As a young boy, life on our small family farm was heaven. Often in our humble home there were not as many shingles as we had roof. The rest-room facility was connected by a long path that required some advance planning, and sometimes my worn shirt had more buttonholes than buttons. The Saturday night bath in front of a warm stove, where your body experienced both extremes in temperature, was a luxury.
Then something changed. I started school and began to notice possessions I had not known. Some had nice clothing, beautiful homes with all the modern conveniences, and newer automobiles. Many my age were not required to arise early and do chores before going to school, only to go home at night and do them all over again. While they were popular and confident, I became backward and shy. Regretfully, I began to forget how happy I had been with my basket of blessings as I indulged in comparing their seemingly endless bushels to mine. Thus, the blinders to humility began distorting reality, giving way to ingratitude. The expectation that more is deserved can cause our plate of plenty to appear empty. Gratitude has many faces and takes on many forms. Failure to recognize the Lord for all we have will soon result in selfish behavior.
The Savior, though always the giver, was seldom the receiver of gratitude.
“And as he [Christ] entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:
“And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
“And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.
“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.
“And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?” (Luke 17:12–17).
Contemplating the Savior’s question “But where are the nine?” gives cause for deep reflection. In President Hinckley’s opening remarks during the April 1998 general conference, he said: “And so, my beloved brothers and sisters, let us rejoice together now as we celebrate with appreciation the wondrous doctrines and practices which have come as a gift from the Lord in this most glorious time of His work. … Let us ever be grateful for these most precious gifts and privileges and act well our part as those who love the Lord” (Ensign, May 1998, 6).
Notwithstanding all the “precious gifts and privileges” spoken of by our prophet, ofttimes we fail to recognize our abundant blessings. More importantly, some expressions of gratitude fall short of the Lord’s expectations. “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 59:21).
Gratitude begins with attitude. While to some every apple shines, to others the remaining blemishes after the polishing process are all that’s visible. We must use caution not to be drawn into the growing populace of ungrateful people who have become calloused to blessings as they bicker in misery.
Joy and happiness are born of gratitude. Recently Sister Watts and I spent three years in another part of the world working with a very kind and gracious people. If worldly possessions equated to happiness, the majority of these Saints would be unhappy. Quite the contrary, gratitude abounds, resulting in a contagious display of rejoicing. It is evident that even though they live in a challenging environment with few advantages, they are a delightful people. A cheerfulness is generated by their gratitude for the gospel of Jesus Christ and the blessings derived from living the principles taught. One faithful district president expressed gratitude to have a bicycle for transportation to perform his calling. It seemed the more he pedaled, the happier he became. Perhaps there is a lesson here: if we are feeling ungrateful, we need to pedal a little faster. The depth and the willingness with which we serve is a direct reflection of our gratitude.
Elder James E. Talmage said, “Gratitude is twin sister to humility; pride is a foe to both” (Sunday Night Talks, 1931, 483). Also, President James E. Faust has said, “A grateful heart is a beginning of greatness” (Ensign, May 1990, 86).
In times of trial we can accept with gratefulness that which is to come, a gratitude for the blessings and gifts the Lord has in reserve for those who keep the commandments and serve Him in thanksgiving. An eternal friend and former neighbor who embraced the teachings of the gospel in our home so many years ago has recently felt the refiner’s fire in the loss of his beloved companion. His recent words of indefinable gratitude for the gospel, temple covenants, and eternal marriage are engraved on my mind. In the passing of his sweet wife, this knowledge brings a comfort unknown to them before joining the Church. His words of “How can I ever thank you for sharing with our family this great eternal gift?” join with my own words of unspeakable gratitude to our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, for the “precious gifts and privileges” offered to us all.
“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).
God is the gracious giver, and I testify of Him and of His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ.