Remember Gratitude, Charity, and the Hand of God in our Lives.

Here is Rob’s talk from a couple of weeks ago. It’s really excellent. Drumroll, please…….

Julie so aptly and thoughtfully captured how gratitude can be experienced in life both in times of happiness and ease and times of difficulty. It doesn’t mean we deny the feelings of difficulty, sadness, loneliness, and pain. We feel them, understand them as the school teachers that they are and move forward by connecting with ourselves, loved ones, and the Lord.

I like to think of and teach the gospel in simple terms. In terms and through feelings that my children can understand and that I can internalize in a deep and emotional way. Living the gospel should ultimately help us feel good and whole. If I don’t achieve that in my efforts to live the gospel I ask myself why and see what comes up.

I’m not going to tell you or imply that you should feel guilty for not feeling enough gratitude. I don’t want to cheat you from the potential to feel gentle and uplifting feelings from the Holy Ghost. Today I hope to share my thoughts in terms which engender, faith, hope and charity.

The English author Aldous Huxley wrote, “Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.” I find myself all too prone to this tendency of ingratitude. There seem to be so many reasons to be detached from our blessings.

President Faust said that, one of the evils of our time is taking for granted so many of the things we enjoy. This was spoken of by the Lord: “For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift?” (D&C 88:33.) I’d never really thought about how taking for granted the things I enjoy was rejecting the heavenly gift. But it is!

The Apostle Paul described our day to Timothy when he wrote that in the last days “men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy.” (2 Tim. 3:2.) These sins are fellow travelers, and ingratitude makes one susceptible to all of them.

President Faust also taught that gratitude is an expression of faith and a saving principle.

He said, a grateful heart is a beginning of greatness. It is an expression of humility. It is a foundation for the development of such virtues as prayer, faith, courage, contentment, happiness, love, and well-being.

Elder James E. Talmage said, “Gratitude is twin sister to humility; pride is a foe to both.” Humility is tied in with being teachable and being teachable opens us up to the blessing of further divine attributes.

Someone has said that “gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”8

President Joseph F. Smith has instructed us that “the spirit of gratitude is always pleasant and satisfying because it carries with it a sense of helpfulness to others; it begets love and friendship, and engenders divine influence. Gratitude is said to be the memory of the heart” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [1939], 262).

Gratitude seems to tie in with Faith, Hope, and Charity pretty seamlessly. I find this fascinating. So having a general attitude of gratitude and thanksgiving can lead us to the divine gift of Charity.

So how do we develop gratitude and recognize the hand of god in our lives when we live in such a fallen world and there is so much around us to drag us down?

Do material possessions make us happy and grateful? While we should be grateful and happy for the things we possess they will not be the things to connect us to others or to instill a deep sense of gratitude for the Lord.

Does social media make us happy and grateful? Really think about that for a minute. To me the answer is no, most of the time at least. I find it helpful and interesting in small doses. I’m very grateful that I can choose not to open the firehose of twitter when I need more calm in my life and I don’t want to disrupt my sense of gratitude.

President Faust said (in the 80’s), without question, we need to be informed of the happenings of the world. But modern communication brings into our homes a drowning cascade of the violence and misery of the worldwide human race. There comes a time when we need to find some peaceful spiritual renewal.

Those things which provide deep and lasting happiness and gratitude are the things which money cannot buy and social media cannot deliver: our families, the gospel, good friends, our health, our abilities, and the love we receive from those around us. Unfortunately, these are some of the things we allow ourselves to take for granted.

So how do we develop gratitude and recognize the hand of god in our lives? President Joseph F. Smith, provided an answer. Said he: “The grateful man / woman sees so much in the world to be thankful for, and with him / her the good outweighs the evil. Love overpowers jealousy, and light drives darkness out of his / her  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!”9

President Smith is telling us that a thoughtful and prayerful life is the key to possessing gratitude and to allowing the good to outweigh the evil.

Bonnie Parkin (Past RS President) said that gratitude requires awareness and effort, not only to feel it but to express it. She said that gratitude is a Spirit-filled principle. It opens our minds to a universe permeated with the richness of a living God. Through it, we become spiritually aware of the wonder of the smallest things, which gladden our hearts with their messages of God’s love. This grateful awareness heightens our sensitivity to divine direction. When we communicate gratitude, we can be filled with the Spirit and connected to those around us and the Lord. Gratitude inspires happiness and carries divine influence.

President Thomas S. Monson stated: 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.

I feel prompted to share some things, attributes, and people that help me feel grateful as I close. This list not exhaustive; however, these things help me keep a balance in my life as I recognize that these good things are greater than the evil that surrounds me.

  • I’m grateful for music as a medium to express and feel so much emotion. There is music for every mood, for every experience. Despite my love of music I’m also learning that sometimes silence is needed to hear myself.

  • I’m grateful for mountains and for nature. I’m grateful to know that the Lord cares enough about natural beauty to create wonderful places for to enjoy. I’m grateful to live in a place so close to nature.

  • I’m grateful for long-form writing for its power to develop ideas and convey thoughts

  • I’m grateful for the art of listening. It is not a skill that I was blessed with but with great effort I’m making improvements. I’m regularly surprised by the insights and blessings that come from listening to people.

  • I’m grateful to possess a deep relationship with Julie. I’m grateful for her forgiving nature, her strong opinions, and her confident intuition. It is so great to know and hear her and also to be known and heard in return. I’m grateful that we get to grow together.

  • I’m grateful that heavenly father has blessed me with three children and I’m so grateful they start as babies and grow from there. I’ve needed time to mature and grow to be anywhere close to as good of a father as they deserve.

  • I’m grateful that the Lord uses our weakness as well us the perils of mortality to keep us humble, to refine us, and to teach us divine attributes. He doesn’t cause these things in our lives but I’m glad he uses them. It would be so much worse if we just had to suffer through them for no benefit.

I’m so grateful to understand that I don’t need to be perfect to be acceptable to the Lord. I’m grateful to know that by staying teachable, through open communication with the Lord and my loved ones, and daily practical repentance, I can be found acceptable to the Lord today, despite my weaknesses.

Gratitude – Grateful in Any Circumstance

Rob and I were asked to talk in church the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Here’s my talk (which isn’t necessarily applicable when dealing with deep anguish or mental illness, per President Uchtdorf). 

Gratitude – Grateful in Any Circumstance

“There is one thing we can do to make life sweeter, more joyful, even glorious. We can be grateful!” So said President Uchtdorf.

Our Blessing List

For some forgotten reason exactly 14 years ago, Rob and I sat down together in our little downtown apartment and counted our blessings. Our goal was to write down 100 of them. Naming  them one-by-one, that number came quickly and we realized we had many, many more blessings to document. So we kept going! We finally topped out the list at our 400th blessing (which was goat cheese, by the way).

While thinking about my talk this week, I remembered this list that we had made. I knew I kept it so I searched bins and boxes and finally found it stashed inside a book.

As I reviewed these 6 ½ pages, I came across blessings that range from the predictable (family, priesthood, music, peace, ice cream) to the more philosophical (such as sentiments, interaction, concentration, intonation) and even to the downright peculiar (bituminous materials, stripes, edges, texture, twist ties, the color green, and nail clippers, which we wrote down twice…so they must’ve been very important to us that day).

As amusing as it was to read over this list from our newlywed selves, our older and a bit more life-experienced selves feel that, perhaps, focusing on what we are grateful for isn’t the best approach, since doing so may cause us to develop a spirit of gratitude only in proportion to the number of blessings we can count. Preparing for this talk has taught me that having a spirit of gratitude should be our disposition or way of life. One that stands independent of the length of our “blessings list”.

Grateful for the Hard Things

President Uchtdorf suggests this grateful “way of life” is the way to greater happiness. He knows we can choose to be grateful no matter what we have or don’t have. Instead of being thankful for things, He believes we should focus on being thankful in our circumstances – even the hard ones.

Now, gratitude in the hard things does not translate to mean we ignore our problems or are joyful in them. Nor is it a quick fix for anguish and true sorrow. However, this type of gratitude does transcend whatever is happening around us. “It allows us, through the eyes of faith, to look beyond our present-day challenges. It surpasses disappointment, discouragement, and despair. This type of gratitude heals the heart and expands the mind.”

How can gratitude do all of this? The answer is in Christ. When we look to Him in Whom we trust, having faith that He can make beautiful things grow from our most difficult experiences, He will give us the enabling power we need to endure our trials in a more Christlike way.

Here are some examples. Through our harder life situations and setbacks, we can be grateful for: 

  • The way our own sorrow can help us comfort others

  • The personal growth that comes through deepening trials.

  • The ways we can see God’s hand in the details

  • Continual refining influences

  • New or redefined relationships

  • Reminders to slow down and take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually

President Uchtdorf teaches, “True gratitude is an expression of hope and testimony. It comes from acknowledging that we do not always understand the trials of life, but trusting that one day we will. When we are grateful to God in our circumstances, we can experience gentle peace in the midst of tribulation. In grief, we can still lift up our hearts in praise. In pain, we can glory in Christ’s Atonement. In the cold of bitter sorrow, we can experience the closeness and warmth of heaven’s embrace.”

3 Suggestions for Being Happier

If we are having difficulty being grateful during a particularly trying time, here are three suggestions.

  1. President Monson tells us that “We often take for granted the very people who most deserve our gratitude.” Take the time to thank those who have blessed your life: your family who love you no matter what, your friends who are always willing to listen and comfort, the teachers and leaders who serve and bless your children, your neighbors who did a good deed, and the strangers who unknowingly cheered up your day.

  1. Intentionally remember God and His goodness. To do this, President Uchtdorf suggests that instead of looking forward to a time when all our problems will be over, we look back. Ponder and try to bring to remembrance all the tender mercies and evidences of love God has shown you through your trials.

  1. Practice the command given in Doctrine and Covenants 123:17 “Let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for His arm to be revealed.”

Gratitude Unlocks the Doors of Heaven

When it comes to the blessings we can expect to receive by being grateful, they are significant in both number and value.

President Monson promises 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.”

President Uchtdorf said, “Gratitude to our Father in Heaven broadens our perception and clears our vision. It inspires humility and fosters empathy toward our fellowmen and all of God’s creation. Gratitude is the catalyst to all Christlike attributes!”

According to these inspired men, gratitude blesses us with:

  • A wider perception

  • A clearer vision

  • Humility

  • Empathy

  • Charity

  • Drawing us nearer to those we love

  • Strength in our trials

  • Hope in Christ

  • A greater feeling of God’s love

President Uchtdorf encourages us to “allow our souls to expand in thankfulness toward our merciful Heavenly Father. May we ever and constantly raise our voices and show by word and deed our gratitude to our Father in Heaven and to His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ.”

I close with my testimony of Christ and gratitude to my Father in Heaven for the things I learn every day that help me be a better woman, wife, and mother. I’m thankful for the blessings that come from exercising faith, hope, and charity and I’m also thankful that my Heavenly Father loves me and forgives me even when I don’t practice those perfect Christlike attributes.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.