Jill was given an assignment in her English class to write about her favorite place. She pondered the assignment, and then she began to write: “If I could choose any place to spend an hour or two, it would be in my home. Some of my friends think it is a punishment to stay at home, but I love to go home. I feel safe and happy there, surrounded by familiar personal things and happy memories.”
We, too, can make our homes a place where our children love to be. Adults have some control over their environment, but children depend on adults to provide a home for them. In addition to love, security, understanding, and encouragement, reverence plays an important part in a safe and happy home.
Reverence is respect, honor, and love for our Heavenly Father, for his Son, Jesus Christ, and for all of his creations. It is more than just holding our bodies still and being quiet during meetings; it is an attitude. It can become a way of life for each of us as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Reverent habits often precede reverent feelings. Following are a few ways we can teach and nurture reverent feelings in our home and make reverence a way of life.
1. We can pray. Prayer is a source of great peace for all of us. Habits of reverence can begin early in our home when we help children learn to pray. The way we pray with our children can be a teaching and building experience. While I was on a training assignment, I stayed for two days in the home of a large and faithful family. I was invited to join them as their family prayers were offered each morning and evening.
Each family member who offered a prayer made this request: “Please bless us with a desire to serve a mission and to live worthy to be married in the temple.” This certainly was a plea first made by the loving parents in behalf of their children. As a result, the children now prayed for these same important blessings.
Another family found that having family prayer at the same time every day allowed their oldest daughter, who was serving a mission, to calculate the exact time when her family would be kneeling in prayer. Then she knew that she was being blessed by the prayers of her family at that very moment.
An eight-year-old boy recently told me of his baptism and confirmation. “My dad said I was his best friend,” the boy said with a smile on his face. “He said it in the prayer!” What great security it was to this boy to know his father had those feelings and expressed them in a prayer.
Prayer can make our home a reverent place.
2. We can have gospel discussions. At home with our families we can teach about sacred things. We can talk about Jesus Christ and about Heavenly Father’s plan for us. We can talk about what we can do in our own home to follow his plan, and we can discuss our goals for the future.
From our experience, we find a gospel discussion can easily be initiated at the end of the mealtime. It cannot be too long, and it must be planned and have a purpose. Since we have two teenagers, we have been reading and discussing For the Strength of Youth and applying the standards to experiences the children have just had or are about to have. Establishing a common ground from which we can evaluate movies, concerts, books, and activities inside and outside our home has been a real blessing.
Parents are the first and most important source of information to their children. Children should be able to feel confident that they can ask questions about anything, and that all questions will be honored with a truthful answer even if the answer is “no” or “I don’t know.”
As children grow and participate in Primary, in Young Women or Young Men, and in Sunday School, parents will want to discuss at home the concepts children learn from their teachers. Teachers help build bridges from teaching at home to those at church. The value of such bridge building was illustrated when three-year-old Michael recently told his grandmother, “Moses was a baby. His mother wanted to save him from the wicked king, so she put him in a basket in the water. The basket didn’t sink. The queen found him, and he was safe.” When Michael’s grandmother asked him how he knew about baby Moses, he said, “I learned about him from my Primary teacher.”
There are opportunities on a daily basis for parents to teach gospel principles. Not long ago I received a letter from a devoted third-grade teacher. “I teach the children a little about taking notes. One of my students said that he already knew how to take notes. When I asked him how he learned to take notes, he said, ‘Sometimes my father has to work on Sunday. When he does, I always take notes at sacrament meeting about what the speakers say. Then when Dad comes home, I can tell him all about it.’” A trusting father can also learn from his children.
Young children are especially receptive and can feel reverent when we talk to them about how Heavenly Father and Jesus love each of them. Being kind, helpful, happy, and grateful are principles of the gospel. When we observe our children being kind or helpful, we can compliment them on their behavior and help them understand that when they live the gospel, they are living in a reverent way. Our prophet has promised us that simple and regular family home evenings will help make our home a place of learning and love and reverence.
3. We can bear our testimony of gospel truths. Family members should bear testimony to one another about true gospel principles. All members can contribute. Even the youngest members can add important elements to a family conversation about their feelings. When parents and children participate in an open discussion about the gospel, it provides a setting where testimonies can be shared. As a part of this sharing, we can help children recognize when they are feeling the Spirit.
I recently heard a grandfather tell of an experience he had when he gave a blessing to his very sick four-year-old granddaughter. After he had finished his blessing, the smiling child looked up at him and said, “Grandpa, that felt so good. Do it again, please.” What a beautiful opportunity for the grandfather to help this child identify reverent feelings of the Spirit.
Certainly some of the sweetest and most memorable testimonies about the feelings of the Spirit are shared within the home. There was a time when our family had fasted for a young cousin. My daughter said that fasting was not difficult for her when she was doing it for someone she loved. But after the family prayer ending the fast, my daughter seemed a little disturbed. When I questioned her, she asked, “Why do I want to cry when I feel so good?” This gave me an opportunity to explain that she was feeling the Spirit witness to her that Heavenly Father had accepted our fast and prayer. This reverent feeling was a blessing of the Holy Spirit.
When we show gentle but consistent daily concern, our home can set the tone for a reverent life-style, and our children will learn to be reverent in any situation. Opportunities will be presented regularly for us as parents to recognize the blessings of our Heavenly Father in our homes. Sensitizing ourselves and our children regarding the sacred, reverent feelings we have can help us make reverence a way of life.
“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
“And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deut. 6:6–7.)