Many times I have wondered why there needs to be so many trials and temptations in this life. Why would God give us so many temptations and yet expect us to be able to return to Him? As I have watched my children grow and witnessed the struggles they have to endure, I have wanted to murmur like Laman and Lemuel rather than be obedient like Nephi. It all seemed very confusing that God would want us to return to Him and yet would give us all these roadblocks we have to somehow maneuver around in order to return. Something just seemed so wrong with this picture.
To try and figure it all out, I first looked up trials in the scriptures. I mean, I know there are trials out there, we’ve all experienced them. This was the first one I found: “For he will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept; and I will try you and prove you herewith.” (D&C 98:12) According to this scripture, the Lord definitely tries us to test and prove us. This made me think of Abraham and the Lord’s trying him to see if he would obey and sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham was given the choice; no one made him do it.
Another trial I thought was very interesting was the Children of Israel gathering Manna from heaven,
Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no. (Exodus 16:4)
This is also an example of a trial but this trial was actually very different from Abraham’s. Manna was a good thing; the children of Israel were being tried by something good. Yes, they were told to only gather a certain amount every day but it was nothing like being asked to sacrifice your child. Of course, these were former slaves who had never been taught what was right and wrong so God was probably beginning easy like we do with our children. Gather the right amount or it will just go bad anyway. It sounds more like a rule for children, doesn’t it? I’m sure there were people who thought it would be a lot easier to just gather it once a week or every other day; I mean, I can see why they would get tired of gathering it every day. But none the less, they were given the commandment as well as the punishment for breaking it. This is a great example of being tried by seemingly good things. Maybe wealth, power, and fame would fit in this category.
Adam and Even were also given a trial in the Garden of Eden,
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee; but, remember that I forbid it, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Moses 3:17)
This is the best example of how Heavenly Father tries us. He gives us options, commands us to follow one of those options, and then lets us choose. He made sure Adam knew the rules, He commanded him not to eat of the fruit of the tree, and even told him what the punishment would be. Adam didn’t accidentally break that commandment; he knew the rules and did it anyway. But also notice that it wasn’t God who tempted Adam (and Eve), it was Satan,
And Satan put it into the heart of the serpent, (for he had drawn away many after him,) and he sought also to beguile Eve, for he knew not the mind of God, wherefore he sought to destroy the world.
And he said unto the woman: Yea, hath God said—Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? (And he spake by the mouth of the serpent.) (Moses 4:6-7)
And we all know the rest of the story. After convincing Eve that she was really missing out and would have much more knowledge and understanding and be more popular, prettier, thinner, smarter, richer, have a bigger house, better kids, nicer wardrobe, more toys, etc, (okay, I added those but isn’t that how it works??), Satan persuaded her to break the commandment and eat the fruit and she, in turn, convinced Adam. (I know, I know, I got a little carried away here; you would think I know what temptations are like. . . .) But really, this is always how Satan and his temptations work. And in fact, we are promised that temptations will never come from God,
Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:
But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. (James 1:13-14)
There are examples everywhere in our scriptures about how in reality it is the devil who tempts us, not God. Here are just two more examples:
And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet— (D&C 29:39)
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. (3 Nephi 18:15)
In fact, Nephi tells us very explicitly about temptations in his description of his vision of the Tree of Life,
And the mists of darkness are the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost.
And while the angel spake these words, I beheld and saw that the seed of my brethren did contend against my seed, according to the word of the angel; and because of the pride of my seed, and the temptations of the devil, I beheld that the seed of my brethren did overpower the people of my seed. (1 Nephi 12:17, 19)
Twice in this description, Nephi tells us temptations come from the devil. Since we have already read that trials come from God, this puts temptations in a completely different camp. One is coming from God to see if we will obey Him and the other is from His arch enemy trying to get us not to obey God.
Our Heavenly Father, as part of His loving desire to see us grow and learn, gives us trials to stretch us and strengthen us to follow Him and then He even blesses us when we do. There are many examples throughout the scriptures but here are just a few of Nephi’s trials in the Book of Mormon: his building a boat, he and his brothers going back for the plates, his family leaving Jerusalem, their following the Liahona, his honoring his earthly father and obeying him, the broken bow, and the list goes on and on and that’s just concerning Nephi. Trials usually involve commandments and following them very explicitly, but they are not about succumbing to temptations. (Imagine making a list of trials throughout the scriptures; that would be a fun family night!)
What would be considered examples of temptations then as opposed to trials? If it’s the devil who tempts us with disobeying commandments and leading us away from Christ, then we can safely assume such things as Word of Wisdom problems are temptations. Sexual sins, selfishness, dishonesty, and coveting would also apply here; anything that would take us farther away from our Heavenly Father is something we can—and probably should—see as potential temptations. In fact, anything which could lead to us into breaking one of God’s commandments should be considered a temptation.
Adam was told not to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. He was also given a set of consequences for breaking that commandment. Right away, Satan gets the bright idea of using that very thing to tempt Adam. I mean, what else could he use? As far as we know this was the only commandment Adam had been given besides multiplying and replenishing the earth. He could eat any of the other fruit, he could do anything else he wanted in the Garden, and it was only the two of them so no temptations of power, prestige, or wealth would work. The devil chose the one thing that was off limits.
Applying that to us, we can assume that anything off limits for us will be considered by Satan as fair game for temptations. Not to mention the fact that we are pretty good at tempting ourselves too, as James 1:14 mentioned. But we are promised that our Father in Heaven will not tempt us. He is cheering for our success, not for our demise. Why would we think He would tempt us if we know He wants us to succeed and return to Him? If we really think about it, that doesn’t sound like a loving Father to play both sides like that. It’s funny how we can believe stories that really don’t even make sense once we think about them. Heavenly Father tries us with His commandments; He asks us to do—or not do—certain things and then watches to see how we obey, but He doesn’t do the tempting. Thankfully He even loves us enough to plan for a way to forgive our mistakes when we fall for Satan’s—or our own—temptations. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is an awesome example of just how much we are loved by both our Eternal Father and Christ.
And one more promise that can bring us peace when we are going through hard times; Heavenly Father promises that we can even know with surety that He will never allow the Devil to tempt us to the point where we can’t refuse him,
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1 Cor. 10:13)
What better promise can we ask for? This means there is always hope and a way for me to say no to those temptations. Does it mean it will be easy? No, but it does mean I can rely on a loving Father in Heaven to help me whenever I am willing to ask for His help. And even more amazing, when we are successful in following Him through the trials of life, He even gives us additional blessings, for those are always the good consequences of obedience. As we gain a deeper perspective on just how this works, we can see that Heavenly Father is pulling for us constantly. He is on our side and cheering us forward on the path to return to Him.
by Jennifer Jensen