The Joy of Becoming Grateful

By Natalie Wilson, talk given during Sunday Sacrament Service on November 13, 2011 at the Grove Creek 7th Ward   
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During General Conference in April of 1992, President Monson said, “This is a wonderful time to be living here on earth. Our opportunities are limitless. While there are some things wrong in the world today, there are many things right, such as teachers who teach, ministers who minister, marriages that make it, parents who sacrifice, and friends who help.

“We can lift ourselves, and others as well, when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude. If ingratitude is among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues.” [1]

A popular refrain from the 1940s captured the thought:

Accentuate the positive;
Eliminate the negative.
Latch on to the affirmative;
Don't mess with Mr. In-between. [2]

The Lord Wants You to Have a Spirit of Gratitude

In For the Strength of Youth it says, “The Lord wants you to have a spirit of gratitude in all you do and say. Live with a spirit of thanksgiving and you will have greater happiness and satisfaction in life. Even in your most difficult times, you can find much to be grateful for. Doing so will strengthen and bless you. In your prayers, before you ask for blessings, pour out your heart to God in thanks for the blessings you have already received. Thank Him for your family, for friends and loved ones, for leaders and teachers, for the gospel, and for his Son, Jesus Christ. You can also express gratitude to the Lord by the way you live. When you keep His commandments and serve others, you show that you love Him and are grateful to Him. Express appreciation to everyone who helps you in any way.” [3]

Bonnie D. Parkin, a former primary general president said, “Gratitude requires awareness and effort, not only to feel it but to express it. Frequently we are oblivious to the Lord's hand. We murmur, complain, resist, criticize; so often we are not grateful. In the Book of Mormon, we learn that those who murmur do not know 'the dealings of that God who … created them. [4] The Lord counsels us not to murmur because it is then difficult for the Spirit to work with us.” [5]

President David O. McKay said, “Gratitude is deeper than thanks. Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.” [6]

President Monson relates a story about his gratitude for a Sunday School teacher who “had been a missionary and loved young people. Her name was Lucy Gertsch” He said, “She was beautiful, soft-spoken, and interested in us. She asked each class member to introduce himself or herself, and then she asked questions that gave her an understanding and an insight into the background of each boy and girl… She made the scriptures actually come to life. We became personally acquainted with Samuel, David, Jacob, Nephi, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” President Monson further wrote:

We undertook a project to save nickels and dimes for what was to be a gigantic party. Sister Gertsch kept a careful record of our progress. As boys and girls with typical appetites, we thought about the cakes, cookies, pies, and ice cream. This was to be a glorious occasion--the biggest party ever. Never before had any of our teachers even suggested a social event like this one was going to be.

The summer months faded into autumn; autumn turned into winter. Our party goal had been achieved. The class had grown. A good spirit prevailed.

None of us will forget that gray morning in January when our beloved teacher announced to us that the mother of one of our classmates had passed away. We thought of our own mothers and how much they meant to us. We felt sorrow for Billy Devenport in his great loss.

The lesson that Sunday was from the book of Acts, chapter 20, verse 35: “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.” At the conclusion of the presentation of a well-prepared lesson, Lucy Gertsch commented on the economic situation of Billy's family. These were depression times; money was scarce. With a twinkle in her eyes, she asked, “How would you like to follow this teaching of the Lord? How would you feel about taking your party fund and, as a class, giving it to the Devenports as an expression of our love?” The decision was unanimous. We counted very carefully each penny and placed the total sum in a large envelope.

I will always remember the tiny band walking those three city blocks, entering Billy's home, greeting him, his brother, sisters, and father. Noticeably absent was his mother. Always I shall treasure the tears which glistened in the eyes of each one present as the white envelope containing our precious party fund passed from the delicate hand of our teacher to the needy hand of a grief-stricken father. We fairly skipped our way back to the chapel. Our hearts were lighter than they had ever been, our joy more full, our understanding more profound. This simple act of kindness welded us together as one. We learned through our own experience that indeed it is more blessed to give than to receive.

The years have flown. The old chapel is gone, a victim of industrialization. The boys and girls who learned, who laughed, who grew under the direction of that inspired teacher of truth have never forgotten her love or her lessons. [7]

President Monson also suggested that we should “reflect gratitude for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. His glorious gospel provides answers to life's greatest questions: Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where does my spirit go when I die? His called missionaries bring to those who live in darkness the light of divine truth…

“He taught us how to pray. He taught us how to serve. He taught us how to live. His life is a legacy of love. The sick He healed; the downtrodden He lifted; the sinner He saved.” [8]

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.”

A quote that I like about gratitude is: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, and a stranger to a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” [9]

I know that when we are grateful for things, we are more happy. We are more willing to help others. We all need to have our eyes opened for the good things that happen to us, and be grateful for what we have. I know that sometimes we may receive blessings, and forget to thank our Heavenly Father. I know that it is very important that we take the time to tell our Heavenly Father thank you for all the things He has done for us, even the simplest things. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Notes:

[1] President Thomas S. Monson, “ An Attitude of Gratitude,” Ensign, May 1992..

[2] Lyrics from the son, “Accentuate the Positive” sung by Johnny Mercer.

[3] For the Strength of the Youth, LDS Guidelines for Youth.

[4] 1 Nephi 2:12.

[5] Bonnie D. Parkin, “Gratitude: A Path to Happiness,” Ensign, May 2007, 35.

[6] President David O. McKay, “Gratitude Quotations,” Friend, Nov. 1975.

[7] President Thomas S. Monson, “An Attitude of Gratitude,” Ensign, May 1992.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Melody Beattie. See Brainy Quote.

 

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