Posted by: 2thdocbob | 18 November 2018

Faith, Devotion and Gratitude

I spoke in Hallmark Ward and in Northpark (Young Single Adult) Ward today. I gave two different versions in the two wards. This is the version I used in Hallmark Ward. I share it with gratitude for the opportunity to visit my brothers and sisters in these wards.

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My dear brothers and sisters, I am thankful to be here today; thankful to worship with you and to feel of your spirit.

I bring you love and greetings from President Garvin and his Counselors. They are mindful of you and your concerns, and they pray for you.

As you know, I am here by assignment from President Garvin today, and I pray that the Spirit will be with each of us as I speak, to touch our hearts and lift our spirits. And I hope that what I say and what the Spirit says to each of you will be of benefit to all of us.

I love Thanksgiving. It is a wonderful time of year. The weather usually cools down. We get a few days off from school. I love the food, the football games, and of course, the opportunity to be with family. It all comes together for a great holiday. And the constant reminders to be thankful are a great lead-in to Christmas season.

Mr. Dooley, who was a print humorist in the 1890’s, made this comment about Thanksgiving: “‘twas founded by the Puritans to give thanks for being preserved from the Indians, and we keep it today to give thanks that we are preserved from the Puritans.”

Elder Talmage told us: “Gratitude is an ennobling quality in man; and he in whose soul it has no place is [defective] … Gratitude is a twin sister to humility; pride is a foe to both. The [individual] who has come into close communion with God cannot fail to be thankful.”

In my readings of the Book of Mormon, it strikes me frequently that the first thing that Lehi and his righteous descendants did after completing a journey was to build an altar and offer thanks unto the Lord.

Under the Law of Moses, the thank offering is equated with the peace offering, which was based on the supposition that the individual offering the sacrifice was at peace with God. So thankfulness and peace with God tie in very closely with each other, and build upon each other.

Gratitude will increase our devotion to God, which strengthens our faith and leads to increased gratitude, in a wonderful cycle.

Moroni was also a great example of this. He was described as “a man whose heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God, for the many privileges and blessings which he bestowed upon his people; a man who did labor exceedingly for the welfare and safety of his people”.[1]

A story is told:

“Two little children were put early to bed on a winter’s night, for the fire had gone out, and the cold was pouring in at the many cracks of their frail shanty.

“The mother strove to eke out the scantiness of the bed-covering by placing clean boards over the children. A pair of bright eyes shone out from under a board, and just before it was hushed in slumber, a sweet voice said, “Mother, how nice this is! How I pity the poor people who don’t have any boards to cover their children with this cold night.”[2]

We would do well to ask ourselves, am I like these children? Or is my attitude more like: “Mom! Charlotte’s board is bigger than mine!” Or “Hey! I’m going to get slivers!” This little girl was able to look at everything from the perspective of what she had—not what she didn’t have. And she was concerned about those who didn’t have as much as she did rather than upset and crabby because some had so much more than she did. The mother gave what she could in love to her children.

Why is it hard for us be grateful in such a situation? Do you have a hard time being grateful for simple gifts from the heart? Most of us have been guilty at one time or another focusing on what we don’t have, instead of being grateful for what we do have.

The Apostle Paul told Timothy “godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out”.[3]

Godliness with contentment. What does that mean? We might think of it as tranquil happiness: the peace and joy that come from being content instead of envious. Gratitude to the Lord is an important step on the path to true discipleship.

The Lord spoke to us in Section 59 of the Doctrine and Covenants: “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”.[4]

Does that seem harsh to you? Let’s contrast that with additional instruction from the Doctrine and Covenants:

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye are little children, and ye have not as yet understood how great blessings the Father hath in his own hands and prepared for you;

“And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours.

And then the next verse, which I want to emphasize:

“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”.[5]

Did you catch the Lord’s promises to you? The kingdom and the attendant blessings, and the riches of eternity are promised to us. If we are thankful, we will be made glorious! We truly do not, and perhaps cannot understand what great blessings Heavenly Father has prepared for us.

It is important for us to understand the doctrine of gratitude. I believe that there are three main concepts in this doctrine.

The Doctrine of Gratitude

  1. Everything is the Lord’s

The Psalmist wrote: “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof…”[6]

Do we sometimes have an unrighteous sense of ownership of things that aren’t really ours? If you have received your endowments, you will understand where that comes from.

We should give thanks to the giver of our gifts. Think of the last time you gave a gift that wasn’t appreciated. How did it make you feel?

If we use the gifts he has given us without a thankful heart, or fail to recognize the gift or the giver, the Father’s wrath will be kindled, as he said to Joseph Smith.

King Benjamin reminded us:

“I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another …

 “And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.

“And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?

“And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you”.[7]

Please note that Benjamin is absolutely not telling us that we are nothing, so we shouldn’t bother trying. He is simply providing perspective on where our gifts come from, which should make us humbly grateful.

  1. We should thank the Lord in all things.

There are many scientific studies that demonstrate that gratitude promotes happiness and well-being.

President Monson spoke frequently of gratitude. He taught us that “Sincerely giving thanks not only helps us recognize our blessings, but it also unlocks the doors of heaven and helps us feel God’s love”.[8]

So how do we show our gratitude to Heavenly Father?

“There are chances for work all around just now, opportunities right in our way; do not let them pass by, saying sometime I’ll try, but go and do something today”.[9] We also sing “because I have been given much, I too must give”.[10]

Giving is a wonderful way to develop gratitude. And the amazing thing about giving is that it doesn’t have to cost us anything. A gift freely given each week in this chapel is the gift of a handshake and a smile. It costs nothing, but who can count the value of a smile to the recipient?

Our thankfulness is shown, not only through our words, but also through our actions, for “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only the service of your God”.[11]

  1. We Should Count Our Blessings

Have you noticed that we live in a world where most people are prone to count their trials? As followers of Jesus Christ, we should count our blessings. Especially in times of adversity.

Paul advised the Thessalonians: “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you”.[12]

And Ammon said: “and now, I ask, what great blessings has he bestowed upon us? Can ye tell?”[13]

So, can you tell what great blessings have been bestowed upon you?

If you have a hard time answering that one, I would suggest that you change your focus. Look outward instead of looking inward. Or perhaps you are aware of so many blessings that you don’t know where to begin!

Remember the words of the hymn:

“Count your many blessings; name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord has done. Count your many blessings; angels will attend, Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end”.[14]

How do we do that?

  1. Look for your blessings.

Be aware. Look around. Look for the beauty in our world.

We can even feel thankful for ordinary things, for the small blessings we encounter each day. As I was preparing this talk yesterday, I had my window open and could hear the sparrows and finches singing in our yard, the scrub jays squawking, and the hummingbirds chattering at each other. I love these birds that visit our feeders.

I am so thankful for a Heavenly Father who created these amazing creatures.

Take time to reflect. The concept of a gratitude journal may seem trite to some of you, but it is a great reminder of the blessings each of us enjoys. And as a teacher, I know that writing by hand enhances our memory far more than typing.

President Eyring spoke of his ongoing experience of keeping a gratitude journal. Each evening before he wrote, he would ponder the question

“Before I would write, I would ponder this question. Have I seen the Hand of God reaching out to touch us?

“As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done”.[15]

Give thanks for those blessings you encounter along the way.

  1. Express gratitude.

This is an important one. Expressions of gratitude are like ripples in water: they spread outward and touch things that are far away, and they often bounce back to touch us from multiple directions.

Gratitude grows as it is expressed. By expressing our gratitude to others for their help and kindness, we give them the joy of being appreciated and we increase our own ability to recognize our blessings.

Both verbal and written expressions are important. Your grandmother might expect a written thank you note for gifts; other thank yous could be verbal. In fact, many thank yous can be in person and spontaneous. Regardless of the medium used to convey it, it should come from the heart.

  1. Thoughtful prayer

Prayer will awaken a grateful heart. Our personal prayers provide us with sacred time to ponder our blessings and express gratitude to Heavenly Father.

I would suggest that we occasionally just fast and pray with gratitude, instead of fasting and praying for a particular blessing or outcome. How many of you have done that? I have experienced rich blessings from these fasts.

As we pray in gratitude for the gifts Heavenly Father has given us, let us be mindful of his greatest gift to us: the gift of His Beloved Son, who atoned for our sins through the shedding of his precious blood. The sacrament should be a time of deep gratitude for this incomparable blessing.

Because I am a teacher, I would like to give you some homework. Perhaps the Bishopric can follow up on this. Think again of Ammon’s question: “what great blessings has he bestowed upon us? Can ye tell?” Your homework is to consider this question. As you ponder it, think of five blessings, large or small, that you have enjoyed during the past week. Write them down, along with the giver of the blessing. Give sincere thanks to the person or persons who provided each blessing. Express your gratitude to Heavenly Father for all those blessings.

Primary children, you can do this, too. Ask your dad or mom for help if you need it.

You don’t have to limit your list. If you have a grateful heart, you will see that even a greeting of friendship as you entered the chapel this afternoon, a smile or a hug, is a great blessing.

I promise you that if you do this, with a thankful heart, that you will feel a warmth and happiness that you will want to keep with you. The Father will bless you with an increased measure of his love.

I bear you my witness that God lives, He is our loving Heavenly Father, and we should be eternally grateful for the multitude of gifts he has given us.

Jesus Christ is our Savior. He has atoned for our sins. Have we accepted this amazing gift?

This is the true Church of Jesus Christ, restored in the latter days to bless the lives of all God’s children. We are led by a living prophet, Russell M. Nelson, who speaks with God and receives revelation to guide us as we strive to become worthy to receive the great blessings Heavenly Father has offered us.

I pray that we will begin and end each day with a grateful prayer and a thankful heart, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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[1] The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Alma 48:12.

[2] Edmunds, Mary Ellen; Godliness with Contentment; BYU Speeches, Nov. 1995.

[3] KJV, 1 Timothy 6:6.

[4] Doctrine and Covenants 59:21.

[5] Doctrine and Covenants 78:19.

[6] KJV, Psalm 24:1.

[7] The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Mosiah 2:20, 23-25.

[8] Monson, Thomas S.; The Divine Gift of Gratitude; October 2010 General Conference. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/10/the-divine-gift-of-gratitude?lang=eng

[9] Thompson, WL; Have I Done Any Good?; Hymns, #223.

[10] Crowell, GN; Because I Have Been Given Much; Hymns, #219.

[11] The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Christ, Mosiah 2:17.

[12] KJV, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

[13] The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Alma 26:2.

[14] Oatman, ED; Count Your Blessings; Hymns, #241.

[15] Eyring, Henry B.: O Remember, Remember; October 2007 General Conference. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2007/10/o-remember-remember?lang=eng

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