General Conference Book Club Week 3: Elder Christofferson

I chose Elder D. Todd Christofferson’s talk, “Moral Discipline,” this week because it has been on my mind the last few days.  I don’t know if you saw this recent devotional by Elder Oaks, but I’ve been thinking a lot about how our society honors wickedness and belittles efforts for righteousness.  Morality is the new minority.


“Moral discipline is the consistent exercise of agency to choose the right because it is right, even when it is hard.”

“Societies will struggle in vain to establish the common good until sin is denounced as sin…”

“Moral discipline is learned at home.”

“At a minimum, moral discipline will be of immense help to us as we deal with whatever stresses and challenges may come in a disintegrating society.”

Elder Christofferson’s talk was delivered during the Sunday afternoon session of conference.  You can read it here, or watch it here or listen to it here.

I’ve considered this message in context of Elder Bednar’s talk and our call to be people of integrity who live what we know, and I realize that the missing piece for me (in most cases) is discipline.  I look forward to studying Elder Christofferson’s talk this week and reading more of your insights and applications.

If this is your first stop at our book club, click here for more information.  And welcome.

(In other news, today is the last day to vote for the lullaby contest winner.)


31 thoughts on “General Conference Book Club Week 3: Elder Christofferson

  1. I love, love, love this talk. I love his comment about how laws will never be able to replace customs, traditions and morals in controlling behavior. So true. This talk inspires me to keep striving to discipline myself so I can better teach my son by example and experience.

  2. Steph–I like your thought that the missing element in striving for integrity is often discipline. And, I would say, most times when my children find me being a hypocrite (yes, they are the ones who always catch me), it’s a matter of discipline. Good talk to follow up Elder Bednar’s with. I’m excited to read it and read all of your thoughts, too.

  3. I just gave a YW lesson on self discipline last week and I referred to this talk a lot. Between that lesson and this talk I have thought a lot about my own self discipline (or lack of it) and resolve to be better and really focus on it. I am glad you chose this talk this week!

    My favorite snippet of the talk was the young woman who said, “Mere wanting is hardly a proper guide for moral conduct!” which goes along with my favorite point from the YW manual, which was simply, “the spirit controls the body.” How easy it is to give in to the natural desires of our bodies, whether it be in how we act, eat, speak or dress, but ultimately our spirits ARE in control and it IS just a matter of discipline.

  4. This talk is one I had dozed through, and now I’m seeing how unfortunate that was!!

    I’m big into letting people realize and discover things for themselves. That is what I wanted for myself growing up. But I lacked opinion when it came to imposing Gospel standards on my children. If I don’t show them the line, what are they going to push against and eventually give in to, right? (I expect them to push against it because that’s just what teenagers do. At least I did.) And in the effort to avoid hypocrisy, I’ll make the line the one that I can live by example, though I’ll be wanting it super-conservative. 🙂 I hope that I’m able to instill the knowledge of truth and an awareness of the Holy Ghost in my children’s hearts. Because like Elder Christofferson said, Satan and his followers are not sugar-coating their message in a form that lets them choose for themselves without pressure.

    And about wanting to sleep with men before marriage – it’s a good thing I was taught that nobody can have everything they want when they want it. I don’t think a lot of kids are taught that now-days. Quite unfortunate. i do know that it’s hard to say no to the kid, but maybe if they better understood the answer they would be more considerate in their requests.

  5. This talk made me think about my own level of discipline. I agreed with E. Christofferson about how we need to teach these moral principles at home. Our internal motivators should be based on gospel principles instead of waiting for our society’s laws to draw the lines for us. I also appreciated his comments about how we need to teach our children the gospel rather than letting them just choose for themselves. They will certainly have ample opportunities to use their free agency, but I’d rather them do it with a rich background in the gospel.

  6. About the line where the young woman says, “mere wanting is hardly a proper guide for moral conduct”, I’d say that is actually a REVELATION to many people! I’ve had many friends that live by the “whatever makes you happy” idea. And mainstream media is saturated with the idea taking/doing whatever you want! I’m entitled! I feel like we’re engulfed in the “ME” mind-set and we are raising the “ME” generation. I hope as a parent, I can be proactive in persuading my children to show some moral courage, and reach out to others. I am a little afraid though, with the powerful influences of media and peer pressure working against my efforts. Those of you with older children, what do you do to help your children have moral courage and not go along with mainstream society’s ideas?

  7. After reading this talk it really want to be better about being consistent with my own discipline so that I can better teach my children. What a great reminder to be a better person.

  8. I think discipline is one of the main lessons we need to learn in mortality. It is one of the hardest to master…I mean just look at society, absolutely NO self discipline whatsoever. TEaching children to master their desires starts very early. Saying NO and following through and being consistent is absolutely necessary. One of my favorite sayings is “I can do hard things”. I tell my kids this all the time and try to provide opportunities for them to master hard things because that is what really teaches self-confidence and self-esteem. If society taught moral discipline our world would be so much better off!

    • Cheryl, when you said, “Teaching children to master their desires starts very early,” it made me think of all the moms I see in stores who give in just so their child doesn’t throw a huge tantrum in public. If you say no and mean it (“even when it’s hard,” like Elder Christofferson said), they’ll be way better off in the long run!

  9. I like to comment before reading the other comments, so sorry if anything is a repeat! Here are some of my notes – again, some are quotes and some are just me. 🙂

    – Moral discipline is the CONSISTENT exercise of agency to choose the right because it is right, even when it is hard. (Like telling the mom at a birthday party that our family doesn’t really do those temporary tattoos – even if it IS Barbie!)
    – When we choose Heavenly Father’s way to live, it shows our loyalty and devotion for Him and for Christ.
    – Moral discipline is learned at home. In our society, that might be the ONLY place it will be learned, so our responsibility to teach it is great.
    – Stand with those who demonstrate virtue in their own lives and inculcate virtue in the rising generation. Choose friends who are virtuous, that have the same values as me – even within the Church. (Inculcate = to implant by repeated statement or admonition; teach persistently and earnestly –
    – Our teaching should draw upon our own faith and focus first and foremost on instilling faith in God in the rising generation. (This one hit home as a homeschooler!)
    – There must be constant teaching, MOSTLY BY EXAMPLE. They’re always watching our actions!
    – The pure gospel of Jesus Christ must go down into the hearts of our children while they are still with us in our own homes. Then they’ll have gained a strength from what they ARE, not only from what they know. BEING a disciple of Christ makes life a lot easier than just knowing disciples of Christ.
    – Kids can’t gain their own testimonies until they know what they can believe in.
    – Mere wanting is hardly a proper guide for moral conduct. Interestingly, this was an answer to one of my questions going into Conference – How do I separate wants from needs, financially? Mere wanting is hardly a proper guide for [financial] conduct!

  10. I was really glad that I had a chance to read this talk in depth again. It addressed several things that have been on my mind lately.

    “The lack of internal control by individuals breeds external control by governments.” Don’t we see a lot of that today? Society begging for the government to make problems go away, (and the government gladly scooping up more and more powers)?

    “Our increased reliance on laws to regulate behavior is a measure of how uncivilized we’ve become.” and “Moral discipline is learned at home. While we cannot control what others may or may not do, the Latter-day Saints can certainly stand with those who demonstrate virtue in their own lives and inculcate virtue in the rising generation.” and “Our teaching should draw upon our own faith and focus first and foremost on instilling faith in God in the rising generation.” All of these statements have solidified for me our family’s recent decision to turn to homeschooling. I have really noticed a negative trend in the behavior of youth in general these days. Our society really is more uncivilized. Children have become rude, lazy and selfish, and I’m not entirely sure that the public school system doesn’t propagate some of these things. At the very least, we have decided that it falls to us to ensure that our children are taught, (and socialized) correctly and according to gospel principles. I know it’s not for everyone, (or possible for everyone) but I have felt prompted towards this lately. And most importantly, I feel the need to teach my children that it absolutely is okay to be a “peculiar people”.

    Again as all of you have stated, the challenge lies in discipline for ourselves. I agree 100% that the best motivation comes from core values and beliefs. I remember feeling outraged as a teenager at being expected to obey, “just because”, or when I felt my parents were giving me a “do as I say and not as I do” lesson. I have really noticed more motivation to better myself when I think of the way it affects my children. I know that if I want certain decisions to be easier for them than they have been or are for me, that I have to diligently choose the right myself, and lead by example. You would think that bettering myself should be enough motivation, but hey, whatever helps, right?

  11. This was really a great talk, although it didn’t rank in my top few when we initially watched conference. Perhaps I paid better attention as I was reading through it.

    I loved how he talked about the armies of Helaman. Along with the description of Captain Moroni, it is what I have always hoped for my kids to be like. They set the standard quite high! As he says, “Here we find a standard for what should happen in our homes and in the Church.”

    Interestingly, we had a bit of a lesson in discipline this week, in an unexpected way. In church on Sunday, the first speaker got up and explained how her assignment came about. She was asked about a month previous if she would be willing to speak. She was happy to have such a great amount of notice. However, there was a catch. The bishop asked her to pick something in her own life that she felt like she really ought to raise the bar on. Then, for the next month, work on that thing. At the end of the month, she was to speak to us on her experience.

    She gave a great talk about prayer. I got to thinking about what a wonderful challenge she was given by the bishop. What would I have chosen and how diligently would I have done it, knowing that I would have to report back? Then, the obvious dawned on me–one doesn’t have to be given this invitation by the bishop in order to do it! With discipline, as Elder Christofferson talked about, we can choose to raise the bar on something ourselves.

    I think that is perhaps one reason why this book club works well. We are given the opportunity to report back. Often, having that little bit of pressure from accountablility is the prod we need to make changes.

    • Wow, that’s a great way to assign talks!! People always say, “I must have been assigned this talk because it’s something I really needed to work on!” But in that case, it was really true! 🙂

  12. As I read this over, the first thought that came to me was Joseph Smith’s comment–I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves. I love when Elder Christofferson said, “our moral discipline is rooted in loyalty and devotion to the Father and the Son.”

    His quote by Pres. Eyring about the Gospel going down into the hearts of our children by the power of the Holy Ghost really touched me. I remember Elder Eyring speaking at Pres. Hinckley’s funeral and telling the story of when Pres. Hinckley expressed to him his concern as to how that is done–how to take the knowledge from our brain to our heart. If it is in our hearts we will truly do–we won’t just talk the talk, we’ll walk the walk.

    Thanks again for given us this opportunity and thanks to everyone for your wonderful comments. So much to ponder.

  13. I listen to Dr. Laura occasionally (sometimes she drives me crazy!) But one of the best things I have heard her say is that choices should not be made based on feelings, but on principles. Think about how much less greed, infidelity etc there would be in our world if people actually lived by that!

  14. “The societies in which many of us live have for more than a generation failed to foster moral discipline. They have taught that truth is relative and that everyone decides for himself or herself what is right.”
    Elder Christofferson is referring to moral relativism. In an effort to become more “accepting” and “diverse,” our society has forgotten the moral principles we were founded on. I am referring to Adam and Eve. Evil has been present in every generation. The difference is the acceptance-and even advertising-we see on a world-wide scale.
    The blame could be scattered in many directions, but the primary source is the family. Parents want to breed tolerance in their children. However, they forget that tolerance does not mean love.
    Oh my, I have gone off in a different direction than I intended.
    Let me return to the original point. Since society is beginning to call “evil good and good evil” it is our duty, as parents, sisters, aunts, to nourish proper moral growth. Returning to the basic 10 commandments is always a start.

  15. This is going to be a talk I’m going to need to reread a few times! It is reminding me of a conversation I had with one of my dear friends, who is not LDS. She and I were talking about teaching our children values and principles, and in her mind, it would be dead wrong of her to teach her children that anything religious is either right or wrong. Instead, she teaches them her political values, and feels like if she does that, they’ll be in a position to make up their minds about religion. One day. We had that conversation over a year ago, and to this day it still deeply saddens me.

    “What they forget is that the intelligent use of agency requires knowledge of the truth, of things as they really are (see D&C 93:24). Without that, young people can hardly be expected to understand and evaluate the alternatives that come before them. “

  16. Given that this was one of the last talks given and my two little ones were so far out of control by then I didn’t even remember him talking about moral discipline. I was really excited to go back and read through it. WOW there is so much in there!! I guess what I really took from this talk was that “moral discipline is learned at home” it looks like I have my work cut out for me teaching my two boys!
    I am really glad that you chose this talk this week. I am teaching a lesson in YW Sunday on Living Righteously Amid the Pressures, after reading through the lesson, this talk will enhance the lesson, and give the girls some counsel from our current leaders.
    Thanks again

  17. I loved the description of the sons of the people of Ammon. It made me feel very thankful that I am married to someone like them. And it made me think that if more people were like them, the world would be a much better place.

    I also liked how Elder Christofferson discussed therapy to help people avoid or cope with addictions, but for selfish reasons. My husband is a psychologist who specializes in (what typically are) men’s issues, including pornography and other addictions. His work is very much needed in this world, and also, like Elder Christofferson said, there must be an exercise of discipline.

  18. I appreciate Elder Bednar and Elder Christofferson for sharing experiences that have shown that they have become great not because they have lived a “perfect life”. Instead, they have have been able to use the Atonement in their lives to become greater.

    Sometimes I do worry about the big scary world that we are sending our kids into. Will they be able to make good choices, will they have the strength like President Faust, to stand strong and be different in order to uphold the gospel standards?

    I think Elder Christofferson’s talk has given me hope. We have the ability at home to help instil in our children a “moral compass”. And as we do as Elder Bednar taught in his talk, to express love and show it, to bear testimony and live it and be consistent, we are doing as Elder Christofferson advises, “Our teaching should draw upon our own faith and focus first and foremost on instilling faith in God in the rising generation……This requires more than an occasional reference to one or another gospel principle. There must be constant teaching, mostly by example.”

    All the best everyone!

  19. What really suck out to me in this talk is when he spoke about the people of Ammon. “Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them” (Alma 56:47).
    This is what the Savior did. What motivated him to say “Here am I, send me” He cares more about our liberty than his life. His moral dicipline is what allowed him to be the Savior of the World. Moral dicipline is rooted in charity hampered by pride and selfishness.
    It also denotes that there is a power that comes with having moral dicipline. Not fearing. You are able to be firmly rooted with power, and no fear.
    Also, that you will be delivered.
    There is just a very powerful promise and message in that scripture, and seems to be impprotnat to how to become like the Savior.

  20. I should correct that moral disipline is not charity hampered by pride and selfishness. but moral disipline is rooted in Charity. and is Hampered by pride and selfishness.

  21. You’ve all had great comments, and I’ve kind of been in a flu fog this week, but the main thing that I’ve gleaned from this talk is what I alluded to in the post: the importance of discipline. I KNOW what is right, but I get lazy or selfish or unmotivated for one reason or another. All week, I’ve been trying to remember Elder Christofferson’s reminder that discipline is the root of discipleship. I’ve said it out loud and over and over in my mind when I’m distracted by something and get that prompting that says I need to get back on track. As soon as I start to brush it off, I remind myself about my desire to be a disciple, and that means discipline. Like Shantel said, herein lies our power: using our choices to work good and influence our own lives and others with righteousness.

  22. I’ve really loved studying this. I love that idea that discipline is the root of discipleship. I loved what he said about how moral discipline is learned at home. I’ve read TWICE this year a remarkable parenting book about teaching children “inner discipline” (which sounds a whole lot like teaching them correct principles and allowing them to govern themselves.) And I love what the walk says: There must be constant teaching, mostly by example. I also loved this particular sentence: “Each must be persuaded that service and sacrifice…are far superior to making … comfort and possessions the highest priority.” LOVE it!

  23. I somehow thought I commented earlier in the week, but didn’t. I guess it is because so many of your thoughts echo mine. I enjoyed studying and thinking about this talk, and reading all of your thoughts.

    I think my favorite paragraph was this one: “By “moral discipline,” I mean self-discipline based on moral standards. Moral discipline is the consistent exercise of agency to choose the right because it is right, even when it is hard. It rejects the self-absorbed life in favor of developing character worthy of respect and true greatness through Christlike service (see Mark 10:42–45). The root of the word discipline is shared by the word disciple, suggesting to the mind the fact that conformity to the example and teachings of Jesus Christ is the ideal discipline that, coupled with His grace, forms a virtuous and morally excellent person.”

    I like the reference to the root of the words discipline and disciple and the thought that exercising discipline will include Christlike service. In addition, I think the inclusion of the importance of grace reminds me that we won’t be perfect in our efforts, but we need to keep trying. I also liked the sentence about “constant teaching, mostly be example.” It’s so true that no matter what we say, what we do is what our children see and will be learning from. And, we must make an effort to constantly reinforce gospel principles that are taught by following up with providing experiences for our children to become disciples of Christ through service and in teaching them to recognize when the Holy Ghost is teaching them individually.

  24. I read this and President Monson’s talk on anger at the same time. My favorite line in this talk is “choose the right, because it is right, even when it is hard.” That goes right along with anger too. Choose to not be angry even when inside you just want to scream and slam doors.

    I feel that I also needed the reminder to be constantly teaching (by example) to my children. It’s so overwhelming but preparing our children for temptations they will one day face is so important.

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