"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
March 13, 2013
Real Reverence
by Emily S. Jorgensen

We in the Primary presidency of my ward have recently taken a bit of flak. Certain vocal members of the ward have been complaining that our Primary needs to be more reverent.

When these opinions were first brought to my attention, I immediately thought of a Sharing Time lesson in the Primary curriculum last year that focused on reverence. The title of the lesson was, “Reverence is Deep Respect and Love Toward God” (2012 Outline for Sharing Time, Choose the Right, pg. 15).

I also thought of the Primary song, Reverence, whose first line is, “Reverence is more than just quietly sitting.”

I began to ponder the question, “What is real reverence?”

I feel I found my answer in the discussion of the two main theories of educational psychology to come out of the 20th century: behaviorism and constructivism.

Behaviorism, watered down to its most elemental tenets, says that we can only measure what people know by observing the behaviors we see them do.

Scientists working under the assumptions of this theory have found that people’s behavior can be manipulated by offering rewards for desirable behaviors and punishments for undesirable ones.

It is assumed that when the desirable behavior has been observed, then the person has learned it. Contrarily, if a desirable behavior is not observed in a person, then behaviorists say that person has not learned the lesson at hand.

Constructivism, on the other hand, basically says that we all see the world in our own unique perspective and our internal thoughts, feelings, and beliefs govern what we know and what we do.

A constructivist says it is very hard to know what a person has learned simply by watching his outward appearance and actions.

Scientists working under this theory find it more difficult to quantify learning and knowledge, but have found that helping people learn how to identify and articulate their thoughts and feelings help them to make progress toward learning goals.

When I read that quote from the Primary song, “Reverence is more than just quietly sitting,” and that sharing time topic, ”Reverence is Deep Respect and Love Toward God,” I think that reverence is not a behavior.

Reverence is something unquantifiable; more of a feeling and a belief.

It is erroneous to look at a sweet little CTR 5 girl who is sitting perfectly quietly with her hands folded in her lap, eyes to the front of the class, and know that she loves God. She may very well, but then, again, she might not.

It is equally incorrect to assume that the rowdy Valiant 9 boy in the back of the class that struggles with impulse control does not have a deep respect and love for God, although he may not be showing it at the moment.

In this way, reverence is very akin to testimony. A testimony cannot be measured by anyone but God. Someone may appear to be living the commandments from an outsider’s view, but may be internally doubting or apathetic to the gospel.

Likewise, a testimony may be burning bright in a person that does not appear, by some of his choices, to have one.

I am reminded of the scripture, “For man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart. “ (1 Samuel 16:7)

When I walk into Primary, sometimes I notice the children are a bit loud or restless. But guess what else I notice? They have a burning desire to participate in the activities of Primary, to share what they know about the scriptures and the gospel, to share themselves with each other and their leaders, to learn the Primary songs and read the scriptures on their own (even when the latter takes about five minutes to get out one verse).

I have been in this Primary for more than three years now. In all that time, I have never taught a lesson where the children did not want to participate and be a part of the learning. Do they sometimes want to stray off topic? Yes. Do they sometimes act silly? Yes. But they are never apathetic.

Could we say the same about ourselves as adult students of the gospel?

Our Primary children want to know more about God and what His plan is for them. They have respect for His prophet and the words of God that are in the scriptures. They love Him. They have that deep respect and love for God, even if they are wiggling in their chair.

We adults don’t have their excuse of immature nervous systems that compel them to be constantly in motion. We know that one of the ways we show this deep respect and love for God is by quietly sitting when that is called for. We show it by refraining from playing Angry Birds in Sunday School or checking Facebook in the middle of Relief Society meetings.

We show our reverence by making respectful comments and taking the opportunity to ponder the things of God in those quiet moments Church affords us; we demonstrate it by showing up and fulfilling our callings and doing the work God has for us in His kingdom.

Reverence is more than just quietly sitting; in fact, it is not quietly sitting at all. It is loving God with our heart, might, mind, and strength. It is something we can do all the time, everywhere, not just at church. It is an attitude we cultivate, making room for holiness in our life.

Reverence is deep respect and love towards God, and I would challenge us adults to strive for achieving the level of those feelings that an average Sunbeam possesses.


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About Emily S. Jorgensen

Emily Jorgensen received her bachelor's degree in piano performance from Brigham Young University. She earned her master's degree in elementary music education, also at BYU. She holds a Kodaly certificate in choral education, as well as permanent certification in piano from Music Teacher’s National Association.

She has taught piano, solfege, and children’s music classes for 17 years in her own studio. She has also taught group piano classes at BYU.

She is an active adjudicator throughout the Wasatch Front and has served in local, regional, and state positions Utah Music Teachers' Association, as well as the Inspirations arts contest chair at Freedom Academy.

She gets a lot of her inspiration for her column by parenting her own rambunctious four children, aged from “in diapers” to “into Harry Potter.” She is still married to her high school sweetheart and serves in her ward’s Primary.

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