To conclude November & start this Christmas season off right, I wanted to share the talk I recently gave in church. I had fun writing this talk because it was on one of my favorite topics...Gratitude.
As I pondered the topic of gratitude this past week what I most thought of & that I remind myself of all the time, is how blessed I am to have been born in the exact circumstances I was born under. D&C 59:7 reads, "Thou shalt thank the Lord, thy God in ALL things." I would like to explain the circumstances of which I am especially grateful because I am so fortunate and could not be more blessed. I was born in 1985, in Mesa, Arizona, to parents who are both active members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I was raised in the one true church that is here on the earth. Why exactly do these circumstances make me so blessed...?
In the early 17th century a group of people desired to separate themselves from the state-sponsored Church of England so they could worship as they pleased. So they embarked on a religious journey-jumping on a small ship and sailing across the North Atlantic. Their ship landed in a new and unfamiliar land, which today we call the state of Massachusetts. The Lord kept America hidden until the timing was right to unveil her destiny in the last days. In 2 Nephi 1:8, Lehi said, "It is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations, for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance." The pilgrims settled onto this new land without any trouble from the natives because of a mysterious plague that had recently come through the Plymouth area and wiped out all the hostile Indians. That sounds like a blessing sent directly from our Father in Heaven. Once spring came the peaceful Indians found them and befriended them, thus creating what we now call the First Thanksgiving. Which, by the way, as an example of thanking God in ALL things, H.U. Westermayer said "The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of Thanksgiving." So the pilgrims inhabiting America yields my remarkable blessing #1. I was born in America where the very first Amendment of the Constitution states that the United States government cannot prohibit me [or you] from practicing the religion of my choice.
This form of government that gives me the freedom to worship where I choose is my remarkable blessing #2...In D&C 101:80 the Lord said, "I established the Constitution of this land by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose." Our forefathers suffered and sacrificed so we could have freedom. President Wilford Woodruff declared that "those men who laid the foundation of this American government were the best spirits the God of heaven could find on the face of the earth. They were choice spirits...[and] were inspired of the Lord." The Founding Fathers and their form of government was the necessary great prologue that led to the restoration of the Gospel.
This lead me to my remarkable blessing #3, the Restoration of the Gospel. In the spring of 1820 a young man at the age of 14 entered a small grove of trees, knelt down and offered a prayer. A truly glorious and miraculous vision followed. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said of Joseph Smith, "My hearts reaches out to him in gratitude. He was a good, honest, humble, intelligent, and courageous young man with a heart of gold and an unshaken faith in God. He had integrity. In response to his humble prayer, the heavens opened again. Joseph Smith had actually seen a vision. He knew it, and he knew that God knew it, and he could not deny it." The Prophet Joseph Smith's prayer introduced back to the earth the Gospel of Jesus Christ and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints of which I am a member because of righteous ancestors.
Blessing #4, my Family, starting way back when. On my father's side of the family, the first baptized member of the church was John Banks on August 19, 1835. On my mother's side of the family, the first baptized member of the church was Levi Ward Hancock on November 16, 1830. My roots are planted deep in gospel sod. I had ancestors on both sides of my family cross oceans and plains to get to Zion. I am grateful for them. I have always had a very reverent attitude for the pioneers. They faced impossible situations and are extraordinary examples to us today. So starting in 1830 and 1835 when the first member of my family were baptized, comes a long list of righteous ancestors leading up to my parents; making me born under the Covenant in the last days of the dispensation of time. I am richly blessed and have much to be grateful for. These four blessings along give me such a huge advantage in this life. Not only am I richly blessed, but my husband can claim these same blessings, allowing us to be privileged enough to be sealed for time and all eternity in the House of the Lord (which I might point out is 5 minutes away, an enormous blessing of being a resident to Mesa.)
Alfred Painter said "Saying thank you is more than good manners, it is good spirituality." We are commanded to say thank you. D&C 59:21, "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." It's a commandment that we be grateful. To teach the principle of gratitude, the Savior gave a parable recorded in the New Testament. The parable of the Thankful Samaritan. In the book of Luke, chapter 17, we read:
"And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.And as he 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?
There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.
And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole."
The obvious question here is, with ten lepers healed, why did only one come back to express gratitude to our Savior? We know leprosy is a dreadful disease. We know these nine people who were cured were somewhat obedient because they went to the priest as the Savior directed them. So, why did they neglect to go back and give their thanks after being cured of this horrific disease? The one man that went back and gave thanks to the Savior was a Samaritan. Samaritans were a lower class people, despised in the Holy Land. This particular Samaritan probably came from a lesser more humble social status. People who are more humble tend to be more grateful. So to become more grateful, as we are commanded, we must become more humble. The prophet of our church, President Thomas S. Monsen said, "This is a wonderful time to be living here on the earth. Our opportunities are limitless. While there are some things wrong in the world today, there are many things right, such as teachers who teach, ministers who minister, marriages that make it, parents who sacrifice, and friends who help."
My favorite story of gratitude begins with a scripture found in 1st Thessalonians 5:15-18 that reads, "Comfort the frightened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all...Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus." This scripture was read during a time of great religious persecution and under very tender circumstances. Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie were Christian women who were captured during WWII by the Gestapo for providing a place for Jews to hide in their home. They were sent to a concentration camp where they were assigned to overcrowded barracks that were crawling with fleas. The sisters had managed to smuggle in a Bible & very cautiously each morning they would read scriptures to the other women. When the scripture from 1st Thessalonians was read, Betsie took to heart the part, "...give thanks in all circumstances..." She said, "That's it Corrie, give thanks in all things. That's what we can do. Thank God for every single thing in the new barracks!" "Such as?" Corrie asked. "We've been assigned together. We have a Bible! We are packed so closely that more people will hear God's word. And THANK YOU for the fleas." Corrie said, "No way can I be grateful for fleas!" Betsie said, "Give thanks in all circumstances, not just the pleasant circumstances." So they gave thanks for the fleas. Corrie was sure Betsie was wrong about the fleas. One day Betsie was too sick to go out to work, gathering wood in the forest. She was assigned instead to knit stockings inside the flea infested barracks. There was some confusion about sock sizes and it was requested that a supervisor come settle it. The supervisor refused to go inside the barracks and so did the guards. And do you know why? The fleas! Now the sisters understood why they had so much freedom inside the barracks and were able to teach the word of God from their Bible to the other women. "Thou shalt thank the Lord, thy God, in ALL things."
In conclusion, let's see if you can guess which grateful man of history I am describing...At the age of seven, a young boy and his family were forced out of their home, and the boy was forced to go to work. When the boy was nine, his mother passed away. He had a job as a store clerk, but lost it when he was twenty. The young man wanted to go to law school, but had not education. He went into debt when he was twenty-three, to become a partner in a small store. It was only three years later that his business partner died, and left him with a debt that took years for him to repay. He dated a girl for four years and, at the age of twenty-eight, decided to ask her to marry him. She turned him down. Thirty-seven years into his life, he was elected to Congress...on his THIRD try. He then failed to be re-elected. This man's son died when he was only four years old. At age forty-five, he ran for the Senate...and failed to be elected. He persisted at politics and ran for the vice-presidency at age forty-seven, and again lost. Finally, at the age of fifty-one, this man was elected President of the United States. His name was Abraham Lincoln. And then, President Lincoln did a very unusual thing. In the midst of the darkest day in American history, in the midst of the Civil War which claimed more American lives than any other war, in the midst of great trial and tragedy, President Lincoln issued the following proclamation: "It has seemed to me fit and proper that [the gifts of God] should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens...to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens." Abraham Lincoln had a grateful hearts. He knew, that even in the midst of great tribulation and hardship, there was much to be thankful for. And he took the time to express his gratitude to God, and invited the American people to join him in giving thanks to the Holy One.
Brothers and sisters, we are blessed in ALL things. Yesterday [September 11] reminded me of what can happen when a person is not grateful for the precious gift of life we each have been given and chooses to destroy their life and the lives of others. I am grateful to those who lost their lives on September 11, because on September 12, 2001 we are were infinitely more grateful for the precious gift of life. We have much to be grateful for. Let us "solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledge" the gifts we receive from God. This is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
The talk that was given today in church shared this cute poem:
I am thankful...for the husband who complains when his dinner is not on time because he is home with me, not with someone else.For the teenager who is complaining about doing dishes because that means she is at home & not on the streets.For the taxes that I pay, because it means that I am employed.For the mess to clean after a party, because it means that I have been surrounded by friends.For the clothes that fit a little too snug, because it means I have enough to eat.For my shadow that watches me work, because it means I am out in the sunshine.For a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning, and gutters that need fixing, because it means I have a home.For all the complaining I hear about the government because it means that we have freedom of speech.For the parking spot I find at the far end of the parking lot, because it means I am capable of walking and that I have been blessed with transportation.For my huge heating bill, because it means I am warm.For the lady behind me in church that sings off key, because it means that I can hear.For the pile of laundry and ironing, because it means I have clothes to wear.For weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day, because it means I have been capable of working hard.For the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours, because it means that I am alive.And finally...for too much e-mail, because it means I have friends who are thinking of me.
I am blessed!