This is a talk I gave in Sacrament meeting today, July 23, 2006.

Last August, Jeff and I had the opportunity to attend church with his family. There were so many of us, that we were unable to all sit together in one pew. At one point during one of the talks, I looked over at Jeff’s brother’s family. His four kids were being very quiet; however, I was especially impressed with the 5-year old, Ian. He was not only quiet as a church mouse, but he was paying attention. He was on the edge of the seat, eyes focused on the speaker. As I watched him, I was gently reminded that reverence is more than just being quiet.

To quote Elder L Tom Perry, “It is not enough to behave reverently; we must feel in our hearts reverence for our Heavenly Father and our Lord, Jesus Christ. Reverence flows from our admiration and respect for Deity.” [1]

Later on in this same conference address, he shares an experience,

Several years ago, I had the opportunity of traveling with the President of the Church to attend a series of area conferences. I will never forget the contrast between two conferences that were held just a few days apart. The first area conference was held in a large arena, and as we sat on the stand, we noticed continuous movement by the people. We saw individuals throughout the arena leaning over and whispering to family members and friends seated next to them. Giving the members the benefit of the doubt, we attributed the general lack of reverence to the nature of the facility.
A few days later, we were in another country attending another area conference in an arena much like the first. When we entered the arena, however, an immediate hush came over the congregation. As we sat through the two-hour general session, there was very little movement among the people. Everyone listened intently. Great attention and respect was shown all the speakers, and when the prophet spoke, you could hear a pin drop.
After the meeting was over, I asked the priesthood leaders about what they had done to prepare the people for the conference. They told me their preparation had been simple. They had asked priesthood holders to explain to the members of their families, and also the families they home taught, that at an area conference they would have the privilege of hearing the words of the prophet and the Apostles. The priesthood leaders explained that the reverence their people felt for God and His servants was the basis for their reverent behavior at the conference.[2]

In the book, True to the Faith, reverence is defined as "profound respect and love. When you have a reverent attitude toward God, you honor Him, express your gratitude to Him, and obey His commandments. You should be reverent in your behavior as well as your attitude. Reverent behavior includes prayer, scripture study, fasting, and payment of tithes and offerings. It includes wearing modest clothing and using clean, wholesome language. The depth of your reverence is evident in your choice of music and other entertainment, in the way you speak of sacred subjects, and in the way you dress and act when you attend church and the temple. You show your reverence for the Lord when you serve other people and treat them with kindness and respect." [3]

There is a lot of good stuff in those two short paragraphs. Reverence goes beyond being quiet on Sundays at church. It is something very personal. I would suggest that it is something that we need to prepare for each day.

Let me repeat one line, “Reverent behavior includes prayer, scripture study, fasting and payment of tithes and offerings.”[4] I would like to touch on each of these briefly.

Reverent behavior includes prayer.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ taught us how to pray. In Matthew 6:9, He says, “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed by thy name.” Do we remember this part of the instruction on prayer in our own personal prayers or do we quickly move on to our requests? Howard W Hunter, in a General Conference talk, in October 1977, said, “Jesus was careful to place the petition “Hallowed be thy name” at the very forefront of his prayer. Unless that reverent, prayerful, honorable attitude toward God is uppermost in our hearts, we are not fully prepared to pray. If our first thought is of ourselves and not of God, we are not praying as Jesus taught.”[5]

In Doctrine & Covenants 63:61-62, it reads, “Wherefore, let all men beware how they take my name in their lips— For behold, verily I say, that many there be who are under this condemnation, who use the name of the Lord, and use it in vain, having not authority.”

In our prayers, we can also show reverence by using appropriate language. We are cautioned not to overuse His name; we should address our Heavenly Father humbly and respectfully using the words Thou, Thee, Thy and Thine.

Reverent behavior includes scripture study.

In the scriptures, we learn of God and His plan for us. We learn of the creation. We learn of heaven. We learn of our Savior. Next to the Holy Ghost, the scriptures are the greatest gift that we have received from our Father in Heaven. What do we do with this wonderful gift? Do we idly read our scriptures, or do we take the time to seriously ponder and study them out in our hearts and minds? Do we pray for greater understanding? If we truly have a reverent attitude toward God, we will express our love and respect for Him by not only studying our scriptures, but by also taking good care of them and carrying them with us to our meetings.

Reverent behavior includes fasting.

Fasting allows us to truly put our trust in the Lord. Going without food and water can be quite challenging. Fasting gives us the opportunity to truly “feast upon the word.” In fasting, we will be spiritually fed. One Sunday each month is set aside as fast Sunday. In True to the Faith, it says, “Proper observance of fast Sunday includes going without food and drink for two consecutive meals, attending fast and testimony meeting, and giving a fast offering to help care for those in need,”[6] which brings us to the last behavior that I’d like to talk about.

Reverent behavior includes payment of tithes and offerings.

If having a reverent attitude means showing gratitude to the Lord, then we must realize the importance of paying our tithing and fast offerings. Every increase that we receive, we owe to Him. It is for this purpose that we offer up tithes and offerings unto Him.

Let me read once more the first paragraph on reverence in True to the Faith.

Reverence is profound respect and love. When you have a reverent attitude toward God, you honor Him, express your gratitude to Him, and obey His commandments.[7]

We show reverence by being obedient—not just in the things that I have mentioned today, but in striving to keep all of the commandments.

So far, I have been discussing reverence to God, but there is also a degree of reverence that we ought to show at home and at church.

Reverence begins at home. As I mentioned earlier, reverence is very personal; it is something that we develop and strengthen at home.

Referring once again to Elder L Tom Perry’s conference address, he says,

The home is the key to reverent attitudes, as it is to every other godlike virtue. It is during personal and family prayer that the little ones learn how to bow their heads, fold their arms, and close their eyes while our Father in Heaven is being addressed. It is a mother taking time to be certain that during each day there is a quiet period where the hustle and bustle of daily activities are divorced from the house, where just parents and children have time together in quiet solitude for reflection and teaching, to set the example of having reverence in the home. It is during family home evenings, which are a part of our home life, where children are taught that there are special times, not only in church but also at home, when we learn of our Heavenly Father and when everyone needs to be on his best behavior. Behavior learned at home determines behavior in church meetings. A child who has learned to pray at home understands that he must be quiet and still during prayers in worship services.[8]

In the Proclamation to the Family, we are counseled that “parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live.”[9] Teaching our children all of these things, will ultimately, teach them reverence.

Because our homes are the place of sacred learning, it is a good idea to also show respect and reverence. We can do this by inviting the spirit into our homes with appropriate music and entertainment. We can do this by displaying pictures of the temples and the prophets. We can do this by keeping our homes clean and orderly.

In D&C 88:119, it says, “Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God;"

This house refers both to our homes and to our meetinghouses.

Each Sunday, we attend church to renew our covenants and to worship the Lord; however, for our worship to be genuine and meaningful, we must do it with a reverent attitude.

Leviticus 26:2 says, “Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD."

When I was in the singles ward in Minneapolis, when the 2nd counselor was conducting, he would often say, “And now we move on to the 10 most important minutes of our week, the sacrament.” Do we have that same attitude? Is the sacrament the most important part of our week, something for us to look forward to?

I’d like to read an experience that Elder Keith L Smith had in his youth:

I remember with a smile an incident from my youth when my father demonstrated his belief [that priesthood holders who participate in this sacred ordinance should be especially mindful of the need to be reverent]. I was a priest at the sacrament table, and my brother Marvin, a deacon, was sitting on the front row directly in front of me. As the bishop began the meeting by sharing the announcements, Marvin and another deacon continued to carry on an intense conversation. Suddenly, my father rose from his bench in the middle of the chapel, made his way to the aisle, and strode toward the front of the chapel. Poor Bishop Powell stopped speaking as my father walked to the front row and firmly took hold of my brother’s arm, stood him up, and escorted him back to the bench where our family was sitting. The bishop then continued with the announcements. I remember a very quiet congregation after that—particularly the row of deacons in front of me. From that time forth, my brother sat quietly in sacrament meeting and was especially reverent when performing his sacramental responsibilities.[10]

Of course, being reverent at church should continue throughout all our meetings and extend beyond the chapel. Howard W Hunter said, “Occasionally we visit too loudly, enter and leave meetings too disrespectfully in what should be an hour of prayer and purifying worship. Reverence is the atmosphere of heaven. Prayer is the utterance of the soul to God the Father. We do well to become more like our Father by looking up to him, by remembering him always, and by caring greatly about his world and his work.”[11]

President David O McKay said, “When you enter a church building, you are coming into the presence of our Father in heaven; and that thought should be sufficient incentive for you to prepare your hearts, your minds, and even your attire, that you might appropriately and properly sit in his presence.”[12]

In closing, I’d like to share one last story from Elder L Tom Perry.

One Sunday, my granddaughter Diana, who is four years old, was sitting next to her father at church. Diana sat reverently, enjoying the comfort of her father’s arm holding her close to him. However, when the bishop stood up and announced the sacrament hymn, Diana gently lifted her father’s arm from off her shoulder and placed it in his lap. Then she sat up straight and folded her arms. She looked over at her father and encouraged him to do the same. Diana’s message to her father was perfectly clear. She was telling him to turn his complete and total attention to the Savior. This is the message a reverent attitude always conveys, and when reverent attitudes abound, reverent behavior will always flourish. I pray that, like Diana, we may all strive to develop reverent attitudes so that we may serve God reverently and with godly fear.[13]

Reverence begins with us. It is a personal attitude that we develop at home and cultivate at church. It is not only a personal feeling, it is a personal responsibility. We have a responsibility to pray, study our scriptures, fast and pay our tithing…these behaviors will help us develop more strongly our reverent attitudes. We must be good examples to our children and all those around us by always exuding a reverent attitude.

In the words of David O McKay, “If there were more reverence in human hearts, there would be less room for sin and sorrow and more increased capacity for joy and gladness. To make more cherished, more adaptable, more attractive, this gem among brilliant virtues is a project worthy of the most united and prayerful efforts of every officer, every parent, and every member of the church.”[14]

Remember, reverence is profound respect and love. It is my prayer that we will do all that we can to create in ourselves a reverent attitude and that our attitude will show forth in our actions.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

[1] L. Tom Perry, “Serve God Acceptably with Reverence and Godly Fear,” Ensign, Nov. 1990, 70
[2] L. Tom Perry, “Serve God Acceptably with Reverence and Godly Fear,” Ensign, Nov. 1990, 70
[3] 36863, True to the Faith, Reverence, 145
[4] 36863, True to the Faith, Reverence, 145
[5] Howard W. Hunter, “Hallowed Be Thy Name,” Ensign, Nov. 1977, 52
[6] 36863, True to the Faith, Fasting and Fast Offerings, 66
[7] 36863, True to the Faith, Reverence, 145
[8] L. Tom Perry, “Serve God Acceptably with Reverence and Godly Fear,” Ensign, Nov. 1990, 70
[9] “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102
[10] Keith L. Smith, “Reverence,” Ensign, July 2003, 60
[11] Howard W. Hunter, “Hallowed Be Thy Name,” Ensign, Nov. 1977, 52
[12] 36492, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 4: Elements of Worship, Introduction, 29
[13] L. Tom Perry, “Serve God Acceptably with Reverence and Godly Fear,” Ensign, Nov. 1990, 70
[14] 36492, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 4: Elements of Worship, Introduction, 29

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