The first Sunday of each month is usually Fast Sunday in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Fast Sunday is a day when members over the age of accountability (8 years old) are encouraged to go without food or drink for two meals or twenty-four hours and attend Fast and Testimony Meeting to share some of their blessings.
Members are asked to go without eating and then to donate the money they save from not eating those two meals to the Church. This donation is known as a “fast offering.” Fast offerings are used for the specific reason of helping the poor. If the money collected as fast offerings are not needed in the local area, the funds are sent to Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, to be used anywhere in the world.
Tomorrow is Fast Sunday. This means that I need to start my fast immediately after dinner tonight in order to eat dinner tomorrow night. It also means that I need to determine one or more purposes for my fast. As is my custom I asked the Lord if there was a precise purpose that He would like me to focus on during my fast. I asked some specific questions, such as the following: Is there a particular person that should be the focus of my fast? Does the Prophet need the benefits of my fast? Should I fast for the benefit of the nation?
When I exhausted all the people and things that I could think of and continued to receive a negative answer, I finally asked God if I should focus my fast on expressing gratitude for the many blessings that He gives to me. I received a positive answer to this question.
I know that I am richly blessed and that I should be more grateful. This prompting from Heavenly Father is a good reminder to do so. I was born of goodly parents in the blessed land of America. I have loving brothers and sisters – and their families – who care for me. I have a husband, and we are blessed in every way – life, health, children, and grandchildren. Our children are contributing members of society and are rearing their children to become the same. We have enough money to meet our needs and a few of our wants.
I know that I am a child of Heavenly Father. I know that He loves me and has a plan for my happiness. I received the wonderful blessing of being born into a family that belongs to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This tremendous blessing gives me a vast knowledge of where I came from, why I am on earth, and where I will go when I leave this mortal home.
Yes, I have been truly blessed, and I do need to express more gratitude. However, I have a feeling that Heavenly Father has a greater purpose for encouraging me to fast as a show of gratitude. God gives us commandments that we may be blessed, and He commands us to be thankful in all things (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and to express gratitude for our blessings (Doctrine and Covenants 46:32). Prophets and apostles tell us that God gives us commandments in order that we might be happy and disobedience to those commandments makes us feel miserable.
One of the great blessings that Heavenly Father has given to each of us is the gift of agency or the opportunity to choose. We can choose to be happy, or we can choose to be miserable. President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency spoke about the choice to be grateful.
So to be happy and to avoid misery, we must have a grateful heart. We have seen in our lives the connection between gratitude and happiness. All of us would like to feel gratitude, yet it is not easy to be consistently grateful in all things in the trials of life. Sickness, disappointment, and the loss of people we love come at times in our lives. Our sorrows can make it hard to see our blessings and to appreciate the blessings God has in store for us in the future.
It is a challenge to count our blessings because we have a tendency to take good things for granted. When we lose a roof over our heads, food to eat, or the warmth of friends and family, we realize how grateful we should have been when we had them.
Most of all, sometimes it is hard for us to be sufficiently grateful for the greatest gifts we receive: the birth of Jesus Christ, His Atonement, the promise of resurrection, the opportunity to enjoy eternal life with our families, the Restoration of the gospel with the priesthood and its keys. Only with the help of the Holy Ghost can we begin to feel what those blessings mean for us and for those we love. And only then can we hope to be thankful in all things and avoid the offense to God of ingratitude.
We must ask in prayer that God, by the power of the Holy Ghost, will help us see our blessings clearly even in the midst of our trials. He can help us by the power of the Spirit to recognize and be grateful for blessings we take for granted….
We all can make the choice to give thanks in prayer and to ask God for direction to serve others for Him…. God the Father gave His Son, and Jesus Christ gave us the Atonement, the greatest of all gifts and all giving (see Doctrine and Covenants 14:7).
Giving thanks in prayer can allow us to see the magnitude of these blessings and all of our other blessings and so receive the gift of a more grateful heart.
According to President Eyring we have greater capacity to see the magnitude of our blessings when we give thanks for them. This is most likely the reason that Heavenly Father prompted me to focus on gratitude during my fast. I know that I am truly blessed, but He apparently wants me to recognize the great magnitude of those blessings. He obviously wants me to count my many blessings and recognize all that He does for me.