Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Gratitude Brings Blessings

                It is Thanksgiving time again, a time to say thank you for our many blessings.  When we sincerely give thanks, we are grateful, at least for a short time, for the blessings we enjoy.   In fact, when we are grateful for what we have, we prepare ourselves to receive more blessings.

                “And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.
                “And as he entered into a certain village, there [he met] ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:
                “And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
                “And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew [show] yourselves unto the priests.  And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.
                “And one of them, when he saw that he was healed turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,
                “And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks:  and he was a Samaritan.
                “And Jesus answering said, 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, go thy way:  thy faith hath made thee whole” (Luke 17:11-19).

                The Savior was of course disappointed that only one leper out of ten was grateful for the great blessing of being healed from a horrible disease.  What about the other nine?  Did they not recognize that they had been blessed?  The Savior’s last words to the healed leper make me wonder about the lasting effect on the nine.  He told the grateful leper, “thy faith hath made thee whole.”  Is being made “whole” different than being healed?  Was the healing of the nine a temporary healing?  Did the grateful leper receive a greater blessing?

                Referring to the above scripture, Elder Howard W. Hunter stressed our need to thank our Heavenly Father for all the blessings that He give to us:  “Of the ten men who were healed, only one returned to express appreciation.  This must have been a disappointment to the Master, but there are many who receive blessings, many who are endowed with good things in life, yet never take the time or go to the effort to show gratitude to the benefactor or express appreciation to God.  Happiness and joy from blessings are never complete until there is a deep feeling of gratitude within oneself which moves an expression of appreciation” (in Conference Report, Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden Area Conference 1974, 27).  

                The Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith, “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” (Doctrine and Covenants 78:19).

                President Thomas S. Monson, a man who goes about helping others, spoke about the connection between gratitude and service:  “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.  Someone has said that `gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others’” (“The Divine Gift of Gratitude,” Ensign, October 2010).  

                I believe that my feelings as a parent and grandparent are similar to what Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ feel for us.  I appreciate being told “thank you.”  I love to receive little notes from my children and grandchildren thanking me for something I did for them or gave to them.  I do not expect any “thing” in exchange for my gifts to them, but I certainly do appreciate a showing of gratitude.  I remember a time when I purchased a small toy or something that my youngest child really wanted.  She thanked me profusely at the time I gave it to her.  She came back again and again to thank me.  In fact, she was still thanking me for the item several days later.  I knew by the number of times she offered thanks that she truly was grateful for the item.

                This experience with my child made me think differently about the blessings that Heavenly Father gives to me.  I am no longer willing to quickly say “thanks” and then go on my way.  When I am truly grateful for a blessing, I return again and again to say thank you; in fact, sometimes I return to give thanks months and even years later when the memory of the blessing arises once again.

                We can receive more blessings by simply being grateful for those we already have.  One of the blessings we can receive is peace.  Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “In some quiet way, the expression and feelings of gratitude have a wonderful cleansing or healing nature.  Gratitude brings warmth to the giver and the receiver alike….
                “Gratitude, expressed to our Heavenly Father in prayer for what we have, brings a calming peace, a peace which allows us to not canker our souls for what we don’t have.  Gratitude brings a peace that helps us overcome the pain of adversity and failure.  Gratitude on a daily basis means we express appreciation for what we have now without qualification for what we had in the past or desire in the future.”

                I find it fairly easy to be grateful for blessings, but I find it more difficult to be grateful for trials and difficulties.  Elder Marion D. Hanks shared the following story about a boy and his mother, who understood the importance of expressing gratitude in every situation.

                “I sat at a stake conference where a returned missionary bore his testimony.  He had but a short time and he chose to use one idea.  He thanked God for a great, humble mother, and gave his reason.  He said that as a high school boy, he [had] been sorely tried by the illness and then death of his little sister whom he had loved greatly and who had been the darling of the family, being the last of them.  Their father had died.  The little girl grew ill, and in spite of prayers and administrations and fasting and much concern, worsened and died in the night.  The boy went into his room, locked the door, and sobbed out his broken heart to the walls because he was not willing to do it to the God whom he could not now honestly approach.  In his rebellion and anger at a God, if there were one, who would permit such a thing to happen to them, he cried out in rebellion.  He said he would never pray again, would never go to church again, and could never have any confidence again in a God who would permit this to happen.  And in his immature but sincere sorrow, he made some rather serious covenants with himself.  He stayed awake the rest of the night, apprehensive about an experience he anticipated.  It was their custom, as it is in so many, though not enough, Latter-day Saint homes, to kneel morning and evening with the children around the mother, to thank God for the goodness of his blessings.

                “He waited for that moment, knowing what he had to say, but fearing it.  When his mother said, `Come, children,’ he said, `No.’
                “She said, `Kneel down, son.’
                “He said, `No, I will not kneel down, and I will never kneel down again.’
                “She said, as I remember his words and I was deeply touched as were we all, `Son, you’re the oldest child in this home.  You are the only man in the house, and if I ever needed a man, I need one now.  You kneel down.’

                “He knelt down, still rebellious, but because his mother, the idol of his heart, needed him, and he began for the first time to think in terms of her broken heart and her sorrow.  So he knelt, but he said to himself, `I wonder what she’s going to thank God for this morning.’  And his mother, knowing as she must have, the questions in his mind and the minds of the other children, taught them the gospel on their knees that morning.  She thanked God for what the family knew, for the blessing of eternal ties, for direction and purpose and guidance and convictions as to the future.  She thanked God that they had been blessed with this wonderful, angelic child who had brought so much to them and who was to be theirs, always.  And out of her mother’s heart, knowing the desperate, critical nature of the moment, taught her own children what there was to thank God for under conditions of such stress.

                “As the boy stood, a successful, dedicated Latter-day Saint who had filled an honorable, difficult mission, he thanked God for a mother who was a heroine” (Heroism, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [25 Mar. 1959], 3-4). 

                Even in the midst of much tribulation we have much to be thankful for.  I have not had the experience of burying one of my children or grandchildren -- and I am very grateful for this great blessing, but I have endured trials and tribulation of other types.  When I am in my deepest despair, I return to the basics, and I thank God for the warm sunshine, clean water, fresh air, a warm house, food to eat, clothes to wear, good health, my family, etc.  I may not feel gratitude for the difficulty at the time, but I do realize and am grateful for the growth that comes from enduring well the trial of my faith.

                I am grateful for the blessings that I have right now, today.  I know that I am very blessed and have received many, many blessings even though I may not have received all the blessings I desire.  I trust Heavenly Father to bless me as He sees fit because I know that He knows what I need much better than I; I also know that He will not withhold any needed blessing from me if I will but serve Him.  I am most grateful for my knowledge and testimony that God lives and loves each one of us; I am grateful to know that He has a plan for my happiness as well as a plan for the happiness of all His children.  What are you grateful for today?  

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