“Reverence in the Mountains,” Friend, June 1993, 32
Jeff and Dad were statue-still as a squirrel nibbled crumbs from Dad’s hand; another squirrel approached and demanded its share, then chattered with delight to find crumbs in Jeff’s hand too. He and Dad had been sitting under the tree for about an hour. Two deer had cautiously entered the nearby clearing, shyly watching them.
Jeff loved being in the mountains with his dad. As they hiked to their campsite, Dad taught him the names of the wildflowers and showed him where a beaver had stripped the bark from a tree. After they ate dinner, they sat serenely on top of a little knoll and watched the sun set.
They were just snuggling down into their sleeping bags, with the stars twinkling over their heads, when the peacefulness of the night was shattered by blaring rock music and the roaring of a jeep engine.
A group of people pulled up to the next campsite. They kept revving the engine, shouting, and swearing. Jeff watched, dismayed, as they broke branches from the trees to start a fire, then swore at each other when the fire would not start in the green wood. After a long time, Jeff was able to fall into an uneasy sleep.
Early the next morning, the sun had barely risen when Jeff stood by the lake, reeling in his first fish. He was so excited that he could hardly stand still while his father undid the hook and put the fish in the creel. As the sunlight touched the treetops on the far mountainside, the birds were singing in high spirit, and some chipmunks went scurrying by. The beauty of it all made Jeff want to shout for joy.
He thought about the night before. “Dad, why were those people acting that way last night? They seemed to hate each other, their campsite, and the other campers.”
“Maybe they never learned to be reverent and respectful,” Dad suggested.
“What does reverence have to do with it? That’s a church word.”
Dad was quiet for a moment while he thought. “I love nature. I feel a reverence for nature that is a little like the reverence that I feel for Heavenly Father. I love the mountains so much that I’ve tried to learn about them. I’ve learned the names of the flowers and birds and trees. I’ve learned to walk quietly and sit quietly so that I can watch the animals. I pick up litter whenever I see it so that it doesn’t spoil what’s here, and I’m very careful with our campfire. I do everything I can to show respect for the beauty that is here and try to make sure that my activities don’t interfere with other people’s enjoyment of the area. Every time I come, I love it more. After I’ve been in the mountains, I have a good feeling about myself. I always leave with a feeling of peace. The reverence that I feel for Heavenly Father is similar, only much stronger.”
“I think I understand,” Jeff responded. “When we feel love for Heavenly Father, we want to learn as much about Him as we can. We do everything we can to show respect for Him. The more we learn about Him and respect Him, the more we love Him.”
“That’s right. And after I’ve been worshipping Heavenly Father and praying to Him, I feel good about myself.”
“What about the kids in church who joke about the lessons and don’t pay attention?”
“Well,” Dad replied, “when someone is not reverent in church, it might mean that he isn’t feeling very good about himself, that he wants attention for himself instead of giving it to Heavenly Father.”
“Is that why Jared is always acting like a smart aleck?” Jeff wondered aloud. “Sometimes I hate to be around him.”
Dad put his arm around Jeff. “The thing is, you could probably help Jared be more reverent by being his friend. Maybe we could bring him up here with us sometime. When someone is not reverent, he usually knows that he is doing something wrong, and he feels even worse about himself.”
“Is that why Jared is always trying to get attention?”
“It could be. When someone is not respectful toward Heavenly Father, it’s hard for the Holy Ghost to help him love Heavenly Father and himself.”
Jeff thought for a minute. “We also need the Holy Ghost to help us have a testimony. When you’re not reverent, it must be hard to have a testimony.”
Dad gave Jeff a hug. “You’re right! And now look at the sun! It’s time to go cook some fresh fish for breakfast.”
The Jeep was gone when they got back from the lake. Jeff was amazed at the mess its passengers had left the campsite. There were cans and papers and torn branches everywhere. The fire they had finally started by pouring gasoline on the wood was still smoldering, and a bush was completely crushed where the jeep had been parked.
Dad got a garbage bag, and father and son started cleaning up. “I wonder,” Jeff said, “if those people have ever had a deer come close to them and watch them. Or a squirrel eat out of their hand.”
“I doubt that they have,” Dad said. “I wonder if they like themselves better today. Do you think that they know how truly beautiful these mountains are?”
After a breakfast of fish, pancakes, and hot cocoa, father and son made sure that the campsite was clean and the fire had been put out. Jeff lay on his stomach to enjoy the deep, sweet-smelling grass one more time before they had to go. He was full of love for the mountains, for his dad, and for Heavenly Father. “You know, Dad,” he said, “some people think that reverence just means being quiet. I think that’s sad. There is a lot more to reverence than that.”