Sunday, November 27, 2016

Gratitude – An Act of Faith

Here in the U.S. we just celebrated the Thanksgiving Holiday. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, not because we get the day off work to gorge ourselves on turkey, potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and other favorite foods; but because we get to spend it with family and friends. This year was smaller than most. Our daughter and her two boys came while our boys and their families visited their in-laws or had sick children and could not go “over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house”. The biggest reason that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday is because we pause to reflect on all the blessings we have in our lives and express our gratitude to Heavenly Father for those blessings. In the scriptures, we read that God is offended when we “confess not his hand in all things” (D&C 59:21).

I am sure there are many who wonder if there is anything to be grateful for considering the state of our society and our political situation. People are protesting the presidential election saying that we have no hope. I have seen posts in social media by celebrities saying they would leave the country or hope to die rather than live with our new president. Anyone who has these feelings need to stop the negativity and look for the good in their lives. If we look hard enough and have a prayerful heart we will begin to recognize we still have so much to be thankful for.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, taught that we should be grateful not for things but be thankful not matter what our circumstances are. He said:

“It is easy to be grateful for things when life seems to be going our way. But what then of those times when what we wish for seems to be far out of reach?

“Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation? In other words, I’m suggesting that instead of being thankful for things, we focus on being thankful in our circumstances—whatever they may be.” (“Grateful in Any Circumstances”, General Conference, April 2014)

Thomas S. Monson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, told a story of a family who lived in Canada on a farm. They worked hard for what they had and they were blessed through hard work to have what they needed. One year though was different. The rains left their fields too wet for the crops to grow and they had to sell most of their livestock to buy food for the winter. That year electricity finally came to their home for the first time and they did not have to use oil lanterns for light any more. He continued the story:

“On Thanksgiving morning, however, Gordon’s father showed up with a jackrabbit and asked his wife to cook it. Grudgingly she started the job, indicating it would take a long time to cook that tough old thing. When it was finally on the table with some of the turnips that had survived, the children refused to eat. Gordon’s mother cried, and then his father did a strange thing. He went up to the attic, got an oil lamp, took it back to the table, and lighted it. He told the children to turn out the electric lights. When there was only the lamp again, they could hardly believe that it had been that dark before. They wondered how they had ever seen anything without the bright lights made possible by electricity.

“The food was blessed, and everyone ate. When dinner was over, they all sat quietly. Wrote Gordon:

“In the humble dimness of the old lamp we were beginning to see clearly again. 
“It [was] a lovely meal. The jack rabbit tasted like turkey and the turnips were the mildest we could recall. 

“… [Our] home …, for all its want, was so rich [to] us.”

“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.” (“The Devine Gift of Gratitude”, General Conference, October 2010)

Whatever the circumstances that surround us, we have so many blessings to be thankful for. We have our family, friends, neighbors, and most of us have plenty of food and shelter. Even if we lack some of these things we can still find many things that we can express gratitude for we just need to look for them.

One of the best ways to live with gratitude in all circumstances is to look for people that do not radiate gratitude as we go through each day. If we see someone that looks down, brighten their day by saying hello or even a simple smile can change their day. Look for someone a work, at church, in line at the grocery store and needs help and help them.

The scriptures teach that when we lose ourselves in serving others we will find ourselves (Matthew 16:24-26). Living with gratitude for all we have and expressing gratitude to the Lord for all he has done for us will allow the light of Christ to shine in our countenances and sharing that light with others will brighten their lives. Living with gratitude is an act of faith and something that we all need to do.

Your comments and questions are welcome.