Gratitude has been defined as “a feeling of thankful appreciation for favors received.” It is the hallmark of noble souls.
“Cicero calls gratitude the mother of virtues, the most capital of all duties, and uses the words grateful and good as synonymous terms, inseparably united in the same character. —Bate.” (The New Dictionary of Thoughts, 1961 ed., p. 246.)
Great souls are deeply moved with gratitude for simple favors. Note how the soul of the Prophet Joseph responded to some letters that he received while he was in Liberty Jail.
“We received some letters last evening—one from Emma, one from Don C. Smith, and one from Bishop Partridge—all breathing a kind of consoling spirit. We were much gratified with their contents. We had been a long time without information; and when we read those letters they were to our souls as the gentle air is refreshing, but our joy was mingled with grief, because of the sufferings of the poor and much injured Saints. And we need not say to you that the floodgates of our hearts were lifted and our eyes were a fountain of tears, but those who have not been enclosed in the walls of prison without cause or provocation, can have but little idea how sweet the voice of a friend is; one token of friendship from any source whatever awakens and calls into action every sympathetic feeling; it brings up in an instant everything that is passed; it seizes the present with the avidity of lightning; it grasps after the future with the fierceness of a tiger; it moves the mind backward and forward, from one thing to another, until finally all enmity, malice and hatred, and past differences, misunderstandings and mismanagements are slain victorious at the feet of hope.” (Documentary History of the Church, vol. 3, p. 293.)
We should be thankful and express appreciation for all favors received—and surely we receive many. The chief objects of our gratitude, however, should be, and are, God, our Heavenly Father, and his son Jesus Christ, our Lord and Redeemer.
“Know ye that the Lord he is God. …” sang the psalmist.
“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” (Ps. 100:3–4.)
“And now, my beloved brethren,” said Amulek to the Zoramites, “… worship God … and … live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings … he doth bestow upon you.” (Alma 34:37–38.)
“… O how you ought to thank your heavenly King!” said King Benjamin to his brethren.
“… you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another. …” (Mosiah 2:19–20.)
To the Lord Jesus we owe an undying debt of gratitude, for he bought us with a great price. It is impossible for us, weak mortals as we are, to fully comprehend and appreciate the sufferings he endured on the cross that he might gain for us the victory over death. Much less can we understand the suffering he endured in Gethsemane that we might obtain forgiveness of our sins, which, in his own words, “caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink. …” (D&C 19:18.) Much less, I say, can we understand this suffering that he endured to satisfy the demands of justice and bring about the means by which we, through faith in him, and repentance, can receive forgiveness of our sins.
None of us could have endured that suffering. No mortal man, nor any number of mortal men together, could have endured it.
(LDS Hymns, No. 201, “There Is a Green Hill Far Away.”)
Surely every soul who understands what the Savior did for us loves him and desires to demonstrate, in a realistic manner, thanks and gratitude.
In the 59th section of the Doctrine and Covenants there is a revelation in which the Lord tells us specifically how we can do this.
The said revelation was received by the Prophet Joseph Smith in Independence, Missouri, on August 7, 1831. The Saints were then just beginning to gather in Zion. The land had been consecrated and the temple site had been dedicated.
The Lord began the revelation by saying:
“… blessed … are they who have come up unto this land with an eye single to my glory. …
“Yea, blessed are they whose feet stand upon the land of Zion, who have obeyed my gospel; for they shall receive for their reward the good things of the earth, and it shall bring forth in its strength.
“And they shall also be crowned with blessings from above, yea, and with commandments not a few, and with revelations in their time—they that are faithful and diligent before me.
“Wherefore, I give unto them a commandment, saying thus: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, mind, and strength; and in the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt serve him.
“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Thou shalt not steal; neither commit adultery, nor kill, nor do anything like unto it.” (D&C 59:1, 3–6.)
The Lord added, by way of commandment, our text: “Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things.” (D&C 59:7.)
Then followed two commandments by obedience to which the Saints then could, and we now can and should, render, in a manner acceptable to Him, gratitude and thanks to the Lord our God.
These commandments are:
First—“Thou shalt offer a sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in righteousness, even that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit.”
And second—“… that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;
“For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High;
“Nevertheless thy vows shall be offered up in righteousness on all days and at all times;
“But remember that on this, the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord.
“And on this day thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart that thy fasting may be perfect, or, in other words, that thy joy may be full.
“Verily, this is fasting and prayer, or in other words, rejoicing and prayer.
“And inasmuch as ye do these things with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances, not with much laughter, for this is sin, but with a glad heart and a cheerful countenance—
“Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours. …
“And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; …
“And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.
“… wherefore … learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.” (D&C 59:8–16, 20–23.)
If we have ears to hear, and if we love the Lord, we shall hearken to these commandments and thank the Lord our God by keeping them in the manner he prescribed. He has said,
“If thou lovest me thou shalt serve me and keep all my commandments.” (D&C 42:29.)