Chapter 15: We Should Be a Reverent People

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, (2006), 154–64


More than just a behavior, reverence is a virtue that should be part of our way of life.

From the Life of Spencer W. Kimball

In 1955 President David O. McKay dedicated the first temple in Europe, the Bern Switzerland Temple. Elder Spencer W. Kimball, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was scheduled to speak at the afternoon session on the first day of the dedication. He spent an hour alone in the temple that day “preparing mind and heart for the afternoon, unhurried, quiet, respectful and reverential.”1 During his address he said: “As I awakened this morning and began to attain consciousness after the night, I saw the dawn advancing, and my thought first came to the holy temple which was to be dedicated this day. I thought, ‘No food today. Shoes must be shined, clothes pressed, and I must have a clean mind.’ All the way to Zollikofen I desired to say no word, and when I came into this room and sat by [President McKay] and all he said was in sacred whispers, I knew then that I had been feeling some of the feeling he has felt. ‘Holiness to the Lord, Holiness becometh the Saints of the Lord.’”2

President Kimball did not reserve his reverence only for occasions such as temple dedications. He spoke of reverence as a way of life, and he exemplified this teaching even in small, day-to-day activities. For example, once when he visited a meetinghouse, he quietly entered a restroom, threw away paper towels that were on the floor, and cleaned the sink. A local Church leader noticed this simple expression of respect. Inspired by President Kimball’s example, he taught others to show greater reverence for sacred places and things.3

Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball

Reverence is not a temporary behavior adopted on Sunday but an ongoing attitude of devotion to God.

Reverence has been defined as a “feeling or attitude of deep respect, love, and awe, as for something sacred.” To describe it as devotion to God is another way to express the meaning of reverence.

Many of our leaders have expressed regard for reverence as one of the highest qualities of the soul, indicating it involves true faith in God and in his righteousness, high culture, and a love for the finer things in life. …

As with the 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 virtue that should be part of our way of life. In fact, Latter-day Saints should be the most reverent people in all the earth.4

We should have reverence for the Father and the Son and for Their holy names.

Reverence toward the Father and the Son is an essential qualification or characteristic of those who attain the celestial kingdom. In section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants, known as “The Vision,” given to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon in February 1832, we find:

“And thus we saw the glory of the celestial, which excels in all things—where God, even the Father, reigns upon his throne forever and ever;

“Before whose throne all things bow in humble reverence, and give him glory forever and ever.

“They who dwell in his presence are the church of the Firstborn; and they see as they are seen, and know as they are known, having received of his fulness and of his grace.

“And he makes them equal in power, and in might, and in dominion.” (D&C 76:92–95.)

Another modern revelation directs us to hold in reverence even the very name of Deity; we are told not to profane the name of the Father, and even to avoid too frequent use of it. (D&C 107:2–4.) …

It would appear that reverence for God and his name is one of the most important qualities we can develop.5

In the hospital one day I was wheeled out of the operating room by an attendant who stumbled, and there issued from his angry lips vicious cursing with a combination of the names of the Savior. Even half-conscious, I recoiled and implored: “Please! Please! That is my Lord whose names you revile.”

There was a deathly silence, then a subdued voice whispered, “I am sorry.” He had forgotten for the moment that the Lord had forcefully commanded all his people, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” (Exod. 20:7). …

On the stage, on the telephone, sensitive ears and eyes are outraged daily by the unwarranted and blasphemous use of the names of the Lord our God. In the club, on the farm, in social circles, in business, and in every walk of life the names of the Redeemer are used presumptuously and sinfully. We who are thoughtless and careless, and we who are vicious and defiant, should remember that we cannot take the name of the Lord in vain with impunity. Are we not inviting eventual destruction as we desecrate all things holy and sacred, even to the common and irreverent use in our daily talk of the names of Deity? …

It is a terrible thing for any human being to use the names of Deity in disrespect. And this includes the use of the name of the Lord without authority, and there are many people who claim revelations and claim authority who do not have it directly from the Lord.

Through the ages, the prophets have never ceased to rebuke this grave sin. The prophet Isaiah called to accounting and repentance those “which swear by the name of the Lord, and make mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth, nor in righteousness” (Isa. 48:1). …

Speaking the Lord’s name with reverence must simply be part of our lives as members of the Church. For example, we, as good Latter-day Saints, do not smoke. We do not drink. We do not use tea and coffee. By the same token, we do not use foul language. We do not curse or defame. We do not use the Lord’s name in vain. It is not difficult to become perfect in avoiding a swearing habit, for if one locks his mouth against all words of cursing, he is en route to perfection in that matter.

But our responsibility does not end there. That would merely be to refrain from committing sin. To perform righteousness, we must speak our Lord’s name with reverence and holiness in our prayers, our discourses, and our discussions. …

Jesus perfected his life and became our Christ. Priceless blood of a god was shed, and he became our Savior; his perfected life was given, and he became our Redeemer; his atonement for us made possible our return to our Heavenly Father, and yet how thoughtless, how unappreciative are most beneficiaries! Ingratitude is a sin of the ages.

Great numbers profess belief in him and his works, and yet relatively few honor him. Millions of us call ourselves Christians, yet seldom kneel in gratitude for his supreme gift, his life.

Let us rededicate ourselves to reverential attitudes, toward an expression of gratitude to our Lord for his incomparable sacrifice. Let us remember the modern command, “Wherefore, let all men beware how they take my name in their lips” (D&C 63:61).6

Temples, meetinghouses, and homes should be places of reverence.

In yet another area of extreme importance, the Lord has directed by modern revelation that we should have proper reverence for his holy house. In the important revelation given to Joseph Smith known as the dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple, a directive was given that this, as with all other sacred temples erected unto the Lord, should be a place of reverence to Him. (See D&C 109:13, 16–21.)

In a very real sense, what is said of the sacred temples of the Church is applicable to every “house of the Lord,” whether it be a meetinghouse or any place where the Saints worship, or in fact, any Latter-day Saint home.7

To Latter-day Saints the chapel is not a recess or a cell in a cathedral, not a place with altars of gold and precious stones. It is a place without ostentation or show, without statues and mostly without pictures, decorated simply and plainly, clean and light and worshipful. It is a place where the people are seated comfortably, in true brotherhood, where lessons are taught, choirs sing, members pray and preach, and where all gain knowledge and inspiration—and where old and young receive the sacrament. Here habits of thought and action are conceived and introduced into lives, and here faith is born, rekindled, and sanctified.

Temples, meetinghouses, and homes should be places of reverence

President Kimball taught that “faith is born, rekindled, and sanctified” in Latter-day Saint chapels.

The chapel is not dedicated to pharisaical piety where are found long faces, stiff formalities, or cold and barren silences, yet reverence for holy places, sacred purposes, and divine personages should always be found there.8

Are we a reverent people? Do our actions in the home and at church show reverence for our Creator?

Sometimes we wonder. We attend sacrament meetings and conferences where children wander unrestrained in the aisles. During the service, we notice adults talking with their neighbors, people dozing, and young people gathering in the foyers. We see families coming late and filing noisily to their seats, and groups engaged in loud conversation in the chapel after the meeting.

Our thoughts turn to investigators, friends, and those whose testimonies are fragile and developing. Are our meetings the powerful missionary tools they can be, where the Spirit of the Lord reigns and penetrates hearts? Or to sense the Spirit must we first block out many needless distractions?9

A great person is reverent. He will be deferential in a house of worship even though he be the only soul therein. No congregation was assembled when the Lord commanded Moses: “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground!” [See Exodus 3:5.] Presiding officers should plan so carefully that no whispering would be heard or seen on the stand. Parents should train and discipline their children and sit with them (except where class groups are supervised). Ushers should be trained to quietly care for seating with a minimum of disturbance. Attenders should arrive early, do their friendly greeting in subdued tones, slow their step, find seats toward the front, and sit in quiet contemplative mood. All should participate as fully as possible—singing with the singers, praying with him who prays, partaking of the sacrament with a grateful heart and a reconsecration to covenants previously made. An opportunity is given to follow sympathetically lessons that are taught, the sermons that are preached and the testimonies that are borne, judging not by eloquence but by sincerity. Here is a chance to drink deeply from fountain heads, for the humblest teacher or speaker will contribute thought which can be developed. As we quietly enter the door of the chapel we may leave behind us outside all criticisms, worries, and cares—all occupational, political, social, and recreational plans—and calmly give ourselves to contemplation and to worship. We may bathe in the spiritual atmosphere. We may devote ourselves to learning, repenting, forgiving, testifying, appreciating, and loving.10

Reverence begins at home.

Where, then, does reverence begin, and how can we develop it?

The home is the key to reverence, as it is to every other godlike virtue.

Let me emphasize the importance of teaching children to pray. It is during personal and family prayers that little ones learn to bow their heads, fold their arms, and close their eyes while our Father in heaven is being addressed. Behavior learned at home determines behavior in Church meetings. A child who has learned to pray at home soon understands that he must be quiet and still during prayers in worship services.

“Behavior learned at home determines behavior in Church meetings,” President Kimball taught.

“Behavior learned at home determines behavior in Church meetings.”

Likewise, when family home evenings are part of home life, children know that there are special times, not only at church but at home, when we learn about our Heavenly Father and when everyone needs to be on his best behavior.

Music is a special delight for children. Hymns that are frequently sung at church can become familiar in the home too. Small children especially could benefit if parents helped them learn simple hymns at home. In this way, children would eagerly anticipate singing at sacrament and other meetings.

Of course, parents should attend Sunday meetings with their children.

The father and mother should work together to make sure that preparation for meetings is a pleasant family experience. The last minute rush to gather the children, dress, and hurry to meeting is destructive to reverence.

When families fall into this pattern they are frequently late to church, there are often cross words and hurt feelings, and the children are often upset and restless during the service. How much more reverent is the family that prepares well ahead of time for meetings, that arrives at the chapel well before the meeting begins, and that sits together to listen to the prelude music and put worldly concerns out of their minds.

Parents with small children sometimes have a difficult time helping their youngsters appreciate meetings and keeping them from creating disturbances. Perseverance, firmness, and preparation in the home are essential ingredients for success. If they are perplexed about how to handle their children at church, young parents might seek the advice of a more experienced couple in the ward.

Often, before and after meetings, members of the Church cluster in the chapel to exchange greetings. Some seeming irreverence is due innocently to the fact that we are a friendly people and that the Sabbath is a convenient time to visit, to fellowship, and to meet new people. Parents should set an example for their families by doing their visiting in the foyers or other areas outside of the chapel before or after meetings. After a meeting, parents can help to carry the spirit of the service into the home by discussing at home a thought, a musical number, or some other positive aspect of the meeting with their children.11

Our example of reverence can have a powerful impact on others.

We have discussed the importance of reverence and examined some of its meanings. We have also offered several suggestions about promoting reverence at home and at church. The real improvement in actions of the people, however, will come as local leaders and families combine their efforts to overcome their specific reverence problems. We envision an effort throughout the Church to improve reverence. …

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.12

Suggestions for Study and Teaching

Consider these ideas as you study the chapter or as you prepare to teach. For additional help, see pages v–ix.

  • Review the examples of reverence on page 155. What do these two stories suggest about what it means to be reverent? What examples of reverence have you noticed in your life? What have you learned from these experiences?

  • Review the first four paragraphs on page 156, looking for President Kimball’s teachings about what reverence is and what reverence is not. Why should Latter-day Saints be “the most reverent people in all the earth”?

  • How do you think we should respond when we hear someone take the Lord’s name in vain? What do you learn from President Kimball’s example? (See page 157.) What can we do to honor the Lord’s name?

  • Review pages 158–61, looking for reverent actions and attitudes and irreverent actions and attitudes. In what ways might such actions and attitudes influence us personally? How might they influence our families and others? Consider what you and your family can do to be reverent at church.

  • What do you think parents can do at home to help their children want to be reverent in sacrament meeting? in other Church meetings and activities? (See the examples on pages 161–62.)

  • Study the final two paragraphs in the chapter (page 163). In what ways might our improved reverence influence our families? our communities?

Related Scriptures: 1 Kings 6:1, 7; Matthew 21:12–14; Alma 37:14–16; D&C 63:61–62, 64

Show References

    Notes

  1.   1.

    See Francis M. Gibbons, Spencer W. Kimball: Resolute Disciple, Prophet of God (1995), 192.

  2.   2.

    The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball (1982), 534.

  3.   3.

    See Gibbons, Spencer W. Kimball: Resolute Disciple, Prophet of God, xi.

  4.   4.

    We Should Be a Reverent People (pamphlet, 1976), 1, 2.

  5.   5.

    We Should Be a Reverent People, 1–2.

  6.   6.

    “President Kimball Speaks Out on Profanity,” Ensign, Feb. 1981, 3, 4–5.

  7.   7.

    We Should Be a Reverent People, 2.

  8.   8.

    The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 222.

  9.   9.

    We Should Be a Reverent People, 1.

  10.   10.

    The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 222–23.

  11.   11.

    We Should Be a Reverent People, 2–3.

  12.   12.

    We Should Be a Reverent People, 4.