Part of A Happier Ward Series – (warmth of congregation)
In Primary, we teach the children that reverence means “be quiet.” We have a generation of adults whose primary interpretation of reverence still is “be quiet.” If this happened to you, don’t feel unusual. It happened to me too.
Does anyone know who came up with that idea and why we’ve carried it on? It’s hard to miss the adverse side effects of reprimanded, hushed children and indignant or embarrassed adults. Such behaviors have nothing to do with the practice of reverence at all.
The Essence of Reverence
First, to pin down what reverence is, let’s look at what it is not.
Number one, I can find no scripture verse or actual doctrine to back up our Primary songs’ version of silence. Number two, that cultural teaching produced a generation of adults running around the church chapels and halls somewhat irritated and sometimes indignant because someone made <gasp> some noise. They squinch their faces up, glare, shush kids, disapprove, feel interrupted, etc., all in the name of “reverence.” Few things at Church are more ironic.
Reverence is a whole other set of feelings and encounters. It is a collection of deeply sophisticated, heart-felt concepts, awareness of God, and love of those around us.
Have you seen this delightful 1 1⁄2 minute video by Elder Holland? Notice what he describes as rest, renewal and the source of spiritual energy. His counsel may surprise you. Pay special attention to second 35 and beyond.
Here is a more helpful list of what reverence is. Every one of these words expresses an element of reverence, but this article focuses on the bolded definitions.
reverence: admiration, adoration, awe, devotion, esteem, loyalty, respect, honor, love, praise, worship
Perhaps one of the biggest life-changing realizations I’ve had is a Supreme Being like Christ (and Heavenly Father) have particular regard for me. Although it may not be logical or understandable to me, the showered love is real. Both of the following verses touch on this gift:
“We love him, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
62 [Christ speaking] “And again, verily I say unto you, my friends I leave these sayings with you to ponder in your hearts, with this commandment which I give unto you, that ye shall call upon me while I am near—”
63 “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (D&C 88:62-63)
What Are Praise and Worship?
At some point, I became aware that Christ adored me first, devoted himself first, esteemed me first, was loyal to me first, and loved me first. Reverence is a two-way channel we open between God and ourselves to grow within ourselves those same loving qualities that He has – and then return them to God.
Reverence is primarily an internal transformation and a soul’s awareness and connection with the Divine.
Two other essential elements which present in mature reverence are praise and worship. We hear these words often but specifically, what are praise and worship? When you walk out of the chapel on any Sunday, do you feel like you’ve praised and worshiped Christ, for example?
Praise; express warm approval or admiration of, applaud, pay tribute to, speak highly of, sing the praises of, rave about, go into raptures about, make much of, admire, hail
Worship: show reverence and adoration for (a deity); honor with religious rites. revere, venerate, pay homage to, honor, adore, praise, pray to, glorify, exalt
Reverence is a collection of keenly aware, higher emotions, and when we strive to be fully reverent, we develop finer qualities and experiences within us.
A few years ago, a sister in my previous ward made an insightful observation about Jeffrey R. Holland’s conference talk from April 2019 (The Lamb of God). The talk is mainly about the Sabbath and our Sacrament meeting. This sister beautifully summed it all up by saying, “his talk was really about love, and we could all do a bit better than we have been.”
Indeed, Jeffrey R. Holland said,
“One way to “always remember him” would be to join the Great Physician in His never-ending task of lifting the load from those who are burdened and relieving the pain of those who are distraught.” (April 2019)
This brings us to the final thought – the love of God is at the core of reverence. And if we truly love Christ, then we show love to others.
“And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” (1 John 4:21)
For the Sake of Others
Recently, Elder Oaks shared a talk called “A Need for a Church” with this delightful quote and picture:
“Years ago, I changed my attitude about going to church. No longer do I go to church for my sake, but to think of others. I make a point of saying hello to people who sit alone, to welcome visitors, … to volunteer for an assignment. …
“In short, I go to church each week with the intent of being active, not passive, and making a positive difference in people’s lives.” (Elder Oaks – Oct 21)
Some ideas on how to love Christ and others more.
Young brother Atticus has musically gifted parents named Miranda and Sam. They both sing and play multiple musical instruments. Atticus is about eight months old and has discovered his voice. Furthermore, he loves its sound (a future musician, maybe?). No matter what Miranda tries to distract him with (a pacifier, lap-bouncing, toys, etc.), Atticus still loves the sound of his own voice at the end of the day.
Training our little ones to be in the chapel takes years. It’s a divine, pivotal, inspired, higher calling Miranda has taken on. I am indebted to her.
Our ward has fewer and fewer of the next generation sitting among us on the benches. We celebrate every young life our ward family gains. I’d just as soon have ten more Atticus’s who are three times as noisy than have perfect quiet.
If we love God, we love others – you cannot have the one without the other. Reverence does not and never will include irritation with others or focusing on their mistakes.
So, here’s a thought, if we understand how hard it is to be in the foyer all the time, would we not use that experience to bless someone else’s life and take a turn? Most of us know It is draining to have little ones who need us 24/7. Being able to recharge one’s spiritual batteries at church during Sacrament meetings is a beautiful blessing. Wouldn’t it be a loving and reverent thing to spell a young mother and/or father off and offer to take a turn in the foyer?
What about someone like Jamie, a newly-baptized convert who comes with her young ones? She is starting her training from scratch on four children all at once. Perhaps sitting by Jamie and helping as she attempts to train her children is a higher manifestation of love and reverence? Let us give what we wish someone would have done for us rather than feel they must also pay their dues.
What would the Savior have us do?
Possible Primary Ideas
What would I teach in Primary about reverence in place of shushing or quiet? I would still ask for calm and politeness when needed but not mix it with the idea of being ‘reverent.’ I would find age-appropriate ways to teach the chapel is for the love of others, of Christ, of Heavenly Father, of feeling thankfulness. I would demonstrate how to have secret prayers inside that no one hears. I would teach about self-inventory during the Sacrament. I can imagine some creative Sharing Time lessons on those topics without connecting it to “be quiet.”
I would teach them how to become aware. Aware of God’s love and aware of those around us who need our attention and compassion. Aware of others in the chapel praying their own secret prayers and having sacred experiences. I would teach them to look around and SEE people and respond appropriately. What do we do when we see someone needs help? What do we do when we see someone praying? What do we do when someone is sharing their soul at the pulpit? What would we want other people to do for us?
Service and compassion for others is the highest form of worship there is.
What’s the one-sentence version of reverence? Reverence is a four-letter word spelled L-O-V-E.
I only regret my children were grown before I figured this out!