The Gift of Gratitude

  By Sister Ann M. Dibb, Young Women general presidency

  • 18 December 2012

A young woman offers a prayer of gratitude. Young Women leaders teach that hearts can be softened and changed through gratitude.  Photo by Henrik Als.

“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.” —President David O. McKay (1873–1970)

At this time of year, we frequently think of gifts. We sometimes obsess over gifts we want to give and gifts we hope to receive. Do we consider the great gift of gratitude? Gratitude blesses our life and the lives of all those with whom we associate. It especially blesses our families. Gratitude is defined as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness” (see Oxford Dictionary and Webster’s Dictionary).

Have you ever considered why gratitude is included in the For the Strength of Youth booklet? I believe this is an important question for youth, leaders, and parents alike to consider. Why is it that prophets, seers, and revelators want to remind us, “The Lord wants you to have the spirit of gratitude in all you do and say?” (For the Strength of Youth, 18). Following are five reasons why gratitude is a transforming attribute. Also included are questions you may wish to consider and apply in relation to gratitude. It is a blessing and opportunity to be grateful in all things.

First: Being grateful is a commandment and helps us to become a Zion people.

In section 59 of the Doctrine and Covenants the Saints are taught the need to be obedient to God’s commandments. The revelation, given through the Prophet Joseph Smith, reiterates several commandments, including the two great commandments (see verses 5–6). In verse 7 the Lord tells a requirement for the Saints to become a Zion people, which is not usually recognized: “Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things.” 

To become a Zion people is still our goal. The attributes of obedience, gratitude, and thankfulness are still requirements to this hoped-for end. (Questions: Why would the Lord need to command us to be grateful? Do we consider our need to be grateful in the same category of importance as other “Thou shalt” commandments?) 

Second: We continually strive to follow the Savior’s example and apply His teachings in our daily life. 

The Savior exemplified and taught the importance of gratitude. We are all familiar with the parable of the good Samaritan. However, are we as familiar with the miracle of the grateful Samaritan (see Luke 17:11–19)? In verses 15 and 16 we read, “And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.”  

President Thomas S. Monson has taught in relation to this parable, “The expressed gratitude by one merited the Master’s blessing; the ingratitude shown by the nine, His disappointment” (“The Divine Gift of Gratitude,” Ensign, Nov. 2010, 87). (Questions: Would we be among the nine who didn’t think to thank the Savior, or would we be the one to return? Why? What would it be like, how would it feel, to be singled out and receive the Lord’s blessing for our expression of gratitude?)

Third: Ancient and modern prophets teach the importance of gratitude.

In the Book of Mormon, Amulek taught the people, “Ye [should] live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you” (Alma 34:38). King Benjamin also taught the importance of acknowledging our indebtedness to God (see Mosiah 2:19–24). He proclaimed, “O how you ought to thank your heavenly King!” 

President David O. McKay taught great truths concerning gratitude: “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” (“The Meaning of Thanksgiving,” Improvement Era, Nov. 1964, 914). We must not only recognize the blessings and the goodness of the Lord which we receive from His hand, but we must also give expression to our thanks through our words, deeds, and service to others. (Questions: What personal actions reflect our gratitude? How might we live “in thanksgiving daily”?) 

President Monson repeatedly teaches of the importance of gratitude. In an October 2010 general conference talk, he said: “A grateful heart  … comes through expressing gratitude to our Heavenly Father for His blessings and to those around us for all that they bring into our lives. … To live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven” (“The Divine Gift of Gratitude,” 89–90). (Question: Scriptures teach that our hearts must be changed in order to inherit the kingdom of God. How might we change our actions so that our heart may be changed into a grateful heart and “touch heaven”?) 

Fourth: Prayers reflect our gratitude to the Lord. 

We read in For the Strength of Youth, “In your prayers, pour out your heart to your Father in Heaven in thanks for the blessings you have received. Be specific in thanking Him for His goodness, for your family, for friends, for leaders and teachers, for the gospel, and for His Son, Jesus Christ” (p. 18). (Question: What would our prayers be like if we prayed for the small and simple blessings or if our prayers were only prayers of gratitude?) 

Fifth: Recognizing our blessings and expressing gratitude increases our happiness. 

God gives us commandments to protect us and help us to be happy. The commandment to be grateful is no exception. Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, a leading researcher in his field, has found gratitude increases happiness. When over 400 individuals were given the assignment “to write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for his or her kindness, participants immediately exhibited a huge increase in happiness scores. This impact was greater than that from any other intervention, with benefits lasting for a month” (“In Praise of Gratitude,” Harvard Health Publications, accessed Dec. 3, 2012, http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Mental_Health_Letter/2011/November/in-praise-of-gratitude). Gratitude takes us outside of ourselves and focuses our attention on Deity and others. (Question: To whom might you write a letter of gratitude?)

As Young Women presidencies and in youth class presidencies, counsel together as to how you might practice greater gratitude. Personal Progress has multiple value experiences dealing with gratitude. Consider specific activities to increase your gratitude for your many blessings. During this Christmas season, instead of having “The Twelve Days of Christmas” where gifts are given for twelve days, consider having “The Twelve Days of Gratitude” and share specific notes of gratitude for twelve days. Sing hymn 241, “Count Your Many Blessings.” Instead of making a Christmas chain counting down the days until Christmas, make a gratitude chain counting the blessings—“name them one by one.” Celebrate the divine gift of gratitude.

At this beautiful time of year, may our hearts be softened and changed as we increase our gratitude. May we always choose, no matter the season, to be grateful and qualify for His acknowledgement and promised blessings. “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” (D&C 78:19).