Here’s the talk I gave:
Based on Oct 2016 General Conference talk by Pres. Henry B. Eyring – “Gratitude on the Sabbath Day”.
Pres. Eyring starts out by listing some of the things he’s grateful for such as kindness from a stranger, a meal when we are hungry, the cry of a newborn baby.
He then says “For Latter-day Saints, the Sabbath is such a moment, actually a day, of gratitude and love.
In the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 59, in speaking of the Sabbath, the Lord says:
“Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things.
“And inasmuch as ye do these things with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances, the fulness of the earth is yours,
And then the Lord goes on to warn of danger should we fail to thank Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ as the givers of the gifts: “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.”
Pres. Eyring then quoted a popular hymn in the church:
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.
Let’s talk for a moment about our many blessings. Have you ever actually counted your blessings, as the hymn suggests? I confess I have never tried it, but while preparing for this talk, I decided to take up the challenge and make an actual list. When I got to about 150, I realized that the list could go on and on forever.
Just to give you sampling of blessings, let’s talk about this morning. As I woke up this morning, I was grateful for my eternal companion, also for a warm, comfortable bed, for clean sheets, and pillows. I was also grateful for a good night’s rest, alarm clocks, and for snooze buttons. I was grateful for the ability to wake up and get out of bed, and for the opportunity to make a fresh start everyday.
When I looked out the window, I felt gratitude for the sense of sight, for sunshine and for windows that allowed me look through walls. I was also grateful for a roof over my head. As I went into the bathroom, I was grateful for indoor plumbing, and for indoor toilets.
As I dressed, I was grateful for clothing and the fact that I no longer had to help little ones get dressed and ready for church.
I also felt gratitude for the Sabbath – for this day of rest from our normal labors. I was grateful that our Sunday meetings don’t start until 11 AM, giving me a little more time to prepare my talk. As I reviewed the talk, I felt gratitude for computers, printers, for spell-check, the Internet, and Google Drive.
As we drove to church, I was grateful for automobiles, for the ability to control the vehicle, and for roads to drive on. I was also grateful for oxygen that helps keep us alive, for birds and plants that beautify our surroundings,
As we entered the chapel, I was grateful for my membership in the church, for friendly ward members and beautiful music. I felt gratitude for all the people that serve here in our ward.
As I stand here, I’m grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given to impart some of the things I’ve learned as I’ve prepared for this talk. I’m also grateful that it probably be at least a year before I have to do this again.
I could go on and on, of course. It’s really impossible to count our many blessings. My list is going to be different than your list, and our lists will change throughout our lives.
We automatically think of the good things in our lives as being blessings, but is it possible that bad things are also blessings? Of course they can be, if we have the right attitude. In the verses just quoted in D&C 59, we aren’t commanded to thank the Lord for the good things we receive. We’re commanded to “thank the Lord thy God in all things”.
I am reminded of one of my favorite scriptures which is found in D&C Section 122. The Lord was talking to Joseph Smith while he was a prisoner in Liberty Jail. First the Lord described some of the horrible things that had happened or could happen to Joseph. “And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee,” Then the Lord concludes with these words: “know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.”
Really? How could such awful things be for his good? And furthermore, does this scripture also apply to us?
To help answer this question, I want to go to another episode in church history and recount briefly the dire circumstances that those in the Willie and Martin handcart companies faced as they travelled. Many of the Mormon Pioneers who trekked across the country to Utah were too poor to travel by wagon train, so instead they pulled handcarts. The Willie and Martin handcart companies were 2 of those groups. Leaving Florence, Nebraska late in the season in 1856, they encountered early snowfall in present-day Wyoming and were unable to continue on their own. They likely would have all perished if not for a heroic rescue effort by members of the church who were sent by Pres. Brigham Young to help. Despite this effort, however, over 200 of the 980 people in the 2 groups died of hunger and exposure to the cold before reaching the Salt Lake valley.
One might think that members of these 2 handcart companies would have been bitter and critical of church leaders who permitted them to leave so late in the season, but years later, one member of the group testified,
“We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism? Not one of that company ever apostatized or left the Church, because every one of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives, for we became acquainted with Him in our extremities.
“Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay.”
This account teaches us a powerful lesson – that adversity can become a tremendous blessing. Most of us know or have heard of individuals who have accomplished incredible things despite adversity. I want to tell you about two.
The first is Isaac Lidsky who, as a teenager, lost his eyesight to a rare genetic disease. He recently delivered a talk in which he said the following:
“You create your own reality, and you believe it. I believed mine until it broke apart. The deterioration of my eyes shattered the illusion.
“You see, sight is just one way we shape our reality. We create our own realities in many other ways. Let’s take fear as just one example. Your fears distort your reality. Under the warped logic of fear, anything is better than the uncertain. Fear fills the void at all costs, passing off what you dread for what you know, offering up the worst in place of the ambiguous, substituting assumption for reason. Psychologists have a great term for it: awfulizing.
“Fear replaces the unknown with the awful. Now, fear is self-realizing. When you face the greatest need to look outside yourself and think critically, fear beats a retreat deep inside your mind, shrinking and distorting your view, drowning your capacity for critical thought with a flood of disruptive emotions. When you face a compelling opportunity to take action, fear lulls you into inaction, enticing you to passively watch its prophecies fulfill themselves.
“When I was diagnosed with my blinding disease, I knew blindness would ruin my life. Blindness was a death sentence for my independence. It was the end of achievement for me. Blindness meant I would live an unremarkable life, small and sad, and likely alone. I knew it. This was a fiction born of my fears, but I believed it. It was a lie, but it was my reality, just like those backwards-swimming fish in little Dorothy’s mind. If I had not confronted the reality of my fear, I would have lived it. I am certain of that.
“So how do you live your life eyes wide open? It is a learned discipline. It can be taught. It can be practiced. I will summarize very briefly.
“Hold yourself accountable for every moment, every thought, every detail. See beyond your fears. Recognize your assumptions. Harness your internal strength. Silence your internal critic. Correct your misconceptions about luck and about success. Accept your strengths and your weaknesses, and understand the difference. Open your hearts to your bountiful blessings.
“Your fears, your critics, your heroes, your villains — they are your excuses, rationalizations, shortcuts, justifications, your surrender. They are fictions you perceive as reality. Choose to see through them. Choose to let them go. You are the creator of your reality. With that empowerment comes complete responsibility.
“I chose to step out of fear’s tunnel into terrain uncharted and undefined. I chose to build there a blessed life.”
Isaac is now happily married with 4 children, is a corporate speaker and author, and CEO of a construction company in Orlando with over $80 million in annual revenue.
Then there’s Nick Vujicic, best selling author and motivational speaker and founder of an organization called Attitude Is Altitude. Nick was born without arms or legs. You may have even seen him on Youtube. He regularly speaks to youth and others about issues surrounding self-esteem and self-worth. He’s happily married and has 2 sons. Nick says “Your attitude determines your ability to succeed. How you respond to challenges,approach change and deal with difficulties—even how you think about yourself—are all key factors in success, both in life and business.”
Although neither Isaac or Nick are members of the church, they both have learned the principles taught by the Lord regarding gratitude. Neither one blames God or anyone else for their trials, in fact they view their challenges as blessings.
There is one more person who I wish to mention. He, too, overcame tremendous, even impossible obstacles to accomplish miracles in his life. I speak of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was born into poverty, hated by religious leaders of the day, and eventually tortured and killed in a most cruel manner on a cross at the young age of 33.. Despite this, he was able to fulfill His purpose on the earth in redeeming all mankind.
Our Prophet – President Thomas S. Monson, in speaking on the subject of gratitude in General Conference in 2010 said “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.
“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.”.
I want to conclude with President Eyring’s words “You might well be wondering what you could do to live and worship on this Sabbath day to demonstrate your gratitude and to strengthen yourself and others for trials that lie ahead.
“You could begin today with a private and family prayer of thanks for all God has done for you. You could pray to know what the Lord would have you do to serve Him and others. Particularly, you could pray to have the Holy Ghost tell you of someone who is lonely or in need to whom the Lord would have you go.
“I can promise you your prayers will be answered, and as you act on the answers you will receive, you will find joy in the Sabbath, and your heart will overflow with thankfulness.”