In times of increasing uncertainty and heartache, much suffering could be avoided by understanding and applying truth, said Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve.
"For many, relief and happiness can come by understanding the relationship between peace of conscience and peace of mind and by living the principles upon which both of these blessings are founded."
In the opening session of conference, Elder Scott said God wants each of His children to enjoy peace of conscience. A tranquil conscience invites freedom from anguish, sorrow, guilt, shame and self condemnation. Yet few on earth enjoy such freedom, "because the principles upon which peace of conscience is founded are either not understood or not adequately followed."
Peace of conscience comes only from God through a righteous, obedient life. Conversely, peace of mind can be affected by external forces such as concern for a wayward child, economic pressures and deteriorating world conditions. While peace of mind can be restored by resolving such external forces, a disturbed conscience is not remedied so simply.
A troubled conscience, Elder Scott said, "is unrelenting, ever present, a constant reminder of the need to correct your past mistakes, to resolve an offense to another, or to repent of transgression."
The ability to have an unsettled conscience is a gift from God, resulting primarily from the influence of the Light of Christ on one's mind and heart, he added. The Light of Christ gives life to all things and prompts rational individuals to distinguish truth from error, right from wrong. It can be weakened through sin and addiction and restored through repentance.
"The Light of Christ is not a person," Elder Scott said. "It is a power and influence that comes from God and, when followed, can lead a person to qualify for the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Ghost."
A person with peace of conscience can have temporary periods when peace of mind is interrupted by external concerns.
"As your personal life conforms to the teachings of the Lord, you can seek His help in resolving the troubling issues," Elder Scott said. "Thus your faith in the Lord and His teachings will yield peace of mind."
Elder Scott then spoke to those finding it difficult to repent, or those who wonder if they have repented enough to be fully forgiven. First, he counseled, remember that Heavenly Father has provided a means, through the Atonement, for those burdened with sin to find forgiveness.
Full repentance requires action on the part of the sinner. Elder Scott said a bishop or President Spencer W. Kimball's work The Miracle of Forgiveness can be called upon to learn the proper steps of repentance. "In addition to fulfilling those requirements, the return of your peace of conscience will be hastened by careful attention to another step that is sometimes not recognized. The Savior has made it clear that to receive forgiveness you must forgive others their offenses against you."
When victimized by another, eschew feelings of hatred and anger, Elder Scott added. "Forgive the offender even when you are innocent."
Elder Scott emphasized that full repentance comes only with a conviction that forgiveness comes through Christ.
"It is essential to know that only on His terms can you be forgiven," he said. "You will be helped as you exercise faith in Christ. That means you trust Him and His teachings. You will be helped as you exercise faith in Christ."
Elder Scott pleaded with those burdened by a troubled conscience to come back. "Come back to the cool refreshing waters of personal purity. Come back to the warmth and security of Father in Heaven's love. Come back to the serenity and peace of conscience that come from living the commandments of God."
Be prepared to forgive yourself, Elder Scott said. "To continually suffer the distressing effects of sin after adequate repentance, while not intended, is to deny the efficacy of the Savior's atonement in your behalf."