Lesson 25: Personal Purity through Self-discipline

Aaronic Priesthood Manual 2, (1993), 91–95


Each young man will understand how self-discipline helps him live a virtuous life.


  1. 1.

    Prepare wordstrips with the following statements:

    1. a.

      When we rationalize our breaking of the commandments we weaken our ability to control ourselves.

    2. b.

      When we break commandments we lose the Spirit of the Lord.

    3. c.

      We learn to discipline ourselves by taking one step at a time.

    4. d.

      Heavenly Father will strengthen us if we pray for his help.

    5. e.

      Self-discipline brings us into harmony with our Father in Heaven and ourselves.

  2. 2.

    Review the counsel about sexual purity on pages 14 through 16 of For the Strength of Youth.


In a world of deteriorating morality, we must give special attention to our youth, who are being more severely tempted by Satan than ever before. Satan desires to destroy the youth of the Church and his plan for doing this is just as real as the plan of salvation. Yielding to his enticements may well cost those involved their spiritual life.

As the young men’s adviser, you should help the young men stand steadfastly against Satan. This lesson will help you teach them about resisting the enticings of Satan to commit sexual sin, which President Ezra Taft Benson has called “the plaguing sin of this generation” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1986, p. 4; or Ensign, May 1986, p. 4). Allow the young men to discuss these temptations openly with you. Explain that sexual sin has very grave consequences for them. In the eyes of the Lord it is second only to murder in its seriousness because it tampers with the sacred powers of procreation, and it is not easily repented of.

The decisions a young man makes now about sexual purity can determine how prepared he is to serve a mission. President Benson has counseled: “We want morally clean young men in the mission field. We want you to live the clean life all of your life. We want the morally clean life to be your way of life. Yes, one can repent of moral transgression. The miracle of forgiveness is real, and true repentance is accepted of the Lord. But it is not pleasing to the Lord prior to a mission, or at any time, to sow one’s wild oats, to engage in sexual transgression of any nature, and then to expect that planned confession and quick repentance will satisfy the Lord” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1986, p. 57; or Ensign, May 1986, pp. 44–45).

Young men must understand that the consequences of such sin are pain and suffering. The Lord has said, “I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not” (D&C 19:15).

They must also understand that the atonement of Jesus Christ provides the only relief from sin and misery; they can and must repent if they have committed sexual transgression. Through repentance they can become clean again. The Lord has reminded us that unrepented sins only bring more sorrow:

“If they [do] not repent they must suffer even as I;

“Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain” (D&C 19:17–18).

By deciding to be morally clean, young men can help to fulfill the challenge given by President Benson: “We need more missionaries. But we also need better-prepared missionaries coming out of the wards and branches and homes. … We need missionaries to match our message” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1975, p. 96; or Ensign, May 1975, p. 65). Isaiah wrote, “Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord” (Isaiah 52:11).

Suggested Lesson Development

We Can Learn to Discipline Ourselves


Ask the young men to picture themselves in the following situations:

  1. 1.

    Your brother has just teased you and said something that makes you feel that you want to yell back or even hit him. Can you stop yourself from doing this?

  2. 2.

    It’s fast Sunday and you are very hungry, but it is not time to break your fast yet. Can you restrain yourself from eating?

  3. 3.

    Your favorite show is on TV, but you have homework to do. Can you turn off the TV and study?

  • Do you sometimes feel a struggle within yourself? One part of you seems to want to “let go” and express your emotions or appetites, while another part wants to control your emotions and appetites.

Explain that some people do not believe they can control their thoughts and discipline themselves. They feel it is unnecessary or too difficult or not worth the effort.


Read and explain the following quotation:

“Some become enslaved with compulsive habits or yield to appetites or to improper actions, and plead that they are helpless before their habits—that they are compelled, persuaded; that temptation was stronger than their will to resist. But we can choose. … We can break bad habits; we can acquire good habits; we can choose what we think by the sheer determination to do so” (Richard L. Evans, “Self-Control,” Improvement Era, Dec. 1963, p. 1113).

Adviser presentation

Explain that even though it is difficult to control ourselves at times, it is something we can learn to do. Our Father in Heaven has told us to keep our thoughts, appetites, and emotions within certain bounds. As our Father, he would not ask us to do something that we are not capable of doing. We are his children. We have the capacity to become like him.


Ask the young men to listen to the following true story for how someone their age exercised self-control. Ask them to listen for things that could help them to learn self-discipline.

“Everyone else was doing it, so why shouldn’t I? The commandments only said we shouldn’t take the Lord’s name in vain. I found myself trying to justify my reasons for swearing, but it wasn’t helping. I knew that it was wrong to swear, even if all my friends did it. It kept bothering me, and I finally decided that I had better do something about my problem. I felt somehow ‘dirty’ and unworthy to approach the Lord in prayer. But I knew that if I didn’t repent, it would just make matters worse.

“I started to try to control myself for just one day. I knew I had made swearing a habit. I heard so many vulgar expressions all day long at school that it seemed natural to swear also. I decided I would try to get through one day without doing it.

“The first day I consciously tried, I did all right until lunch time. Then everyone was excited and noisy and before I knew it, my mouth had run right along with my emotions. I hardly realized I had said it, but when I was once again aware of my habit, I felt disappointed and sick inside.

“That night I prayed very hard and asked for strength. The next day I got up the courage to tell my two best friends at school that I didn’t feel good about our language, and that I was trying to change. I tried again that day.

“I had no idea that it would be so hard. Somehow I always felt living the gospel would always be easy. It took four days until I finally made it through one day without swearing. I was so excited, but I knew that each day I would have to be very careful. It would be too easy to slip and get back into my old habits.

“I kept praying all through this time for strength. I progressed and stopped the bad language, but I didn’t feel that I had been forgiven. Then we had a testimony meeting. I felt the Spirit there so strongly that I couldn’t suppress my desire to bear my testimony. I expressed my love for my Heavenly Father and for his Son and for the gospel. When I had finished, it was like a giant weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I knew that I had been forgiven.”

Wordstrips and discussion

After discussing each of the following questions, post the wordstrip that states a conclusion about self-discipline that can be drawn from the discussion.

  • How did the person in the story try to rationalize his behavior?

  • Why do we sometimes try to rationalize our behavior?

  • Why should we avoid this?

Post wordstrip a: “When we rationalize our breaking of the commandments, we weaken our ability to control ourselves.”

  • What caused the young man to want to change his behavior?

  • How did he feel?

  • Why did he feel this way?

Post wordstrip b: “When we break commandments, we lose the Spirit of the Lord.”

  • What were some of the things the young man did to discipline himself?

  • How does taking one step at a time help us learn self-discipline?

Post wordstrip c: “We learn to discipline ourselves by taking one step at a time.”

  • What was the young man’s greatest source of strength in learning to discipline himself?

Post wordstrip d: “Heavenly Father will strengthen us if we pray for his help.”

  • How did the young man feel after overcoming his problem?

  • How did bearing his testimony help bring peace?

Post wordstrip e: “Self-discipline brings us into harmony with our Father in Heaven and ourselves.”

Ask the young men to share an experience they have had in disciplining themselves, emphasizing what they found to be helpful. (Note: Do not probe into personal matters that may embarrass any of the young men.)

By Disciplining Ourselves, We Can Live a Virtuous Life

Explain that whether we are learning to play a musical instrument, trying to control our temper, or making ourselves get up when we would rather sleep longer, our self-discipline will help us live a virtuous life.

Story and discussion

Relate the following story:

“A missionary serving in the eastern United States was confronted by a college student who was less interested in the gospel message than in the missionary’s strict moral code. The student sneeringly asked the missionary how he controlled his desires when there were so many beautiful girls around, implying that the missionary must not be normal. The elder explained: ‘It is not that I am abnormal—it is that I know I am responsible and in charge of my body. You think you are helpless in the face of your desires. You think you are the victim of them. I have proven to myself that I am the master of those feelings’” (Terrance D. Olsen, “Teaching Morality to Your Children,” Ensign, Mar. 1981, p. 14).

  • What was the difference in the point of view of the college student and the elder? (The student felt he had no control over his natural desires. The elder knew that they were normal desires but they must be controlled.)

  • What had the elder learned to do about his feelings and emotions?

  • Why is it important that we learn self-control now rather than wait?


Have the young men read and mark the following scriptures: Psalm 24:3–5; Alma 5:16–19.

Explain that being morally clean and virtuous requires self-discipline and self-control. For example, President Spencer W. Kimball spoke plainly about sinful sexual desires and practices. Explain that you are going to read a number of President Kimball’s statements regarding morality and self-discipline.

Note: If you think the young men do not understand the terms used, read the definitions below to clarify the terms. Then read the quotations following each definition. Present only the prophet’s statements. Emphasize self-discipline, and limit the discussion, if any is necessary, to defining the terms used in the quotations.

1. Our Conduct toward Our Own Bodies


Masturbation: stimulating oneself sexually.


“Masturbation … is not approved of the Lord nor of his church, regardless of what may be said by others whose ‘norms’ are lower” (President Kimball Speaks Out [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981], p. 10).

2. Our Conduct toward Someone of the Same Sex


Homosexuality: “‘sexual desire for those of the same sex or sexual relations between individuals of the same sex,’ whether men or women” (The Miracle of Forgiveness [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969], p. 78).


“The unholy transgression of homosexuality is either rapidly growing or tolerance is giving it wider publicity. … The Lord condemns and forbids this practice.

“‘God made me that way,’ some say, as they rationalize and excuse themselves. … ‘I can’t help it,’ they add. This is blasphemy. Is man not made in the image of God, and does he think God to be ‘that way’” (President Kimball Speaks Out, pp. 10, 12).

3. Our Conduct toward Someone of the Opposite Sex


Adultery: sexual intercourse with someone other than one’s own lawful husband or wife.

Fornication: “sexual intercourse by the unmarried” (President Kimball Speaks Out, p. 6).

Necking: passionate kissing and intimate contact (see President Kimball Speaks Out, p. 8).

Petting: “fondling of the private parts of the body for the purpose of sexual arousal” (President Kimball Speaks Out, p. 8).


“Among the most common sexual sins our young people commit are necking and petting. Not only do these improper relations often lead to fornication, [illegitimate] pregnancy, and abortion—all ugly sins—but in and of themselves they are pernicious evils” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 65).

As part of this discussion, you may want to review the counsel about sexual purity given on pages 14 through 16 of For the Strength of Youth.

Quotation and discussion

Many try to excuse themselves for their lack of self-discipline in these three areas. President Kimball has made the following comments on their excuses:

Man is responsible for his own sins. … He can resist, he can change. Temptations come to all people. The difference between the reprobate and the worthy person is generally that one yielded and the other resisted” (President Kimball Speaks Out, p. 12; italics added).


  • Who is responsible for your actions?

Help the young men understand that as we exercise self-discipline, we strengthen our spirit’s control over our body. Emphasize that our capacity to control ourselves increases every time we make a correct choice and that increased self-control helps us make better choices and become happier.

Case studies and discussion

Read the following case studies, or construct some of your own. After each situation is read, ask questions similar to these: How could the person use self-discipline in this situation? What might happen if the person did not?

  1. 1.

    Some of my friends at school invited me to a party. I was excited to go because a girl I especially liked had told me she would be there and wanted me to come. I was looking forward to being with her. When my friends and I arrived, we realized that the parents were away and the party was unchaperoned. The lights were down low. Some of the kids were dancing, and some others were pairing off, kissing and necking. The girl I like saw me enter.

    • What should this young man do? Why?

  2. 2.

    I knew we weren’t supposed to date until we were sixteen, but I had a lot of fun at school talking and kidding around with girls. One of these was Barbara, an attractive girl who seemed to like me. One day at lunch, we talked about meeting at a shopping mall and going to a movie. There was a ward activity planned for the same time, but I said yes. It would be easy to just tell my parents I was going to the activity and catch the bus to the mall instead. I would get back about the same time the activity was ending. When the time came for me to leave home, I felt really nervous. My mom called to me to make sure I had my jacket and then said, “Have fun!” Then she went back into the house.

    • What should this young man do? Why?

Review the wordstrips concerning the ideas about self-discipline.



Point out to the young men that each of us at some time may have to struggle to exert self-discipline, but we can do it. Each time we discipline ourselves, we strengthen our capacity to live a virtuous life. Conclude the lesson with the following statement. Ask the young men to listen for the promise we are given if we exert self-control.

“When you are overtaken in a fault, or commit an overt act unthinkingly; when you are full of evil passion, and wish to yield to it, then stop and let the spirit, which God has put into your tabernacles, take the lead. If you do that, I will promise you that you will overcome all evil, and obtain eternal lives” (Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 2:256).


Challenge the young men to exercise self-control and to keep themselves free from sin. Emphasize that you have great confidence in their ability to resist temptation and that you pray often for their well-being and self-control. Encourage them to review the standards given in For the Strength of Youth.