Music & the Spoken Word: Indebtedness and gratitude

Editor’s note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square broadcast. This will be given May 22, 2022.

Not long ago, a university researcher decided to conduct an experiment on gratitude. But her motives weren’t purely academic. This researcher is also a mother of four teenagers. She explained, “I wanted to learn more about how I can raise my kids to be more grateful in an era of entitlement.”

What she learned might be a bit surprising: Gratitude is tied to feelings of indebtedness. We often think of debt as a burden, an obligation that must be paid. But the research study found that feeling indebted to God, acknowledging what He has done for us, “leads to increased overall happiness and well-being.” The debt we owe to Him is one we can never pay, and yet those who recognize that debt actually feel closer to Him, not intimidated by Him. What’s more, they are also more likely to reach out to others in acts of service and kindness. Rather than feeling burdened, they seem to be uplifted and inspired by their debt to the Giver of all good gifts.

The study was published in a major academic journal, but it also had a major influence in the researcher’s family. “In our house,” she said, “we don’t just practice the feeling of gratitude; we practice acknowledging our indebtedness and expressing our gratitude through service” (see “Cultivating feelings of indebtedness to God results in increased happiness, desire to serve others,” by Kate Child, Brigham Young University News, March 15, 2022, news.byu.edu).

We all owe much to the kindness and goodness of others. While we’re certainly responsible for our own choices in life, we are also indebted to those who have taught us, nurtured us and helped us along the way. And, above all, we are indebted to our Maker for life and everything in it. Indeed, every good thing comes from Him.

The more deeply we feel that, the more inclined we are to see that goodness all around us. We start to see God’s hand not just in our lives but in others’ as well. In this way, we draw closer both to God and to His other children —our brothers and sisters in God’s wonderful world.

Tuning in …

The “Music & the Spoken Word” broadcast is available on KSL-TV, KSL Radio 1160AM/102.7FM, KSL.com, BYUtv, BYUradio, Dish and DirectTV, SiriusXM Radio (Ch. 143), the tabernaclechoir.org, youtube.com/TheTabernacleChoir and Amazon Alexa (must enable skill). The program is aired live on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. on many of these outlets. Look up broadcast information by state and city at musicandthespokenword.com/viewers-listeners/airing-schedules.

See the Church News’ archive of ‘Spoken Word’ messages