Tag Archives: Brotherhood

Hymn #293: Each Life That Touches Ours for Good

“The Lord answers our prayers,” said Spencer W. Kimball, “but it is usually through another person that he meets our needs.” It’s rare that He Himself will descend to do the things we ask of Him. Instead, He sends a kind family member, a trusted co-worker, or even a gentle stranger to help us along our way. Possibly most often is the case when he places a loving friend in our path when we need bearing up.

“Each life that touches ours for good,” we sing at the beginning of this hymn, “reflects thine own great mercy, Lord.” Friends, family, and others offer kindness and support to us, and who else could they possibly be reminding us of? The Lord is the great example to all of us, and when we do any good thing, anything kind, loving, generous, or virtuous, it’s because we learned it first from Him. The Apostle John said of the Savior, “We love him, because he first loved us,” though he could just as easily have said, “We love family, friends, and everyone else he places in our path, because he first loved us.”

What greater gift does thou bestow,
What greater goodness can we know
Than Christlike friends, whose gentle ways
Strengthen our faith, enrich our days.

This second verse speaks for itself, but I’ll do my best to add what little I have. Good friends, kind family, and every other loving person placed in our path are a supreme blessing. They bear us up, stand with us when we need comfort, weep with us when we weep, and rejoice with us when we have joy. A Christlike friend can strengthen our faith, as we sing. We learn how to love and how to trust in our Lord through a trusted friend who demonstrates those attributes in his or her own life.

It’s difficult for me to find anything to add to this verse simply because it feels so simple and obvious to me, and that’s because it’s something I feel so keenly in my own life. I’ve been richly, richly blessed with good people in my life. I have a loving family, and I have dear, good friends. I find myself thanking the Lord for each of these people often, and I have ample reason to thank Him for each one of them. There were kind people placed in my life during lonely times as a teenager that I still cherish relationships with today. The same goes for my college years, and it continues today. The Lord places good people in our path to help us along, and it is in their faces and kind deeds that we can see His face and His deeds.

If you’re reading this, and you and I are acquainted to nearly any degree, then please know that you are one of these dear friends that I’m speaking about. We may have met as young people in middle or high school. You might be one of those friends I met in college and shared movie nights and late night conversations with. You might be a fellow writer for the Beesley Project, with whom I get to share my feelings, appreciation, and love for the hymns, and all of whom (except Kim, but that’s only because we hadn’t met yet) I thought of by name when considering a project like this.

And maybe you’re someone I’ve only met or spoken with once, as we crossed paths in the street or shared a short conversation while waiting in line. Relationships don’t have to be deep to be meaningful. Even small kindnesses can remind us of the love the Savior has for each of us. And it’s worth remembering that not only do we have good and kind people placed in our paths, but that we also have the chance to be a good and kind person placed in someone else’s path. We don’t know when we’re the one the Lord is counting on to support someone else, whether it’s through lending a helping hand, a kind deed, or even just a smile.

So no matter who you are, I want you to know that when I sing the fourth and final verse of this hymn, I sing about you:

For worthy friends whose lives proclaim
Devotion to the Savior’s name,
Who bless our days with peace and love,
We praise thy goodness, Lord, above.

Hymn #219: Because I Have Been Given Much

Because I have been given much, I too must give;
Because of thy great bounty, Lord, each day I live
I shall divide my gifts from thee
With every brother that I see
Who has the need of help from me.

This is a beloved hymn in the LDS Church. If you’ve spent much time with us at all, chances are excellent you’ve heard it at least once, and if you’ve been a member for most of your life, chances are excellent you’ve sung it a couple hundred times. It’s the song about gratitude. I’m not going to try to be tricky here and argue that it’s secretly about something else (although take a look at those topics at the bottom; missionary work? reactivation? fasting? there’s more than meets the eye here), although I do want to explore the depth of the gratitude we express in this hymn. Let’s consider a few words from that first verse.

1. How much is “much?”

We sing that we have been given “much” from the Lord, but how much are we talking about? I think we all understand that He created the heavens and earth, as well as the animal and plant life thereon. Certainly we should be thankful for those gifts. But surely this doesn’t include things that man has created, right? We should be thankful for our lives, of course, but should we give thanks to the Lord for, say, television, or smartphones? Do I need to be grateful for the database that I built at work?

We have been given much, but a more accurate word might be “all.” The Lord has given us everything, from the earth we stand on and the air we breathe to our wit, intelligence, and creativity. If we build anything, it’s only because He gave us the ability to do so in the first place. King Benjamin, in his wonderful valedictory address to his people in the Book of Mormon, taught that even if we were to “render all the thanks and praise which [our] whole soul has power to possess,” we would yet be unprofitable servants. He has given us so much that we can never come out ahead, particularly since as we extend our gratitude to Him through our obedience, He gives us further blessings. There’s no way for us to catch up.

Fortunately, He doesn’t ask us to catch up. All He asks is that we keep His commandments, and one of those is to be grateful. So we offer our gratitude to Him for all that we have, and we certainly have much.

2. How many days is “each?”

We pledge in this hymn to express gratitude and share our gifts with others each day we live. That doesn’t mean that we do those things only on Sundays, or only when it’s convenient for us. It’s easy to be grateful and share at those times. We’re good at offering gratitude when we’re recognized for it, or when everyone else is also doing so. It’s a breeze to offer what we have to others when we’re confident they will be too polite to accept. But it’s something else when we see someone in need and we know it would cost us more than a trifle to stop and help. We may be driving somewhere and see someone stopped on the side of the road. We may justify not stopping because we’re in a rush, and think to ourselves, “Someone else will probably stop,” or, “I’m sure they’ll take care of it.” We may hear that an acquaintance needs help fixing their house, and think “I don’t know them that well,” or, “I just got home from work, and I’m too tired to go out.”

We’re good at finding ways to justify inaction and ingratitude, but the hymn makes it clear that we are to be grateful and giving each day we live. We don’t get days off. There aren’t times when it’s optional to give thanks or aid. We are to be grateful always, even (and perhaps especially) when it’s difficult. And in those times that it’s difficult to be grateful, we can take comfort in the fact that others have made the same pledge, and they will be there for us when we need help.

3. How many people is “every?”

We declare that we will share our blessings with “every” brother (or sister, of course) that we see. As we mentioned before, it’s very easy to share our blessings with friends and family. These are people that we know and love, and of course we would share with them. They would share with us. It’s less easy to offer our blessings to those we don’t know as well, or who don’t seem to be able (or willing) to repay us.

The commandment is simple: We are to share our bounty with everyone. We don’t distinguish based on intent, or appearance, or belief, or anything else. We have been blessed without reservation, and we spread those blessings similarly without reservation. The apostle John wrote that “we love [the Lord], because he first loved us.” We could just as well say that we love others because He first loved us, and we bless others’ lives because He first blessed ours.

I think we readily understand the message that we are to be grateful because we have been so richly blessed, but we might be slower to understand the breadth of that gratitude.  Our gratitude isn’t expressed in passing. There’s nothing shallow about it. It should be all-encompassing, and we’re probably slow to admit that because we know how difficult a task it is.

Fortunately, He doesn’t ask us to do it all at once, or even to be able to do it all at once. He asks for our best effort, and as we give that, He blesses us more and more.