A reverent people: 'reverence is spirituality'; leads to greater righteouness

Children in the Church learn early about reverence.

Motivated perhaps by a need to maintain order in a classroom full of squirming youngsters, Primary teachers explain how to show reverence. Thus, small children are apt to view the concept strictly from a behavioral perspective: being reverent means paying rapt attention to the teacher while sitting still and erect with one's arms folded.Ideally, as children learn more of Christ, gain a witness of His gospel and develop greater spirituality, they come to understand that reverence is much deeper than outward behavior, although appropriate behavior flows from true reverence.

"The greatest manifestation of spirituality is reverence; indeed, reverence is spirituality," President David O. McKay said. He went on to define reverence as "profound respect mingled with love." (Instructor 101 [October 1966T, p. 371.)

It is possible to appear reverent without actually feeling the profound respect and love of which President McKay spoke. Such behavior might be compared to the Zoramites' form of worship described in Alma 31.

Having apostatized from the true religion, the Zoramites would climb individually to the top of a stand called "Rameumptom" from which they would recite a set prayer reflecting their pride and arrogance.

By contrast, President McKay's definition implies that true reverence for the Father, Jesus Christ and all that proceeds from them leads to a keener spiritual sense and greater righteousness.

Like happiness and joy, reverence is a feeling, and like any feeling it may be difficult to understand fully for one who has not experienced it. However, Church leaders have noted that spiritual experiences can develop reverence, experiences gained through prayer, gospel study, service and righteousness.

One Church member observed that as his reverence increased, reverent behavior gradually became second nature. Almost instinctively, he became more considerate of others in attendance at worship services, avoiding behavior that would detract from the occasion.

"No self respecting person," wrote President Joseph Fielding Smith, "will go to a house devoted to the service of God to whisper, gossip and visit; rather it is one's duty to put on self-restraint, to give one's undivided attention to the speaker, and concentrate the mind upon his words that his thoughts may be grasped to one's benefit and profit." (Gospel Doctrine, p. 334.)

The above mentioned Church member found that true reverence, more than being prohibitive, includes affirmative behavior that enhances the unity of feeling among the congregation at a worship service.

Perhaps in the minds of most people, reverence is equated with quiet reflection. But, in accordance with counsel from Church leaders, there are times when silence might be viewed as inappropriate, such as during the singing of a congregational hymn or at the close of a prayer, ordinance or testimony, when it is customary for members of the congregation to audibly echo the speaker's "amen." Uttering "amen" - a Hebrew word meaning "truly" - signifies one's assent to what has been expressed. (See Encyclopedia of Mormonism, vol. 1:38.)

Viewed in its true perspective, reverence extends outside the house of worship and fills one's heart even on days other than the Sabbath.

"If thou art merry, praise the Lord with singing, with music, with dancing and with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving," is the counsel in D&C 136:28. That implies that reverence is called for even amid the cordiality of a Church dance or social, or the exuberance of a Church basketball tournament.

To illustrate true reverence, the Church News asked two individuals to share experiences during which they have felt particularly reverent.

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