The topic of gratitude has weighed heavily upon my mind in recent days and weeks, and it was for a very good reason.
In late October I presented a lesson in Sunday School about developing Christlike attributes and had my students write many of the attributes of Christ on the boards. I challenged my students to choose one of them to work on until we met again, but I failed to choose one for myself.
The subject of Christlike attributes came up the very next Sunday when our Stake President challenged us to develop Christlike behaviors and aptitudes. I decided to stop procrastinating and to choose an attribute to develop more fully. I went down the list from my class, wondering which one I most needed to practice, but I could not make a decision. I said a little prayer asking the Lord to help me and then started down the list once more. I felt the Holy Ghost inspiring me to work on the aptitude of being grateful, which was near the end of the list. It was very humbling to be told by the Spirit that I needed to be more grateful. It was especially so because I set a goal this year of having more gratitude - and thought I was being grateful! I have even written several blog posts about being grateful.
In November 2009 I quoted the Apostle Paul who wrote, "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
This message was repeated by the Prophet Joseph Smith when he wrote, "In nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things" (Doctrine and Covenants 59:21).
The late Gordon B. Hinckley, while President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, wrote, "The habit of saying thank you is the mark of an educated man or woman. Express appreciation to everyone who does you a favor or assists you in any way. Thank the Lord for His goodness to you. Thank the Almighty for His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, who has done for you what none other in all this world could do. Thank Him for His great example, for His tremendous teachings, for His outreaching hand to lift and help. Thank Him for His marvelous atonement. Confess His hand in all things" (Stand A Little Taller, p. 338).
I knew in 2009 that an attitude of gratitude could make a big difference in my life. I knew then that focusing on the abundance of my blessings could add much beauty to my life. I thought I was being grateful in 2009!
I wrote another blog post in 2010 about gratitude. At that time I retold the story of the ten lepers from the New Testament. Jesus Christ was traveling to
Jerusalem and "passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee." He was met by "ten men that were lepers." People with leprosy in that day had to stay far away from other people as well as to call out warnings to them to stay away.
"And they lifted up their voice and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
"And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew [show] yourselves unto the priests [who had the authority to declare them cleansed]. 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." (See Luke 17:11-19.)
Leprosy caused a cruel and lingering death. All ten lepers were given a new kind of life, but only one of them was grateful. He received the blessing of being made whole while the nine were simply healed of the leprosy. "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." (See Thomas S. Monson, "The Divine Gift of Gratitude," Ensign, Nov. 2010, p 87.)
In January 2011 I wrote again about gratitude and quoted Thomas S. Monson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: "Our realization of what is most important in life goes hand in hand with gratitude for our blessings" (Ensign, Nov. 2009, p 87).
Just a week or so ago http://causeofliberty.blogspot.com/2011/11/spirit-of-thanksgiving.html I wrote a blog post
about the importance of counting our blessings and shared some information that scientists are discovering about the effects of gratitude. "Positive psychology" studies "health-promoting behavior" instead of "focusing on illness and other problems." Scientists are discovering something that prophets, other spiritual leaders, and even singers have known for many years: counting our blessings makes us happier.
This week the speakers in sacrament meeting spoke on the topic of gratitude and the lesson in Relief Society was about gratitude. I listened very carefully to every talk and lesson because I am very tuned in to the topic after studying it for the past month. I gained more understanding about what true gratitude is and how to develop it.
President Joseph F. Smith, the sixth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, told us how to cultivate an attitude of gratitude within our hearts. "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." He continued: "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!" (See Gospel Doctrine, p 263.)
According to President Smith and in very simple words, the key to possessing gratitude is to live a prayerful life. This statement by President Thomas S. Monson agrees: "A grateful heart … comes through expressing gratitude to our Heavenly Father for His blessings and to those around us for all that they bring into our lives. This requires conscious effort - at least until we have truly learned and cultivated an attitude of gratitude. Often we feel grateful and intend to express our thanks but forget to do so or just don't get around to it. Someone has said that `feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.'
"When we encounter challenges and problems in our lives, it is often difficult for us to focus on our blessings. However, if we reach deep enough and look hard enough, we will be able to feel and recognize just how much we have been given….
"My brothers and sisters, to express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven." (See Thomas S. Monson, "The Divine Gift of Gratitude," Ensign, Nov. 2010, pp 88-89.)
I have learned that attitude truly does determine gratitude. It determines how I look at life. Is the cup half full or half empty? Do I focus on what I have or what I don't have? Do I see the things that my husband does well or do I see the things that he doesn't do well? Am I happy when my children call home weekly or do I get upset because they don't call every day? I am amazed at how difficult it is for me to develop an attitude of gratitude, a heart-felt thankfulness for the blessings I receive by living a prayerful life, but I continue to work at it..