This entry is based on a talk given by President David O Mckay in the October 1911 General Conference.
Christ, in His great Intercessory Prayer, says to His Father “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” (John 17:15). He doesn’t ask God to take His disciples away from the world, but that they may resist the wiles of Satan. It is often difficult because temptation generally comes when it’s least expected and in quiet, initially unseen ways. In 2 Nephi 28:21, we read “…the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.” In order to be unspotted from the world, this will require a constant awareness.
By ‘the world’ – what is meant? President Mckay said “I take it that the world refers to the inhabitants who are alienated from the Saints of God.” As such, we are warned to be careful with the day-to-day life around us in ‘the world’. As Saints of God, that is how we receive spiritual power, by keeping ourselves unspotted from the world.
As taught by President Mckay, these temptations we face can ultimately be placed into three categories. We can see them in Christ’s experience with Satan when He was fasting for forty days and nights:
1. Appetite – “Command that these stones be made bread” (Matthew 4:3)
2. Pride – “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down…” (Matthew 4:6)
3. Power/riches – “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:9)
As these temptations are varied in approach and consistency we have to be constantly aware. Satan knows our weaknesses, that’s why we are tempted. We can take comfort in the knowledge that, with the support from the Lord, we can overcome or escape temptation. Paul says “…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…” (1 Corinthians 10:13). There is sometimes a misconception about this scripture – that we will never be tempted with something that we have the strength to overcome. That is not what is being said here – it is only with the support of the Lord (the Way provided to escape) that we can endure. It is vital that we recognise this key part of the message from an Apostle of the Lord. If we do yield to temptation, we become ‘spotted’, therefore weakened and have less power to overcome the next test of our faith. That is why the Atonement is an integral part of this process. We all become spotted, we are not perfect, but the power of Christ’s Atonement (by being washed in His ‘blood’) we can become unspotted once again.