James E Faust once taught that Gratitude is a Saving Principle of the Gospel. In D&C 59:21 the Lord says, “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” In that very same section we read, “Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things.” It is clear from this scripture that to “thank the Lord thy God in all things” (D&C 59:7) is more than a social courtesy; it is a binding commandment.
God does not give us commandments unless they will be to our benefit and for our good. So how will feelings of appreciation and thankfulness for blessing we have received help us in our lives?
Many times throughout our lives we will contract physical illnesses that require us to visit a doctor for treatment. A doctor has a broad knowledge of medicine and is able to diagnose our aliment and give us a prescription. Just as a doctor of medicine is a doctor for the body, the Lord is a doctor for our spirits. Our spiritual aliments may sometimes include pride, sorrow or anger. His prescription is gratitude. We cannot be bitter, resentful, or mean-spirited when we are grateful. Even better, such spiritual medication cannot be overdosed on. However, it is up to us to follow through with the doctor’s advice and take the prescription if we are to become better. And how do we take our dose of gratitude?
We often sing a hymn in that gives excellent advice, “Count your Many Blessings”; hymn 241
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings; every doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.
So amid the conflicts, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged; God is over all,
Count your many blessings; angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.
There will be many times in our lives when, like the song says, we become discouraged or are burdened with a load of care. These times may include the death of a loved one, illness or unemployment. During the recent recession my wife and I were troubled by such things. I was often distracted by the problems in my life nearly to the point of depression. One evening while driving home, Shannon and I were discussing our concerns when she started pointing out all the good things we had in our lives, literally naming our blessing one by one. Most of them were simple and obvious. Even so, after naming a dozen or so I noticed my doubts begin to fade and my mind was put to ease. A couple of weeks later when I once again began to feel restless I remembered our conversation and I asked, “Honey, will you please count our blessings for me?” Without hesitation she started listing things in our lives we had to be thankful for. As I listened, I realized that we had everything we needed. Most of the issues in our lives were really only for things we wanted and could do without. Once again, as I took my dose of gratitude, I began to remember the most precious things the Lord had blessed us with and I felt my burdens lift and my worries subside. The relief I felt from being grateful was itself something to be grateful for. Indeed we should be grateful for gratitude.
By being thankful for the blessings we have, we can overcome even the most difficult challenges we may face in life. In President Thomas S Monsoon’s talk, “Be of Good Cheer” he relates such a story.
“Late one evening on a Pacific isle, a small boat slipped silently to its berth at the crude pier. Two Polynesian women helped Meli Mulipola from the boat and guided him to the well-worn pathway leading to the village road. The women marveled at the bright stars, which twinkled in the midnight sky. The moonlight guided them along their way. However, Meli Mulipola could not appreciate these delights of nature—the moon, the stars, the sky—for he was blind.
Brother Mulipola’s vision had been normal until a fateful day when, while working on a pineapple plantation, light turned suddenly to darkness and day became perpetual night. He was depressed and despondent until he learned the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. His life was brought into compliance with the teachings of the Church, and he once again felt hope and joy.
Brother Mulipola and his loved ones had made a long voyage, having learned that one who held the priesthood of God was visiting among the islands of the Pacific. He sought a blessing, and it was my privilege, along with another who held the Melchizedek Priesthood, to provide that blessing to him. As we finished, I noted that tears were streaming from his sightless eyes, coursing down his brown cheeks and tumbling finally upon his native dress. He dropped to his knees and prayed: “O God, Thou knowest I am blind. Thy servants have blessed me that my sight might return. Whether in Thy wisdom I see light or whether I see darkness all the days of my life, I will be eternally grateful for the truth of Thy gospel, which I now see and which provides the light of my life.”
He rose to his feet and, smiling, thanked us for providing the blessing. He then disappeared into the still of the night. Silently he came; silently he departed. But his presence I shall never forget. I reflected upon the message of the Master: “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”6 President Thomas S. Monson; Be of Good Cheer
Further more the Lord has promised us, "He who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious" (D&C 78:19).
In Mosiah chapter 2, King Benjamin teaches us that we should give thanks to our Heavenly Father for all he has given us:
19 And behold also, if I, whom ye call your king, who has spent his days in your service, and yet has been in the service of God, do merit any thanks from you, O how you ought to thank your heavenly King!
23 And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.
24 And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?
Much of our words of gratitude to our Heavenly Father are done through prayer. While serving my mission I would often use a basic chart model of prayer to assist teaching investigators. This model broke prayer into four basic parts.
First, an opening to address Heavenly Father.
Second, our communication of thanks for the things which we have. I always considered this part of prayer to be mandatory.
Third, a plea for our needs, and sometimes desires. This part I considered optional.
Finally, a closing in the name of Jesus Christ.
To me a prayer without thanks didn’t feel like a prayer at all, but more like a wish. In a general conference Elder David A Bednar tells us of the importance of expressing thanks in prayer:
During our service at Brigham Young University–Idaho, Sister Bednar and I frequently hosted General Authorities in our home. Our family learned an important lesson about meaningful prayer as we knelt to pray one evening with a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Earlier in the day Sister Bednar and I had been informed about the unexpected death of a dear friend, and our immediate desire was to pray for the surviving spouse and children. As I invited my wife to offer the prayer, the member of the Twelve, unaware of the tragedy, graciously suggested that in the prayer Sister Bednar express only appreciation for blessings received and ask for nothing. His counsel was similar to Alma’s instruction to the members of the ancient Church “to pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in all things” (Mosiah 26:39). Given the unexpected tragedy, requesting blessings for our friends initially seemed to us more urgent than expressing thanks.
Sister Bednar responded in faith to the direction she received. She thanked Heavenly Father for meaningful and memorable experiences with this dear friend. She communicated sincere gratitude for the Holy Ghost as the Comforter and for the gifts of the Spirit that enable us to face adversity and to serve others. Most importantly, she expressed appreciation for the plan of salvation, for the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, for His Resurrection, and for the ordinances and covenants of the restored gospel which make it possible for families to be together forever.
Our family learned from that experience a great lesson about the power of thankfulness in meaningful prayer. Because of and through that prayer, our family was blessed with inspiration about a number of issues that were pressing upon our minds and stirring in our hearts. We learned that our gratefulness for the plan of happiness and for the Savior’s mission of salvation provided needed reassurance and strengthened our confidence that all would be well with our dear friends. We also received insights concerning the things about which we should pray and appropriately ask in faith.
The most meaningful and spiritual prayers I have experienced contained many expressions of thanks and few, if any, requests…
…Let me recommend that periodically you and I offer a prayer in which we only give thanks and express gratitude. Ask for nothing; simply let our souls rejoice and strive to communicate appreciation with all the energy of our hearts. (close quote)
In our most recent October General Conference Elder Bednar also taught that the most sincere expressions of love and gratitude are done privately and not at the pulpit. We may feel a sensation of instant gratification during testimony meetings when we tell how grateful we are toward our Heavenly Father, spouse or loved ones but to share our appreciation often and in secret with those we love strengthens our relationships and builds our faith.
Words of appreciation do not always have to be flowery or sophisticated. The most moving “thank you’s” I have ever given or received have been brief and sincere. Often, Shannon and I receive small notes from the children in our primary class, usually with a picture and a single sentence expressing their gratitude for us. Over the past couple of years we have collected these little treasures and they are part of the reason we love teaching in primary so much.
Sometimes we may think that our appreciation is implied or understood without saying it and there is no need to express it. If this were true, the Lord would not have given the commandment to thank Him in all things, He being able to know our every thought and desire. If we are ever grateful to anyone for any reason, we cannot count on them to know without telling them. Further more we are benefited in the act of expressing gratitude. We can often turn someone’s entire day around with an effortless sincere “thank you” given at the right moment. Sometimes while eating out, Shannon and I like to leave a thank-you note on the table for good service or even compliment our server to the manager of the restaurant. Acts like these require little effort but can have great results.
To receive all things with thankfulness simply does not have a down-side. Happiness is to be found in gratitude. Expressions of appreciation benefit the giver and the receiver. The rewards are both immediate and lasting. This is my challenge to each one of you; at the close of each day to think of at least five things that made you happy that day or reasons to be grateful. I recommend writing these reasons down in a journal or diary and reviewing them periodically. You will soon find that the things you want most are things that you already have.
I would like to close with my testimony: