"When we understand . . . that God offers us opportunities for blessings . . . through our own adversities. . . we can understand why He has commanded us again and again to 'thank the Lord thy God in all things,' " said Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve. (See Doctrine and Covenants 59:7.)
Speaking during the Sunday afternoon session, Elder Oaks told how in times of spiritual and temporal adversity in the Book of Mormon, when the people of God were "suffering all manner of affliction," the Lord commanded them to "give thanks in all things." (Mosiah 26:38-39.)
"We have so much for which to give thanks," he said. "First and foremost, we are thankful for our Savior, Jesus Christ. . . .
"We give thanks for revealed truths that provide a standard against which to measure all things. . . . What an anchor to the soul in these troubled times.
"We give thanks for commandments. They are directions away from pitfalls, and they are invitations to blessings."
Elder Oaks recounted testimonies he's heard in the last eight months while serving in the Philippines, including the gratitude of a Filipino bishop who changed his life from selfish excess and abusive practices after joining the Church 10 years ago, and a counselor in the stake presidency who said the Church was the greatest thing that ever happened in his life.
"The revelations for which we are grateful show that we should even give thanks for our afflictions because they turn our hearts to God and give us opportunities to prepare for what God would have us become," he said.
Speaking of the pioneers, Elder Oaks said, "Through their challenges and the courageous and inspired actions they took to meet them, they grew in faith and in spiritual stature. Through their afflictions they became what God desired them to become, and they laid the foundation of the great work that blesses our lives today."
After reciting a few lyrics from, "If I Were a Rich Man," from Fiddler on the Roof, in which Tevye asks if it would "spoil some vast eternal plan, If I were a wealthy man," Elder Oaks said, "Yes, Tevye, it might. Let us give thanks for what we are and for the circumstances God has given us for our personal journey through mortality."
Recounting the hardships of his widowed mother who raised three little children alone, Elder Oaks said, "I know that relative poverty and hard work are not greater adversities than affluence and abundant free time. I also know that strength is forged in adversity and that faith is developed in a setting where we cannot see ahead.
"When we give thanks in all things, we see hardships and adversities in the context of the purpose of life. We are sent here to be tested. . . . We are meant to learn and grow through . . . opposition, through meeting our challenges and through teaching others to do the same. . . .
"If we see life through the lens of spirituality, we can see many examples of the works of God being furthered through the adversities of His children," he said.