PROVO, Utah — Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, along with his wife, Sister Harriet Uchtdorf, shared messages about gratitude with a little more than 1,500 missionaries gathered in the Provo MTC in a Thanksgiving morning devotional on Nov. 22.
The devotional was also broadcast to 14 missionary training centers around the world including the one in Provo.
This holiday is a day for families to gather together, share a meal, eat too much and remember the blessings they have received during the year, Elder Uchtdorf said.
“The higher purpose of Thanksgiving is to thank God,” he explained.
The scriptures teach that Heavenly Father should be thanked for all things, even challenges and difficulties.
“If trials make us turn to God, see life from a more eternal perspective, and help us to grow and conquer our own weaknesses, even the most serious challenges can become tools to refine us,” Elder Uchtdorf said. “They may actually benefit us.”
When experiencing personal trials, Elder Uchtdorf encouraged the missionaries to “take a moment to be quiet and pray, and specifically pray and ask Heavenly Father what lesson you are going to learn from this experience.”
The scriptures have taught the importance of giving thanks in all things, even and especially during trials and difficult times. The early pioneer members of the Church maintained a spirit of gratitude during their trek toward the Salt Lake Valley.
“Acknowledging your blessings is not meant to merely make you feel happy about the place you are in at this moment in life,” Elder Uchtdorf explained. “It is meant as a tool to help you recognize your resources so that you can use them to move onward and upward. Gratitude brings the Spirit into your lives and will bring you to a greater version of yourselves that exists and is waiting to be uncovered and cultivated.”
Elder Uchtdorf shared how in his youth, his gratitude focused more on the good things. But, “as I grew older and matured in my thinking, I learned that a higher law of gratitude was thanking God in all things and believing that God will make ‘all things work together’ for our good.”
When he was a child, he and his family became refugees twice, and life was difficult. In hindsight, he said, “I am deeply grateful for this special experience in my life and the eventual positive outcome — not because of, but in spite of the serious problems we had to go through.
“All these experiences blessed me with the assurance that God is indeed trustworthy and that His strength is a source of strength at all times and at all places across the world.”
“I am especially thankful for you, the Lord’s missionaries,” Sister Uchtdorf told the elders and sisters gathered in the MTC.
“You remind me of the special time in my life when missionaries found my family in Frankfurt, Germany, and blessed our lives forever,” she said.
When she was 12 years old, her father died from cancer and her mother became extremely depressed as a result. Her family attended their Protestant church every Sunday, but it could not comfort her mother.
A few months later, two American missionaries knocked on their door. After a pleasant, short conversation, the missionaries left Sister Uchtdorf’s mother with a copy of the Book of Mormon and arranged to return a few days later. Sister Uchtdorf’s mother began reading and could not stop until she read the whole book, which she then shared with Sister Uchtdorf and her sister.
“You can imagine how surprised those two missionaries were when they came back, just a few days after their first contact, and learned that my mother had read the whole Book of Mormon,” she said.
These missionaries taught her family about the plan of salvation, which gave them hope and light that relieved their heartache, despair and sadness. Feeling the Spirit so strongly, they knew that the message they shared was true, and they agreed to be baptized.
“That day was a day of thanksgiving and will always be throughout my whole life. It was a day of miracles for our family; it was as if angels had been sent to us.”
Now the elders and sisters in the MTC are the ones who will go out into the world to find, teach, baptize and live the gospel message.
“Through your personal preparation, your example and your dedication, you have the potential to be like angels of glory to all who seek the truth.”
In closing, Elder Uchtdorf told the missionaries, “on this Thanksgiving season and always, my prayer for all of you is that you turn your minds and hearts to thanking God for life itself, for God's plan — the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, for a living prophet — even President [Russell M.] Nelson — for the blessing of learning through experience, for the certainty that all things will work together for your good, and for the sacred privilege to be one of the Savior's missionaries.”