One of the most important things anyone ever said to me was,
“Teach the things that make you happy.”
It was on my mission–a little yellow scrap of paper, with almost nothing else on it, from an old bishop of mine. I didn’t really get my head around it until I got home, so it didn’t change my teaching, but it changed my life by causing me to think about the things that make me happy.
Mormons believe that the conscience is the light of Christ–meaning that every good impulse that comes to a person’s mind is one-on-one communication with God. We’re taught that if we “search diligently in the light of Christ”–meaning the light of conscience–and “lay hold on every good thing” (Moroni 7:16-19), we become the children of Christ.
That, I think, is the hardest thing to explain to someone who says that God has never spoken to them. God is such an intimate presence in their minds that most people don’t know what it’s like not to feel God.
Of course, that’s a difficult thing to prove, but not everything God does is calculated to impress skeptics, and anyway it works whether you believe in it or not. An atheist who takes his conscience seriously is more familiar with God, and farther on his way to becoming a child of Christ, than a baptized believer who does not.
It also means that the things that make me happy are, not coincidentally, the most important parts of the gospel. It means that when Abraham Lincoln said:
“When I do good, I feel good; and when I do bad, I feel bad. And that is my religion”,
he was expressing a fundamental truth about God. You can get on the path that leads to happiness and eternal life, from wherever you start, simply by following that feeling.
Once you learn to recognize that feeling of rightness and goodness, one of the most interesting experiences you can have is paying attention to where and when you feel it, and then trying to understand how God is involved. When I feel that way listening to music, I think about what God might want to tell me through it–an especially interesting experience when it comes from musicians who are decidedly, even angrily, nonreligious. I have heard the voice of God in a Tool song, and I’ve felt Him in a Tarantino film.
I love seeing truth from God come through people unnoticed. President Truman once said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit”–and I think that’s a truth that God understands better than anyone.