“Our Family’s Reverence Lesson,” Ensign, Aug. 1986, 43–44
After a recent stake assignment in a neighboring city, I came home to find my wife, Wendy, upset and frustrated. I asked her how the children had behaved at church, and she told me that they had been irreverent in sacrament meeting. Irreverence is usually not a problem in our family, so I gave my four children a quick lecture and sent them on about their Sabbath day activities.
Wendy felt that the subject needed more attention than that, so we decided to devote our family home evening to reverence.
The lesson began in the usual manner—another message on why we should be reverent and what would happen the next time the children chose not to be reverent in Church meetings. Our children didn’t seem particularly interested. They began to fidget and look away—until the lesson took on a new twist our family will never forget.
I asked Nathan, our eight-year-old, to go into another room for a few minutes, then return when called to tell the family a story he liked. The children thought we were going to play a game, as we often do during family home evening. While Nathan was out, my wife and I told the other three children that when he returned and began to tell his story, we would all talk, giggle, and fidget.
Nathan returned and began. An excellent storyteller, he has won ribbons for his talent at contests. He thought this would be an easy assignment, until he realized that no one was listening to him. Without his audience’s attention, he began fumbling for words and leaving out portions of the story. Frustrated, he finally sat down—without even finishing his tale.
I asked him how this experience had made him feel. Hanging his head, he replied, “Really bad!”
We next asked our second son, who is seven, to leave the room. When Nolan was invited back to tell us his story, he said, “I don’t know any stories.” He knew what was about to happen and how it had made his brother feel, and he wanted no part of it.
When he tried to tell his story and we didn’t pay attention, he became upset and said, “I can’t do it! I can’t talk when other people are talking!”
Here was the teaching moment I had hoped for. I explained, “Now you know how your teachers feel in your classes at church and school, and how it makes the speakers feel when the rest of the congregation or class is irreverent. They feel bad inside, just as you do now. They would like to just sit down and quit, too.”
My children understood. They had learned an important lesson.
So that we could experience the positive side of this lesson, we asked our children to sit up straight, fold their arms, and look at Nathan as he told his story again. This time there was a dramatic difference. He did an excellent job, using facial expressions and hand gestures without stumbling on one word.
After our children had gone to bed, I felt proud of the success of our lesson on reverence. Our children had truly learned something that night! But then a thought came as if someone had hit me over the head with a sledge-hammer: The children had learned, but what about me? Did I know the meaning of the word reverence?
I thought about my past behavior. How many times had I whispered during church meetings and classes? How many times had I worked on talks or read during meetings? How many times had I interrupted others when they were speaking? Upon examining my own actions, I found that I had also been late for church and appointments, dozed off in meetings, and not looked at teachers or speakers when they were speaking to me. I seldom expressed appreciation to the teacher, the speaker, or others for a job well done. And occasionally I stood out in the hall during Sunday School class, visiting with people I saw only at church.
Together, Wendy and I looked up the word reverence. The dictionary defined it as “a feeling of profound respect often mingled with awe and affection.” I began to see that a feeling of deep respect means much more than just not talking in church meetings. Leaving Cheerios on the chapel floor is irreverent, just as is allowing a child to run unsupervised through the halls. There are many little things that I had never even thought of as having to do with reverence. I needed to work on being more reverent as much as my children did!
Since that day, our family has learned to enjoy our meetings and glean more from them than we ever have before.