Jesus Christ was taken into the wilderness by God to fast and pray. After forty days and nights of fasting, Satan came to Him and began trying to undo the Savior’s mission. He knew that if Jesus Christ sinned, He could not fulfill the role of Savior.
Satan prefers to attack us where we are weakest. Knowing Jesus was hungry, he encouraged Jesus to turn some rocks into bread. Jesus responded by quoting scripture:
“It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
Next, the Spirit took Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple. This time he tried to use ego to get Jesus to sin. He said that if Jesus were really a God, he should throw himself down and trust the angels to catch him. He even quoted scripture to try to make it sound acceptable, but Jesus was not taken in. He knew scripture can be twisted for evil purposes. He quoted his own scripture, reminding Satan that we are not to tempt God.
The Spirit then took Jesus to a high mountain. Satan followed, and this time used greed as his weapon. He offered to give Jesus material wealth if He would worship Satan.
It appears Jesus was getting a little bored with this routine. He told Satan to go away and again quoted scripture that said we must worship only God.
Satan gave up and left and angels arrived to minister to the Lord.
If you read this in the King James translation, you’ll notice some differences in the verses than the way they are outlined here.
Read the King James Translation of Jesus’ temptations. While Mormons use the King James translation as their Bible, they sometimes turn to modern revelation for clarification. Prior to his murder, Joseph Smith was working on a new translation of the Bible—it was not completed. Mormons do not replace the language in the King James, but they do include some of the translations in footnotes for additional study.
The changes noted here are far more logical and in line with what we know about God and the gospel than is the original translation. We are not supposed to put ourselves in spiritual danger, and so we would never go to a place where we knew our eternal well-being was at risk. For instance, we wouldn’t attend a party where drugs were being used. Jesus, being perfect, would not go to the mountain to be tempted, since that is intentionally putting yourself in harm’s way. Joseph taught that he went there to commune with God—to pray, fast, and strengthen himself for his mission.
Joseph Smith also said the Spirit, not Satan, took Jesus were He needed to go. We must never go anyplace Satan asks us to go, and if we do find ourselves in spiritual danger, we want the Holy Ghost with us. Jesus, being perfect, did not follow Satan—Satan merely invited Himself on the journey.
Satan used three primary weapons on Jesus Christ—physical desires or needs, ego, and greed. Many people today are tempted by those three things and they are powerful tools for Satan. Not only was Jesus not tempted by them, He modeled for us appropriate behavior when Satan comes to us with immoral offers. He quoted scripture—appropriately, not as weapons—and ignored the taunting.
For Jesus to turn stone to bread would require the use of the priesthood. Jesus understood that His priesthood must never be used for personal gain. Mormons bestow the priesthood on all worthy males ages twelve and older, but they may never use it on themselves. If they need a priesthood ordinance performed, they must find other priesthood holders to do it. Their priesthood is strictly an opportunity to serve others, not for personal gain. This is why Jesus did not use His priesthood to feed Himself. Nor was He willing to command God by jumping and then demanding to be saved from His own stupidity. We are expected to make wise choices, using the best wisdom we have. If we intentionally place ourselves in danger, we cannot expect God to save us.
The world often encourages us to worship Satan. When we choose the world’s standards over God’s, we are, in essence, worshipping Satan. When tempted by the world’s temptations, we need to follow the Savior’s example: fast, pray, read and learn scripture, and send Satan away.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.