Thou Shalt Thank the Lord thy God in All Things: A Scripture Deconstructed

In the Doctrine and Covenants is a very short scripture: 

Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things.

~D&C 59:7 

Note: For more information on what the Doctrine and Covenants is, click here

When we look at each word one by one, we see a powerful message packed into just 10 words.  

#1 - Thou 

Years ago I had an interesting experience in the Paris France Temple.  I had just attended an Endowment Ceremony in French and noticed that the informal "tu" was used instead of "Vous" when addressing God. This confused me because I've always thought of Thee, Thou, and Thy as the English language's formal you.  So why wouldn't the French use their formal you as well?  

I had a chance to meet the president of the Paris temple and asked him.  Fortunately, he is American and understood the nature of my question.  He simply answered, "Because God is our friend."  

This lead me into a deep dive into what I had thought was our formal way of saying "You." What I discovered surprised me.  Thee, Thou, and Thy originally was our informal "you" just like "tu" in French.  Using this from of you was a way to let someone know you considered them a friend.  

Note: For more information on the history of Thee, Thou, and Thy, click here

In John 15:15, Jesus says, 

"I have called you friends" 

Do we see the Lord as our friend?  If so, wouldn't we naturally feel gratitude for him?  Think of all the times you have thanked your friends just for being your friend. Have we ever thanked Heavenly Father for the friend we have in Jesus? 

#2 - Shalt 

According to the Noah Webster 1828 dictionary, the word shall has three meanings: a promise, a commandment, and a determination. This word is so much stronger than, "Hey, if you aren't too busy I'd really like you to express gratitude." No, we are commanded to give thanks. 

#3- Thank 

Again, I really like the definition that the Noah Webster 1828 dictionary gives for the word thank. 

 "to make acknowledgments to one for kindness bestowed"

For me this definition is so much more than just being a grateful for something that you got.  It's recognizing that God is kind to us. 

#4 - The 

To my fellow grammar geeks out there, you know that this word is a definitive adjective.  This means that is modifying the word that comes after it.  It's used to show a limit or the significance of the noun.  The word "the" is significant here because it is teaching us that there is one Lord.  

#5 - Lord 

When we see the word "Lord" in the scriptures does it mean Jesus or the Father? The answer isn't cut and dry.  In reality, it doesn't matter which one it is because of something known as "divine investiture." This means that Jesus has the authority to speak in the first person as the Father. We can be assured that whether it is spoken by Jesus or the Father, they are of one voice and one purpose. 

#6 - Thy 

Here's the friendly "you" again only this time it is possessive, meaning "your." What a wonderful assurance that the Father is ours and we are His.  

#7 - God 

What is the difference between the word "Lord" and the word "God?" In Hebrew the words are Adonai and Elohim. Adonai was used in place of Jehovah, and Elohim refers to Our Father in Heaven.  So are we supposed to thank Jesus or Heavenly Father?  I would answer, "Yes." We have been commanded to pray to our Father in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ.  

#8 - In 

You probably thought I was going to skip this little pronoun.  Actually, I think it's a critical word in this scripture. I think when we read this scripture it's easy in our minds to replace this word with another preposition "for." We should thank God for all things.  But the word isn't "for" it's "in."  So what's the difference? 

"In" is a preposition, meaning it is showing us a position.  "In" means enclosure or to be surrounded. So in this sentence, I think it's talking about what surrounds us, what the world is as we know it. 

The word "for" means what has been sent to us or what we've been given. Do you see how the preposition "in" encompasses far more than the word "for"?

#9 - All 

Of all the words in this scripture, I think this one makes it the hardest to obey.  It's easy to show gratitude for what makes us happy or for things we wanted. But "all" means the whole amount, absolutely everything.  Are we able to thank God for the things we receive but didn't want? Can we show gratitude for what doesn't make us happy? It can be hard to see our trials as kindness bestowed upon us, right? As we get closer to obeying this commandment by including the word "all," we can truly unleash the power of gratitude in our lives. 

#10 - Things 

In our modern dictionaries, this word means objects that can't be designated.  But let's see what our friend Noah Webster has to say about it.  Remember, this is the vocabulary that would have been familiar to the early Saints who first received this revelation. 

Thing is any event, action, substance, or particle.  

Now that we have looked at each word, let's put it all together. 

Friend, you are commanded to acknowledge that your one and only Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father have bestowed kindness upon you including every single event and substance you have ever experienced in your lifetime.  

That's a mouthful, isn't it? 

Right now you might be thinking, "I'm not always there." Sometimes we don't feel very grateful when we are faced with difficult trials.  Sometimes things happen to us and it doesn't feel like kindness, but rather we feel picked on or targeted. Next time that happens I hope you remember the story of the blind girl on the train. 

A man was holding his blind daughter on a train.  A friend sitting close to them offered to hold the little girl so that father could rest.  That father asked his daughter, "Do you know who is holding you?" The blind girl answered, "No, but you do." 

In some ways we too are blind.  We are blind to the big picture. We are blind to the other side of the veil. We are blind to the mind and will of God. When tragedy and sorrow come into our lives, let us remember who is holding us, and for that let us give thanks.

To read the story of the blind girl, click here. 

 Not an official publication of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints


Anonymous said…
Love your writing and insights. Thanks for sharing.
Tom said…
Recognizing God's goodness