Yep… I’m sharing a LONG post about GRATITUDE. And yes, it’s the day AFTER Thanksgiving. It occurred to me that I need a reminder to be grateful ALWAYS – every single day of my life – and not just on a certain day, or during a certain season. So as you enjoy your turkey sandwich, return with mee to many thoughts on GRATITUDE. I hope I can share some ideas which will be thought-provoking – which will cause us to have a desire to THINK – to PONDER our need for GRATITUDE, for giving THANKS. You might be interested to know that I looked up every single verse of scripture which dealt with gratitude … and I think you’ll be grateful to know that I’m NOT going to list them all (do I hear a “WHEW” ??). Interestingly, the word GRATITUDE does not appear anywhere in scripture. It was a short search… the word used is THANKS. But YOU already knew that, didn’t you. I’m not going to share everything I found (more WHEW!). There are so many times in scripture where an altar was built and a sacrifice offered to GIVE THANKS. Lehi and his family have just left Jerusalem and the good life they had there (they apparently didn’t bring a lot of “precious stuff” with them, because later the sons went back to Jerusalem and tried to purchase the Brass Plates with the wealth that was still in their home) So here they are in the wilderness, living in tents rather than in their nice home, and here is what the Prophet Lehi did: And it came to pass that he built an altar of stones, and made an offering unto the Lord, and gave thanks unto the Lord our God. (1 Nephi 2:7) He had a wonderful perspective, didn’t he. PERSPECTIVE and AWARENESS can bring deep, deep feelings of gratitude. We no longer build alters of stone to offer sacrifices as a way of expressing gratitude to our Heavenly Father. OUR sacrifice is a BROKEN HEART and a CONTRITE SPIRIT. Consider these as ways to offer gratitude as we go back to Lehi and family for a moment: Lehi did send his sons back to Jerusalem to get the Brass Plates, and it took them longer than their Mother thought it should, and she began to get upset with Lehi. But the boys returned, with the plates, and both parents were joyful. And it came to pass that they did rejoice exceedingly, and did offer sacrifice and burnt offerings unto the Lord; and they gave thanks unto the God of Israel. (1 Nephi 5:9). Rejoicing is a great way to give thanks.
One of the best ways to show gratitude to our Heavenly Father is through service. King Benjamin taught this so powerfully: Mosiah 2:17-19: And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. Behold, ye have called me your king; and if I, whom ye call your king, do labor to serve you, then ought not ye to labor to serve one another? And behold also, if I, whom ye call your king, who has spent his days in your service, and yet has been in the service of God, do merit any thanks from you, o how you ought to thank your Heavenly King! When Alma Senior had baptized all the believers in the Waters of Mormon, he taught them what it meant to be members of Christ’s Church, including this: And he commanded them that they should observe the sabbath day, and keep it holy, and also every day they should give thanks to the Lord their God. (Mosiah 18:23) Jacob taught the importance of gratitude in the amazing message about the Atonement: (2 Nephi 9:52) . . . remember the words of your God; pray unto him continually by day, and give thanks unto his holy name by night. Let your hearts rejoice. After Alma and his people had received Heavenly Help in escaping from the bondage of the Lamanites and Amulonites (by causing a deep sleep to come upon those who were guarding them): . . . they poured out their thanks to God because he had been merciful unto them, and eased their burdens, and had delivered them out of bondage . . . . . . And they gave thanks to God, yea, all their men and all their women and all their children that could speak lifted their voices in the praises of their God. (Mosiah 24:21-22) And “listen” to this, which the Lord gave to us through 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). I love it so much when I read YEA in the scriptures!
I consider gratitude one of the highest forms of Christ-like behavior. It is the ESSENCE of WORSHIP! Gratitude is what happens when our hearts remember. It turns what we have into enough. It is the primary factor in achieving contentment.(One of my favorite definitions contentment is: “tranquil happiness.” Love it!! The Apostle Paul shared something which has had me pondering since I first really thought about it as I read it (I Timothy 6:6-8: 6- But GODLINESS WITH CONTENTMENT is great gain.7- For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.8- And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. There can be NO contentment without gratitude! No way! Gratitude is one of the most important desires of our heart. And Cicero called gratitude the Mother of ALL virtues! I’ve become more conscious of the fact that I need an increased awareness of all the tender mercies and blessings and miracles which have surrounded me unnoticed … and for which I have not expressed thanks. I want to become much more AWARE. I am convinced it will increase and deepen my gratitude.
Ingratitude is a sin! Plain and simple! And it happens mostly because we don’t take time to remember. (That’s a very important word, isn’t it!). Ingratitude is one of the weapons used by whnf (what’s-his-no-face) to thwart the purposes of God. Ingratitude is self‑centeredness and is a form of pride. Selfishness, greed, and indifference are all by-products of ingratitude. Elder W. Eugene Hansen shared this: It has been said that the sin of ingratitude is more serious than the sin of revenge. With revenge, we return evil for evil, but with ingratitude, we return evil for good. (Ensign, Nov 1989, p. 24) President N. Eldon Tanner said that ingratitude is stronger than traitors’ arms. (Conference Report, October 1967, p.54). The Prophet Joseph Smith said that one of the greatest sins for which the Latter-day Saints are guilty is the sin of ingratitude. (Elder Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, October 1948, p.98). And this from President Joseph Fielding Smith: 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. I believe that one of the greatest sins of which the inhabitants of the earth are guilty today is the sin of ingratitude, the want of acknowledgment, on their part, of the Lord and his right to govern and control. (Conference Report, October 1969, p.110). Selfishness and ingratitude are destructive!
Here are two verses from the Doctrine and Covenants (59:7, 21) worth thinking about: 7- Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things. (In ALL THINGS!… not just those which are pleasant, easy, enjoyable and so forth). 21- 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. As President Marion G. Romney taught: It is perfectly evident… that to thank the Lord in all things is not merely a courtesy, it is a commandment as binding upon us as any other commandment. (Ensign, November 1982, p. 50) Sir Izaak Waltong (an English author who lived 1593-1683… it makes me happy that things were recorded “back then”): God has two dwelling places: one in heaven, and the other in a thankful heart – which, O Lord, grant to me. President J. Reuben Clark, Jr. said this: Hold fast to the blessings which God has provided for you. Yours is not the task to gain them – they are here. Yours is the part of cherishing them. (Church News, 14 June 1969, p. 2) From President David O. McKay: Gratitude is the heart’s recognition of kindness that the lips cannot repay.” (Conference Report, October 1955, p. 4) And from President Gordon B. Hinckley: … get on your knees and thank the Lord for his bounties. Cultivate a spirit of thanksgiving for the blessing of life and for the marvelous gifts and privileges you enjoy. The Lord has said, “The meek shall inherit the earth.” (See Matt. 5:5.) I cannot escape the interpretation that meekness implies a spirit of gratitude as opposed to an attitude of self-sufficiency, an acknowledgment of a greater power beyond oneself, a recognition of God and an acceptance of his commandments. This is the beginning of wisdom. (Conference Report, October 1964, p. 117)
It has occurred to me that I might have neglected to thank Heavenly Father for FIVE pennies if I’m constantly complaining because I don’t have TEN! And they ALL belong to HIM anyway! In General Conference in April of 1990, President James E. Faust shared a message entitled “Gratitude is a Binding Commandment.” He emphasized that gratitude is not only an expression of faith, but is a saving principle (and a binding commandment). He reminded us that we are blessed in many ways, and that when we express gratitude we are involved in the essence of worship. Quoting him: A grateful heart is a beginning for greatness. It is an expression of humility. It is a foundation for the development of such virtues and prayer, faith, courage, contentment, happiness, love, and well-being. [WOW!!] The thankful heart opens our eyes to a multitude of blessings that continually surround us. He said that “One of the evils of our time is taking for granted so many of the things we enjoy.” And he closed his remarks with: I hope that we can cultivate grateful hearts so that we may cherish the multitude of blessings that God has so graciously bestowed. May we openly express such gratitude to our Father in Heaven and our fellowmen. (“Gratitude As a Saving Principle,” Ensign, May 1990). I noticed that he reminded us to thank others as well as our Heavenly Father. In re-reading this, I have thought of many things for which I haven’t expressed thanks in a long, long time…. Maybe you can think of some things too. Here’s a hymn which can reminds us of some of these things: NOW THANK WE ALL OUR GOD (Hymn #95) Now thank we all our God With hearts and hands and voices, Who wondrous things hath done, In whom his earth rejoices; Who from our mothers’ arms, Hath blessed us on our way With countless gifts of love, And still is ours today. Oh, may our bounteous God Through all our life be near us, With ever-joyful hearts And blessed peace to cheer us. And keep us in his love, And guide us day and night, And free us from all ills, Protect us by his might.
Harold S. Kushner is a favorite writer and speaker of mine. He is Rabbi Laureate of Temple Israel in Natick, Massachusetts. He spoke at BYU several years ago, and I’d already read some of his books and oh how I loved his message! He has shared some wonderful thoughts about gratitude: Once we have learned to see our lives as the accumulation of gifts that God has given us, gifts we could not have acquired by our own efforts, once we have learned to appreciate what we have, rather than complain that we don’t have more, because we could have had nothing, we can respond in several ways. First, we can reciprocate God’s generosity by giving Him our thanks and our trust…. Second, if we have benefited from God’s generosity, it becomes our obligation to let others benefit from our generosity, or more accurately from God’s generosity flowing through us to those to whom we reach out. The remarkable thing about gratitude is that, like forgiveness, it is a favor we do ourselves more than it is something we do for the recipient of our thanks. God would have us develop the habit of gratitude for all the blessings of our lives, not because He needs our thanks, but because when we acknowledge those blessings we come to feel differently about His world and live happier lives as a result. Learn to see more of the “givens” of your life as gifts. Learn to respond to the sun’s coming up every morning as a miracle. Our ability to receive God’s blessings with thanksgiving will never outstrip God’s ability to bless us! If gratitude is so basic and so beneficial, if it makes us happier about our lives, why is it hard for so many people to cultivate the habit of feeling grateful? I can think of [some] reasons. One is a sense of entitlement. If we have grown up believing that we deserve only the best, we will respond to every gift, whether from God or from friends, like the petulant child who examines a new toy and complains, “I want the newer model.” For people who feel entitled, it is not enough to be alive and well; they resent every blemish, every limitation on their physical grace and athletic skill. It is not enough for them to have a loving partner and healthy children; they envy the glamorous romances of celebrities and the honor roll achievements of the children next door. They are never satisfied because they measure their wealth not by what they have but by what they lack.
Here is a thought I found which is similar to the message of Hymn # 219 (“Because I Have Been Given Much”). It’s from Janie Alford, The Treasure Chest, p. 216 – THANKS BE TO GOD
I do not thank thee, Lord, That I have bread to eat while others starve; Nor yet for work to do While empty hands solicit heaven; Nor for a body strong While other bodies flatten beds of pain. No, not for these do I give thanks! But I am grateful, Lord, Because my meager loaf I may divide; For that my busy hands May move to meet another’s need; Because my doubled strength I may expend to steady one who faints. Yes, for all these do I give thanks! For heart to share, desire to bear And will to lift, Flamed into one by deathless Love – Thanks be to God for this! Unspeakable! His Gift!
PSALMS 136:1 – O give thanks unto the LORD; for [he is] good: for his mercy [endureth] for ever.