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Mormon Prayer
Self-Mastery is another name for self-control or self-discipline. It's a personal characteristic or habit that helps an individual accomplish or achieve any goal he or she chooses. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints understand that self-mastery requires a great deal of effort to develop.


Mastering one's self, Latter-day Saints believe, is one of the primary reasons for our earthly experience. Its importance cannot be exaggerated. Proverbs 16:32 states this about self-mastery: "he that ruleth his spirit {is better] than he that ruleth a city." The prophet Joseph F. Smith said that “no man is safe unless he is master of himself; and there is no tyrant more merciless or more to be dreaded than an uncontrollable appetite or passion. We will find that if we give way to the groveling appetites of the flesh and follow them up, that the end will be invariably bitter, injurious and sorrowful, both to the individual and society” (Doctrines from the Prophets, p. 414). He warned of the danger of lack of self-discipline, that it can injure a person—or persons—to the degree that it can spread to all of society.

One of the modern Church apostles agreed that lack of individual self-control has far-reaching effects. Neal A. Maxwell said, “If we are not able to build into ourselves and our families the brakes of self-restraint and self-discipline, we are apt, unwittingly, to create tyranny in our government and anarchy in our citizenry. If we push onto the government the management not only of our economy, but also the management of our morals, the civil servants of the future will be neither civil nor servants” (LDS Speaker's Sourcebook, p. 422). Many Latter-day Saints and their leaders look at the modern world and see the results of lack of self-mastery: wars; man-made environmental damage; lifestyle diseases; widespread breakup of families; school and workplace shootings; rapes; murders; elderly, spouse, and child abuse; and widespread disillusionment in government leaders. Many of them believe that the importance of, and need for, self-mastery has never been greater, not only for the individual but for the world.

How to Gain Self-Mastery

Latter-day Saints think that self-mastery begins with subjecting their wills to God. This submission softens their hearts and strengthens their resolve to do the things that are right and necessary. Joseph F. Smith said that “Our first enemy we will find within ourselves. It is a good thing to overcome that enemy first and bring ourselves into subjection to the will of the Father, and into strict obedience to the principles of life and salvation which he has given to the world for the salvation of men” (Conference Report, Oct. 1914, p. 128).

They also think that “the lesson of self-control should begin in childhood, in the home. Little children should have a sense of freedom to do as they wish up to a certain point. Beyond that point they cannot go, and that is when that freedom interferes with the rights, comfort or convenience of another member of the family” (David O. McKay, Conference Report, Sept. 1950, p. 165). Latter-day Saints believe that this discipline will prepare their offspring to become good children, good students, good Church members, good employees, good parents, and good citizens.

Latter-day Saints don't believe that genetics or environment releases them from being accountable for their behavior nor excuses them from the consequences of their choices. They believe that the spirit within them is powerful, and, that when joined with divine assistance, they'll be enabled with power to overcome their challenges, particularly those from within themselves. “The spirit within us is more powerful than the body, and we can use that spirit to commit ourselves to righteous actions. We can control the body and its bodily appetites. It is fallacious to say that we were created with propensities and appetites we cannot control. It is simply not true that people were born with such powerful appetites and passions that they are powerless to control them. God would not be a righteous God if man were created with drives he could not control (Theodore M. Burton, Ensign, May 1981, p. 30).

Part of the process of gaining self-mastery lies in controlling thoughts, Latter-day Saints believe. “What a man thinks about determines his actions in times of opportunities and stress” (David O. McKay, Conference Report, Oct. 1951, p. 8). And so, Church members guard their thoughts carefully. When faced with temptations and weaknesses, they sing hymns, recite scripture verses, or pray. After doing everything in their power to become more Christlike and pure, Latter-day Saints count on the grace of the atonement to make up the difference. As an ancient prophet wrote, "It is by grace we are saved, after all we can do" (Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 25:23).

It is doubtful that any Latter-day Saints would claim to be living as well as he would like to or needs to. “I do not believe that any man lives up to his ideals, Heber J. Grant said, “but if we are striving, if we are working, if we are trying, to the best of our ability, to improve day by day, then we are in the line of our duty. If we are seeking to remedy our own defects, if we are so living that we can ask God for light, for knowledge, for intelligence, and above all, for his Spirit, that we may overcome our weaknesses then, I can tell you, we are in the straight and narrow path that leads to life eternal. Then we need have no fear. “ (Conference Report, Apr. 1909, p. 111). Latter-day Saints believe in working hard to overcome everything they need to in order to become perfect. They don't believe in making excuses or being dishonest, even with themselves, in order to slide by. However, they realize that expecting themselves to be immediately perfect would discourage them and hinder their progress instead of help them. They view self-mastery and perfection as a process, one that requires the help of the Holy Ghost. Becoming sanctified is the work of a lifetime.