Lesson 39: Moral Courage

Aaronic Priesthood Manual 2, (1993), 147–50


Each young man will develop moral courage.


  1. 1.

    Materials needed:

    1. a.

      Scriptures for each young man.

    2. b.

      Pencils for marking scriptures.

  2. 2.

    Study the stories and case studies carefully—they will be more effective if you tell them rather than read them to the young men.

  3. 3.

    Besides the material contained in the lesson, you may wish to use one or more of the following scriptural accounts of moral courage: David (1 Samuel 17); Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego (Daniel 3); Joseph Smith (JS—H 1:1–25).

  4. 4.

    You may wish to display picture 8, David Slays Goliath, and picture 9, Three Men in a Fiery Furnace (also pictures 112 and 116 in the Gospel Art Picture Kit [34730]).


In this lesson, briefly review the difference between physical courage and moral courage. This lesson should strengthen the young men so they will set personal standards that coincide with gospel standards and act on them.

Suggested Lesson Development

By Developing Moral Courage, We Can Better Face the Challenges of Life


“There was a young soldier on sentry duty one day. His foul-mouthed sergeant, whom he generally avoided, approached him. The recruit steeled himself for the customary barrage of profanity that he would later have to scour from his mind. Instead his sergeant said, ‘You’re a Mormon, aren’t you?’ The recruit nodded in the affirmative with some surprise, only to be stunned by the next observation: … ‘You know what gets me about you guys? You are good when you don’t have to be’” (Douglas D. Alder, “Swimming Upstream,” New Era, July 1977, p. 19).

  • What do you think the sergeant meant?

Chalkboard and discussion

Write courage on the chalkboard.

  • What is courage? (The quality of mind and heart to act voluntarily in the face of danger.)

Write moral in front of courage on the chalkboard.

  • What is moral courage?

Help the young men understand that moral courage is a special kind of courage that means always being willing to do what is right.

Scripture and discussion

Have the young men read and mark Mosiah 18:9.

  • What does it mean to stand as a witness of God at all times and in all places?

  • Why does this sometimes require moral courage?

Explain that acts of physical courage often bring glory and acclaim. Acts of moral courage may not always bring glory and acclaim.

  • Under what circumstances might moral courage bring ridicule and persecution?


Share the following statement:

“One young boy on the school grounds can wield a mighty influence for good. One young man on the football team, or the campus, or among his fellow workers can, by living the gospel, honoring his priesthood, and taking a stand for the right, do untold good. Often you will experience much criticism and ridicule even by those who believe as you do, even though they may respect you for doing right. But remember that the Savior himself was tormented, ridiculed, spat upon, and finally crucified because he would not waver in his conviction. Have you ever stopped to think what would have happened had he weakened and said, ‘Oh, what’s the use?’ and abandoned his mission? Do we want to be quitters, or do we want to be valiant servants in spite of all the opposition and evil in the world? Let us have the courage to stand up and be counted as true, devoted followers of Christ” (N. Eldon Tanner, in Conference Report, Oct. 1975, p. 113; or Ensign, Nov. 1975, pp. 74–75.)

Case studies

Read and discuss the following case studies.

Case study 1

A group of boys talked together in the hall waiting for the bell that would end the lunch hour. Another boy joined them. Smiling and looking around, he said, “I’ve got a dirty joke. Any ladies present?”

  • How would you handle this situation?

Case study 2

Ken had been studying in the school library for several hours. He was tired and very concerned. He just did not understand the material as well as he would like, and the final test was tomorrow.

Several boys came in and sat down at the same table. Ray smiled at Ken and said, “Hey buddy, good news. I’ve got three of the five questions that are on tomorrow’s test. I got them right off the test itself. I saw them on the desk when the teacher went to the office. Here, I’ll give you a copy.”

  • Why would such a situation require moral courage?

  • How should Ken handle this situation?

Case study 3

Paul stood in line for the movie with two of his friends. The theater had always shown family movies, so Paul had not been really careful. As they got near the ticket window, Paul noticed from the rating that the movie was inappropriate for a priesthood holder.

  • Paul had to make an important decision. What should he do?


Read the following quotation:

“You know it isn’t hard to recognize a real warrior for the priesthood. You meet him at every turn. He is the one who says no when others say yes to movies on Sunday, to [immoral] shows at any time (he knows he must not fall to this temptation). He’s the one who says no to immoral books or magazines or pictures or stories at any time. He says no to fishing or swimming or boating on Sunday. He’s the one who says no when others say, ‘Just try it,’ to a beer or a cigarette—even if it’s just one. This courageous warrior is also the one who says yes when others say no to priesthood meeting Sunday morning, to sacrament meeting, to tithe paying, to prayers each day, to seminary or institute classes. This stalwart young man is one who says yes when others say no to a mission” (H. Burke Peterson, in Conference Report, Oct. 1974, p. 97; or Ensign, Nov. 1974, pp. 68–69).

Remind the young men that as they make proper decisions that require moral courage, they live happier and more successful lives.

Those Who Develop Moral Courage Will Live by and Defend the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Adviser presentation

Present the following story:

In the play A Man for All Seasons, the moral courage of Sir Thomas More is powerfully portrayed. More was asked by King Henry VIII of England to take an oath approving of the king’s actions. But More believed that the king’s actions were wrong. The king put increasing pressure on More to take the oath. His lands and estate were taken from him. Then he was brought to trial and imprisoned. Finally he was sentenced to death, all because he would not go against his conscience.

The king knew that many people admired More and what he was doing. Even the king did not really want to put him to death. As a final attempt to get More to change his mind, King Henry sent More’s wife and his daughter Meg to see him in prison.

They urged him to take the oath to preserve his life. More’s daughter reminded him that he had always taught her that God regards the heart, not the words of the lips. Then she pleaded with him to “say the words of the oath and in your heart think otherwise.”

More replied, “What is an oath but words we say to God?” Then cupping his hands he continued: “When a man takes an oath, Meg, he’s holding his own self in his own hands. Like water. And if he opens his fingers then—he needn’t hope to find himself again” (Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons [New York: Random House, 1960], p. 140).

More was eventually put to death because he would not go against his conscience.


Explain that on one occasion the Prophet Joseph Smith and some of the brethren were prisoners in a jail in Richmond, Missouri. They had been imprisoned for a long time. One evening, Joseph Smith had listened to the guards brag about all the cruel and disgusting treatment they had given to members of the Church.

Have a young man who can read well read this experience as it was recorded by Elder Parley P. Pratt:

“On a sudden he arose to his feet, and spoke in a voice of thunder, or as the roaring lion, uttering, as near as I can recollect, the following words:

“‘SILENCE, ye fiends of the infernal pit. In the name of Jesus Christ I rebuke you, and command you to be still; I will not live another minute and hear such language. Cease such talk, or you or I die THIS INSTANT.’

“He ceased to speak. He stood erect in terrible majesty. Chained, and without a weapon; calm, unruffled and dignified as an angel, he looked upon the quailing guards, whose weapons were lowered or dropped to the ground; whose knees smote together, and who, shrinking into a corner, or crouching at his feet, begged his pardon, and remained quiet till a change of guards” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1938], p. 211).


Ask the young men to listen for what kind of behavior is expected from priesthood holders as you read the following statement by Elder Dean L. Larsen, of the Seventy:

“It is not enough for us to know what is right and to believe it is good. We must be willing to stand up and be counted. We must be willing to act in accordance with what we believe under all circumstances. It is of little value for us to believe one way if we behave contrary to that belief in our private actions or in our public performance” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1978, p. 49; or Ensign, Nov. 1978, pp. 34–35).

Emphasize “under all circumstances” as the real key to moral courage.

Continue the quotation:

“Today it requires great courage to be a loyal Latter-day Saint. For many it is not easy, and it will likely not become easier. The tests of our day are severe. This is particularly so for you young men of the Aaronic Priesthood. Being true to the way of life the Lord has given us does not always make us public heroes. Having the courage of our convictions has its own rewards, however. Armin Suckow, Jr., a thirteen-year-old boy from Germany, discovered this. He tells of an interesting experience in a letter he wrote to the New Era magazine. Armin says, ‘We spoke one Christmastime with one of our school teachers about Jesus. He said that after Jesus died, he had gone from the earth and was now dead. As the teacher spoke, I thought about our church and knew that after three days Jesus was resurrected and was seen by many people. Later, then, he ascended into heaven. I had the feeling that I should tell the teacher and the students that the truth was entirely different from what the teacher had said. The teacher didn’t want to hear my opinion at all, but in spite of that, I … told them that Jesus was resurrected. It didn’t please the teacher at all that I should correct him, but I continued. Then he said that this was simply a matter of opinion. I answered him that anyone can read of this event in the scriptures and that it is so clearly described there that no one can get a different opinion on the story than the one that I had given. After the class the teacher wanted to know to which church I belonged. I told him that I belonged to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On that day I had a real good feeling inside of me’ (“The Savior Lives!” New Era, Dec. 1977, p. 18)” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1978, p. 49; or Ensign, Nov. 1978, pp. 34–35).



Challenge the young men to choose one example of moral courage from the stories or case studies in this lesson and apply that kind of moral courage in their own lives.