Chapter 25: Cultivating Gratitude, Humility, and Honesty

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, (1997), 177–82


President Brigham Young believed in and lived according to simple, true principles. From his experiences as a carpenter and contractor, he learned to value honest workers who built walls that would last, hung doors that would not need repair, and did not leave a job site with the owner’s tools or nails in their pockets. He counseled people in every walk of life to “have their eyes opened to see and understand where honesty and uprightness are” (DNW, 2 Dec. 1857, 4). President Young also encouraged the early Saints who suffered from trials such as persecution, poverty, and starvation to accept their afflictions with gratitude and humility, for the Lord truly strengthened them in their suffering. His words and his life emphasized that our duty is to show integrity and gratitude by improving on whatever the Lord has blessed us with.

Teachings of Brigham Young

Acknowledging the Lord’s hand in our lives cultivates gratitude.

I do not know of any, excepting the unpardonable sin, that is greater than the sin of ingratitude (DBY, 228).

I might say something with regard to the hard times. You know that I have told you that if any one was afraid of starving to death, let him leave, and go where there is plenty. I do not apprehend the least danger of starving, for until we eat up the last mule, from the tip of the ear to the end of the fly whipper, I am not afraid of starving to death. There are many people who cannot now get employment, but the spring is going to open upon us soon, and we are not going to suffer any more than what is for our good. I am thankful for the hand of the Lord which is visible; I am as thankful for this providence of his as for any that I ever received. I have told you, years ago, my feelings with regard to their sympathies, their faith, gratitude and thankfulness, and their acknowledgement of the hand of the Lord and of the dispensations of his providence. My soul has been grieved to bleeding, to see the waste, and the prodigal feeling of this people in the use of their bountiful blessings. Many have walked them underfoot, and have been ready to curse God who bestowed them. They wanted gold and silver, instead of wheat and corn, and fine flour, and the best vegetables that ever grew upon the earth. They walked them underfoot, and set at nought the choice blessings of the Lord their God (DNW, 6 Feb. 1856, 4).

We rejoice because the Lord is ours, because we are sown in weakness for the express purpose of attaining to greater power and perfection. In everything the Saints may rejoice—in persecution, because it is necessary to purge them, and prepare the wicked for their doom; in sickness and in pain, though they are hard to bear, because we are thereby made acquainted with pain, with sorrow, and with every affliction that mortals can endure, for by contact all things are demonstrated to our senses. We have reason to rejoice exceedingly that faith is in the world, that the Lord reigns, and does his pleasure among the inhabitants of the earth. Do you ask if I rejoice because the Devil has the advantage over the inhabitants of the earth, and has afflicted mankind? I most assuredly answer in the affirmative; I rejoice in this as much as in anything else. I rejoice because I am afflicted. I rejoice because I am poor. I rejoice because I am cast down. Why? Because I shall be lifted up again. I rejoice that I am poor because I shall be made rich; that I am afflicted, because I shall be comforted, and prepared to enjoy the felicity of perfect happiness, for it is impossible to properly appreciate happiness except by enduring the opposite (DBY, 228).

We talk about our trials and troubles here in this life; but suppose that you could see yourselves thousands and millions of years after you have proved faithful to your religion during the few short years in this time, and have obtained eternal salvation and a crown of glory in the presence of God? Then look back upon your lives here, and see the losses, crosses, and disappointments, the sorrows … ; you would be constrained to exclaim, “but what of all that? Those things were but for a moment, and we are now here. We have been faithful during a few moments in our mortality, and now we enjoy eternal life and glory, with power to progress in all the boundless knowledge and through the countless stages of progression, enjoying the smiles and approbation of our Father and God, and of Jesus Christ our elder brother” (DNW, 9 Nov. 1859, 1).

There is another item which I will now notice, and until we learn such things I will promise you that we shall never inherit the Celestial Kingdom. We are gathered together for the purpose of learning what to do with this present life and with the present blessings bestowed upon us. If we do not learn these lessons, how can we expect to be trusted with the riches of eternity; for he that is faithful over a few things shall be made ruler over many things [see Matthew 25:21]. … When we are blessed with an increase of cattle, and we disregard this blessing which the Lord bestows upon us, we thereby incur His displeasure, and lay ourselves liable to punishment. What earthly father would bestow blessings upon a son with satisfaction and pleasure while that son would continue to squander them and gamble them away for nothing? After a time that father would withhold his favors, and bestow them upon the more worthy child. The Lord is more merciful than we are; but there may be a termination to His gifts, if we do not receive them with gratitude and take good care of them when we have them in our possession. Let the people take care of their cattle and horses, and the man who does not do it will lay himself liable to censure in the eyes of justice (DNSW, 29 Oct. 1865, 2).

What is our duty? It is our duty to improve upon every blessing the Lord gives to us. If he gives us land, improve it; if he gives us the privilege of building houses, improve it; if he gives us wives and children, try and teach them the ways of the Lord, and exalt them above the dark, degraded, and sunken state of mankind. … In his providence he has called the Latter-day Saints from the world, has gathered them from other nations, and given them a place upon the earth. Is this a blessing? Yes one of the greatest the people can enjoy, to be free from the wickedness of the wicked, from the calamities and clamor of the world. By this blessing we can show to our Father in Heaven that we are faithful stewards; and more, it is a blessing to have the privilege of handing back to him that which he has put in our possession. … Then it is plain that what I seem to have I do not in reality own, and I will hand it back to the Lord when he calls for it; it belongs to him, and it is his all the time. I do not own it, I never did (DN, 20 June 1855, 4).

There is not a single condition of life [or] one hour’s experience but what is beneficial to all those who make it their study, and aim to improve upon the experience they gain (DNW, 9 July 1862, 1).

Those who are humble recognize their dependence on the Lord.

We have to humble ourselves and become like little children in our feelings—to become humble and childlike in spirit, in order to receive the first illuminations of the spirit of the Gospel, then we have the privilege of growing, of increasing in knowledge, in wisdom, and in understanding (DBY, 228).

We are nothing only what the Lord makes us (DNW, 28 Oct. 1857, 5).

When a person sees things as they are, … if he finds that he is pleasing God and his brethren, he is exceedingly rejoiced, and feels an increase of humility and resignation. When a man is proud and arrogant, flattery fills him with vanity and injures him; but it is not so when he is increasing in the faith of God (DBY, 228).

Who has the greatest reason to be thankful to his God—the man that has no strong passion or evil appetite to overcome, or the one that tries day by day to overcome, and yet is overtaken in a fault? The power of his strength, faith, and judgment is overcome, and he is found in fault through his evil propensities, though he is striving, day after day, and night after night, to overcome. Who has reason to be the most thankful? The being that has comparatively no strong passion to overcome ought constantly to walk in the vale of humility, rather than boast of his righteousness over his brother. We are under obligation, through the filial feeling and ties of humanity, to more or less fellowship those who do evil. We must endure this until the Lord shall see fit to separate the wheat from the chaff—until the righteous are gathered out, and the wicked are bound in bundles prepared for the burning [see D&C 86]—until the sheep are separated from the goats [see Matthew 25:31–34]. Those who have not strong passions to contend with, day by day, and year by year, should walk in the vale of humiliation; and if brethren and sisters are overtaken in fault, your hearts should be filled with kindness—with brotherly, angelic feeling—to overlook their faults as far as possible (DNW, 22 Aug. 1860, 1).

The hearts of the meek and humble are full of joy and comfort continually (DBY, 228).

Those who are honest are true to themselves, to others, and to the Lord.

Men must be honest, they must live faithfully before their God, and honor their calling and being on the earth. You ask if that is possible? Yes; the doctrine which we have embraced takes away the stony hearts (DBY, 232).

We need to learn, practice, study, know and understand how angels live with each other. When this community comes to the point to be perfectly honest and upright, you will never find a poor person; none will lack, all will have sufficient. Every man, woman, and child will have all they need just as soon as they all become honest. When the majority of the community are dishonest, it maketh the honest portion poor, for the dishonest serve and enrich themselves at their expense (DBY, 232).

I have tried to suppress dishonesty in individuals, and have tried thereby to make them honest. If I hire a carpenter and pay him three dollars a day, and he is three days in making a six panel door that a good workman can make in one, or even a door and a half, I do not want to pay him three dollars a day for that labor. Yet some who are here have no more judgment, discretion, or idea of right or wrong, than to want to be paid for labor they do not perform; and that they consider to be honesty: but it is just as dishonest as anything in the world (DNW, 2 Dec. 1857, 4).

Let [all workers] try to improve. … There has a great improvement taken place in the midst of this people, and we will still continue to improve. Let us seek unto the Lord for wisdom … and so continue to improve, until we come up to the standard of truth in all our acts and words; so that when I employ a mason to lay me up a wall he will do it honestly, and so on with every other workman. Then if a man does not earn his wages, he will not ask them or take them. … Honesty never comes into the hearts of such persons; their rule is to keep what they have got and to get all they can, whether honestly or not, and pray for more (DNW, 2 Dec. 1857, 5).

Woe to those who profess to be Saints and are not honest. Only be honest with yourselves, and you will be honest to the brethren (DBY, 231–32).

Children should be taught honesty, and they should grow up with the feeling within them that they should never take a pin that is not their own; never displace anything, but always put everything in its place. If they find anything seek for the owner. If there is anything of their neighbor’s going to waste, put it where it will not waste, and be perfectly honest one with another (DNW, 23 Oct. 1872, 5).

Honest hearts produce honest actions—holy desires produce corresponding outward works. Fulfil your contracts and sacredly keep your word. I have no fellowship for a man that will make a promise and not fulfil it. Simple truth, simplicity, honesty, uprightness, justice, mercy, love, kindness, do good to all and evil to none, how easy it is to live by such principles! A thousand times easier than to practice deception! (DBY, 232).

It is much better to be honest; to live here uprightly, and forsake and shun evil, than it is to be dishonest. It is the easiest path in the world to be honest,—to be upright before God; and when people learn this, they will practice it (DBY, 232).

Suggestions for Study

Acknowledging the Lord’s hand in our lives cultivates gratitude.

  • President Young suggested that the Saints should be grateful for wheat, corn, and vegetables rather than gold and silver. What should each of us be grateful for? (See also D&C 59:7, 21.) How have you expressed your gratitude to God, your family, and others?

  • Why do you think President Young taught the Saints to rejoice in persecution, sickness, pain, and affliction? What blessings can result from these conditions? How can suffering and trials be for our good? How can we learn to appreciate and value life’s difficulties while we are experiencing hard times?

  • President Young said, “We are [here] for the purpose of learning what to do with this present life and with the present blessings bestowed upon us.” What will happen if we do not show gratitude by learning what to do with our present blessings? (See also Mosiah 2:20–21.) What can we do to show gratitude for our blessings? How can we “improve upon every blessing the Lord gives to us”?

Those who are humble recognize their dependence on the Lord.

  • President Young spoke of the need to become childlike to “receive the first illuminations of the spirit of the Gospel” and said that a person can then grow in knowledge and wisdom. What evidence have you seen in yourself or others that this is true? What characteristics do children have that can guide adults in becoming humble?

  • President Young taught, “We are nothing only what the Lord makes us.” How can we know what the Lord wants to make of us? How will our being humble enable the Lord to guide us? (See also Mosiah 3:19.) How has the Lord guided your life and helped you become a better person?

  • President Young said, “The being that has comparatively no strong passion to overcome ought constantly to walk in the vale of humility, rather than boast of his righteousness over his brother.” How can comparing our strengths to another’s weaknesses lead to pride? What blessings come to those who are humble? (See also Ether 12:27.)

Those who are honest are true to themselves, to others, and to the Lord.

  • How can angels serve as a model for how families and communities should live with each other?

  • President Young stated that in a community of honest people none would lack and all would have sufficient. Why would this be true? How does dishonesty affect our communities? How does honesty benefit our communities?

  • How can we teach our children to be honest? Why is it important to be honest in all aspects of our lives?

  • According to President Young, why is being honest “a thousand times easier than [practicing] deception” and “the easiest path in the world”?