Five Principles for Educating Your Conscience (Covey)

How do you educate your conscience? I suggest five principles.
First, if you really want an educated conscience, feast regularly upon the words and the love of Jesus Christ. What does that mean? Seriously make a daily program to study the scriptures. Ponder the scriptures and meditate upon them. Be still. Perhaps you will read only one verse a day, but you’re going to read the word of the Lord. Memorize some of the scriptures. It’s like programming a computer. Get them into your heart. If you feast upon the words of Christ, then the Holy Ghost will bring to your remembrance the things you need to do, based upon the guidance that you have received on a moment-by moment basis. The Church will teach us principles, and the Holy Ghost will teach us specific practices and specific applications.

Second, when you pray, listen. Look on your prayers, not as a time to counsel the Lord, but as a time to take counsel from him. I really believe too many times we go down a checklist, in a sense, telling the Lord who, how, where, and when to bless and directing him around the universe and the heavens, instead of being still, sensing a relationship, listening, and then responding to what you hear. Feasting on the words and the love of Christ will instill the desire to listen.

Third, covenant. Commit to obey what you hear. Unify and marshal the will and the energy within you to say, “I take this stewardship. I will do these things.”

Fourth, keep the covenant. Keep the commitment.

Fifth, return and report. Give an accounting of your stewardship. You will feel the still voice say within you, “I commend you for your integrity. Very good, my son or my daughter. This labor is acceptable.” Then you progress to the next level and the next level.

If you have temptations toward impure thoughts, try these steps. Feast on the words and the love of Christ, then ask the Lord to give you a heightened awareness or sensitivity toward any tempting environments, and then commit to the Lord that the moment that sensitivity is given to you you will turn from it and do some worthy thing. Then keep your commitment.
One student said to me, “All my mature life I’ve had trouble with bad thoughts—even during my mission. Whenever I was asked the question ‘Are you morally clean?’ I answered yes because I was considering my practices. But I always had some plaguing feelings about my thoughts.” We were walking into a final examination one day when he said, “Brother Covey, I can look you in the eye today and say, ‘I am morally clean, right to my core.'” What did he do? For a period of several months he feasted on the words of Christ, asked the Lord for a heightened awareness of temptation, turned immediately at the very first onset of that temptation and did worthy things, went back to his divine purposes and his work. Elder Packer said, “Hum a hymn. Memorize a scripture.” And this young man did it. The Holy Ghost. I believe, purged much of that other disposition right out of his nature.

I express my testimony, dear brothers and sisters. With all my heart I believe that we are immersed in the revelations of the greatest dispensation, the restoration dispensation. I believe that we have available to us at any moment the whisperings of the still, small voice, the Holy Ghost, and that if we will take pains regularly to educate it and to train it, it will be a continuing source of personal revelation to us. My testimony is borne out of the Spirit of the living God to my soul. I know that this is true. I know that the Father and the Son appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith and established the Church that teaches the gospel. I also know that it is possible to be active in the Church, in one sense at least, and not to be active in the gospel. To be active in the gospel is a continuous responsibility and stewardship of seeking and living by the Holy Spirit. I bear witness that you are God’s covenant children. We are all children of the promise. Our life is a mission, not a career. The Holy Ghost is to be used to bless all of our Father in heaven’s children. I testify also of Jesus Christ. I love the words: “I believe in Christ as I believe in the rising sun—not because I can see it, but because by it I can see everything else.” He is truly the life and the light of the world. He speaks to his prophet…and to each of us if we will but listen and educate our consciences.

Stephen R. Covey, BYU Devotional, May 1975

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