Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke on gratitude during trials as he delivered a Thanksgiving Day devotional held in the Provo Missionary Training Center the morning of Nov. 24. He addressed hundreds of missionaries gathered in the Provo MTC, as well as the other Missionary Training Centers around the world.
On the program with Elder Andersen were eight of his grandchildren, who shared what they were grateful for. Peter and Eugenia Xie shared their testimonies and experiences with choosing to serve missions.
“I want to share with you three scriptures about being thankful,” Elder Andersen told the missionaries. He discovered these during his own mission 46 years ago.
The first scripture comes from King Benjamin’s address (Mosiah 2:20-21, 23-24 and 4:11). King Benjamin taught that everything a person has in life comes from God. “There is a maturity that comes to us as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ when we realize that nothing is really ours,” Elder Andersen said.
He told the missionaries that “your very life, your breath, your ability to lift your arms, or to move your fingers in and out, or to have eyes that see — realizing that not everyone has those capabilities — you come to understand that this is given to you by God. And because He gives it to us, we can never repay Him. Never in all our efforts, can we give back to Him what He has given to us.”
“The goodness of our Heavenly Father is incalculable,” Elder Andersen said. He told the missionaries that they would face trials and afflictions, but God never stops blessing His children. Like Lehi told his son, Jacob, in 2 Nephi 2:2, Elder Andersen said, “He will consecrate your afflictions for your gain.”
Elder Andersen then shared a scripture he was exposed to by Elder Neal A. Maxwell: “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” (Doctrine and Covenants 59:21).
“Don’t be resentful of the trials and difficulties that come upon you,” Elder Andersen said. “It is part of mortality. Of course, we would much rather have the blessings than the trials. Don’t be afraid to take a deep breath and say, ‘I will be grateful for everything. I will confess the hand of the Lord in all things, and accept them and do my best.’ ”
The last scripture Elder Andersen shared was Doctrine and Covenants 78:19: “And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.”
“We do not look upon our lives as only our mortal lives,” Elder Andersen said. “Our lives are eternal. They are everlasting. Who you are, you will be for a very long time. Forever.”
Elder Andersen shared the experience of Michael Kunka, who was one of his missionaries while he presided over the France Bordeaux Mission. Elder Kunka came from a family who could barely afford to send him on a mission. In one day, Elder Kunka had a bike accident that wrecked his $300 bike and tore his one good suit, then came home to discover a thief had stolen his watch, as well as his $500 cash reserve. That day, he called Elder Andersen as his mission president and said he wanted to go home.
“Now Brother Kunka would never have actually gone home,” Elder Andersen said. During that conversation, “I told him, ‘Elder Kunka, if you just had a day like that, you must have something great in your future.’ ”
Later in his mission, Elder Kunka tracting in Lormont, France, met Maurice and Brigitte Renal. Through his work, and the work of many others, the two were baptized. Twenty-seven years later, the Renal family has seven children, two of whom are currently serving missions.
“Many times, we cannot see our blessings unless we see them in arrears,” Elder Andersen said. “You cannot see everything that is good that is coming to you many times at the time you receive them.”
In closing, Elder Andersen testified, “I know that Jesus Christ lives. I know this is His sacred work, to go about all the earth to take His gospel restored to every nation, kindred, tongue and people that there might be a righteous people to receive Him and embrace Him.”
Following the devotional, the approximately 1,500 missionaries in the Provo MTC joined together in a service project to pack 350,000 meals for Utah children in need.