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray” (2 Nephi 32:8). Heavenly Father wants to hear from you, no matter what, guaranteed.
Get More UFO Sightings
There are many more UFOs, of course. They’re hard to spot, but we have the best tools to help us: sincere prayer and the gift of the Holy Ghost. And once we’ve been made aware of these temptations, it’s amazing how many of them seem specifically targeted at us. If we’re mindful of them and seek the Spirit’s help in seeing them for what they are, we can recalibrate our spiritual radar and defend ourselves against them. This will lead to greater repentance, change, and spiritual growth. We will be closer to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. And we (as well as those around us) will be happier.