I recall a passage in the Doctrine and Covenants, which I will use as a theme for my talk.
“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.)
I don’t know that I’ve ever heard that passage quoted before. It’s a glorious passage. In the 59th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, we have a very significant statement:
“Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things.
“Thou shalt offer a sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in righteousness, even that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” (D&C 59:7–8.)
And then the Lord goes on to talk about the Sabbath day:
“And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day,” and so on. (D&C 59:9.)
Then as He concludes that statement on the Sabbath day, He adds:
“And inasmuch as ye do these things with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances …
“Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth;
“Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards;
“Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;
“Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.
“And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.”
And then this warning: “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.” (D&C 59:15–21.)
The Prophet Joseph is rumored to have said at one time that one of the greatest sins for which the Latter-day Saints would be guilty would be the sin of ingratitude. I presume most of us have not thought of that as a serious sin. There’s a great tendency for us in our prayers—in our pleadings with the Lord—to ask for additional blessings. Sometimes I feel we need to devote more of our prayers to expressions of gratitude and thanksgiving for blessings already received. Of course we need the daily blessings of the Lord. But if we sin in the matter of prayer, I think it is in our lack of the expressions of thanksgiving for daily blessings.
President Brigham Young uttered very much the same warning as the Prophet Joseph—that this would be one of our great sins as Latter-day Saints. I do not think this is because we’re less grateful than other people—but because we have so much more to be grateful for.
We take many blessings for granted as Latter-day Saints. I presume we don’t think it’s anything particularly special.
At the end of World War II, I was seated in my office in Salt Lake and received a telephone call from a man in New York, a multimillionaire who had made 30 million dollars by the time he was 30 years of age. He had a son in a military camp just outside Salt Lake City. This boy had expected to be shipped overseas, as many others had been. Then the war ended and so they were crowded into that camp, like sardines in a can. This boy was discouraged, and his father was worried about him. So he called and said, “Would you please call him on the telephone and see if you can cheer him up a bit?” I said, “Of course, I’d be happy to.” And I called him and said, “Would you like to come into the office for a little visit?” And he said, “I sure would.” He was a bit delayed in coming, and I was just ready to leave for home when he arrived.
I said, “Would you like to go out to the house with me and eat with the family? My wife doesn’t know you’re coming, but you’ll be welcome.” So he said, “I can’t imagine anything I’d rather do tonight than that.” So we went out, and we had our dinner, and we had our prayer. We gathered around the piano afterwards and enjoyed ourselves with some singing. Then after we visited for awhile, I drove him down to his bus. In a few days I got a letter from his father, and you know, you’d have thought I’d saved that boy’s life. The father quoted a letter from his son in which the son had said, “Father, I didn’t know there were any people in this world who lived like that.” Yes, we take it all for granted. Here was a man worth millions of dollars—could buy his son anything that dollars could buy and never miss the money—and yet this simple thing of prayer and devotion in the home had passed him by.
We need to be more grateful. I think there’s no true character without gratitude. It’s one of the marks of a real strong character, to have a feeling of thanksgiving and gratitude for blessings that are ours. We need more of that spirit in our homes, in our daily associations, in church, everywhere. It doesn’t cost anything. It’s so easy to cultivate the spirit of appreciation and gratitude. And it’s so easy, also, to be dissatisfied and to be envious of other people.
I remember I learned a lesson one evening in a little country ward in Idaho while I was traveling for the University of Idaho. I traveled that wonderful state for eight years. I’ve been to every town and hamlet in the state. It was not uncommon for me to be away for two weeks. Then I’d go home, and as a stake officer, I would take a bath, change clothes, and be gone again to a Stake meeting. My wife used to say, “Well, when you’re not away traveling, you’re away to meetings.” Once when this happened, one of my little girls came to the door, waved, and said, “Come visit us again, Daddy.”
I used to miss my family, and this particular time I was in Pocatello, Idaho, on Sunday. I got thinking about my family, so far away, and I thought, “Well, I’ll just run down to Whitney and see if I can attend sacrament service and renew my acquaintance with some of the wonderful people there.” So I drove down and arrived just as the meeting was about ready to start and the bishop was going into the church.
He invited me in with him. He had the custom of going up on the stand and sitting there ten minutes before the meeting started so he could see the people come in. He’d have his counselors down at the door. And as I sat there, I watched these groups come in. There were family groups with father, mother, children, and I knew practically all of them. I knew all of the parents and could identify the children by association.
Well, the meeting got started, and the counselor was conducting. He called on me to say a few words. And while sitting there, I’d been thinking, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could be home every Sunday and go to church with your family? Just think what a joy it would be.” Well, as he introduced me, he said, “Brothers and sisters, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all had a job like Brother Benson? He’s traveling this great state of Idaho all the time. He’s always on a trip.” I thought, “Yes, how true to life. Other blessings look better than our own.”
I hope we can be happy where we are, be grateful for our blessings—now—here, accept the challenge that is ours and make the most of it, and don’t be envious of others.
God help us to be grateful. Someone has said that an ungrateful man is like a hog under a tree eating apples and never looking up to see where they come from. Do we look up to see where our blessings are coming from?
God help us to be grateful for our blessings and never to be guilty of the sin of ingratitude.
“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.)