The comments in this article are sparked from an October, 2010 Conference talk by Thomas S. Monson. Gratitude is one of those topics that we generally address out of habit or custom during Thanksgiving time in the United States. Other times of the year the topic of gratitude almost seems like a reminder of our own lack of proper feeling for what we have been blessed with. I don’t think that we as a people have properly enthroned gratitude as the gift that it truly is.
Source of Gratitude
When we feel grateful for something we are thankful. We appreciate what was done or what we have been given. But I am talking in circles, because these are just other words that describe the same thing. When I feel gratitude I recognize that something good has happened to me that I could not create on my own. I have either been helped with something or been given something that was beyond my reach. It may have happened because of someone else’s kindness or because I asked for help. Either way, I now owe a debt to that person for doing for me what I could not do for myself.
Sometimes our sense of gratitude comes out of a realization of how happy we have become. We have a loving spouse, family who genuinely care for us, a job that provides my family with the necessities of life, etc. It is recognizing that life owes us nothing, yet sometimes seems to have given us so much. The feeling of gratitude is a recognition of blessings that have come into our lives from any source, be they circumstantial or from a particular person or entity. I had a time in my life when I had to rely heavily on the welfare system of the Church. My heart swells with gratitude every time I talk about the subject of welfare. It saved both my life and my dignity.
In President Monson’s talk he made this statement: “Someone has said that “feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”” How many times have you either seen a parent do this or have done it yourself where you see someone give something to a child then wait for that child to say thank you? After a brief pause of silence on the part of the child the parent says, “What do you say?” The child then says, “Thank you.” Hopefully it is said without any rolling of the eyes.
Learning to express gratitude is a virtue. Most of us have a sense of gratitude, but it is often overwhelmed with our almost limitless ability to take for granted that which is done for us out of love by others. It is a real sign of emotional and spiritual maturity to develop a habit of not only keeping in remembrance what we should be grateful for, but to be willing to express that gratitude and live a life of gratitude. Those who live a life of gratitude share their blessings with others because they feel so deeply the love and joy that their blessings have brought into their own lives. They genuinely want others to feel the same happiness.
In Doctrine and Covenants Section 59 the Lord talks about how we should keep the Sabbath day holy. At least that is how we generally look at this section. But let’s look at what happens before and then right after the part where He talks about keeping the Sabbath holy. The day this revelation was given the first member of the Church died in Zion. The section begins with promises made to those who keep the commandments.
1 Behold, blessed, saith the Lord, are they who have come up unto this land with an eye single to my glory, according to my commandments.
2 For those that live shall inherit the earth, and those that die shall rest from all their labors, and their works shall follow them; and they shall receive a crown in the mansions of my Father, which I have prepared for them.
3 Yea, blessed are they whose feet stand upon the land of Zion, who have obeyed my gospel; for they shall receive for their reward the good things of the earth, and it shall bring forth in its strength.
By being obedient to the commandments we have received of the Lord we are promised that the earth will bring forth blessings upon us in its strength. I suppose that means we will experience great bounty from our efforts to support and sustain ourselves upon the land. The Lord then goes on to promise an even greater blessing. He promises that those who are obedient to the commandments they have been given will be blessed with many more commandments – “commandments not a few.” If we understand that commandments are the laws of happiness, we should open our hearts to the possibilities and say, “Bring it on!”
4 And they shall also be crowned with blessings from above, yea, and with commandments not a few, and with revelations in their time—they that are faithful and diligent before me.
5 Wherefore, I give unto them a commandment, saying thus: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, mind, and strength; and in the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt serve him.
Verse five is just repeating the great first commandment. Verse six coming up next begins with the second great commandment then mentions a few of the big 10 commandments. But it is verses seven and eight that are different. I know of no other place in the scriptures where the 10 commandments are being given that the Lord goes on to tell us that we need to express our thankfulness (gratitude) to God in all things. He then defines, as is done in the New Testament, that the only acceptable sacrifice is that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
6 Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Thou shalt not steal; neither commit adultery, nor kill, nor do anything like unto it.
7 Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things.
8 Thou shalt offer a sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in righteousness, even that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
Verses 9 – 14 spell out how to keep the Sabbath day holy. In verses 15 – 19 we are told that because of our obedience all the blessings of the earth will be ours to enjoy. Now we will look at D&C 59:20 – 21.
20 And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.
21 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.
It actually brings pleasure to the Lord to have provided us with these blessings. He went to all the work of creating all these amazing plants and animals for not only our sustenance, but our pleasure as well. He actually wants us to be pleased and happy with his offering to us! Verse 21 is one of my favorite in all the scriptures. We can do a lot of dirty things in this life. We are selfish, petty, hurt each other, and hurt ourselves in the process, but none of these things offends God. He is not angry over these things – sorrowful, yes, but not angry. The only thing we do that offends his sensibilities, the only thing we do that causes him to become angry, is our ability to ignore what he has done for us, to be ungrateful and disobedient.
This is a hurt parent. What parent hasn’t felt at least some degree of hurt over the ungrateful and disobedient child? We’ve felt it, and we don’t even know how to give a “good gift.” President Monson said, “If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues.”
How to be Grateful
President Joseph F. Smith said the following:
The grateful man sees so much in the world to be thankful for, and with him the good outweighs the evil. Love overpowers jealousy, and light drives darkness out of his life. Pride destroys our gratitude and sets up selfishness in its place. How much happier we are in the presence of a grateful and loving soul, and how careful we should be to cultivate, through the medium of a prayerful life, a thankful attitude toward God and man!
There you have it. Prayer is required to cultivate (grow) a sense of gratitude in our souls. And it isn’t just A prayer, but a lifetime of prayer. Like all good things, a constant awareness of how much God has done for us, and the need to express that gratitude in our daily lives is a gift from God. That gift comes through prayer and keeping the commandments.
One last thought. Joy comes from a deep sense of gratitude. “Men are that they might have joy.” (2 Nephi 2:25) Pray to be able to recognize blessings in your life. Pray to be able to feel how fortunate and blessed you truly are in this life, no matter what you think your current circumstances are. Pray for the ability and recognition of ways to express that gratitude. Joy comes from the expression of gratitude. Let’s all make a joyful noise! Be grateful!
THOMAS S. MONSON
President of the Church
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