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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Talk - Gratitude is a Divine Principle

Thank you to my friend Erin who gave this talk at church a few weeks ago.

In President Monson’s talk “The Divine Gift of Gratitude” from the October 2010 conference he states, “Gratitude is a divine principle.” The Lord declared through a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things…And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things.” Let me read that last part again… “And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things.” That’s a pretty strong statement and one we should truly think about.

I believe that showing gratitude is a choice we make every day. It is an intelligent way to use the gift of agency on this earth that we fought for before this earth existed. When I was a teenager I went to a youth fireside. My Bishop talked about this use of our agency. He said it was not possible for someone to make us angry but that we chose instead to be angry. I really didn’t understand this concept until I realized that someone could choose to act against me but ultimately I chose how I would react. This concept is the same with gratitude. Are we truly remembering the Lord’s hand daily in our lives? Are we aware of the many tender mercies shown to us in our daily life? Are we showing this example to our children despite all of the trials in our lives? Are we showing gratitude in our prayers and in our actions to others?

We have many wonderful examples of stories of gratitude and agency in the scriptures. Nephi chose to remember the Lord’s hand and wisely used his gift of agency and gratitude when he and his brothers were sent back to Jerusalem to retrieve the plates of brass from Laban. Laman and Lemuel murmured and showed no faith or gratitude to the Lord for sending the vision to their father that had saved their lives. After many attempts to get the plates, Nephi still chose to remember with gratitude the Lord’s many mercies in saving his children and showed his faith by going back alone to follow the Lord’s commandments. After succeeding with the Lord’s help, they returned to Lehi and Sariah.

Now in the meantime Sariah was not happy with Lehi and thought that her boys had been slain. She faltered too in her faith and understanding of the Lord and his love. When her sons returned her faith and joy was strengthened in the Lord. And it says, in 1 Nephi 5:9; “And it came to pass that they did rejoice exceedingly, and did offer sacrifice and burnt offerings unto the Lord; and they gave thanks unto the God of Israel.” They did not forget despite their trials to show thanks and gratitude to the Lord.

Many of us live in hard times. The world is often not a kind place. Our children go to school and are bombarded daily with negativity and worldly things that do not uplift or promote love and unity among ourselves. We are faced with health trials, economic trials and daily hardships. Yet President Monson says, “This is a wonderful time to be on earth. While there is much that is wrong in the world today, there are many things that are right and good. There are marriages that make it, parents who love their children and sacrifice for them, friends who care about us and help us, teachers who teach. Our lives are blessed in countless ways.”

Gratitude is truly keeping a big picture perspective. We cannot dwell on negativity for it limits and minimizes our ability to appreciate the beauty and blessings of our lives. Sister Sherrie Johnson told this story: “Many years ago, when I had only five of my ten children and Relief Society was held on a weekday, I found myself in a Relief Society class where the sisters were complaining about their husbands. One sister commented that her husband was unresponsive, another that her husband didn’t help around the house, another that for her husband, sports were all that mattered to him, another that her husband took her too much for granted. As I listened, I caught the germs of the negative-attitude flu that filled the room and began to mentally catalog all of my husband’s faults, “I am sure each of us has been in a similar situation where we get caught up in the negativity around us. Another woman began to complain about her husband, how he left his clothes and socks everywhere on the floor, when an elderly woman sitting in front of me, who had been a widow for twenty-three years, turned to her gray- haired friend, a widow of nineteen years and whispered, “ I wish I had socks on my floor.” I’m sure that, besides her friend, I am the only person that heard those whispered words-words that pierced my heart and instantly erased all my negative thoughts and feelings. In that moment, my perspective shifted from victim of my husband’s thoughtlessness to grateful wife. I had someone to pick up after-what a blessing.”

Sometimes we need to do just that; change our perspective and be more grateful. Are we grateful for the little things in our lives? When I left for my mission, I left two loving parents and six brothers and sisters who were active in the church. When I came home from my mission my family was in shambles, my parents were in an ugly divorce, the man who I was sealed to in the temple and who was my father since I was four years old had legally disowned me, and my younger brothers and sisters were going against everything I had just spent a year and a half teaching. I wondered where the blessings were that I had expected to receive from my mission. I sure didn’t see them. My mother had stopped going to church and when I tried talking to her about the need to return, she suggested that perhaps I should get an apartment and move out. Needless to say this was not the welcome home I was looking for. I was pretty testy with the Lord for a while. I got a job and enrolled for my last semester at BYU. I was so discouraged and then I remembered that my attitude towards life was within my control. I had much to be grateful for at this time despite all the negativity around me. I had my health, a job, a home, an opportunity for an education and I had the gospel. I realized I needed to stop dwelling on my trials and that I needed to get outside of myself and serve. If that was one thing I had learned on my mission it was to serve. I decided to volunteer in the newborn nursery at the hospital and was blessed to help the new mothers and their infants. I decided to attend the temple weekly and focus on the blessings of the gospel. I went to church by myself and slowly but surely the blessings came. I was blessed despite the trials in my life. I chose to trust and thank the Lord for what I did have and he did the rest with the things I could not change.

President Monson said in his talk, “We can lift ourselves and others as well when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude. If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues. Someone has said, “ gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”

In a journal entry, President George A. Smith wrote of his discouragement. He had inflammatory rheumatism, which swelled his legs and right arm and shoulder for several weeks. He suffered excruciating pain and could not stand clothes or blankets to touch his skin. It was the middle of winter. Joseph Smith came to visit and this was his advice to his cousin, “I should never get discouraged whatever difficulties might surround me. If I was sunk in the lowest pit of Nova Scotia and all the Rocky Mountains piled in on top of me, I ought not to be discouraged but hang on, exercise faith and keep up good courage and I should come out on top of the heap.” To keep up good courage and be grateful is what we are taught by a prophet of the Lord.

Many of you know that I was in a skiing accident over spring break. I completely tore my ACL and partially tore my MCL. I was constantly in pain and it was excruciating at times. I admit I had a little bit of a pity party for myself. I cried over my lost summer of not biking with my husband and “Why me” came out of my mouth several times. I love to exercise and this was not in my plan. The pain continued to increase daily and so did my negativity. I tried to be stalwart and look at the good but the good was hard to find. I went into my pre-op appointment and couldn’t wait to get my knee repaired and start to heal. I had already had a hard couple of months before this occurred. I threw my back out again in January and was barely on the mend from that. While stopped at a red light in my brand new, 2 month old car, I was rear-ended by a full sized pick-up truck. I was already feeling a little picked on and now this. The pain and swelling in my leg was ridiculous and I mentioned it to my surgeon. He took one look at me and said that I needed an ultrasound. Within twenty minutes I was on my way to the ER with a very large blood clot in my knee, which stretched into the four main veins in my calf. At the ER, they did a CT scan and found that part of the clot had broken free and lodged in my left lung which is a life threatening condition called pulmonary embolism. At this point I was completely overwhelmed, and to be honest, in shock. I was admitted to the hospital and immediately I was surrounded by a deluge of physicians and nurses who were anxious to take blood, give shots, ask questions, apply monitors, start fluids, insist on joining me in the bathroom (as if I hadn’t figured out how to do that when I was 2 years old) and teaching me to give heparin shots in my stomach. All I could think is “My Aunt died of this very condition just a year ago.” I was at her funeral just a year ago because of a pulmonary embolism. Suddenly, my knee injury was so small and insignificant. My perspective had changed in an instant. I immediately went from pitying my knee and handicapped state to just being grateful I was alive.

That night after everyone left and I was alone in my hospital bed. I couldn’t sleep. The scripture from Mosiah, Chapter 2:20-21, kept coming to mind where he talks about us being indebted to Heavenly Father, “I say unto you, my brethren that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another- I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another-I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.” I was literally being blessed minute by minute. He had preserved my life. I only had gratitude in my heart for the many, many blessing he has given me in my life. I spent most of that night thanking him for my blessings. I am so grateful for my family, my husband and my children. They have stepped up and comforted me when I was in pain. They have cheered me on in my recovery and held my hand and literally wiped away my tears. I am grateful for a sister and mother who have been there every step of the way. I am grateful for the ward family and friends that he sent to me in my time of need. For neighbors and friends who brought my family dinners and helped me in any way that they could. I am grateful for the good associations I have through my calling and the presidency that I work with. I am grateful that I work with the Primary children for they always bring a smile to my face. I am also very thankful for modern medicine and doctors who care. I have not yet had my knee repaired since I am required to be on blood thinners for 3 months to address the thrombosis, so I still have a long road ahead of me, but I am thankful for my Savior bearing my pain and I am most grateful to be alive. I cannot express to you the overwhelming gratitude I feel for this trial. It has taught me so much about having a grateful heart, for being patient and trusting in the Lord that he will make my burdens lighter.

President Monson said, “to express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven.” We can choose to have a grateful heart whatever our circumstances or trials might be. We can choose to look towards our Saviors example of thanks and keep our perspective on heaven. We can choose gratitude over negativity in our lives. We all have something to be grateful for. This trial in my life has truly made me look around and find the simple joys and blessings in my life. I am grateful to be alive, to be a mother and wife and just to be able to walk. I am grateful for the knowledge of this gospel and of eternal life. We have so much to be grateful for. I pray we will all work on cultivating an attitude of gratitude in our lives and be grateful for the Lord’s hand in our lives.

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