Saturday, November 10, 2012

Living in Gratitude

Those who know me know that Thanksgiving is one of my least favorite holidays. It is a holiday that is celebrated here in the United States each November in remembrance and celebration for the friendship the early American pioneers made with the Native Americans. It is a time for people to remember what the Lord has blessed them with and to show appreciation for those things, just as one of my favorite Mormon messages shows. It is a time when many families come together and have a big meal and just enjoy being together.

Now don't get me wrong, I love this aspect! I love having another excuse for my huge family to get together and enjoy each other! I love having a huge meal with many great foods that I usually don't eat during the rest of the year. That part of the holiday is wonderful! One family tradition is going around and everyone sharing things that they are grateful for which usually turns into people sharing some of the miracles that occurred in their lives during the past year. I love that too!

But what I don't like about this season is the fact that many people take it for granted. Most people simply accept it as part of tradition; as the way things are; and use it as an excuse to be thankful only one day in the year. It is great to have a day of concentrated thankfulness, but it is a terrible idea to be thankful on one day out of the year which, as it seems to me, is what the holiday has turned into.

In light of this holiday season, Thanksgiving, I wanted to make a post on this subject, but from a scriptural standpoint. When you think of stories from the scriptures of being grateful and thankful, what do you think of? For me, the first story I think of is that of the ten lepers, as found in Luke 17. For those who don't know much about this story, I will briefly explain it! :)

As Jesus Christ and his disciples were traveling one day, they passed through a city and saw ten lepers. Leprosy was a highly contagious disease that basically ate away at a person's skin and they kind of just fell apart. So back in those days, to protect other people from catching this deadly disease, lepers were cast out of the city until they either died or got better. So the common response from most people when they passed by these leper communities was to stay very far away and basically shun them.

But of course, Jesus Christ was different. When the lepers saw Him, they called out and asked Him to have mercy on them. Rather than running away like most undoubtedly would have, the Messiah simply called back and told them to show themselves to the priest which is what lepers did in that day to show that they had been cleansed and healed so that they could be welcomed back into society. Still having leprosy, yet full of faith, these ten men turned and went to tell the priests and as they did so, were cleansed or purified.

They were certainly full of thankfulness as they went on their way in hopes of being accepted back into the society they knew and loved so well. A number of things could be said, or lessons taught from this simple story, but that isn't where I want to stop. What I want to talk about is the difference and separation between being thankful and being grateful.

At this point in the story, these ten men, I am positive, are thankful for the marvelous miracle that the Savior of the world has just done for them. But I love the lesson of gratitude that we learn from how this story continues! When the ten of these men realize that they have just been cleansed from their leprosy, nine of them continue on their way to talk with the priest but the one shows the difference between being thankful and being grateful.

When he realizes what has happened, the one turns around and "with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks". For this sign of gratitude, Christ tells him that because of his faith--and implicitly, his devotions of gratitude--he has been made whole or perfected. From this story we can see that faith leads to miracles which can cause us to be thankful for the things that we have in our lives. But gratitude leads to even greater blessings, even to being made whole and perfect!

So what is gratitude? What is it that separates thankfulness and gratitude? As President David O. McKay said, "Gratitude is deeper than thanks. Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts." That is the difference! It is easy to simply thank someone for something, but how much more thought and effort does it take and how much more does it mean when you actually show that person that you appreciate what they have done for you?

I have seen a really great example of someone who is not only thankful for things, but who also shows complete gratitude in almost everything someone does for her. Whenever someone does the smallest thing for her she always responds with a kind, completely selfless act of gratitude. Whether it is sending them a card, taking them to lunch, proofreading their blog posts, or whatever else she does, she epitomizes what it means to show true gratitude for the blessings we receive!

Of course this is really important in our relationships with other people, in fact it is crucial at times, but it is also extremely important in our relationship with God! Just as with this one leper, we must do more than simply thank the Lord for what He does for us. We must put that thankfulness into action and show Him how grateful we truly are for the miracles He works in our lives! So how do we show our gratitude? What are some of the actions we can take to, as the one leper, glorify God and give thanks? These are questions that I will let you find the answer to on your own study and pondering but I promise that as you find the answers and put them into practice, you too will be more than cleansed, you will incrementally become perfected.

One of my favorite Mormon message shares how we should live our lives. It is called "Thanksgiving Daily" and speaks of how as we see the things around us, they become harder to see, harder to notice, if you will. As you see and hear and do things often, they become routine and less unique. My invitation to all who read this is to remember this holiday that we are celebrating not only for the next few weeks, but throughout the year. Look for things around you, every day, that you are not only for which you are thankful, but which you are also grateful.

As we look for those things, we will see them. As we look for them, especially when we are having a hard time, we will see how blessed we are and how much the Lord truly does love each and every one of us. We will feel His love for us in all things around us and come to know for ourselves, just as the Book of Mormon prophet, Alma, declared, that "all things denote there is a God". We will receive even greater blessings and cleansing.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post and for the links to wonderful Mormon Messages