More Than Just a Word


Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord (Lev. 19:30).

The organ music was playing softly as Johnny followed his dad, mom, and little sister into the chapel. He stuck his hands into his pockets, resisting the urge to give Kevin a friendly poke as he walked past. Johnny had learned from an earlier experience that this was not the time or place for greeting a friend that way.

His family quietly filed into the fifth row where they customarily sat. As Johnny sat there, he ran his fingers along the crease of his new pants. It was hard to pay attention to the man at the pulpit. He was just talking to the grown-ups, anyway.

Johnny began thinking about his birthday. Soon he would be eight years old. In three weeks he would be baptized. He had talked to Dad about it last night.

“When you have been baptized, Johnny,” Dad had told him, “all the things you do wrong will be your responsibility.” Dad talked to him about how the Holy Ghost would help him make good decisions so that he would do the right things.

Dad also talked to him about the importance of the sacrament and the reverent feelings he should have. “Now that you’re old enough to be a member of the Church, you’re also old enough to try to be more reverent at church and to know about the blessings of the sacrament. It’s important for your thoughts to be reverent too. The sacrament reminds us of the promises we make at baptism.”

Johnny didn’t understand how his thoughts could be reverent. His teacher had talked about being reverent during sacrament meeting, and she seemed to think that Johnny knew just how to do it. Maybe it means just being quiet, Johnny decided. I’ll try sitting here as quietly as I can and see if I feel different while the sacrament is being passed.

He sat there quietly for a while, his legs dangling over the seat of the pew. Then his toes started to feel funny. He began swinging his legs back and forth. He swung them harder and harder until he was making a kicking sound against the bottom of the bench.

“Shh!” his mom whispered. “Johnny, be reverent!”

Johnny thought he was being reverent—he hadn’t been talking. I guess being reverent means you don’t kick your feet—even if your toes feel funny, he decided.

Johnny sat very quietly. He was trying to feel reverent during the sacrament, but all he felt was tired from sitting on that big, hard pew. He saw Brother Willey sitting in front of him. He was an older man with large glasses. The glasses had thick lenses. If Johnny wiggled up onto the edge of his seat and Brother Willey held his head just right, Johnny could look right through his glasses. They made everything look funny. Ricky, Johnny’s friend, looked fuzzy, as if he were underwater. Johnny moved around so he could see how Brother Willey’s glasses made other things look.

“Stop wiggling, Johnny. Be reverent,” his mom whispered.

Johnny had forgotten about being reverent. He slid back against the hard bench. He tried to get comfortable so that he could sit quietly and be reverent.

Then he noticed a man with a mustache sitting next to his Primary teacher. As Johnny watched, the man fell asleep. Then the most remarkable thing happened. Each time the man breathed out, his mustache wiggled, just like the wind was blowing it. Johnny had never seen anything quite like it. The longer he watched, the funnier it looked to him. All of a sudden, the man made a long, soft, whistling noise. His whole mustache looked like it jumped. Johnny started to giggle.

“Shh! Don’t giggle, Johnny! Try to be reverent.”

Johnny turned the other way so that he couldn’t see the sleeping man. As he turned, he noticed the speaker standing at the microphone. It’s Brother Curtis, our home teacher, Johnny thought. He listened to Brother Curtis.

Brother Curtis was talking about when the Savior died. Johnny remembered the picture that his Primary teacher had shown the class of Jesus hanging on a cross. There were nails through his hands and feet, and blood—

Blood! That reminded Johnny of the day the previous week when he was trying to ride his new bike. He had fallen from it onto a sharp rock and cut his knee. Blood had streamed down his leg and onto his pants. Boy, it sure hurt! Johnny thought, pulling up his pant leg. His knee still looked pretty bad, even with a bandage on it.

Johnny sat there very quietly. He thought about how it would feel to have someone pound a nail through his hand. Why would Jesus let those men hurt Him like that? he wondered.

“I know the Savior suffered, bled, and died because He loves us so much,” Brother Curtis was saying. “And when we partake of the sacrament, we promise to always remember Him.”

Jesus really must have loved me to die for me, Johnny thought. When I ate the bread and drank the water during the sacrament, it was in remembrance of His body and blood. Suddenly it was almost as if Jesus was sitting there beside him on the pew. Is this the reverent feeling that Mom, Dad, and my teacher were talking about? Johnny remembered a song he liked to sing in Primary: “This is God’s house, and he is here today. He hears each song of praise and listens when we pray.”

When Sister Watene offered the closing prayer, Johnny folded his arms and bowed his head and listened carefully.

Next week, he promised himself, after adding his “Amen” with the other members’, I’m going to be reverent all during sacrament meeting. I won’t talk, or wiggle, or giggle, or kick my feet. And during the sacrament, I’ll think about Jesus and try to feel Him close to me again.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Phyllis Luch