“Over my nine and a half decades of life, I have concluded that counting our blessings is far better than recounting our problems,” President Nelson said at that time. “No matter our situation, showing gratitude for our privileges is a fast-acting and long-lasting spiritual prescription.”
Three years later, as U.S. families gather to celebrate Thanksgiving, President Nelson’s message remains relevant.
He’s not alone, either, in emphasizing the importance of gratitude. Here’s a look at what other leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have taught about giving thanks.
“The Lord declared, ‘And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious’ (Doctrine and Covenants 78:19). Perhaps this is because gratitude gives birth to a multitude of other virtues.
“How our awareness would change if every morning we awoke with only the blessings we were grateful for the night before. Failure to appreciate our blessings can result in a sense of dissatisfaction, which can rob us of the joy and happiness that gratitude engenders.”
“You might well be wondering what you could do to live and worship on this Sabbath day to demonstrate your gratitude and to strengthen yourself and others for trials that lie ahead.
“You could begin today with a private and family prayer of thanks for all God has done for you. You could pray to know what the Lord would have you do to serve Him and others. Particularly, you could pray to have the Holy Ghost tell you of someone who is lonely or in need to whom the Lord would have you go.
“I can promise you your prayers will be answered, and as you act on the answers you will receive, you will find joy in the Sabbath, and your heart will overflow with thankfulness.”
“It is easy to be grateful for things when life seems to be going our way. But what then of those times when what we wish for seems to be far out of reach?
“Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation? In other words, I’m suggesting that instead of being thankful for things, we focus on being thankful in our circumstances — whatever they may be. …
“This type of gratitude transcends whatever is happening around us. It surpasses disappointment, discouragement and despair. It blooms just as beautifully in the icy landscape of winter as it does in the pleasant warmth of summer.
“When we are grateful to God in our circumstances, we can experience gentle peace in the midst of tribulation. In grief, we can still lift up our hearts in praise. In pain, we can glory in Christ’s Atonement. In the cold of bitter sorrow, we can experience the closeness and warmth of heaven’s embrace. ...
“Being grateful in times of distress does not mean that we are pleased with our circumstances. It does mean that through the eyes of faith we look beyond our present-day challenges.
“This is not a gratitude of the lips but of the soul. It is a gratitude that heals the heart and expands the mind.”
“My brothers and sisters, do we remember to give thanks for the blessings we receive? Sincerely giving thanks not only helps us recognize our blessings, but it also unlocks the doors of heaven and helps us feel God’s love. …
“My brothers and sisters, to express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven.”
– President Thomas S. Monson, October 2010 general conference, “The Divine Gift of Gratitude”
“Gratitude is a Spirit-filled principle. It opens our minds to a universe permeated with the richness of a living God. Through it, we become spiritually aware of the wonder of the smallest things, which gladden our hearts with their messages of God’s love. This grateful awareness heightens our sensitivity to divine direction. When we communicate gratitude, we can be filled with the Spirit and connected to those around us and the Lord. Gratitude inspires happiness and carries divine influence. ‘Live in thanksgiving daily,’ said Amulek, ‘for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you’ (Alma 34:38).
“Mercies and blessings come in different forms — sometimes as hard things. Yet the Lord said, ‘Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things’ (Doctrine and Covenants 59:7). All things means just that: good things, difficult things — not just some things. He has commanded us to be grateful because He knows being grateful will make us happy. This is another evidence of His love.”
— Sister Bonnie D. Parkin, April 2007 general conference, “Gratitude: A Path to Happiness”
“It’s so easy in life for us to receive blessings, many of them almost uncounted, and have things happen in our lives that can help change our lives, improve our lives and bring the Spirit into our lives. But we sometimes take them for granted. How grateful we should be for the blessings that the gospel of Jesus Christ brings into our hearts and souls. I would remind all of you that if we’re ever going to show gratitude properly to our Heavenly Father, we should do it with all of our heart, might, mind and strength — because it was He who gave us life and breath. … As that gratitude is magnified and developed and expanded, it can bless our hearts and our minds and our souls to where we’d like to continue to carry on and do those things that we are asked to do.”
— Elder David B. Haight, October 2002 general conference, “Were There Not Ten Cleansed?”
“True gratitude is the ability to humbly see, feel and even receive love. Gratitude is a form of returning love to God. Recognize His hand, tell Him so, express your love to Him. As you come to truly know the Lord, you will find an intimate, sacred relationship built on trust. You will come to know He understands your anguish and will, in compassion, always respond to you in love.”
— Elder Gene R. Cook, April 2002 general conference, “Charity: Perfect and Everlasting Love”
“It is precarious to dwell on why we have not been given more. It is, however, beneficial and humbling to dwell on why we have been given so much. …
“A constant expression of gratitude should be included in all our prayers. Often prayers are given for specific blessings which we, in our incomplete understanding, believe we need. While the Lord does answer prayers according to His will, He certainly must be pleased when we offer humble prayers of gratitude.”
— Elder Steven E. Snow, October 2001 general conference, “Gratitude”
“There is a great tendency for us in our prayers — in our pleadings with the Lord — to ask for additional blessings. Sometimes, I feel, we need to devote more of our prayers to expressions of gratitude and thanksgiving for blessings already received. Of course, we need the daily blessings of the Lord. But if we sin in the matter of prayer, I think it is in our lack of expressing thanksgiving for daily blessings.”
— Elder Lloyd P. George, April 1994 general conference, “Gratitude”
“We can lift ourselves, and others as well, when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude. If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues.”
— President Thomas S. Monson, April 1992 general conference, “An Attitude of Gratitude”
“Gratitude expressed to our Heavenly Father in prayer for what we have brings a calming peace — a peace which allows us to not canker our souls for what we don’t have. Gratitude brings a peace that helps us overcome the pain of adversity and failure. Gratitude on a daily basis means we express appreciation for what we have now without qualification for what we had in the past or desire in the future. A recognition of and appreciation for our gifts and talents which have been given also allows us to acknowledge the need for help and assistance from the gifts and talents possessed by others. …
“When in prayer we say, ‘Thy will be done,’ we are really expressing faith and gratitude and acknowledging that we will accept whatever happens in our lives.”
— Elder Robert D. Hales, then the Presiding Bishop, April 1992 general conference, “Gratitude for the Goodness of God”
“The story of the thankful Samaritan has great meaning. As the Savior went through Samaria and Galilee, ‘he entered into a certain village, [and] there met him ten men that were lepers’ and who ‘lifted up their voices and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’ Jesus told them to go show themselves unto the priest.
“‘And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.
“‘And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God.
“‘And fell down … at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
“‘And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?
“‘There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.
“‘And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole’ (Luke 17:12-19).
“Leprosy was so loathsome a disease that those afflicted were not permitted under the law to come close to Jesus. Those suffering from this terrible disease were required to agonize together, sharing their common misery. (See Leviticus 13:45-46). Their forlorn cry, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us’ must have touched the Savior’s heart. When they were healed and when they had received priestly approval that they were clean and acceptable in society, they must have been overcome with joy and amazement. Having received so great a miracle, they seemed completely satisfied. But they forgot their benefactor. It is difficult to understand why they were so lacking in gratitude. Such ingratitude is self-centered. It is a form of pride. …
“A grateful heart is a beginning of greatness. It is an expression of humility. It is a foundation for the development of such virtues as prayer, faith, courage, contentment, happiness, love and well-being.”
— Then-Elder James E. Faust, April 1990 general conference, “Gratitude As a Saving Principle”
“Many of you have had the same experience I have had. And if you haven’t, you will: you will go to a hospital or to a house to comfort someone, and instead they comfort you. Or you try to encourage someone who seems to you to have so little, and yet they will express gratitude for things you take for granted.
“To find gratitude and generosity when you could reasonably find hurt and resentment will surprise you. It will be so surprising because you will see so much of the opposite: people who have much more than others yet who react with anger when one advantage is lost or with resentment when an added gift is denied. …
“You could have an experience with the gift of the Holy Ghost today. You could begin a private prayer with thanks. You could start to count your blessings, and then pause for a moment. If you exercise faith, and with the gift of the Holy Ghost, you will find that memories of other blessings will flood into your mind. If you begin to express gratitude for each of them, your prayer may take a little longer than usual. Remembrance will come. And so will gratitude.”
“To the Lord Jesus, who bought us with a great price, we owe an undying debt of gratitude. It is impossible for us, weak mortals as we are, to fully comprehend and appreciate the suffering He endured on the cross so that He might gain for us victory over death. And even less can we understand the suffering He endured in Gethsemane so that we might obtain forgiveness of our sins. ‘Which suffering,’ He said, ‘caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit — and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink’ (Doctrine and Covenants 19:18).
“But nevertheless, He endured it for our sake. None of us could have endured that suffering. No mortal man nor any number of men together could have endured it. All people who understand what Jesus did for us ought to love Him and demonstrate that love by rendering to Him, in a realistic manner, thanks and gratitude.”
— President Marion G. Romney, October 1982 general conference, “Gratitude and Thanksgiving”