A “Moral Conscience” is a gift unique to God’s children. Peace of conscience, guilty conscience—these are terms that describe the workings of the moral conscience. None other of God’s creations is endowed with such a gift.
Scripturally, the moral conscience has several names, but is typically described as a manifestation of the Light of Christ or the Spirit of Christ.
For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night. For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil (Moroni 7:15).
The gift of a moral conscience allows us to intuitively discern good from evil.
- “Peace of conscience” occurs when we choose right.
- “Guilty conscience” occurs when we choose wrong.
Our moral conscience is like our soul’s barometer that points us toward sunny or stormy weather according to the choices we make. Similarly, our moral conscience is like a compass that will lead us to Christ, if we will choose with rather that against it.
Our Moral Conscience Is Our First Defense
The moral conscience provides us the instinct to discern right from wrong, even though we might not be fully acquainted with a principle and its associated rewards and consequences. As we develop our gift of moral conscience, it becomes a defense mechanism to safeguard us from choosing badly.
Our moral conscience warns us about destructive situations. By means of the moral conscience we possess an innate sense of awareness regarding the benefits and penalties of our actions. When we act in a good or bad way, our moral conscience signals us immediately—
- Our moral conscience causes us to feel peaceful when we choose to obey God and keep his commandments;
- Our moral conscience causes us to feel miserable when we disobey God and break his commandments.
The Moral Conscience’s Feeling of ‘Peace of Conscience’
Our Heavenly Father gave us the gift of a moral conscience to draw us toward him and to help us cling to the truth. God gave us this divine gift because he loves us.
It is by means of our moral conscience that God encourages us to choose the right. When we obey God, or when we repent and start afresh to obey God, we feel ‘peace of conscience.’ This peace cannot be conjured; it is unique to the moral conscience. The feeling of peace is our moral conscience’s way of signaling that we are on the right track. We feel the distance narrow between God and us, and we feel reconciled to him. Now peaceful, we would never again risk distancing ourselves from him through any evil action.
Our moral conscience is designed to be ultra-sensitive. It yearns to heal after a spiritual injury in the same way our body longs to become well after a physical trauma. Because bad choices cause our moral conscience to become sick with spiritual dis-ease, it will drive us to seek healing and reconciliation. Our moral conscience will press us to change or repent; it will push us to seek peace with God, with others, and with ourselves.
But a sick conscience cannot heal itself. That specialized healing can only be accomplished by the Master Physician, Jesus Christ. When our moral conscience is sick or injured, we can go to Jesus and he will heal us. Jesus will walk with us, even carry us, as we take the essential steps to reconcile our lives with God and finally feel peace of conscience.
The Guilty Conscience
A guilty conscience hurts every bit as much as a physical injury. When we experience pain, we are motivated to abandon the unhealthy or dangerous activity that crippled us. Pain stimulates us to change our behavior. Likewise, a guilty conscience prompts us to repent and pursue forgiveness so that we can feel peace of conscience. A guilty conscience can only be healed with the help of Jesus Christ as we do all we can do to repent and seek forgiveness.
Speaking of injury to and healing of the moral conscience, a modern-day apostle, Elder Bruce R. McConkie, wrote,
Every person’s conscience is pure and clean at birth (D&C 93:38). But after an individual arrives at the years of accountability his conscience begins to be blackened by his sins. Because of disobedience one’s conscience is ‘seared with a hot iron’ (1 Timothy 4:1-2). Wickedness invariably leads to remorse of conscience (Alma 29:5; Alma 42:18), and those so smitten tremble under a consciousness of their own guilt and filthiness before the Lord (Alma 12:1; Alma 14:6; Mormon 9:3-4; John 8:9). But men are commanded to…gain ‘peace of conscience’ through ‘a remission of sins’ (MD, 157).
Healing a Guilty Conscience
As we have said, only Jesus Christ can console and heal the injured conscience. He can and will heal our conscience if we sincerely repent. Repentance opens the door to the Lord’s forgiveness, which leads to peace of conscience. This complete cleansing of the conscience comes through the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Again, Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote:
To gain forgiveness through repentance a person must have a conviction of guilt, a godly sorrow for sin, and a contrite spirit. He must desire to be relieved of the burden of sin, have a fixed determination to forsake his evil ways, be willing to confess his sins, and forgive those who have trespassed against him; he must accept the cleansing power of the blood of Christ as such is offered through the waters of baptism and the conferral of the Holy Ghost (MD, 630).
Here, then, are the steps to healing a guilty conscience:
- Faith. Faith in Jesus Christ always leads to repentance; repentance is an outgrowth of faith in Jesus Christ. When we have done something that bruises our moral conscience, we humbly make out way to him and beg for him to heal us because we believe that he is the only one who has the ability to cleanse us from sin and reconcile us to God, whom we have offended by breaking his law.
- Repentance. As we sincerely repent, we begin to experience the promised “peace of conscience,” which is evidence of divine forgiveness.
- Baptism. Now changed, we seek to make a formal promise to God—a covenant. The first covenant is baptism. The covenant of baptism is a two-way promise: God promises to forgive us and help us to retain a remission of our sins as we promise to forever forsake our former sinful ways and strive to obey him and keep his commandments for the rest of our lives. Baptism is a symbolic act by which our old sinful self ‘dies’ and is ‘buried’ in the waters of baptism. Then we are raised up out the water, born again, a new person, clean, pure, completely forgiven and freed from the stain of past sins.
- Holy Ghost. The final step to healing a guilty conscience is to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost perfects the gift of moral conscience by becoming our constant companion and guide, who teaches us all that we must know and do to return to live with God.
Returning to live with God is the ultimate purpose of the moral conscience.
More about “Moral Conscience”
“Moral Conscience” was written by Larry Barkdull. The subject, “Moral Conscience,” is of vital importance to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you would like to know more about Mormons with no obligation, please click on the following links:
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