As Thanksgiving approaches, our minds turn to the subject of gratitude. In the most recent General Conference for the Mormons, He started his sermon with a story from Luke 17 in the Bible. This chapter tells of Jesus Christ who encountered ten lepers. They pleaded with him to heal them of their lepresy, so they could return to their previous lives. Jesus instructed them to show themselves to the priests, which they did. They were healed, but only one turned back to thank Jesus for His service to them. Jesus noted the gratitude of the man and blessed him for it.
It was not that Jesus needed their gratitude. It was that the men needed to be grateful. Being thankful and noting that their blessings come from God, not their own doing, helps them to continue on the path to their Heavenly Father. Only when we recognize His hand in our lives can we become everything God wants us to be.
My brothers and sisters, do we remember to give thanks for the blessings we receive? Sincerely giving thanks not only helps us recognize our blessings, but it also unlocks the doors of heaven and helps us feel God’s love.
My beloved friend President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “When you walk with gratitude, you do not walk with arrogance and conceit and egotism, you walk with a spirit of thanksgiving that is becoming to you and will bless your lives.”
In the book of Matthew in the Bible, we have another account of gratitude, this time as an expression from the Savior. As He traveled in the wilderness for three days, more than 4,000 people followed and traveled with Him. He took compassion on them, for they may not have eaten during the entire three days. His disciples, however, questioned, “Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude?” Like many of us, the disciples saw only what was lacking.
“And Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? And [the disciples] said, Seven, and a few little fishes.
“And [Jesus] commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground.
“And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.”
Notice that the Savior gave thanks for what they had—and a miracle followed: “And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full.”
We have all experienced times when our focus is on what we lack rather than on our blessings. Said the Greek philosopher Epictetus, “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”
President Monson reminds listeners that everyone has somethng to be grateful for. It’s not always easy to see what those things are, but if we take some time to look around us, there is something good to be found.
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.
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 that “gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”
Thomas S. Monson explained how to achieve that gift of gratitude. He quoted an earlier Mormon prophet who taught that a prayerful life is the key to living a life of gratitude. When we pray to God, being careful to credit Him for every good thing, we pay more attention to what is good in our lives. It also allows the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit to be in our hearts, alerting us to blessings. He encourages us to stop taking ordinary blessings for granted and to be certain we thank others for the good they provide in our lives.
He admonished listeners that as they seek to recognize blessings, they should focus a special alertness to the blessings given us by Jesus Christ, our Savior. Through Him we receive every blessing worth having, and those are the blessings with eternal significance, as well as the ones that help us get through mortality. By strengthening our relationship with God and Jesus Christ, by following the example Jesus gave us and by keeping the commandments, we make life a wonderful and meaningful experience.
As I close this morning, it is my prayer that in addition to all else for which we are grateful, we may ever reflect our gratitude for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. His glorious gospel provides answers to life’s greatest questions: Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where do our spirits go when we die? That gospel brings to those who live in darkness the light of divine truth.
He taught us how to pray. He taught us how to live. He taught us how to die. His life is a legacy of love. The sick He healed; the downtrodden He lifted; the sinner He saved.
Ultimately, He stood alone. Some Apostles doubted; one betrayed Him. The Roman soldiers pierced His side. The angry mob took His life. There yet rings from Golgotha’s hill His compassionate words: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
Who was this “man of sorrows, . . . acquainted with grief”? “Who is this King of glory,” this Lord of lords? He is our Master. He is our Savior. He is the Son of God. He is the Author of Our Salvation. He beckons, “Follow me.”He instructs, “Go, and do thou likewise.” He pleads, “Keep my commandments.”
Let us follow Him. Let us emulate His example. Let us obey His words. By so doing, we give to Him the divine gift of gratitude.
My sincere, heartfelt prayer is that we may in our individual lives reflect that marvelous virtue of gratitude. May it permeate our very souls, now and evermore. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, our Savior, amen.
Watch Thomas S. Monson deliver this sermon on gratitude: