What is Conscience?

Conscience, n. The faculty of recognizing the distinction between right and wrong in regard to one's conduct coupled with a sense that one should act accordingly.
What is conscience? What does it do? Do we have a role to play in its growth and development or is it like a "value chip" given to us by God without any effort on our part? The Roman historian, Polybius, wrote: "There is no witness so dreadful, no accuser so terrible as the conscience that dwells in the heart of every man." Is this what conscience is? A kind of moral "record book" which stands ready to accuse the heart of every person? People talk about having a "clear," "guilty," "good," or "bad" conscience and yet, when it comes down to it, very little is known about it even though the term is used in everyday language.
The Word only uses the term once (see John 8:9) and yet functionally you see examples of it everywhere. The teachings of our church reframe the traditional concept of conscience. Its purpose is not to keep a running a tab on our behavior. There are, it's true, certain spirits which incite "scruples of conscience" (Arcana Coelestia 5724, Spiritual Experiences 1240), but these scruples are associated with petty things. We also talk about pangs of conscience, but these are technically part of temptation (see Arcana Coelestia 1077).
The teachings of our church define conscience as "a spiritual willingness to do what religion and faith dictate" (True Christian Religion 666). It's "like a new will" (Arcana Coelestia 918), and we are now "ruled through conscience by the Lord" (Arcana Coelestia 918). This is what is meant by the Lord's words, "I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts" (Jeremiah 31:33). To have God's law written on the heart is to have conscience (see Arcana Coelestia 3654:8). This internal connection with God is called the "bond of conscience" (Arcana Coelestia 81:3). We have a role to play in the formation of conscience in that it won't automatically differentiate between right and wrong (see Arcana Coelestia 1043) because conscience can be either true, spurious, or false (see Arcana Coelestia 1033) and is entirely dependent upon the type (and source) of information we put in it (see Arcana Coelestia 9112ff). As a result, true conscience is formed by means of the knowledge we gain from the Word (see Arcana Coelestia 371).
What a wonderful thought. Our conscience is being formed right now. The thoughts, attitudes, and influences we choose to entertain each day are shaping it, making it stronger. What can we do for ourselves, our children and loved ones so that collectively, as a community, there may be an ever increasing "spiritual willingness to do what religion and faith dictate?"