On Saturday, 25 November 2006, I joined my family in Fruitland, Maryland for the funeral services of my 71 year old father, John Wallace Brown. My youngest sister, Patricia, was the last of my father’s four children to see him alive and speak with him. She left him sitting at the kitchen table at approximately 10:35 a.m. on Sunday morning, 19 November 2006 (just days before Thanksgiving) with no way of knowing that it would be the last time that she would see him alive.
On Monday afternoon, 20 November 2006, I received a telephone call at work informing me that a missing person’s report had been filed for my father. By 6:30 p.m. that Monday evening, I was on the telephone with detectives from Salisbury, Maryland informing me that my father had been found dead in a landfill area (dump). I would later find out that his body was found floating in water. Please see a previous post that I wrote and shared on a different blog. The post is titled “A True Story About My Father.”
As we approach another Thanksgiving season, I felt inspired to share the message that I delivered to the congregation of the Annapolis Maryland Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the day following my father’s funeral services – Sabbath Day Morning, 26 November 2006. Though my heart was extremely heavy that morning and though I was counseled by my Bishop and others that I did not have to speak that morning, I believe that I was led by the Holy Spirit to deliver the following message to my ward family.
It is my humble prayer that all who will read this will be blessed in even some small way, and that we will always make each day of our lives a day of Thanks Giving.
The late James E. Faust who served as the Second Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ taught,
|A grateful heart is a beginning of greatness. It is an expression of greatness. It is a foundation for the development of such virtues as prayer, faith, courage, contentment, happiness, love, and well-being.” (Gratitude As a Saving Principle, Ensign, May 1990, p. 86)|
Many times we fail to recognize our abundant blessings. More importantly, some expressions of gratitude fall short of the Lord’s expectations. These words are recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 59:21, “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.” Gratitude has many faces and takes on many forms. Failure to recognize the Lord for all we have will soon result in selfish behavior.
The Savior, though always the giver, was seldom the receiver of gratitude. We find an example of this in Luke 17:12-17:
|And as he [Christ] entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: and they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. 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 on his face 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?|
Contemplating the Savior’s question “But where are the nine?” gives cause for deep reflection. As we contemplate the Savior’s question, we learn that gratitude begins with having the right attitude, and both joy and happiness are born of gratitude. In fact, the depth and the willingness with which we serve is a direct reflection of our gratitude. President David O. McKay, the 9th President of The Church of Jesus Christ, taught, “Thankfulness is measured by the number of words; gratitude is measured by the nature of our actions.” (CR, October 1955, p.4)
The late James E. Talmage, author of the classic work Jesus the Christ, and who served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ from 1911 until his death in July 1933, taught,
The Lord has made it abundantly clear that gratitude is an attribute He commands of all who would find favor in His sight. In Doctrine and Covenants 59: 5-7 we read:
|Wherefore, I give unto them a commandment, saying thus: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, mind, and strength; and in the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt serve him. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Thou shalt not steal; neither commit adultery, nor kill, nor do anything like unto it. Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things.|
The Psalmist declared in Psalm 30:12, “To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.” In Psalm 35:18 he declares, “I will give thee thanks in the great congregation: I will praise thee among much people.” And in Psalm 119:62 the Psalmist declared, “At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee because of thy righteous judgments.”
If I were to ask you to define the word gratitude, each of you could probably give me a definition that best describes what being grateful means to you. That definition might include some of the things that you are most grateful for – for health and strength, for your employment, for family, for friends, for the Church – and the list could go on.
At this particular season in my life I am eternally grateful for the love, support, courage and strength of family. As some of you may already know, my father was reported missing this past Monday morning. His vehicle was found at about 4:00pm and at about 6:30pm I received a telephone call that my father had been found dead. I am thankful for a family that has been there from the start to provide all of the love and support that they knew how to give. But, more importantly I am thankful for the mighty prayers that have gone forth and continue to go forth. I am also thankful that in spite of the situation, we were still able to gather as a family on Thanksgiving Day and celebrate thanksgiving with our grandmother who has just turned 83 years of age. We gathered not so much to mourn our loss, but to celebrate the life that was lived. I am also truly grateful for a dear Bishop that was at the funeral yesterday afternoon to support me. We all have things for which we are grateful and how we express that gratitude may be different for each one of us.
The late Marion G. Romney who served as a member of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ, defined gratitude as follows:
We best show our gratitude for the things that the Lord has done for us and continues to do for us through our acts of thanksgiving such as – giving service to help others in need, magnifying our church callings, being obedient to the doctrines of the Gospel, and helping to strengthen families.
We have so much to be thankful for, and because we have so much to be thankful for, we should make every day of our lives a day of Thanks Giving, living our lives with an attitude of gratitude not ingratitude. Let us resolve to do as someone has wisely counseled:
Count our blessings instead of our crosses;
Count our gains instead of our losses.
Count our joys instead of our woes;
Count our friends instead of our foes.
Count our smiles instead of our tears;
Count our courage instead of our fears.
Count our full years instead of our lean;
Count our kind deeds instead of our mean.
Count our health instead of our wealth;
Count on God instead of ourselves.
Little or much is not the defining factor of life. It is “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.” (2 Corinthians 3:5). Therefore, we are commanded “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Joseph F. Smith, the 6th President of The Church of Jesus Christ, taught,
May we always take time to reflect upon the many blessings that our Heavenly Father has bestowed upon us. May we echo in our hearts, the words of the Psalmist when he declared, “So we thy people and the sheep of thy pasture will give thee thanks for ever: we will show forth thy praise to all generations” (Psalm 79:13). This is my humble, sincere heartfelt prayer this day. In the sacred name of Him who is worthy of all praise, and all thanks giving, even the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
- Thanksgiving and Gratitude … Today and Everyday (upliftandinspire.wordpress.com)
- A Call For Gratitude (jusbright.wordpress.com)
- Gratitude. (katiekutcher.com)
- Reflections on Gratitude (mormonwiki.com)