Doctrine and Covenants 59:21 reads, “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.” President James E. Faust said that this is “more than a social courtesy; it is a binding commandment.” Lastly, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 reads, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
These statements are very clear. We must show gratitude for every occurrence and aspect of our lives.
Much of this total gratitude includes our blessings. All of us are different and come from different backgrounds, but nevertheless all receive and have received countless blessings in our lives. Doctrine and Covenants 46:32 reads, “And ye must give thanks to God in the Spirit for whatsoever blessing ye are blessed with.”
We have so many things to be thankful for. The well-known and beautiful primary song, “My Heavenly Father Loves Me,” illustrates gratitude for nature and our senses. “Whenever I hear the song of a bird, or look at the blue, blue sky. Whenever I feel the rain on my face, or the wind as it rushes by. Whenever I touch a velvet rose, or walk by a lilac tree, I’m glad that I live in this beautiful world Heavenly Father created for me. He gave me my eyes that I might see the color of butterfly wings. He gave me my ears that I might hear the magical sound of things. He gave me my life, my mind, my heart, I thank him reverently for all his creations of which I’m a part. Yes, I know Heavenly Father loves me.”
In addition to nature and creations, some of our greatest blessings in life include the people that we love and respect, such as family, friends, teachers, mentors, and leaders. Without our relationships, we would be empty souls, hungry for love, acceptance, guidance, and companionship. The hymn “Each Life that Touches Ours for Good” perfectly reflects the positive impact of strong relationships with others. The first verse reads, “Each life that touches ours for good, reflects thine own great mercy, Lord. Thou sendest blessings from above through words and deeds of those who love.”
In this church, we are also especially grateful for the gospel and the resources we have to help us better learn of Christ and our Father in Heaven. We have the scriptures, beautiful hymns, missionaries, a wonderful prophet and general authorities, temples, church magazines, and there are so many other resources that we enjoy. We must ask ourselves where we would be without the knowledge that Jesus Christ is our Savior, that the Father sent him down to earth to atone for the sins of the world, that we may be forgiven of our sins and receive eternal life. At this time of year we reflect on Jesus’ birth. John 3:16 reads, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” President Hinckley declared, “We love him. We honor him. We thank him. We worship him. He has done for each of us and for all mankind that which none other could have done. God be thanked for the gift of his Beloved Son, our Savior, the Redeemer of the world, the Lamb without blemish who was offered as a sacrifice for all mankind.”
Christ was the ultimate gift and blessing, and there are countless other blessings that we as individuals enjoy, including health, prosperity, education, accomplishments, and freedoms, along with many others.
It is easy to see our blessings and have grateful minds when our lives are going well. There are times, however, when we go through intense and difficult trials. During these times we may waver about our faith, see only the negative, complain, criticize, and place blame. At these times in our lives, it is difficult to have positive attitudes, least of all to feel grateful to our Lord for our blessings. Our problems seem to much outweigh any goodness in our lives. There is hope for these feelings of doubt and despair. We can still be happy despite our trials.
One way to do this is to have a positive attitude; see the beauty in the darkness. President Monson offers this excellent insight: “We can lift ourselves, and others as well, when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude. If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues.”
Some recognition of blessings will come during the course of the trial, and other recognition may come after the trial as you notice its positive outcomes. I think this talk was meant for me because this year of my life was the hardest that I have ever had to bear. This year I got divorced from my eternal companion, moved across the country, had to start my life completely over with friends, work, living arrangements, not to mention that I lost my in-laws and friends. That sounds pretty bad, and it is if you look at if from a negative perspective. But, even though my marriage failed, I am glad for the experience that it brought to my life. I have my beautiful son, who I love more than anything in the world. When I look at him, I see God’s divine hand in my life. During my two years of marriage I also had security, wonderful people to call my in-laws, my beautiful primary children whom I would not have taught if I hadn’t of been married and in a family ward. The most important thing I got out of my marriage was growth as an individual. I strengthened myself in ways of tolerance, forgiveness, communication skills, enduring to the end, hard work, love, and devotion. I went through my divorce during my last semester at SUU. That was a very difficult semester, but I did receive many blessings during that time. The sheer fact that I was able to graduate from college with high honors when I had a baby, family, work, church, and a divorce to worry about on top of school was a miracle in itself. My life since I have moved to North Carolina has been hard too, but I have had so many blessings. I have a loving family who helps me with everything I need, even though I know sometimes Casey and I are a hardship; my ex-husband and I are friends and we keep in contact; I have made many friends in this ward, and I am so grateful for how many of you have opened your hearts to Casey. I am grateful that even though I will soon have to put my son in someone else’s care while I work, that he will be with a loving caregiver who has a son his age. Everything is going to be okay in my life. I just need to focus on the positive.
The song “Count your Blessings” helps us to change our attitude and build our faith of enduring trials. The first two verses read: “When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, when you are discouraged thinking all is lost, count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done. Are you ever burdened with a load of care? Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear? Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly, and you will be singing as the days go by.”
In the field of communication there is a theory dealing with costs and rewards. When a relationship brings more costs than rewards to our lives, we will end the relationship. But I testify to you today that no matter how many trials we have to face, in our relationship with the Savior, the rewards will always be higher than the costs. So, coming to the Lord in prayer, asking for help in your trials is perhaps the best way to have the strength to live life positively and with a grateful heart. Alma 37:37 reads, “Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night, lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day.” We shall be exalted if we come unto Christ and thank him for all that he does for us in our every day lives. There is nothing greater for which we can be thankful.
To show God how much we love him, we should serve others. These kind acts will also help us to overlook our own struggles by helping others with theirs. You could be the answer to someone else’s prayer and not even know it. You can stimulate gratitude in others through pure love and service. To show our gratitude to our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ we should be mindful of our brethren just as they are mindful of us. Then we can find joy in our sometimes dreary lives.
We now know that we must be grateful for all things and thus we need to show this gratitude. The simplest way is just to say it. President Hinckley said, “There are two little words in the English language that perhaps mean more than all others. They are “thank you.” President Monson counsels: “Think to thank. In these three words is the finest capsule course for a happy marriage, a formula for enduring friendship, and a pattern for personal happiness.” In Luke 17 we read about the ten lepers. Christ showed them the way to be healed, and only one of the ten lepers came back to thank him. Jesus said to the Samaritan, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise and go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.” The man who expressed his gratitude received Christ’s blessing, and the others’ ingratitude resulted only in disappointment.
We can express our gratitude to our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in our prayers, and also in our actions. President Monson offers this plea: “Let us follow Him. Let us emulate his example. Let us obey His word. By so doing, we give to Him the divine gift of gratitude.” Jesus himself said in John 14:21, “He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.” We should also use the gospel resources that we have been given, such as studying the scriptures, praying, sustaining church leaders, paying our tithing and fast offering, singing hymns, going to the temple, and doing family history.
We should also show our gratitude to those who serve us on the earth. We can write thank you notes, make phone calls, show affection, and spend time with people. Remember, that even if someone does something for you that may not be exactly what you wanted, still show excitement and gratitude because that person worked really hard to make you happy. Also try not to take those who serve you for granted. Say thank you to your family, friends, and all others for everything, even the small things.
I’d like to leave you with two quotes. The first was given by President Harold B. Lee: “Life is God’s gift to man. What we do with our life is our gift to God.”
Doctrine and Covenants 78:19 reads “And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.”
What a promise. Just showing gratitude can bring about so many wonderful blessings.