I was also asked to speak on gratitude. And I’d just like to say, that I’m very grateful for this last minute opportunity to speak on gratitude.
Ingratitude is an age-old problem. You will recall that the Savior healed ten lepers, but only one returned to give thanks.
12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:
13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
14 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.
15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,
16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?
18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.
Luke 17:12 - 18)
The Savior asked “Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?” (Luke 17:17)
We have been commanded to “thank the Lord thy God in all things” (D&C 59:7) and to “live in thanksgiving daily” (Alma 34:38). And we have been warned that “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&C59:21).
It has been said that we in America live better than any king that has ever lived. None of them had all the luxuries that we enjoy. Most of us carry a phone that will allow us to talk to anyone almost anywhere; some are even smart enough to tell us where we are and take us where we want to go. When we leave here we will get in our car and drive home. That car will take us in an hour what used take them two days to travel. Or we can get on a plane and fly in an hour what used to take them a month to travel.
I work with a guy that is from a small country in Africa. The king of that country recently died. I was surprised to learn that he is in line to be the next king. I asked him if he was going to go back to be the king. He said no. He would rather live and work here than be a king.
President Spencer W. Kimball reminded us: “In many countries, the homes are barren and the cupboards are bare—no books, no radios, no pictures, no furniture, no fire—while we are housed adequately, clothed warmly, and fed extravagantly. Did we show our thanks by the proper devotion on our knees last night and this morning and tomorrow? Ingratitude, thou sinful habit!” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 252)
It’s so easy to see all the things of the world and become ungrateful because we don’t have more. When instead we should be very grateful for the things we have. When our daughter was younger she would see all the things ohtes had but we didn’t tell me life wasn’t fair. “I would tell her she was right, life it isn’t fair, if it was fair she would be living in a hut in China and scrambling for food every day. It’s not fair we have it way too good.” When she went to China to teach English, her first email back simply said “China humbled me”.
When our middle son Daniel was in High School his best friend was diagnosed with cancer. I was concerned how he would handle the possibility of his friend dying so I tried to talk to him about it. He refused to consider the possibility and lectured me about staying positive. Saying that no matter what we should always be positive and grateful. Some offended by the lecture, I proceeded to tell him that are times that life gets so difficult that it’s impossible to always be positive. That he may face that time someday and to not have unreal expectations about always being able to stay positive.
Later that year he watched his fried die a very traumatic death. After hearing of him watching his friend die, I rushed home, trying to think of what comfort I could possibly give him. When I arrived I found him positive and giving comfort to all his other friends. When I got a chance to talk to him, with all the concern of a parent i ask how he was doing he holding up, he simply said. “I got to help carry him into his house”. No bitterness, just gratitude that he was able to perform one last act of service for his friend. I learned a lot that day.
He is now in medical school studding to become a pediatric oncologist. He has a son on a trake, G-tube and vent. Through it all he manages to stay positive and grateful, I’m hoping I continue to be proven wrong.
What are some of the keys to being grateful and happy?
I think the first is humility. It seems to go hand in hand with gratitude. The more grateful we are, the more humble we are. The Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants are filled with warnings that we must humble ourselves. And we know that the sacrifice the Lord seeks from us is a broken heart and a contrite spirit (in essence, humility). What a great thing to know that we can accomplish two important things at one time—by becoming more grateful, we will also become more humble!
Second, we can focus our prayers on expressing thanks instead of asking for blessings and favors. In connection with that, we should fast to express thanks, rather than to only seek blessings. As President Joseph F. Smith once said: “The grateful man sees so much in the world to be thankful for, and with him the good outweighs the evil. Love overpowers jealousy, and light drives darkness out of his life. Pride destroys our gratitude and sets up selfishness in its place. How much happier we are in the presence of a grateful and loving soul, and how careful we should be to cultivate, through the medium of a prayerful life, a thankful attitude toward God and man!” (Gospel Doctrine: Selections from the Sermons and Writings of Joseph F. Smith, compiled by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939], 263.)
Third, we can strive to appreciate what we have and not focus on the things we don’t have. But we should “Count your many blessings name them one by one” is not only a hymn; it is a good idea. As the ever commercialized Christmas season approaches we have a tendency to focus on and make list of the things we want. Perhaps we should also list the many things for which we are grateful. Benjamin Franklin also recommended that wise men and women diminish their wants as a way of finding happiness. Come Christmas don’t get wrapped up in the thing you want.
Last year when I asked my wife what she wanted for Christmas, she said “a water buffalo", the year before that it was a pig, year before that ducks. Who knows what it will be this year. I keep telling her I don’t think the HOA will approve them in our back yard. But she does not want them for us, she wants them for a poor family in an undeveloped country. And she I perfectly content if that is all she gets.
We have so much for which to be thankful—life itself; the atonement; our knowledge of the purpose of life; the restoration of the gospel; our family members and friends; our material possessions; our freedom; the influence of the Holy Ghost; the opportunity to serve as in the church; even to give talks on gratitude and much, much more. I am particularly thankful for the opportunity to serve, to know, to love and associate with the members of this ward. This church is true. The work we do here is the work of God. He will bless you for your grateful, and sometime not so grateful service. God lives, Jesus in the Christ, the savior and redeemer of the worlds.