Reverence is the essence of true religion. It is based on sincerity. When God is what we reverence, we worship him and all of the things that pertain to Him we treat with respect. The lack of such appreciation and behavior indicates irreverence.
Because of our superior knowledge of God, we Latter-day Saints should be the most reverent people in the world, and I believe we are.
Order is a part of reverence. So is cleanliness—cleanliness of person, of clothing, of speech, of action, and of thought. Courtesy, respect for others, and similar virtues are also part of reverence. True reverence for God causes us to always do the will of God.
Just as with other virtues, Jesus provides our greatest example of reverence. Note the reverence he paid his Father as he taught us how to pray;
“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.
“Give us this day our daily bread.
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.” (Matt. 6:9–13.)
Notice how attentive Jesus was to his Father’s will as he strove to persuade the unbelieving Jews that he was in fact the Son of God. “I do nothing of myself,” he said, “but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things … I do always those things that please him.” (John 8:28, 29.)
Reverence for the temple, his Father’s house, caused him to twice cleanse the temple.
It is true that the suffering of Gethsemane caused him to cry out, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me.” But even in this agony he was more concerned about doing his Father’s will than he was about ending his suffering, for he concluded, “Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42.)
Jesus’ first recorded words were, “How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49.) His last words, from the cross, were, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46.) The Savior’s whole life demonstrated continual reverence to his Father.
Mature, faithful Latter-day Saints who follow the Master have no difficulty being reverent. By struggling their entire lives to understand and live the gospel, they become trained by the Holy Spirit so that they automatically respond reverently to every situation.
Children are not born with the concepts that produce reverence, and these concepts do not develop in them immediately. Some exceptional children develop reverence regardless of their training, but most children are as reverent as we train them to be. If they are irreverent in their early years, it is because they have not been properly trained. Of course it is self-evident that training of reverence should take place in the home and school and church, but parents and teachers must be reminded until they fulfill this important responsibility. It cannot be neglected with impunity.
The ultimate goal is to develop in each individual the sincerity, the knowledge, the faith, the testimony, and the self-discipline that will cause him to be reverent voluntarily. But in the beginning children have to be taught specific habits of cleanliness, courtesy, consideration, and respect for one another and respect for sacred places. Once they have the proper habits and behavior, true repentance will develop as they gain understanding.
Home training, or the lack of it, is very apparent in the behavior of children. Some time ago a mother with five very young children came to the stake office where her husband was to be set apart as a high councilor. Each child quietly climbed into a chair, folded his arms, and closed his eyes. These children could not have been more reverent had they been in the presence of the Savior.
Let us sincerely strive to be reverent. Reverence is a sign of spiritual maturity, strength, and nobility.