Since the early days of the Restoration, Latter-day Saints have met together to receive gospel instruction.
While reviewing and editing the manuscript of the translation of the Bible on Dec. 6, 1832, the Prophet Joseph Smith received a revelation instructing "the first laborers in the last kingdom" to "assemble yourselves together and organize yourselves and prepare yourselves and sanctify yourselves" (Doctrine and Covenants 88:74).
Further, the Lord commanded the early Saints to "teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom." He said, "Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principles, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand" (Doctrine and Covenants 88:77-78).
While there are many opportunities in the modern Church for gospel teaching and learning, one of the most important is sacrament meeting. The places where we receive gospel instruction should be places of prayer, fasting, faith, order, righteousness and reverence.
President Boyd K. Packer, president of the Quorum of the Twelve, said that when Latter-day Saints meet together to learn the doctrines of the gospel, it should be in a spirit of reverence.
"Irreverence suits the purposes of the adversary by obstructing the delicate channels of revelation in both mind and spirit," President Packer said during his October 1991 general conference address. "Our sacrament and other meetings need renewed attention to assure that they are truly worship services in which members may be spiritually nourished and have their testimonies replenished and in which investigators may feel the inspiration essential to spiritual conversion. ...
"Irreverent conduct in our chapels is worthy of a reminder, if not reproof. Leaders should teach that reverence invites revelation."
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve said in his October 2008 general conference address that the ordinance of the sacrament makes the sacrament meeting the most sacred and important meeting in the Church. He noted that it is the only Sabbath meeting the entire family can attend together.
"During sacrament meeting — and especially during the sacrament service — we should concentrate on worship and refrain from all other activities, especially from behavior that could interfere with the worship of others. ... Sacrament meeting is not a time for reading books or magazines. Young people, it is not a time for whispered conversations on cell phones or for texting persons at other locations. When we partake of the sacrament, we make a sacred covenant that we will always remember the Savior. How sad to see persons obviously violating that covenant in the very meeting where they are making it."
As a missionary in London, President Gordon B. Hinckley attended meetings in the Battersea town hall, which the Church rented. "The floors were hard, and we sat on chairs. Every time a chair moved there was a noise. But this was not the worst aspect of the situation. Far worse was the noisy socializing of the members of the branch," he recalled during an April 1987 general conference address.
On one occasion the missionaries invited a family whom they had met while tracting. With great expectation, they stood by the door to welcome them. "There was the usual convivial spirit in the hall, with the members talking noisily one with another. When this family came into the room, they quietly moved toward some chairs, knelt for a moment, and closed their eyes in a word of prayer. They then sat in an attitude of reverence amidst all the commotion.
"Frankly, I was embarrassed. They had come to what they regarded as a worship service, and they behaved themselves accordingly."
"At the close of the meeting they left quietly, and when we next met they spoke of their disappointment in what they had experienced. I have never forgotten that."
President Hinckley asked, "Why do we go to sacrament meeting?"
"We go, of course, to renew our covenants in partaking of the sacrament. This is the most important element of these meetings. And we also go to be instructed, to meditate upon the things of God, and to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth. We go because of the commandment of the Lord. ...
"We need, every one of us needs, to pause from the hectic pace of our lives and to reflect upon things sacred and divine."
Meetinghouses are dedicated to the Lord. While in them, we partake of the sacrament and pray for the Lord's Spirit to be with us. We listen to prelude music and speakers, sing the hymns and say "amen" at the close of prayers. Great blessings accompany reverence.
During the prayer offered at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, found in Doctrine and Covenants 109:21, Joseph prayed to the Father that when any of the Saints transgress, "they may speedily repent and return unto thee, and find favor in thy sight, and be restored to the blessings which thou hast ordained to be poured out upon those who shall reverence thee in thy house."
President Joseph Fielding Smith called reverence a sacred principle. "It is a principle of the gospel. We show reverence to our Father in Heaven, to the Lord Jesus Christ. We would not be boisterous in his presence. If he happened to be in this meeting, I am sure we would all go in quietly and take our places. Why cannot we think, when we enter the place of worship, that he is there?" (Joseph Fielding Smith, Seek Ye Earnestly, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1970], p. 117).