Lesson 40: Self-Mastery

Young Women Manual 2, (1993), 154–56


Each young woman will learn that self-mastery brings true happiness.


  1. 1.

    Bring a pencil and paper or card for each young woman.

  2. 2.

    Bring five or six small balls or other small items.

  3. 3.

    Bring a doll or paper doll to use in the Introduction. Also, bring a chain (could be jewelry) or drawings of chains to add to the doll.

  4. 4.

    Make a poster of the fill-in-the-blank game, omitting the words in parentheses, but leaving appropriate spaces. Make wordstrips of the omitted words.

  5. 5.

    Prepare four pieces of paper to pass out to class members, each containing one of the four steps to self-mastery outlined in the section “The Scriptures and Church Leaders Teach How to Develop Self-Mastery.” Omit the words in parentheses.

  6. 6.

    Assign young women to present any scriptures, stories, or quotations you wish.

Suggested Lesson Development



Display the doll or paper doll. Explain that it represents a young woman who began to develop some bad habits. Mention such habits as lying, procrastinating, overeating, laziness, and profanity. As you do, place the jewelry or paper chains over her shoulder, around her neck, and around her body, binding her tightly.


Discuss the following:

  • What has happened to this young woman?

  • What effect do bad habits have in our lives?

  • How can these chains be broken?

  • Can someone else break these chains for you?


Read 2 Nephi 1:13. Explain that this lesson will help us know how these chains of bad habits can be broken.

We Can Overcome Bad Habits through Self-Mastery

Fill-in-the-blank game

Display the poster you have prepared and the wordstrips.

  • We sow our (thoughts), we reap our (actions)

  • We sow our (actions), we reap our (habits)

  • We sow our (habits), we reap our (character)

  • We sow our (character), we reap our (destiny)

Have the young women decide which word belongs in each blank, and have them complete the lines by moving the words to the appropriate places on the poster.


  • Where do habits, both good and bad, originate? (In our thoughts.)

  • How do bad thoughts lead to the chains of bad habits?

  • How can we change a bad habit?

  • What habits do you have that you would like to break?

Scripture discussion

Explain that Proverbs 16:32 suggests how we can overcome bad habits. Read the passage aloud.

  • Who is better than the mighty?

  • Who is greater than the ruler of a city?

  • What are other terms for ruling our spirits? (Self-control, self-mastery, self-discipline.)

Help the young women understand that we can overcome bad habits by developing self-control.


The following two quotations help us understand the importance of self-control:

“Self-discipline, the key to eternal life, 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,” in Speeches of the Year, 1975 [Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1976], p. 321).

President Spencer W. Kimball quoted 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).

Chalkboard discussion

  • What are some bad habits that could be overcome by self-mastery? List the responses on the chalkboard.

Writing activity

Give each young woman a pencil and card or small piece of paper. Ask each to list three areas in which she desires to develop self-mastery.

Object lesson

Hold in your hand five or six small balls or other small items, and tell the young women that these represent a handful of weaknesses. Select a young woman and tell her you want her to try to overcome these weaknesses by catching them. Then throw the balls to her all at once. She will probably be unable to catch them.

  • How might this demonstration apply to overcoming bad habits?

Throw the balls to her one at a time so she can catch each one. Point out that we develop self-mastery by working on one habit at a time, not expecting perfection from ourselves all at once.


Point out that King Benjamin gave some excellent advice that we might consider as we think of overcoming our bad habits. Have the young women read Mosiah 4:27. Ask them to look at the three habits they listed on their paper and underline the one they are going to begin working on now.

The Scriptures and Church Leaders Teach How to Develop Self-Mastery


The following response was written by a young woman who had a successful experience with self-mastery:

“‘I have read your letter and the four keys over and over. They really lift my spirits when I am depressed. I have been following them for about two weeks or longer. My mom even said she has noticed how my attitude and confidence in myself have changed. The day I received your letter, I went right to my room and set some goals. Here are my goals for now: 1. Pray every night and day. 2. Pay my tithing. 3. Do not swear.’”

The “four keys” the young woman was referring to are explained by the following passage:

“The first key is found in Proverbs 3:5–6. [Have these verses read.]

“The second key, equally important, is to believe in yourself with an understanding that you are a child of God, with Godlike attributes to be discovered and developed.

“The third key is to have a worthwhile goal, one worthy of total commitment, even an obsession, to attain and know the necessary steps to achieve it.

“The fourth key might be described by the experience of a child who, while trying out new roller skates, falls and skins her knee. Her immediate tears and loud crying bring her mother running to her aid. However, just as her mother arrives the little girl stops crying. When asked by her surprised mother why she has stopped so quickly, she says, ‘I just told myself to stop and then I made myself mind me.’ The fourth key is to decide what you are going to do and then determine the necessary steps to accomplish it—to make yourself mind you” (Ardeth Greene Kapp, Miracles in Pinafores and Bluejeans [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1977], p. 78).


Pass out the previously prepared pieces of paper to the class members. Have each young woman read her statement; then as a group discuss the suggestions for developing self-mastery. As each is discussed, list the main point (in parentheses) on the chalkboard.

  1. 1.

    Have a goal and a plan for accomplishing the goal. Be determined; work hard at meeting your plan. (Set a goal and work at it.)

  2. 2.

    Choose one person who is a great example of the characteristics you wish to develop. Try to act as this person acts. (Choose an ideal and follow her.)

  3. 3.

    Ask yourself, “How would Christ respond if he were here today?” and try to act as he would act. (Try to follow Christ’s example.)

  4. 4.

    Pray to Heavenly Father for help in controlling your feelings and actions. (Pray.)

The young women may want to record these steps on their paper below the three areas of weaknesses listed.

Scripture discussion

The Savior has said that if we do our part in overcoming our weaknesses he will strengthen us. Have a young woman read Ether 12:27.

  • How does it make you feel to know that the Savior is willing to help you overcome your weaknesses and develop strengths?

Self-Mastery Leads to Happiness and Self-Esteem


  • What are the results of developing self-mastery?

  • How do you feel when you have acted with self-control?

Invite the young women to share experiences they have had in acting with self-control.

After the young women have responded, read the following quotation:

“Proper self-management is a great virtue, which can lead to personal pride. Personal pride is a great motivator. It is a virtue to understand who we are and to conduct ourselves accordingly. To be created in God’s image is a tremendous blessing with accompanying choice responsibilities. … We need to be constantly aware of the fact that we are children of God. He knows us. He hears us. He loves us” (Marvin J. Ashton, in Conference Report, Oct. 1976, pp. 124–25; or Ensign, Nov. 1976, p. 84).

You may want to share your feelings about how developing self-mastery has blessed your life.

Lesson Application

Suggest that the young women apply the methods outlined in the lesson to the area of weakness they have identified.