Lesson 35: Developing Gratitude

The Latter-day Saint Woman: Basic Manual for Women, Part B, (2000), 303–11


The purpose of this lesson is to help us develop the important trait of gratitude and to show it in our relationships with others.

Expressing Gratitude to Our Heavenly Father

We are often deeply moved with gratitude for simple favors. When we receive such favors, we should sincerely express our thanks to those who have served us. Our gratitude can be recognized only when we show or express our appreciation in words. It is more than just being polite; it is showing genuine heartfelt thanks.

Bishop H. Burke Peterson told the following incident about President Spencer W. Kimball and his talent for expressing love and appreciation:

“Two weeks ago President Kimball passed me as we were rushing to a meeting. He stopped, took my hand, looked me in the eye, put away all of his other cares, and said simply, ‘I’m sorry we’re sometimes so busy. I guess I haven’t told you lately how much I love you and appreciate you.’

“I felt his spirit; I believed him; my spirit soared to a new height” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1977, 103; or Ensign, May 1977, 69).

President Kimball said this about our need to express appreciation to our Heavenly Father: “Too often we take blessings for granted, like the sun, the air, health, and opportunity. Or we accept favors, honors, and privileges day after day … , without a word of thanks. We would thank the person who gives us a seat in the bus, the person who offers a ride, the friend who picks up the check after dinner, the person who does the baby-sitting, or the boy who cuts our lawn, but do we express gratitude to Him who gives us all?” (Faith Precedes the Miracle [1972], 202).

  • Display visual 35-a, “The ten lepers.”

  • Read Luke 17:11–19. Why do you think the Lord asked, “Where are the nine?” What does the Lord want from us for all the innumerable blessings we receive from Him?

In speaking of the story of the 10 lepers, Elder Howard W. Hunter also stressed our need to thank our Heavenly Father for all the blessings that He gives to us: “Of the ten men who were healed, only one returned to express appreciation. This must have been a disappointment to the Master, but there are many who receive blessings, many who are endowed with good things in life, yet never take the time or go to the effort to show gratitude to the benefactor or express appreciation to God. Happiness and joy from blessings are never complete until there is a deep feeling of gratitude within oneself which moves an expression of appreciation” (in Conference Report, Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden Area Conference 1974, 27).

It is significant that even the Savior expressed gratitude to the Father for His blessings (see 3 Nephi 19:20, 28).

Expressing Gratitude for Blessings

Throughout the scriptures we are reminded to give thanks to God in all things. The counsel Amulek gave to the Zoramites as recorded in the Book of Mormon applies to us today: “Worship God … and … live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you” (Alma 34:38). As we acknowledge His hand in our lives by recognizing and expressing gratitude for our many blessings, our gratitude increases.

  • For what blessings should we express gratitude to our Heavenly Father? (List answers given by class members on the chalkboard.)

We owe Jesus Christ a special debt of gratitude for His atoning sacrifice for us. We can never fully comprehend the suffering He endured for us in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross, but we can express our gratitude for this great gift in the things we say and do.

  • Read Mosiah 2:19–21. How does this scripture tell us to show our gratitude to Heavenly Father?

In Doctrine and Covenants 136:28 we are told, “Praise the Lord with singing, with music, with dancing, and with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving.” Some of our prayers ought to be joyous prayers of thanksgiving and praise. These do not need to be eloquent in words but should be simple, specific, and sincere expressions of our gratitude for the everyday blessings we receive.

  • How does a cheerful attitude show our appreciation to Heavenly Father?

Expressing Gratitude for Adversity

We should also be grateful for trials, adversity, and affliction. It is sometimes difficult to express gratitude when we are under stress, yet it is often such situations that permit significant spiritual growth. This is illustrated especially well in a story related by Elder Marion D. Hanks about a boy and his mother, who knew the value of expressing gratitude:

“I sat at a stake conference where a returned missionary bore his testimony. He had but a short time and he chose to use one idea. He thanked God for a great, humble mother, and gave his reason. He said that as a high school boy, he [had] been sorely tried by the illness and then death of his little sister whom he had loved greatly and who had been the darling of the family, being the last of them. Their father had died. The little girl grew ill, and in spite of prayers and administrations and fasting and much concern, worsened and died in the night. The boy went into his room, locked the door, and sobbed out his broken heart to the walls because he was not willing to do it to the God whom he could not now honestly approach. In his rebellion and anger at a God, if there were one, who would permit such a thing to happen to them, he cried out in rebellion. He said he would never pray again, would never go to church again, and could never have any confidence again in a God who would permit this to happen. And in his immature but sincere sorrow, he made some rather serious covenants with himself. He stayed awake the rest of the night, apprehensive about an experience he anticipated. It was their custom, as it is in so many, though not enough, Latter-day Saint homes, to kneel morning and evening with the children around the mother, to thank God for the goodness of his blessings.

“He waited for that moment, knowing what he had to say, but fearing it. When his mother said, ‘Come, children,’ he said, ‘No.’

“She said, ‘Kneel down, son.’

“He said, ‘No, I will not kneel down, and I will never kneel down again.’

“She said, as I remember his words and I was deeply touched as were we all. ‘Son, you’re the oldest child in this home. You are the only man in the house, and if I ever needed a man, I need one now. You kneel down.’

“He knelt down, still rebellious, but because his mother, the idol of his heart, needed him, and he began for the first time to think in terms of her broken heart and her sorrow. So he knelt, but he said to himself, ‘I wonder what she’s going to thank God for this morning.’ And his mother, knowing as she must have, the questions in his mind and the minds of the other children, taught them the gospel on their knees that morning. She thanked God for what the family knew, for the blessing of eternal ties, for direction and purpose and guidance and convictions as to the future. She thanked God that they had been blessed with this wonderful, angelic child who had brought so much to them and who was to be theirs, always. And out of her mother’s heart, knowing the desperate, critical nature of the moment, taught her own children what there was to thank God for under conditions of such stress.

“As the boy stood, a successful, dedicated Latter-day Saint who had filled an honorable, difficult mission, he thanked God for a mother who was a heroine” (Heroism, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [25 Mar. 1959], 3–4).

  • How did this mother’s prayer of gratitude to Heavenly Father help her son?

In bearing our testimonies we also acknowledge the Lord’s goodness to us. This expression of gratitude is pleasing to our Heavenly Father as well as strengthening to our brothers and sisters in the Church.

President Howard W. Hunter observed: “Life—every life—has a full share of ups and downs. Indeed, we see … many blessings that do not always look or feel like blessings” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1987, 68; or Ensign, Nov. 1987, 54).

  • What experience could you appropriately share that illustrates how you have learned that blessings “do not always look or feel like blessings”? Why is it important that we express gratitude in times of trial?

Expressing Appreciation to Others

Elder Henry D. Taylor explained in the following story that even strangers can express love and appreciation for each other:

“The District of Columbia police auctioned off about 100 unclaimed bicycles Friday. ‘One dollar,’ said an eleven-year-old boy as the bidding opened on the first bike. The bidding, however, went much higher. ‘One dollar,’ the boy repeated hopefully each time another bike came up.

“The auctioneer, who [had] been auctioning stolen or lost bikes for 43 years, noticed that the boy’s hopes seemed to soar highest whenever a racer was put up.

“There was one racer left. Then the bidding mounted to $8.00. ‘Sold to that boy over there for $9.00,’ said the auctioneer. He took $8.00 from his own pocket and asked the boy for his dollar. The youngster turned it over—in pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters—took his bike and started to leave. But he went only a few feet. Carefully parking his new possession, he went back, gratefully threw his arms around the auctioneer’s neck, and cried” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1959, 57).

We all need to feel appreciated. An American industrialist, Charles M. Schwab, said, “I have yet to find a man, whatever his situation in life, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than he ever would do under a spirit of criticism” (Richard Evans’ Quote Book [1971], 171). When we express appreciation and approval, we increase the confidence of others in us and encourage them to excel.

Elder Richard L. Evans Jr. wrote the following about the need for expressions of gratitude:

“Until this morning, I felt that I had been very much imposed upon. At a cost of considerable effort and inconvenience, some days ago I performed a difficult service for a friend—at his urgent insistence. So far as I knew he hadn’t made any effort to see me since then. There was no word of thanks—no evidence of any appreciation—no suggestion that my services had been satisfactory—just silence.

“Silence—that is, until this morning, when a sincere and satisfying note of appreciation came from him. And in the moment or two it took to read it, it warmed my heart and altered my outlook on the whole episode. Writing it had cost him only a very little time, but it had rewarded me richly.” (Richard L. Evans—The Man and His Message [1973], 285).

  • How did the expression of appreciation change the way Elder Evans felt?

  • Why is it important that we express gratitude to others? What are some things others do for us for which we should be grateful? What are some ways we can express this gratitude at Church, in the home, neighborhood, and community?

The Savior gave us an important principle, often called the Golden Rule, when He said, “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12). We all need and want to receive expressions of appreciation.

Teaching Gratitude in Our Homes

“A frustrated mother once complained to her neighbor that no one in her family seemed to appreciate what she did. They never commented on how much effort she spent cleaning the house, decorating their home for holidays, and keeping their clothes clean and pressed. They never thanked her for the good meals she prepared or for taking them to school or to work. … She was annoyed that they took her for granted.

“Her neighbor replied, ‘Marianne, you have a clean and attractively kept house. Your children go to school and to their meetings clean and neat. You are an excellent cook, and I can’t think of anyone who is more faithful than you are about doing your Church callings.

“‘I suspect that your husband and children recognize your efforts as being praiseworthy. It is possible that other members of your family feel the same discouragement as you do because it just isn’t the practice at your home to express appreciation’” (Relief Society Courses of Study 1976–77, 7).

  • What did the neighbor bring to Marianne’s attention?

In order to develop and teach gratitude to those in our families we must first awaken within ourselves the attitude of being appreciative. “It is as important for our families to learn to express gratitude to one another as it is to receive it from one another. If we don’t teach others to express their appreciation by our example and by our instruction, they may not learn this important courtesy. … If we want others to continue doing what they are doing, the best thing we can do is to let them know how much we appreciate it” (Relief Society Courses of Study 1976–77, 7).

When our children are small, we should begin to teach them to express appreciation for gifts they receive and thank those who do kind things for them. Elder A. Theodore Tuttle told of an experience of expressing gratitude he encountered while he was staying at a home during a stake conference visit:

“There sits a young man here today in whose home I was a guest at a stake conference. Since he had recently left for the Y [Brigham Young University], I was to sleep in his room Saturday night. As his gracious mother showed me the room, she opened his closet where I saw a handwritten letter taped to the rod in the closet. It read:

“Mom,

Thanks for all you’ve done to make this a ‘special summer.’ You are a very ‘special mother’ and I thank the Lord for the blessing of being your son.

I love you and appreciate all you do in my behalf. See you in November.

Paul.

“As she paused while I read it, she said, ‘Hope you don’t mind hanging your clothes out here. This note is still kind of precious. You know, every time I open this closet I read it again, and I would like to leave it there a little longer’” (What Kind of Thanks? Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [26 Nov. 1968], 5).

  • How did this son express gratitude to his mother? How did it make her feel? What are some other ways children can express appreciation to family members? to teachers at school and at church? to others?

We can teach our children to be grateful for all the creations of our Heavenly Father. We can show them the beauty of flowers, stars, sunsets, and all other aspects of nature by taking walks and hikes and pointing out these creations to them. The changing of the seasons brings us opportunities to call attention to God’s blessings to our families. If we want our children to recognize these gifts from God, we must take the time to show our own appreciation for them.

Involving our children in family service to others can help us recognize our blessings. Through these acts of service, we can then show our gratitude for the blessings that enable us to serve.

It is important that we offer prayers of praise and thanksgiving in our families. President N. Eldon Tanner was reminded of this principle by his daughter: “I was deeply touched one day following our family prayer when one of our little daughters said, ‘Daddy, I don’t think we ought to ask for more blessings. The Lord has been very good to us, but I do think we should ask him to help us to be worthy of the blessings we receive.’ Since then we have tried more diligently to express our gratitude to our Father in heaven” (Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God [1973], 159–60).

  • How can expressing appreciation in prayer teach our families to be more aware of their blessings?

Conclusion

Gratitude is a feeling that should be evident in all of our lives, both as individuals and as families. We have been greatly blessed by our Heavenly Father and should express constant gratitude to Him for His blessings. As we express our appreciation to Heavenly Father and others, we will help our children develop gratitude. We will feel greater love in our families. We have been promised by our Heavenly Father: “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).

Challenge

Think of those people who do kind things for you (friends, teachers, priesthood leaders, parents, other family members, repairmen), and find ways to show your gratitude to them.

Discuss gratitude with your family in family home evening. Help your children express appreciation to others. Increase the gratitude expressed in your family prayers. Select one person to whom you are grateful and do something this week to show your gratitude.

Additional Scriptures

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. 1.

    Review the words to “Count Your Blessings” (Hymns, no. 241; or Gospel Principles, 316).

  2. 2.

    Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.