How do we treat sacred things? What is our attitude as we enter the Church building? The temple? What feelings do we bring with us to these holy houses? What do we do while we are there?
President David O. McKay said reverence embraces "regard, deference, honor and esteem. Without some degree of it, there would be no courtesy, no gentility, no consideration of others' feelings or others' rights. It is a fundamental virtue in religion. Reverence is one of the signs of strength; irreverence one of the surest indications of weakness. No man will rise high who jeers at sacred things." (Secrets of a Happy Life, p. 94)In a 1976 discourse on reverence, President Spencer W. Kimball reminded us that "as with other principles of the gospel, reverence leads to increased joy. We must remember that reverence is not a somber, temporary behavior that we adopt on Sunday. True reverence involves happiness, as well as love, respect, gratitude and godly fear. It is a virture that should be a part of our way of life. In fact, Latter-day Saints should be the most reverent people in all the earth." (We Should Be a Reverent People, p. 2)
If reverence is to be part of our way of life, it has to mean more to us that just sitting quietly in Church one day a week, although that is important. But the attitude of reverence should permeate our beings in all we do throughout the entire week.
First and foremost, we should have reverence for our Heavenly Father. The Old Testament refers to "fear of God"; the New Testamenmt speaks of "godly fear." In such references the word fear "is equivalent to reverence, awe, worship, and is therefore an essential part of the attitude of mind in which we ought to stand toward the All-holy God." (Bible Dictionary, 1979 LDS edition of King James Bible, p. 672.) W
We should also have an active reverence for the things of God. It is not enough to just passively keep the Sabbath day holy by thinking good thoughts in a pleasant surrounding. The active form of reverence is to attend Church, to sing the hymns, to worship our Father in Heaven in word and deed, and to do the things He would have us do. It means not disrupting the worship time of others.
President McKay counseled that "reverence for God is the chief characteristic of a great soul."
He also said that reverence, like charity, should begin at home. "In early childhood, children should learn to be respectful, deferential, reverent - respectful to one another, to strangers and visitors, deferential to the aged and infirm - reverent to things sacred, to parents and parental love. Training in the home reflects itself in the public behavior of young men and women." (Secrets, p. 95)
President Kimball advised parents to teach their children reverence for God, for the name of Diety, for the House of the Lord, for the Church and for the home. He had these suggestions to improve reverence at Church meetings:
- Make preparations for meetings pleasant and unhurried.
- Arrive five to 10 minutes before the meeting is to begin.
- Sit together as a family.
- Discuss a talk, message, musical number or other aspect of the meeting afterward.
- Reinforce etiquette learned at home, in Primary and in Sunday School. (Reverent People, pp. 4-5)
Churches are dedicated as houses of worship. "That means," President McKay said, "that all who enter do so, or at least pretend to do so, with an intent to get nearer to the presence of the Lord than they can in the street or amidst the worries of a work-a-day life. In other words, we go the Lord's house to meet Him and to commune with Him in spirit. To know He is there should be sufficient to impel us to conduct ourselves as ladies and gentlemen." (Secrets, p. 96)
Reverence, then, is active, not passive; it draws us closer to our Heavenly Father; it develops in us an attitude of respect for the things of God; it helps us in our relationships with our family and friends; it gives us a sense of gratitude for our blessings. Little wonder that reverence is one of the noblest of all virtues that we can attain as we seek to become like our Heavenly Father.