How Great Thou Art

Last Sunday our ward had the rare privilege of hearing Alex Boye sing a solo in sacrament meeting. I must confess at the time I didn’t know who he was, but when he started to sing a gospel rendition of “How Great Thou Art” I, like many other ward members, sat up straight in my seat and listened, enthralled (although I think a couple of the older ward members nearly had a heart attack). I’ve never heard these words sung so beautifully, so stirringly: “Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee, How great thou art! How great thou art!” Perhaps it was the unconventional delivery of the song (jazzy piano accompaniment and all) as well as the sheer beauty of Brother Boye’s voice that made me listen to the words more carefully, made me feel them deep in my soul. It was one of the most worshipful and thrilling musical numbers I have ever heard in a sacrament meeting. I thought of that musical number yesterday as I read these words in Psalms: “Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands. Sing forth the honour of his name: make his praise glorious” (Psalm 66: 1-2).

And it’s in that spirit, and in the spirit of gratitude, that I want to sing praises of my own, so to speak, to my God today. My prayers are too often full of petitions and pleas while being scarce on thankfulness and praise. What better time to give thanks than Thanksgiving week?

But first, a few thoughts on gratitude. On Sunday, after hearing Brother Boye sing in sacrament meeting, we talked in Young Women about how gratitude helps us cultivate meekness and offset pride. I taught my Beehive class that the commandment to be grateful, like all other commandments, is given by a loving Heavenly Father for our benefit: gratitude blesses us—it reminds us there’s a greater power beyond ourselves; it makes us happier, helps us better handle our trials, and counteracts selfishness and bitterness. And then that night I listened to Stephanie Nielson speak in a stake youth fireside about gratitude during adversity (two brushes with fame in one day!) and as I listened to her give heartfelt and loving thanks to the Lord for sustaining and blessing her through her trials, heard her express her gratitude for being able to perform simple tasks like making her kids’ school lunches (a chore I often bemoan) and buttoning up her daughter’s coat, I knew I needed a serious gratitude check.

So here’s what I feel grateful for right now as I write this post: the sound of my daughter playing Christmas songs on the piano, which fills me with a tender mixture of nostalgia and comfort; my dog snoozing next to me on the couch, her legs twitching as she chases a bird in her sleep; the sky aflame with pink and orange as the sun slips below the horizon. I’m grateful for the turkey thawing in my fridge, and the prospect of family gathering to eat good food on Thursday. I’m grateful for my laptop. I’m grateful for scriptures, for the Conference issue of the Ensign, which I’ve been reading over the last couple of weeks and which has soothed me and nourished my soul. Most of all, however, I’m grateful today for the tender, compassionate reminders I received last week that God is mindful of me and, more importantly to me right now, my children. I am grateful that He knows my heart, my fears and concerns, and my longings, and that He hears me when I cry out to Him in my extremity. I know that all good things come from Him and that He is the source of my joy and salvation.

I echo the words of my missionary son, who wrote the following in his email last week after struggling with a difficult companion for the past month and a half: “I’m learning [so much] about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It’s changed me. I don’t know if I’ll be recognizable when this is all over, because He is changing me so much. And I never deserved it, never deserved any of this, but it’s a gift He freely gives us. I cannot express with words how much I feel the Savior’s love, even and especially in this most difficult part of my mission.”

Only the Lord knows what those words meant to me. With deep love and reverence I add my voice to David’s in the eighteenth Psalm: “I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust….I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised…for who is God save the Lord? Or who is a rock save our God?…The Lord liveth; and blessed be my rock…Therefore I will give thanks unto thee, O Lord…and sing praises unto thy name.”

And like Alex Boye, I want to lift my voice in song and praise and declare, “How Great Thou Art.”

What are you feeling grateful for this week? How do you teach your children about gratitude? And have any sacrament meeting musical numbers stirred your soul lately?

About Melissa M

(Advisory Board) grew up in Australia and California and now lives in Provo, Utah with her husband, four children, and their dog, Daisy. She served a mission in Peru and has a BA and MA in English from BYU. She loves reading, writing, and quiet afternoons. She does not love grocery shopping. Now that two of her children attend BYU and her youngest children are in high school and junior high, she is trying to adjust to this "emptying nest" stage and still wondering how it snuck up on her so fast.

20 thoughts on “How Great Thou Art

  1. I’m grateful to be able to think about what I’m grateful about!

    I’m grateful that I start a new job tomorrow that I know I’ll love. I’m grateful for my favourite yoghurt being on special. I’m grateful for the internet.

    I’m grateful for Segullah. And friends. Happy thanksgiving!

  2. I love this. Thank you. And oh the words of your missionary! I am thankful for many things, but I am particularly thankful to have read your post this morning. Thank you (again).

  3. thank you, Melissa. You express yourself so beautifully.

    I’ve been frustrated lately because I am so darn busy; I’m sick of having demands every minute. But I talked to my sister and she said, “Why are you busy? Because you’re married, because you have six great kids, because your kids like you and want to be around you, because you have friends, because you have talents, because you love God and spend time serving his children…”

    Ah, it was just what I needed to hear. I am grateful for my busy, crazy overwhelmingly wonderful life. And yes, I have some really bad stuff going on in my extended family, but we are learning a lot.

  4. Melissa, I’m thankful that I’m in your ward because I will never forget Alex Boye sharing his powerful testimony of Jesus Christ through music. It was amazing; furthermore, there was a musical number a couple weeks ago in our ward where a returning missionary, his father, and several of his sisters sang a song that was so gorgeous and touched my soul in such a powerful way that I was literally weeping. I love how this family and Alex Boye used their incredible talent to feed my hungry soul.

    I’m grateful for God’s sublime love and all the amazing gifts I receive as I follow the Spirit. This week is our 8th wedding anniversary, so I’m feeling especially grateful for the gift of a nice husband who helps me fulfill all my dreams and who gives me powerful priesthood blessings whenever I ask and who took me to China and Bali this year. I’m also thankful that I can see majestic Timp from my window because it is frosted with snow and fluffy clouds this morning. Happy Thanksgiving!

  5. We’re expecting our first baby in March, and money has been very tight lately. It’s hard to be grateful when every cent is being stretched to its limit (and beyond). But last night, it was my husband’s turn to say prayers and he felt prompted to say a prayer of gratitude.

    I do have a lot to be grateful for: the healthy baby girl growing inside me; a healthy pregnancy; that my husband is almost done with school; family members who are willing and able to help us when we need it (even if we don’t want it)…I really have been blessed.

    Thank you for this beautiful post!

  6. I’ve been focused on getting the house clean for my in-laws and all the turkey day prep. There are fleeting thoughts of gratitude, but mostly I’m like Michelle, feeling overwhelmed. Of course it’s overwhelmed by wonderful blessings. Blessings take a lot of work! At some point I will be extremely grateful for a nap.

    Good post, the only thing that could improve it is a soundtrack :)

  7. Amen to the soundtrack. “How Great Thou Art” is one of my favorite hymns.

    When my oldest daughter was on her mission (in Austria), she had one companion who had grown up in East Germany and who had had quite a difficult life. She tended to make my daughter feel a little guilty because she had had such an easy life by comparison. My daughter wrote once that they had been discussing whether or not they were happy, and her companion said she wasn’t, so my daughter felt that she should (in guilt? in solidarity?) say she wasn’t as well.

    When I received that letter, I sent a reply off immediately (not waiting for my weekly letter writing time on Sundsay) and called them to repentance. I told them that they were unhappy because they weren’t being grateful, and if they would think about all the things they have to be grateful for, they would know they were happy.

    To me, these things go hand in hand. The Lord wants us to be grateful so we will recognize how happy we are and how blessed we are.

    And we are blessed, even when we feel overwhelmed and deeply challenged. He is with us through everything. There’s nothing Greater and more Grateful-making than that.

  8. Right now I’m probably most grateful that after six days of waking up sicker than I was the day before, today I feel slightly better than yesterday.

    But I”m also wondering why you didn’t invite all of us to church with you on Sunday? I’d have loved to hear that for myself! ;-)

    Thank you for sharing these thoughts. ♥

  9. My husband and I saw Stephanie speak last month in Sacramento. She was even sweeter in person than she is on her blog! She talked about how grateful she is to be able to ziploc those little baggies she puts in her kids’ lunch bags. Really puts thankfulness into perspective.

  10. What a wonderful article, and how blessed you were to hear Alex Boyer in person, and especially that song, which is an absolute favorite of mine. I would love to have heard it.

    I was reading an article somewhere in the last week or so, about being grateful for the wonderful things that happen to us, and all the tender mercies is actually the preparatory gospel. The Lord tells us to be grateful in ALL THINGS. That means even the bad things that happen to us and in our lives. Looking back from my old age I see that the hardest things that I have gone through are where I learned and grew the most. I would not have missed any of them. Thank you so much for writing these things for us. I have had periods where life was tough and prayed and prayed for help. But then, at the last I prayed a prayer filled with nothing but gratitude. What a wonderful experience that was. Have a really happy Thanksgiving this year. Love to you and yours!

  11. In light of my friend’s recent MS diagnosis, I am profoundly grateful for good health. I am grateful for a strong body that lets me do all the things I need and want to do.

    In light of Aunt Geraldine’s comment, I am thankful for a year full of challenges and difficulties. I can say that it has helped me to grow and strengthen my testimony. I know that God has been by my side in all of it and I am eternally grateful for that. All of these trials were things I wouldn’t have asked for, but they have changed me in so many ways.

    I am thankful for technology that keeps me connected to far-away friends and that leads me to things that lift my spirits.

  12. This really is a time for us to reflect on our blessings.we often overlook what we have for what we don’t have.I am most grateful for the wonderful family that I have and especially for your way of reminding us how much our Heavenly Father loves us. Love is the most important message of the gospel.Thank you for your sweet message. I am also grateful for the trials and tribulations that have made me grow and have made me enlarge my my capacity to love .Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  13. Thanks for this. I’ve been feeling very good lately, until recently. Today I am overwhelmed that I have a dinner to make and then have to prepare my house for a showing on Friday since it is for sale. And I had a biopsy done today so don’t feel as energetic as I need to. I’m sure it’s nothing, but it’s hard not to worry. I was sure I’d take it in stride, but now I’m stressed and crying. Not as strong as I thought I was.

    I’m grateful for Segullah. For the internet that let’s us reach across distance and find others of like minds and hearts to lift our own. For the gospel truths that have guided me. For a kind husband and five children. For a home and enough to live on. I’m grateful that God knows each of us and loves us even when we don’t feel it.

    And I’ll try to be grateful that I have the missionaries and a ward member with no where else to go coming for dinner and that someone is interested in looking at my house.

    I stopped crying at least. I’m grateful for that. :-)

  14. Thank you all, for your comments! I’ve enjoyed reading your gratitude lists.

    Sage, sending you virtual hugs. I’m so sorry you’ve had a difficult day. Having a biopsy is stressful under the best of circumstances, but the day before Thanksgiving?—I feel for you! I hope you feel peace and comfort over the next few days and that your biopsy results are negative. And bless you for having the missionaries and your fellow ward member over for dinner tomorrow. Somewhere out there are a couple of missionary moms who are praising your name. =)

  15. And I got my house ready to show including touch-up paint where my daughter peeled it off the door trim! And hole repair where same daughter had pulled the towel rack off the wall! :-)

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