Each young man will realize that through faith in Jesus Christ, he can find the power to master and improve himself.
Scriptures for each young man.
Several ropes or long strings.
Pencil and paper for each young man.
If available, a copy of
For the Strength of Youth for each young man.
Review the standards given in
For the Strength of Youth.
Suggested Lesson Development
The Lord Will Strengthen Us as We Overcome Our Weaknesses
Invite a young man who has a good self-image and a positive attitude to come to the front of the group. Explain that he represents a young man who has begun to develop some bad habits. As you mention such habits as lying, procrastination, cheating, laziness, and profanity, place the ropes or strings over his shoulders, around his neck, and elsewhere on his body. Tie several knots in the rope to represent the binding effects of bad habits. After placing several ropes on the young man, discuss the following questions:
What effect do bad habits have on our lives?
How can we break these habits?
Help the young men understand that we can overcome bad habits by developing self-mastery with the Lord’s help.
Tell the young men that the following two quotations can help us understand the importance of developing self-control:
“Self-discipline … is doing something that needs to be done whether or not you find it convenient. Self-discipline is usually motivated by our convictions, our internal hopes, and our desires” (Robert L. Simpson, “Your 1975 Game Plan,” Speeches of the Year, 1975 [Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1976], p. 321).
President Spencer W. Kimball quotes an unknown author as follows:
“‘The height of a man’s success is gauged by his self-mastery; the depth of his failure by his self-abandonment. … He who cannot establish a dominion over himself will have no dominion over others. He who masters himself shall be king’” (The Miracle of Forgiveness [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969], p. 176).
Choices Have Consequences
Story and discussion
Read or tell the following story. Ask the young men to think of ways to compare it to their own lives.
“A group of young men once found the abandoned frame of an old truck in the hills overlooking their town. Upon close inspection they discovered all four tires and the steering mechanism to be in fairly good condition. Enthusiastically they pushed it up a slight incline near a grassy meadow and jumped aboard. The old wreck coasted to the other end of the meadow and came to a gentle stop.
“After a series of trials on mild inclines, one of the boys suggested trying it out on the street leading to town. Two of the group insisted that it wasn’t safe and left, but the other six eagerly pitched in and maneuvered the rickety conveyance onto a nearby road. By pushing it, they were able to pick up quite a bit of speed before they threw themselves across its creaking cross members. They soon came to a place where the road tilted downward, and they didn’t have to push any more. As the wreck began picking up speed one of the boys jumped off, exclaiming that anyone would have to be crazy to take that kind of risk.
“The remaining passengers jeered at him and laughed that anyone could be frightened of such innocent fun—that is, all but one of them jeered. He was becoming nervous as he watched pavement whizzing by beneath him. Finally, without a word, he leaped off the back. Rolling over and over, he finally came to a stop, badly bruised, but relieved to be freed from the wild conveyance and glad to be in one piece.
“As the vehicle’s velocity increased, the four remaining boys became very nervous. Because there were no brakes, the relic was rapidly becoming difficult to control. One boy leaped from the back and attempted to alight running, but fell forward and broke an arm. Another tried to jump free, but fell beneath the wheel, suffering serious injuries.
“Soon the vehicle reached such a fast speed that it became almost impossible to steer. At that point the two remaining boys could only hang on desperately and hope for the best. The ride came to an abrupt stop when the old truck frame left the road and slammed into a huge tree. One boy was killed; the other boy was crippled for life” (Teachers Study Course Series A [Aaronic Priesthood manual, 1976], pp. 29–30).
At what point did the boys have complete control of their actions?
At what point was the situation completely out of control?
Why do people who are doing things that might have disastrous consequences try to persuade others to go along with them?
Which takes more courage, to participate in a dangerous activity, or to refuse to go along with the group?
How might this story be compared to the choices and consequences we face in our lives?
Point out that when the boys first came upon the abandoned wreck, they had complete control of the situation. As they permitted the vehicle to pick up speed, there was less and less they could do to stop it safely. Finally, those who remained in the vehicle lost all control over the outcome of their adventure.
Explain that like Satan, who wants us to be as miserable as he is, people on the path to disaster frequently want to take others with them. It often takes much more courage to resist their pressure than to accompany them in their foolish activities.
Chalkboard and discussion
Write on the chalkboard the terms physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Discuss how these terms apply to the young men’s lives. Ask the young men to name some goals they would like to set to develop more self-discipline. You may need to give a few examples to begin their thinking. Write the young men’s contributions on the chalkboard under the appropriate category. Your finished chalkboard might look something like this:
Go to bed earlier
Get up earlier
Work and exercise
Obey the Word of Wisdom
Obey the commandments
Read the scriptures regularly
Attend Church meetings
Pray regularly and sincerely
Pay a full tithe
Control my temper
Be kind to others
Do homework on time
Read good books
Think only clean thoughts
Explain that during their lives, the young men will have choices to make in all of these areas; the self-discipline they develop will help them to make proper decisions.
What are some of the ways we can discipline ourselves?
Explain to the young men that it is not enough to break our bad habits; we must repent. Emphasize that we need the Lord’s help to repent of our sins and break bad habits. Share the following statement from President Ezra Taft Benson:
“If we truly seek to put away sin, we must first look to Him who is the Author of our salvation [Jesus Christ]. …
“When King Benjamin finished his remarkable address in the land of Zarahemla, the people [said], ‘The Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent … has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, … that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.’ (Mosiah 5:2.)
“When we have undergone this mighty change, which is brought about only through faith in Jesus Christ and through the operation of the Spirit upon us, it is as though we have become a new person … [We] have no more disposition to return to [our] old ways” (“A Mighty Change of Heart,” Ensign, Oct. 1989, pp. 2–5).
Activity and challenge
Pass out a pencil and a sheet of paper to each young man. Challenge each young man to list three long-range goals he would like to achieve that require self-discipline. These goals may include career ambitions (such as becoming a good teacher or a carpenter) and goals from the four areas you have discussed; for example, a young man may wish to focus on obtaining a college or vocational education, serving a mission, being married in the temple, or developing a better disposition. Ask each young man to list one or two specific things he could do each day to help himself meet these goals. Ask him to note every night whether he has done the specific things he has listed for that particular goal. For example, if the young man has chosen temple marriage or spiritual improvement as his long-range goal, he may list “do something nice for someone” and “read scriptures for ten minutes” as his two daily goals. Each day as he meets these goals he should check them off.
Encourage the young men to review the standards outlined in