September 1982

“Reverence,” Ensign, Sept. 1982, 3

First Presidency Message


My dictionary defines reverence as “profound respect mingled with love and devotion.” When we speak of reverence with respect to God, this reverence and respect, mingled with love and devotion, takes on the quality of worshipful adoration. Reverence may be measured, I think, by the quality of one’s veneration for the object of his reverence. If this be true, then the more one loves God, the deeper will be his reverence for Him.

Putting it in a slightly different way, it may be said that the quality of one’s reverence may be measured by his understanding of his own relationship to the object of his veneration and the degree to which that object is worthy of reverence. In our various church meetings our reverence will be in direct proportion to our love of God. I know that, with some justification, unfavorable comments have been made about the order in some of our gatherings. We should all realize, of course, that we must improve.

Of all the peoples in the world, we Latter-day Saints should have the greatest love for God. We should love him more than anyone else loves him, because we know so much more about him.

One who has profound reverence for the Lord loves him, trusts in him, prays to him, relies upon him, and is inspired by him. Inspiration from the Lord has always been, and now is, available to all men who have a profound reverence for him. Columbus, discovering America, moved under the Lord’s inspiration. So did the Pilgrim fathers. Washington sought and obtained God’s inspiration at Valley Forge, as did Lincoln before Gettysburg. The men who set up the constitutional government of the United States did so under the Lord’s inspiration. He was the source of their wisdom.

We know that God answers prayers because he has answered our prayers. He has answered yours, and he has answered mine. We know that we can go to him with our problems and receive an understanding and sympathetic hearing. We know that we came from God, and our desire and hope is to go back to him and be like him.

What a marvelous thing it is to know these great truths! The fact that we know them increases our love for God. Our reverence for him increases as our love for him grows.

If we love the Lord, we will serve him and keep his commandments. The first commandment, which the Savior said is the greatest of all commandments, is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart. … And the second [commandment] is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Then he added, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matt. 22:37, 39–40.)

The law the Lord referred to was the law of Moses. By use of the phrase “the prophets,” he had reference to the writings of the prophets of the Old Testament whom the Jews professed to honor. He was saying, therefore, that if we love the Lord with all our hearts and our neighbors as ourselves, we will be keeping all the commandments, including, of course, reverence for God.

We desire that all children have reverence for the house of the Lord. However, we cannot induce them to have such reverence by merely telling them to keep quiet. To be quiet in church is, of course, something that goes along with reverence, but being quiet is not in itself reverence. However, when one recognizes the house in which he is meeting as the dwelling place of the Lord, whom he loves with all his heart, then it is not difficult for him to have reverence for it.

You will remember how Moses was taught reverence. As he herded the sheep of his father-in-law, he turned aside to examine a bush which seemed to be burning yet was not consumed. As he drew near, the Lord called unto him out of the midst of the bush, saying, “Moses, Moses.” Moses, answering, said, “Here am I.”

“Draw not nigh hither,” said the Lord “put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” (See Ex. 3:1–5.)

True, there was no house on it; only a bush on the countryside. But it was a holy place, a place to be reverenced because the Lord was there.

Now the house of the Lord is the dwelling place of his Spirit. Therefore, if you and I love the Lord, there will be no rudeness on our part in his house. Neither will there be any rudeness there on the part of the children, if they understand and love the Lord with all their hearts. It is the parents’ responsibility to see that they come to this understanding and love. Teachers, of course, can aid the parents.

The Savior had great reverence for the temple at Jerusalem, which he called his Father’s house. He demonstrated his respect for it in a most dramatic manner. On one occasion, when he “went up to Jerusalem,

“[He] found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:

“And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;

“And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.” (John 2:13–16.)

In this dispensation the Lord has indicated anew the sacredness of his house. When he told the Saints in the early days of the Church to build a house unto him, the Lord made it clear that they must have reverence for it or he would not be in it.

“And inasmuch as my people build a house unto me in the name of the Lord, and do not suffer any unclean thing to come into it, that it be not defiled, my glory shall rest upon it;

“Yea, and my presence shall be there, for I will come into it, and all the pure in heart that shall come into it shall see God.

“But if it be defiled I will not come into it, and my glory shall not be there; for I will not come into unholy temples.” (D&C 97:15–17.)

Now, with respect to the home, I should like to say that irreverence in the home is not always chargeable to the children. It is usually due to the conduct of the parents, to their failure to effectively teach their children or to their breaking of specific commandments of the Lord. Parents who really love the Lord and keep his commandments with respect to their conduct toward each other usually have reverence in their homes.

As Church members, our first responsibility is to develop within ourselves that love for God which will promote reverence in our own feelings toward him. We should so obey his commandments as to induce our own children to have reverence for our own homes and for the house of the Lord.

If we understand our relationship to God our Father, we cannot possibly be irreverent toward ourselves, because we shall recognize ourselves as his offspring, his children. Paul taught the Saints of his day to have respect and reverence for themselves.

“Know ye not,” said he, “that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

“If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy.” (1 Cor. 3:16–17.)

I think that perhaps there could be no stronger incentive for an individual to have reverence for himself by keeping his body, his mind, and his actions clean, than an understanding and appreciation of the full import of the following statement of the Apostle John:

“Behold,” said he, “what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (1 Jn. 3:1–2.)

And then he thus describes the conduct of those who are moved by this lofty concept:

“And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” (1 Jn. 3:3.)

In this statement John holds out a goal beyond the comprehension of those who know not the true God. The promise that when we see God we will be like him will motivate everyone who has this hope to purify himself from sin. This hope works in everyone who believes the promise and fosters a spirit of reverence—reverence not only for self, but reverence for God and reverence for home.

May I note something about reverence for the priesthood. There is an incident recorded in the Old Testament which illustrates the point I wish to make. It concerns David’s attitude toward Saul, who, you will remember, on one occasion went into the mouth of a cave in search of David, whom he sought to slay because David was, in Saul’s judgment, gaining more popularity with the people than was he. Unknown to Saul, David and his men were at the time in the far reaches of the cave. Saul, being weary, lay down to rest. David’s men, discovering him, reported to David, saying:

“Behold the day of which the Lord said unto thee, Behold, I will deliver thine enemy into thine hand, that thou mayest do to him as it shall seem good unto thee.

Then David arose, and cut off the skirt of Saul’s robe privily.

“And it came to pass afterward, that David’s heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul’s skirt.” (1 Sam. 24:4–5.)

One might think that under the circumstances David would have cut off Saul’s head—Saul’s purpose in being there was to take David’s life. But David did not harm Saul; he just cut off part of his skirt. Even so, he repented in his soul that he had done this. Why? This is the explanation given in the record:

“And he [that is, David] said unto his men, The Lord forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord.

“So David stayed his servants with these words, and suffered them not to rise against Saul. But Saul rose up out of the cave, and went on his way.

“David also arose afterward, and went out of the cave, and cried after Saul, saying, My Lord the king. And when Saul looked behind him, David stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed himself.

“And David said to Saul, Wherefore hearest thou men’s words, saying, Behold, David seeketh thy hurt?

“Behold, this day thine eyes have seen how that the Lord had delivered thee to day into mine hand in the cave: and some bade me kill thee: but mine eye spared thee; and I said, I will not put forth mine hand against my lord.” Why?

“For he is the Lord’s anointed.” (1 Sam. 24:6–10.)

It seems to me that David’s conduct under these trying circumstances teaches a great lesson on reverence for the priesthood, that is, for bearers of the priesthood who represent the Lord.

If we love the Lord, we will have reverence for him, we will have reverence for his house, we will have reverence for the home, for ourselves, and for his priesthood.

May we have the love of God in our own hearts and the desire to transfer that love into the hearts of our children, so that they may develop real reverence.

Ideas for Home Teachers

Some Points of Emphasis. You may wish to make these points in your home teaching discussion:

1. Being quiet in church is associated with reverence, but being quiet is not in itself reverence.

2. Reverence is “profound respect mingled with love and devotion.”

3. The more we love God, the deeper will be our reverence for Him.

4. The house of the Lord is the dwelling place of his Spirit. If we love the Lord, we will not be rude in his house.

5. If we understand our relationship to God our Father, we cannot possibly be irreverent toward ourselves, because we shall recognize ourselves as his offspring.

6. If we love the Lord, we will have reverence for him, for his house, for the home, for ourselves, and for his priesthood.

Discussion Helps

1. Relate your personal feelings about the importance of reverence. Ask family members to share experiences or feelings.

2. Are there some scriptural verses or other quotations in this article that the family might read aloud, or some supplemental scripture you desire to read together?

3. Would this discussion be better after a pre-visit chat with the head of the house? Is there a message from the quorum leader or bishop to the household head concerning reverence?

Illustrated by Kay Watson