Gratitude, the Exalting and Required Virtue

image of Christ
Elder Stanley G. Ellis

Joseph Smith is quoted as saying “If you will thank the Lord with all your heart, every night, for all the blessings of that day, you will eventually find yourself exalted in the kingdom of God.” (Truman G. Madsen, Joseph Smith the Prophet Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1989, 104) That impressed me. First, what a wonderful promise for being truly grateful! But secondly, I wondered how that could be possible for something so seemingly small and simple.

The more I considered it, the better I came to understand the power of being really thankful.  The Lord actually makes the same promise in D&C 78:19: “…he who receiveth all things, with thankfulness shall be made glorious…”

The guide to the Study of the Scriptures teaches us that “expressing gratitude is pleasing to God, and true worship includes thanking Him. We should give thanks to the Lord for all things”. As the hymn teaches us, as we count our many blessings, especially one by one, we can be surprised what the Lord has done.

On the other hand being unthankful is actually one of the few ways we offend our normally loving, kind and generous Heavenly Father.  Consider what he has done for us:

            Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth;

            Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards;

            Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;

            Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.

            And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion” (D&C 59:16-20)

Therefore it is easy to see why our being ungrateful is so offensive to Him: “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.”  (D&C 59:21)

The Apostle Paul taught a great truth about a key blessing of gratitude, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased and how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” (Philippians 4:11-12). Further, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” (I Tim 6:6-7)

Alma reminded himself that “I ought to be content with the things the Lord hath allotted to me.” (Alma 29:3)

Our daughter, Rachel, made a pillow for Sister Ellis with a cross-stitched message: “Gratitude turns what we have into enough”. In fact, as you think about it, it is not what we have that makes us unhappy; it is what we perceive we don’t have. Gratitude is clearly a key to happiness regardless of our circumstances.

The scriptures clearly direct us to be thankful: Be ye thankful (Col 3:15), live in thanksgiving daily (Alma 34:38), ye must give thanks unto God (D&C 42:32), and in everything give thanks (D&C 98:1; 1 Thes 5:18).

May we enjoy peace, contentment, humility and happiness as we choose each day to be grateful.