Lesson 23: Reverence

"Lesson 23: Reverence," Part B: Basic Principles of Gospel Teaching—Create a Learning Atmosphere, ()


Elder Boyd K. Packer taught:

“When we meet to learn the doctrines of the gospel, it should be in a spirit of reverence. …

“The world grows increasingly noisy. …

“This trend to more noise, more excitement, more contention, less restraint, less dignity, less formality is not coincidental nor innocent nor harmless.

“The first order issued by a commander mounting a military invasion is the jamming of the channels of communication of those he intends to conquer.

“Irreverence suits the purposes of the adversary by obstructing the delicate channels of revelation in both mind and spirit. …

“… Reverence invites revelation” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1991, 27–28; or Ensign, Nov. 1991, 21–22).

President David O. McKay said that “reverence is profound respect mingled with love” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1967, 86; or Improvement Era, June 1967, 82).

Elder L. Tom Perry observed, “Reverence flows from our admiration and respect for Deity” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1990, 90; or Ensign, Nov. 1990, 70).

President Spencer W. Kimball counseled: “True reverence is a vital quality, but one that is fast disappearing in the world as the forces of evil broaden their influences. We cannot fully comprehend the power for good we can wield if the millions of members of Christ’s true church will serve as models of reverent behavior. We cannot imagine the additional numbers of lives we could touch. Perhaps even more important, we cannot foresee the great spiritual impact on our own families if we become the reverent people we know we should be” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 224–25).

These statements by latter-day prophets, seers, and revelators show that reverence is much more than being quiet and sitting still during a lesson. It is an attitude that permeates all righteous behavior. It is manifest in our respect and love toward God and each other. A Primary song teaches:

Rev’rence is more than just quietly sitting:
It’s thinking of Father above,
A feeling I get when I think of his blessings.
I’m rev’rent, for rev’rence is love.

Setting an Example of Reverence

To be able to teach others to be reverent, we must be reverent ourselves. We must reflect President McKay’s definition of reverence: “profound respect mingled with love.” The following suggestions may help you consider your efforts to be reverent.

  • Keep the sacramental covenants to remember the Lord always and take His name upon yourself (see D&C 20:77, 79). Strive to always think of Him and His goodness and to “stand as [a witness] of God at all times and in all things, and in all places” (Mosiah 18:9).

  • Use the names of Deity appropriately and reverently. Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught: “When the names of God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, are used with reverence and authority, they invoke a power beyond what mortal man can comprehend. It should be obvious to every believer that these mighty names—by which miracles are wrought, by which the world was formed, through which man was created, and by which we can be saved—are holy and must be treated with the utmost reverence” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1986, 67; or Ensign, May 1986, 51).

  • Show proper respect for General Authorities, Area Authority Seventies, members of general auxiliary presidencies, and local priesthood and auxiliary leaders. Always use their titles, such as “President,” “Elder,” “Bishop,” or “Sister,” when addressing them and talking about them. Address and refer to other adults in the Church as “Brother” and “Sister.”

  • Avoid using coarse language or words that demean, belittle, or criticize others. Use courteous language, such as “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me,” with family members as well as others.

  • Show proper respect when handling the scriptures and using the Lord’s property (such as buildings and surrounding grounds, furnishings, and books).

Specific Ways to Teach Reverent Conduct

Although your example is often all that is needed to help others be more reverent, at times you may need to specifically teach reverent conduct. This may be especially necessary with children and youth.

A teacher of 10- and 11-year-old girls learned the necessity of giving specific instructions about reverence. During a lesson about the mission and martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the girls became silly and disrespectful. The teacher listened in unhappy disbelief to the irreverent comments and took a silent moment to decide what to do. Then, with emotion in her voice, she announced firmly that their talk and laughter were inappropriate and that their words offended the deep reverence she felt for Joseph Smith and his experiences. They immediately became quiet. She told them that she loved them and enjoyed teaching their class but that she could not allow such behavior. It was a sobering experience for both the teacher and the class members.

The following suggestions may help you encourage others to be reverent.

  • Set limits. Define behavior that is acceptable and behavior that is unacceptable. For example, do not allow language that makes light of sacred things or that is vulgar, profane, or unkind. Discourage impolite behavior, such as eating or going in and out of the room during the lesson. As those you teach interact with one another and with you, encourage them to listen to one another without interrupting. Also encourage them to use courteous language, such as “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me.”

  • Organize and prepare so that there will be as little confusion as possible. If you are a classroom teacher, arrive early to the classroom.

  • Begin and end on time. This will show respect for those you teach.

  • Speak in a pleasant, courteous manner. Always greet those you teach with a smile.

  • Be considerate of learners’ contributions to discussions.

  • If you teach children, anticipate simple things you can do to remind them to be reverent. You may be able to restore a reverent atmosphere by quietly singing or humming a reverent song, displaying a picture, or using a hand signal that the children recognize as a reminder to be reverent.

  • Remember that it is especially difficult for children to sit still for long periods of time. Help children listen and participate actively. Give them breaks periodically.

  • Take time to explain the importance of reverence, especially to children. Explain the purpose of prelude music. Talk about why it is important to listen, participate in the singing, and talk quietly. Help children understand that reverent behavior pleases Heavenly Father. Explain that as they are reverent, they will feel good inside and their testimonies will grow.

  • Do not reward reverent behavior with prizes or food. Do not have contests to see who can be the most reverent. These tend to focus on the wrong things. Teach about the real rewards of reverence, such as increased understanding and the influence of the Spirit.

  • Use music. Elder Boyd K. Packer said: “Music can set an atmosphere of worship which invites [the] spirit of revelation, of testimony” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1991, 28; or Ensign, Nov. 1991, 22). Use prelude music to set a reverent tone. Use music in the lessons you teach.

  • Help learners recognize the influence of the Spirit. Bear your testimony as prompted.

  • Center all your teaching on the Savior. Display a picture of the Savior in the classroom.