More than a mere “thank you,” gratitude is both a heartfelt expression and a commandment, taught Elder Ronald A. Rasband in a March 13 devotional for young adults in the Church’s Asia, Asia North, Pacific and Philippines areas.
“Gratitude is more than just words of appreciation; it is an expression of the heart, one filled with love, humility, integrity, steadfastness, and courage,’’ said the member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “In a world facing tension, conflict, economic upsets and a raging virus, gratitude at times seems in short supply.”
The Lord’s latter-day charge is to “rejoice evermore, and in everything give thanks” (Doctrine and Covenants 98:1).
“Our growth, our very progress in mortality, is diminished when we fail to say ‘thank you,’” added Elder Rasband. “Gratitude requires we set aside hurt feelings, jealousies, frustrations, disappointments, setbacks or prayers that seem to go unanswered and look with ‘eyes to see’ the hand of God in our lives.”
Spanning the globe — and dateline
Elder Rasband and his wife, Sister Melanie T. Rasband, spoke at the live-broadcast devotional originating from the Salt Lake Tabernacle’s orchestra stage at 9 p.m. Saturday, March 13. However, it was viewed live Sunday, March 14, by young adults throughout the four targeted areas.
In each area, Sunday’s start times were:
- 5 p.m. in Auckland, New Zealand (Pacific)
- 1 p.m. in Tokyo, Japan (Asia North)
- 12 noon in Hong Kong (Asia North) and Manila, Philippines (Philippines)
Other times ranged from 10 a.m. in Bengaluru, India, to 5, 6 and 7 p.m. in the South Pacific islands of Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and Tahiti.
Elder Paul V. Johnson, a General Authority Seventy and Commissioner of Church Education, introduced the Rasbands and spoke briefly on the importance of institute in the lives of the young adults.
“You have told us you want institute, first, to strengthen your relationship with Heavenly Father and the Savior; second, to see how the gospel is relevant to your lives, your questions, and your needs; and third, to feel a sense of belonging,” Elder Johnson said.
“We are striving to improve in those very aspects of institute. Please help us. We invite you to diligently participate and help us make the experience better. Invite your friends. Give us ideas. Know that you belong. Discover more deeply how the gospel fits into your life. And strengthen your relationship with your Heavenly Father and the Savior. I know They live and desire to bless you. I testify of Them.”
He and his wife, Sister Jill Johnson, joined the Rasbands in post-devotional interactions with an interactive videoconference audience, whose faces were projected on the backdrop screen. Also, some 100 attended in-person in the Tabernacle.
Jomele Tychingco, a native of the Philippines, and Moses Niumatalolo, whose family roots are in American Samoa, opened by welcoming viewers from across the four areas. Wong Kin Fong of Malaysia provided a special musical number from the Tabernacle, singing “Peace in Christ.”
Elder Rasband: ‘In all things give thanks’
Sharing expressions of love and appreciation on behalf of President Russell M. Nelson, Elder Rasband recalled the Prophet’s invitation last year to share gratitude, with millions having viewed President Nelson’s social media invitation.
“What happened to those of you who took up the challenge?” Elder Rasband asked. “I expect you felt better. You started counting blessings, you started looking for goodness in others, you started sharing experiences that demonstrated the Lord’s love for you and those close to you. You became a ‘light shining in darkness’ (Doctrine and Covenants 6:21).”
The Lord expects us to receive His blessings and talents with a grateful heart, he said. “If you are grateful to the Lord, you will be grateful to others. If you are grateful to others, you will be grateful to the Lord. Your ‘thank yous’ will change you for the better.”
What might thankfulness look like and feel like, and how might it be expressed?
“Thankfulness feels like a warm heart, one that is humble and full of love,” he said. “It acknowledges acts of kindness and compassion, service and integrity, encouragement and honest feedback, friendship, and good deeds. All of us appreciate someone with a generous spirit, patience and an outstretched hand.
“Thankfulness may come as a note, a smile of encouragement, a compliment, or a thoughtful gesture. ‘Thank you’ blesses both the giver and the receiver.”
For those wondering about giving thanks when little seems to be going right, Elder Rasband offered nine suggestions:
- Give thanks for your body that will rise with you in the resurrection.
- Give thanks that you chose to follow God’s plan.
- Give thanks for the Holy Ghost who comforts and prompts you to look beyond the challenges of the day to the opportunities to live the gospel and help others.
- Give thanks for the opportunity to talk to your Father in Heaven in prayer.
- Give thanks for family, friends and people you can count on when you are in need.
- Give thanks for the power of the priesthood, partaking of the sacrament and the blessings that come from fulfilling callings.
- Give thanks for a beautiful world.
- Give thanks for your challenges.
- Most of all, give thanks for the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
“For the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we are eternally grateful,” Elder Rasband said. “Open your heart to the Savior, and let Him heal your wounds. He, who has taken upon Himself your sins, tribulations, and very bad days, will give you comfort and direction.”
How is appreciation expressed when one sees the Lord’s hand manifest in his or her life? “Are you one that tends to murmur?” he asked. “Or do you go forward congratulating yourself that this was your lucky day?”
Gratitude is more than a good idea or acceptable social custom or courtesy, he said. “When we express gratitude to the Lord, we are acknowledging His hand in our lives and that He, not us, is the source of our blessings. Our gratitude becomes an expression of our faith in Him, our hope, and our ever-increasing testimony of Jesus Christ.”
Elder Rasband asked nine questions about gratitude and prayer:
- Do you thank your Father in Heaven in prayer?
- Or do your prayers go straight to what you need and desire?
- Do you give thanks every time you bless your food?
- Do you thank your Father in Heaven for listening?
- Do you spontaneously recognize and quickly give thanks when a blessing drops down from the sky?
- Do you “think to thank” as President Thomas S. Monson used to say, when you are facing the storms of life?
- Do you thank God for the charity, humanity and kindness shown to you by others, recognizing they are answers to your prayers?
- Do you trust that Heavenly Father hears you?
- Do you give thanks for the great gathering of Israel of which you are a part?
Elder Rasband left an Apostolic blessing with devotional listeners: “May your hearts be grateful for God’s goodness and may you increasingly offer thanks for your blessings and those who bless your life. May you feel joy in living the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and may you have beautiful moments of clarity and vision as you seek eternal life. May you grow in the gospel and become a true disciple destined for great and eternal glory in the presence of God the Father and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Sister Rasband: ‘Patterns of prayer’
Patterns in prayer can help make one’s “heavenly connection” to God the Father, in the name of the Son, deeper and more meaningful, Sister Rasband said.
She listed several such patterns that can lead to more effective prayer, including:
- Kneeling to honor Him.
- Increasing our faith as we call upon the Father.
- Increasing our faith as we listen for personal revelation.
- Being specific in seeking divine help.
- Being willing to trust that He knows what is best.
- Welcoming His will to be done in our lives.
- Taking time to listen.
- And spending more time to thank and even praise God in our prayers.
“I testify that as you add honest praise in your prayers, your relationship with your Father in Heaven will increase with greater meaning,” Sister Rasband said, “and a greater love and appreciation will grow within you for all He is and has given you as you sincerely acknowledge how much you need Him.”
Christ’s intercessory prayer (John 17) and Mormon’s teachings of praying with the pure love of Christ (Moroni 7) serve as examples of developing similar love, fervency of prayer and the importance to “hear Him.”
“May we always seek to hear His voice,” Sister Rasband said. “May we remember to listen and obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit as we receive personal revelation and divine direction in answer to our prayers.”