Memories: The Fear of the Lord

Ed J. Pinegar, Richard J. Allen

A number of years ago I was privileged to serve in a branch presidency at the Missionary Training Center in Provo. One day in our discussions with the young missionaries, the subject of the fear of the Lord came up, and the young elders and sisters were eager to understand this principle. What does it mean to fear the Lord? What blessings does the Lord give to those who fear Him?

To prepare a lesson for them, I searched the scriptures and learned that the expression “fear of the Lord” occurs no fewer than 202 times in the scriptures, with a wide range of closely interrelated meanings. To get a sense of the core essence of the expression, I did a frequency analysis with the following results (in each case with a predominant meaning, the number of occurrences, and a representative reference): serve Him (17 times, as in Joshua 24:14), keep His commandments (13 in Ecclesiastes 12:13), worship Him (7 in 2 Kings 17:36), praise Him (6 in Psalms 22:23), trust Him (6 in Psalms 115:11), heed and do His words (6 in Deuteronomy 4:10), sanctify Him (4 in Isaiah 29:23), keep His statutes (3 in Deuteronomy 6:2), give glory to Him (3 in Revelation 14:7), walk in His ways (3 in Deuteronomy 10:12), judge righteously (2 in Isaiah 11:3), obey His voice (2 in Deuteronomy 13:4), consider His works (2 in 1 Samuel 12:24), know His mighty arm (2 in Exodus 15:16), bear testimony (2 in Psalms 118:4), cleave to Him (2 in Deuteronomy 10:20), and several additional usages including paying tithing, rejoicing, being united, and so forth. Certainly the predominant meaning of fearing the Lord is to serve Him with full obedience and to worship Him in a spirit of devoted praise and trust.

The second task was to understand clearly which blessings the Lord reserves for those who “fear him” in these ways. The scriptures, again, were explicit. Here are the highlights of the frequency analysis, which point out what is in store for those who serve and obey the Lord in “fear”: wisdom (12 times mentioned in the scriptures, as in Proverbs 1:7), knowledge (9 in Proverbs 1:7), salvation (5 in Alma 34:37, Mormon 9:27), strength (3 in 3 Nephi 4:10), life (3 in Proverbs 14:27), having no wants (2 in Psalms 34:9), plus a host of other blessings mentioned once or twice, including access to the mysteries and covenants of God, mercy, eternal glory, preservation, enduring forever, ministering of angels, shield of protection, and comfort of the Holy Ghost.

What a grand principle it is to fear the Lord. To serve Him, obey Him, worship Him, and trust Him will bring us wisdom, knowledge, salvation, strength, life, and a myriad other choice and glorious benefits. It is an eternal bargain. The results of this scriptural analysis I placed on two little bookmarks as a gift for the missionaries, in the hope that they would use them to mark important places in their scriptures and ponder prayerfully the grand essence of the commandment to fear the Lord. Even more important would be for us all to mark a place in our hearts and minds as a commitment to remember this principle in all that we do. (Richard J. Allen)

Commentaries and Insights on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 2