“Let thy heart be full of thanks unto God” (Alma 37:37). Jesus Christ taught by example that a grateful heart is a heart close to God. Before raising Lazarus from the dead, he “lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me” (John 11:41). The Lord gave thanks to God before feeding more than four thousand people with seven loaves and a few small fishes (see Matt. 15:36). And before his crucifixion, Jesus took the cup at the Last Supper and again gave thanks to his Father, even though the drink represented the shedding of his own blood (see Matt. 26:27–28).
The Savior lamented ingratitude. When only one of the ten cleansed lepers returned to give thanks, Jesus asked, “But where are the nine?” (Luke 17:17). To the recipients of his blessings in the last days, he has said, “In nothing doth man offend God … save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments” (D&C 59:21).
Just as a thankful heart compelled the leper to express his gratitude to the Lord, gratitude turns our own hearts toward the Savior for all he has done for us. We grow when we acknowledge our dependence on him. We develop Christlike characteristics, such as humility and unselfishness, to offset tendencies to be prideful, selfish, and unforgiving. By following the admonition to “thank the Lord thy God in all things” (D&C 59:7), we become aware of the ways that Heavenly Father influences us.
A young mother knelt beside her three-year-old and listened to his heartfelt bedtime prayer. As he gave thanks for his big brother, for snow, for clouds, and for pizza, she tried to remember the last time she had thanked the Lord for such things. She realized that although she always thanked our Heavenly Father for things such as health, family, and the gospel, she had forgotten to remember the ordinary and simple blessings of her own life. When she began expressing gratitude daily for all these blessings, she saw the world with new eyes. She found that grief and hardship became easier to bear and that she was spiritually nourished (see Lisa Ray Turner, Ensign, July 1992, pp. 51–52).
Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has counseled us, “Through expression of prayerful gratitude and thanksgiving, we show our dependence upon a higher source of wisdom and knowledge—God the Father and his Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (Ensign, May 1992, p. 64).
Thankfulness frequently expressed through prayer, testimony, conversation, and living the gospel reflects a spiritual maturity that exists in people who are truly grateful. “Thousands of Saints are leading a rich life, whether they are living in a mansion in Jakarta or in a home with a leaking roof. In one home with a leaking roof, a sister expressed gratitude [to our Father in Heaven] that two daughters had done extremely well in final tests … , yet explained to me that sometimes she has to ‘wear an umbrella’ in the kitchen when it rains” (Elaine L. Jack, p. 51 in this magazine).
Gratitude helps prepare us for exaltation, for the person “who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious” (D&C 78:19). With that promise, one of our prayerful requests could appropriately be “more gratitude give me” (Hymns, 1985, no. 131).
What are some of the blessings, large and small, for which you are grateful?
How can expressions and acts of appreciation improve family and other relationships?