Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Talk about Gratitude

I gave this talk in the Livingston Ward on 11.08.15. I don't always write out my talks, but this one was mostly quotes and it made me emotional, so I wrote it all down.

BECOMING A GRATEFUL PERSON                             11.08.15

 It has been a long time since I was a seminary student. Seminary was a huge blessing in my high school life and there are lessons I learned there that had such an impact, they changed my thinking and shaped the person I am now. One of those lessons came in the year we studied Church History and memorized scriptures from the Doctrine and Covenants. Learning D&C 59:21 had a great influence on me. It reads:  “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.” The thought that all the dumb things I do don’t really offend God was encouraging. The idea that all I needed to do to avoid offending Him was to remember Him and look for His hand in my life seemed doable.

 Elder James E. Faust said, “It is clear to me from this scripture that to ‘thank the Lord thy God in all things’ is more than a social courtesy; it is a binding commandment.” {r]

We often think of gratitude as giving thanks. Saying thank you to others for kindnesses, writing notes, saying prayers, or even having a feast and a day set aside to thank God for our blessings each year. All of these are good examples of expressing gratitude, and great habits to cultivate.  I’d like to speak today about gratitude as an attribute. I’d like to talk about becoming even more than one who gives thanks-- becoming a grateful person.

Elder Uchtdorf gave what I feel is the ultimate talk about gratitude in April 2014. In his talk , he said, “It is difficult to develop a spirit of gratitude if our thankfulness is only proportional to the number of blessings we can count. True, it is important to frequently ‘count our blessings’—and anyone who has tried this knows there are many—but I don’t believe the Lord expects us to be less thankful in times of trial than in times of abundance and ease. In fact, most of the scriptural references do not speak of gratitude for things but rather suggest an overall spirit or attitude of gratitude…[SO] 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.” Or in my words, become a grateful person--in all things, in all places.

Gratitude as a Saving Principle

Elder James E. Faust said, “It seems as though there is a tug-of-war between opposing character traits that leaves no voids in our souls. If gratitude is absent or disappears, rebellion often enters and fills the vacuum…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.

“But there is a truism associated with all types of human strength: Use it or lose it. When not used, muscles weaken and skills deteriorate, faith disappears. Said the Lord, ‘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.’

“As with all commandments, gratitude is a description of a successful mode of living. The thankful heart opens our eyes to a multitude of blessings that continually surround us. President J. Reuben Clark said, ‘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.’” [close quote] Did you catch that? Grace has provided blessings all around us—we don’t have to earn them, we just need to recognize and cherish them. Open our eyes!

Elder Uchtdorf said, “Part of our challenge is, I think, that we imagine that God has all of His blessings locked in a huge cloud up in heaven…In reality, Heavenly Father is constantly raining blessings upon us. It is our fear, doubt, and sin that, like an umbrella, block these blessings from reaching us.

“His commandments are the loving instructions and the divine help for us to close the umbrella so we can receive the shower of heavenly blessings.” One of the most effective, umbrella-closing commandments is to be grateful.

Elder Stephen Snow suggested, “The next time we pray, instead of presenting the Lord petition after petition for some action in our behalf, give Him thoughtful thanks for all with which He has blessed us. 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.’”

Let’s dissect that quote. Let’s think about how Gratitude helps us to be more Christlike:

 -A sense of helpfulness to others- As we notice the kindness and generosity in our lives, we develop a desire to be kind and serve our fellowmen, which in turn serves God, which helps us to keep the commandments that Jesus himself said were most important: to love God and love others.

 -Engenders Divine Influence- a gratitude attitude invites the Holy Ghost to be with us. As we thank God for our blessings, blessings are added unto us. Our hearts are soft and able to be led by the still small voice. And that still small voice leads us right back into the arms of our Heavenly Father. Do you see the chain reaction? This is why gratitude is called a saving principle.

“How blessed we are if we recognize God’s handiwork in the marvelous tapestry of life,” said Elder Uchtdorf. “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 a catalyst to all Christlike attributes! A thankful heart is the parent of all virtues.”

Gratitude as an Act of Faith

Where do we start? Here are two ways of thinking that have helped me begin to cultivate a gratitude attitude as an act of faith.

First, train yourself to see trials as an expression of Heavenly Father’s confidence in you. God tells us in every book of scripture, “whom I love I also chasten…and I have loved you.” This is not my favorite expression of God’s love, but I know he believes in me. He believes in us. He knows we can be better than we are, so he has allowed and/or created circumstances that will compel us to grow and change for the better.  We can apply the enabling power of the atonement to our struggles.  Not only will we be able to overcome our present challenges, but our faith in God and confidence in our strength as we call on Him will grow. In the big picture, each victory over the darkness in our lives adds to the strength and brightness of our faith, “and that light growth brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (D&C 50:24).

 The second influential way of thinking is the simple but profound testimony born by Nephi in 1 Nephi 11:17. Good, faithful Nephi has prayed to understand his father’s vision and his faith was so strong, he got to have the vision himself. As the angel shows him the Savior’s birth, he asks Nephi if he knows about the condescension of God. Nephi replies, “I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” The significance of a prophet of God willingly admitting he doesn’t know everything, but He knows God loves His children pierces my heart like an arrow every time I read that scripture. Think about the faith and strength that come from knowing that we are sons and daughters of a Heavenly Father who loves us and wants us to triumph in this life. We cannot know all the means our Father will use to refine us, but we can feel peace and confidence because we feel His love. We can also trust that he loves our children more than we do and can go with them to places we cannot go. We can know that all these things will bring us experience and will be for our good. This is gratitude as an act of faith.

Elder Uchtdorf taught us, “We can choose to be grateful, no matter what. 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. We sometimes think that being grateful is what we do after our problems are solved, but how terribly shortsighted that is. How much of life do we miss by waiting to see the rainbow before thanking God that there is rain? Being grateful in times of distress does not mean that we are pleased with our circumstances. It does mean that through the eyes of faith we look beyond our present-day challenges.

“Being grateful in our circumstances is an act of faith in God. It requires that we trust God and hope for things we may not see but which are true. By being grateful, we follow the example of our beloved Savior, who said, ‘Not my will, but thine, be done.’” [close quote]

 In times of trial and not-knowing, this kind of gratitude is nourished by the many truths we do know. Again, in Elder Uchtdorf’s words, “Your testimony of Christ, born of the Holy Ghost, can help you look past the disappointing endings in mortality and see the bright future that the Redeemer  of the world has prepared.” Choosing to be grateful in all circumstances is an act of faith. It is an expression of our testimony that God loves us and will lead us along.

I testify that choosing to be grateful is an act of faith. Being grateful opens the windows of heaven. Becoming a grateful person helps us to become a Christlike person by creating an environment where the Holy Ghost can be with us and we are led to love and serve one another. It is my testimony that gratitude helps us to have soft and humble hearts. Being grateful helps me to remember that my Heavenly Father is literally LENDING me breath. It is by Him that I am or I do anything. Being grateful helps me to see the good in an evil world and brings me peace in times of trouble. I pray we will have eyes to see and hearts to feel His blessings. I pray that we may become Grateful People so when our Savior comes, we will see Him and we will know him and we will love Him because we are like Him. In His sacred name, Jesus Christ, amen.

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