A grateful heart

"If thou art merry, praise the Lord with singing, with music, with dancing, and with a prayer of thanksgiving.

"If thou art sorrowful, call on the Lord thy God with supplication, that your souls may be joyful." (D&C 136:28-29.)We are instructed to call upon the Lord as we experience happiness and encounter sorrow. All too often, we are quick to call upon Him in our distress. But, much as children who often need to be prompted by parents to say "thank you," we also may need to be reminded to express gratitude for the many blessings the Lord has given us.

There may be times when we feel we are more impoverished than blessed, yet in all times and circumstances we can find reasons for which to praise and thank the Lord. Consider the destitute Pioneers at Winter Quarters in January 1847 who received the Lord's "commandments and statutes" preparatory to their "journeyings to the West." (See Doctrine and Covenants, Section 136.)

Those Pioneers had endured much hardship. Some lost what was closest and dearest to them, namely the love and association of family and friends who rejected them when they joined the Church. Quite a number mourned the deaths of loved ones who died in towns and settlements where the Saints gathered earlier, or while crossing the Atlantic Ocean or along various byways as they traveled to join the main body of Saints. Some lost loved ones in the winter cold of Iowa as the exodus from Nauvoo began. Many lost homes and other properties.

If conditions were seen only through the eyes of logic and human reasoning, practically every man, woman and child among those Pioneers in Winter Quarters had many reasons to mourn. Yet, they were counseled to offer "a prayer of thanksgiving."

The late apostle James E. Talmage observed: "Gratitude is an ennobling quality in man; and he in whose soul it has no place is defective. . . . The capacity to feel and the ability to express gratitude or thanks not only reaches below man's mentality and spiritual conception, but exists beyond and above him, for its source is divine."

Elder Talmage further noted: "Gratitude is twin sister to humility; pride is foe to both. The man who has come into close communion with God cannot fail to be thankful; for he feels, he knows, that for all he has and all he is, he is indebted to the Supreme Giver; and one would think that there is no need of commandment in the matter of thanksgiving. Yet we find that because of man's propensities toward forgetfulness and selfishness the scriptures abound in admonitions to render thanks unto the Lord." (Sunday Night Talks by Radio, published by The Deseret News Press, p. 483.)

Many of us need to make a conscious effort to remember our blessings, and, as the hymn intones, to "name them one by one." (Hymns, No. 241.) In the Church News of Nov. 13, a Salt Lake physician was quoted as saying, "I think if we were to take one single measure of how spiritually well a person is, it would be how much gratitude he or she feels for life, for what it has to offer."

A newspaper subscriber commented: "Since reading that report, I've made a conscious effort to recall my blessings nearly every hour. Instead of dreading the drudgery of cleaning house, I express gratitude for my home. I've found so many things to be grateful for, little things like running water and electricity. A few weeks ago, I complained because my knees ached; now I say how grateful I am that I can walk. I think it's important to express our gratitude out loud. The positive focus on gratitude has pushed out of my mind the negative thoughts that were dragging me down."

The Roman statesman, orator and writer Cicero said: "The grateful heart is not only the greatest virtue but the parent of all others." Cicero died a few decades before Jesus was born, but his philosophy has endured the ages. His observation is as profound today as it was in his own time. Have you noticed that a grateful person demonstrates generosity? Are you aware that a grateful person has attributes of compassion, humility, helpfulness and kindness? Have you ever met a grateful person who did not have joy, happiness and peace of mind?

The Lord is aware of our trials and hurts. We shouldn't think that He expects us to just put on a happy face and pretend all is well when all is not well. He wants us to be truly happy. When we feel sorrow, we are invited to call upon Him that our souls may be joyful.

Section 136 was directed to the Pioneers on their journey West, but its counsel is not limited to them. We are travelers also. We can benefit from the Lord's counsel as we continue our journey back to our Heavenly Father's presence. As we experience the extreme emotions of merriment or sorrow during our sojourn, let us turn always to the Lord.

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