SACRAMENT MEETING REVERENCE

            I have a question. In the October, 1976, issue of the Ensign, President Marion G. Romneysaid, “Reverence is the soul of true religion. Its seedbed is sincerity. Its quality is determined by the esteem in which one holds the object of his reverence as evidenced by his behavior toward that object. When that object is God, the genuinely reverent person has a worshipful adoration coupled with a respectful behavior toward Him and all that pertains to Him. . . Judged by their superior knowledge of God, Latter-day Saints should be the most reverent people in the world (italics added) . . .” If his last statement is true, then why is it that more often than not, when I first enter an LDS chapel in preparation for Sacrament meeting, what I see—and hear—reminds me more of a subdued ward party than a worshipful service?

Some may respond by saying reverence is a private feeling or something we can feel no matter what events are taking place around us. Besides, members of Christ’s church are friendly, aren’t they? They work together, too, and they try to accomplish much in a short time.
            While I believe such characteristics are good and represent our love for each other and our dedication to God’s service, and while I also believe we can feel our love for Him even as we are chatting or “catching that person we just have to talk to before we leave the room,” I can’t help wondering. . .

Last summer, I toured a Buddhist temple in Shanghai, China. Due to my background, I assumed the building would be a no-longer-used, cultural landmark, similar to a historical site in the United States; but I was wrong. It was a “working” temple, where believers worshipped, monks studied, and tourists, like me, paid to enter, then paid again to enter the “holiest” room, walking throughout the building, examining and visiting at our leisure. However, I also noticed that even though all was in commotion around them, the few worshippers in attendance appeared riveted to their rites. How could this be, I wondered?

I had these same feelings a year earlier when I entered the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, Italy. That revered room, one of Catholicism’s most holy places on earth, housed wondrous, awe-inspiring paintings by history’s esteemed artists. Yet I, along with many other paying tourists, found myself bustling among committed, reverent worshippers. Their tear-filled eyes were focused upward, and their mouths were silent. I did not doubt their devotion. But, while I marveled at them, as I later did the Buddhist worshippers, my wonderings eventually turned more thought provoking: Since reverence was so obviously an inward feeling, when it came right down to it, was there really that much of a difference between those places of worship and our own Sacrament Meetings? 
            Another thought. The same year I toured Vatican City, I also visited several Austrian cathedrals. These, too, were open to the public, but I remember one edifice in particular which exhibited a major difference from its counterparts: there was a glass-walled entryway where tourists or other non-worshippers could watch the ceremonies without disturbing the sanctity of the meeting. I appreciated that. And even though I didn’t stay long—I felt uncomfortable gaping at the local Austrians like they were performers—it reminded me of the truths taught in our simple Primary song, “The Chapel Doors.
                              

The chapel doors seem to say to me, “Sh, be still.”
            For this is a reverent place to be, “Sh, be still.”
            We gather here on the Sabbath day,
            To learn of Jesus, to sing and pray. 
            So when we come through the chapel doors, “Sh, be still.”

Similarly, Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone in the September, 1976 Friend, described reverence in this way:

“Reverence during meetings is a very important part of the responsibility we have as members of His true church. We are all impressed with the reverence shown by children in Primary who enter the chapel quietly with arms folded. Their reverence is an example that all members of the Church should appreciate and remember when attending any meetings in the chapel.

“However, reverence is not shown only in the chapel. Boys and girls who have learned how to be reverent do not run up and down the halls or yell and talk loudly inside the church. Reverent people also do not offend or hurt people’s feelings or make fun of others’ clothing or appearance. They try to be kind to everyone they meet.

“At Sunday School and sacrament meeting we have an opportunity to show our Savior how much we love Him by being reverent. It is not reverent to walk in and out of a sacrament meeting while it is in progress. We should get a drink of water and go to the rest room before the meeting begins. It is very disturbing to a speaker when someone leaves. The attention of other members in the congregation is also distracted.

“Those who speak and provide music have prayed and often fasted for help with their assignment. The reverent person listens carefully and receives the message from the speaker.

“Determine to be reverent in sacrament meeting by never speaking out loud. Speak in a whisper and then only when it is absolutely necessary. Sing the hymns with your parents. Children have beautiful voices and it adds much to the meeting when they sing. It is appropriate to take the sacrament with your right hand. And during the administration and passing of the sacrament, we should try to think of the Savior.
“Boys and girls who have smaller brothers and sisters should not tease them. They should not keep asking their mothers or fathers to let them take these little ones out. Your brothers and sisters and often older people can learn how to be reverent by watching your behavior.”

    I welcome Elder Featherstone’s depiction of reverence. It’s not only simple, but it also teaches us exactly how we should behave without ignoring the fact that reverence is a feeling. However, what I appreciate most about it is it gives me hope that we Latter-day Saints can follow the Austrians’ example and leave our outside cares in the entry way before we walk through those sacred doors. That way, we, too, can see and hear and feel reverence; we can more fully worship the True and Living God.

Another Helpful Article:
“How We Improved Reverence”

 

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Comments

  • Friday, July 18. 2008 Linda wrote:
    I also think that reverence is a problem within our chapels. Not only are we not taking the time for ourselves to be reverent, but we are infringing on others rights. This is something we as a people need to work on.
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  • Friday, July 18. 2008 Cindy Beck wrote:
    Ronda,
    Excellent article. Reverence can be a major problem sometimes, and the atmosphere in the chapel sets the tone for the whole meeting.
    Reply to this
  • Friday, July 18. 2008 Jennifer Ricks wrote:
    I also like this quote about reverence by President L. Aldin Porter (from "Come to the Temple" in the October 2004 New Era; President Porter was president of the Salt Lake Temple at the time): "Reverence is more than silence. Reverence is, among other things, a respect for sacred gifts." He also said, "What we learn and feel in the temple is largely determined by how reverent we are." I would add that what we learn and feel in all our meetings is determined by how reverent we are. These thoughts on reverence also make me think of Psalms 46:10, "Be still, and know that I am God."
    Reply to this
  • Friday, July 18. 2008 Ronda Hinrichsen wrote:
    Great comments. Thank you for your input!
    Reply to this
  • Friday, July 18. 2008 Michelle E. wrote:
    Wonderful article! I too believe there is a problem with revernce in our chapels and I am not perfect at it either, but I am definitely going to begin improving mine and setting a better example. As primary chorister, when we have a reverence problem in Primary I often have the children sing "Reverence is Love" or I will quietly play it on the CD player since my pianist is fairly new and doesn't know all the songs. I think I will try singing that song to myself as I enter the Chapel as well to remind myself to be reverent.
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  • Friday, July 18. 2008 Anna wrote:
    I think we do have a problem with reverence.

    There are reasons for leaving the chapel (such as taking out a crying or misbehaving child) but other than that, it isn't that hard to sit for an hour, unless you have a medical problem.
    Reply to this
  • Saturday, July 19. 2008 Angela wrote:
    In the Chapel, People gather to hear the Spirit of the Lord. If we really care about others, we would call or drop by their home. It is the Lord's house and his time. We have the rest of the week. He only gets 1 hour.
    Reply to this
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