The inspired messages of truth, hope and love delivered during general conference turned thoughts "to Him who atoned for our sins, who showed us the way to live and how to pray, and who demonstrated by His own actions the blessings of service — even our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
So proclaimed President Thomas S. Monson in his conference address on Sunday morning.
The Church leader quoted from the 11th chapter of Luke, wherein is the account of the Savior healing ten men who had leprosy. They all rejoiced, yet only one "turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God." The grateful man fell down at the Savior's feet and thanked Him.
"'And Jesus answering said: 'Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?
"'There is 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 11:11-19).
"Through divine intervention, those who were lepers were spared from a cruel, lingering death and given a new lease on life," President Monson said. "The expressed gratitude by one merited the Master's blessing, the ingratitude shown by the nine His disappointment.
"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 also unlocks the doors of heaven and helps us feel God's love."
Quoting from the book of Matthew, President Monson spoke of the compassion the Savior had for the 4,000 people who followed and traveled with Him. Jesus blessed seven loaves and three fishes, and a miracle followed: "And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full" (see Matthew 15: 32-37).
President Monson observed, "We have all experienced times when our focus is on what we lack, rather than our blessings. Said the Greek philosopher Epictetus, 'He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.'
"Gratitude is a divine principle. The Lord declared, through a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith, 'Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things….
"'And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things'" (Doctrine and Covenants 59:7, 21).
President Monson said that regardless of circumstances, each person has much for which to be grateful "if we will but pause and contemplate our blessings."
He declared that this is a wonderful time to be on earth. "While there is much that is wrong in the world today, there are many things that are right and good. There are marriages that make it, parents who love their children and sacrifice for them, friends who care about us and help us, teachers who teach. Our lives are blessed in countless ways.
"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 it place among the noblest of virtues. Someone has said that gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others."
President Monson asked, "Do material possessions make us happy and grateful?" He answered, "Perhaps momentarily. However, those things which provide deep and lasting happiness and gratitude are the things which money cannot buy: our families, the gospel, good friends, our health, our abilities, the love we receive from those around us. Unfortunately, those are some of the things we allow ourselves to take for granted…. We often take for granted the very people who most deserve our gratitude. Let us not wait until it is too late for us to express that gratitude."
He said that a grateful heart comes through expressing gratitude to Heavenly Father for His blessings and "to those around us for all that they bring into our lives."
When individuals encounter challenges and problems, it is often difficult to focus on blessings, President Monson noted. "However, if we reach deep enough and look hard enough, we will be able to feel and recognize just how much we have been given."
President Monson shared the account written from 50 years ago by Gordon Green about how his father, on Thanksgiving Day, took his children who had worked all year on their farm to the cellar to look at all they had stored, and to the barn to figure how many tons of hay and to the granary see how many bushels of grain they had stored. They counted the livestock. The father wanted his children to see where they stood and to realize how richly God had blessed them and smiled upon their hours of work.
The Thanksgiving that Gordon remembered most, however, was in the year when rains ruined their crops and much of the livestock had to be sold at lower costs. Their Thanksgiving meal consisted of a rabbit and some turnips, which the children refused to eat. The family's home had been hooked up with electricity just that year. The father turned off the electric lights and brought out an oil lamp they once used. When there was only the lamp again, they could hardly believe that it had been that dark before. The food was blessed and everyone ate. When dinner was over, they all sat quietly.
President Monson said, "Gordon wrote, 'In the humble dimness of that old lamp we were to see clearly again. It was a lovely meal. The jack rabbit tasted like turkey, an the turnips were the mildest we could recall…. Our home, for all its want, was so rich to us'" (Green, Gordon, Reader's Digest, November 1956).
President Monson declared, "To express gratitude is gracious and honorable; to enact gratitude is generous and noble; but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is a touch of heaven…. [It] is my prayer that in addition to all else for which we are grateful, we may ever reflect our gratitude for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ."
He said the gospel of Jesus Christ brings to those who live in darkness the light of divine truth.
"He taught us how to pray. He taught us how to live. He taught us how to die. His life is a legacy of love. The sick He healed; the downtrodden He lifted; the sinner He saved.
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"Ultimately, He stood alone. Some Apostles doubted; one betrayed Him. The Roman soldiers pierced His side. The angry mob took His life. There yet rings from Golgotha's hill His compassionate words, 'Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do' (Luke 23:24).
"Who was this Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief? Who is this King of glory, this Lord of lords? He is our Master. He is our Savior. He is the Son of God. He is the author of our salvation. He beckons, 'Follow me' (Matthew 4:19). He instructs, 'Go and do thou likewise' (Luke 10:37). He pleads, 'Keep my commandments' (John 14:15).
"Let us follow Him. Let us emulate His example. Let us obey His words. By so doing, we give to Him the divine gift of gratitude."
— Gerry Avant