Worshipful awe

Maintaining reverence in Church meetings is something like a leaky tire that needs constant inflating.

How often do our leaders stand at the pulpit and, with loving encouragement, call on members to remember where they are and what sacred ordinances will take place?

For all this admonition, the joy of greeting one another, as well as the commotion of gathering our families around us, sometimes resembles a social venue more than a place of worship.

Perhaps for that reason, Church leaders continually call on us to create a sacred setting where our most sublime and hallowed expressions of adoration can be exercised.

So, what are we missing? Why must our leaders relentlessly remind us of our opportunities to receive revelation and commune with the Infinite?

The challenges are many, but the solution has been well taught by Church leaders. Reverence, that worshipful awe for the goodness and greatness of God, is an attitude — a way of life, not merely a behavior that is switched on or off while passing through the chapel doors.

"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," said President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve, in his October 1991 general conference address, which he titled "Reverence Invites Revelation."

"Inseparable from the acceptance of the existence of God is an attitude of reverence," said President David O. McKay, as recorded in the October 1966 Instructor, "Meditation, Communion, Reverence in Our Houses of Worship."

"The greatest manifestation of spirituality is reverence; indeed, reverence is spirituality. Reverence is profound respect mingled with love…. If reverence is the highest, then irreverence is the lowest state in which a man can live in the world. Be that as it may, it is nevertheless true that an irreverent man has a crudeness about him that is repellent. He is cynical, often sneering and always iconoclastic.

"Reverence embraces regard, deference, honor and esteem. Without some degree of it, therefore, there would be no courtesy, no gentility, no consideration of others' feelings, or of others' rights. Reverence is the fundamental virtue in religion. It is one of the signs of strength; irreverence, one of the surest indications of weakness."

Any Latter-day Saint's sincere study of reverence should include a thorough review of the events surrounding the appearance of the Savior to the Nephites:

"And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come.

"And when they had all gone forth and had witnessed for themselves, they did cry out with one accord, saying:

"Hosanna! Blessed be the name of the Most High God!" (3 Nephi 11: 15-17.)

The sum result of coming into the commanding presence of the Lord is celebratory reverence manifest in an eagerness to attune attitudes and behavior to receive the Spirit.

"I invite you brethren of the priesthood … to begin an earnest effort to cultivate a more beautiful spirit of worship in our sacrament meetings and an attitude of increased reverence generally in our Church buildings," said President Gordon B. Hinckley in an April 1987 general conference address.

"I wish that every father in the Church would make this a matter of discussion with his family at the next family home evening and occasionally in family home evenings thereafter. The subject for discussion might be something like this: 'What each of us can do to improve the spirit of our sacrament meetings.' Wonderful things will happen if this is done."