Since our need for nourishment is constant, our gratitude for daily bread should also be constant.
In the Lord’s Prayer we are taught, "Give us this day our daily bread" (Matthew 6:11). Our petition for bread is a request for nourishment, both physically and spiritually. For Christians, such a petition reminds us that Jesus is the bread of life.
Of daily bread, Elder James E. Talmage, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, wrote, "Israel in the desert received manna as a daily suppl, and were kept in mind of their reliance upon him who gave. The man with much finds it easier to forget his dependence than he who must ask with each succeeding day of need" (James. E. Talmage, "Jesus the Christ," Deseret Book).
Regardless of our individual circumstance, all will experience the day of need.
The camp of ingratitude
For the spiritually forgetful, gratitude neglected is like a barnacle clinging to a ship’s hull. Without regular attention, neither barnacles nor ingratitude yield easily to cleansing. If ignored altogether, the canker of ingratitude leads to the darkened, "foolish heart" (Romans 3:21).
When I was 8 years old, my mother toiled long hours as a waitress. She had scraped together enough money to send me to summer camp for a week. Sponsored by the YMCA, Camp Bluff Lake taught me Christian values in the pristine mountains high above the smog and clamor of Los Angeles.
In the dining hall on the final day of camp, our lunch was bread and water. The camp director explained we would forgo our hot meal and donate its cost to feed the needy. I was the only camper who complained. Grumbling loudly as our plates were stacked for cleaning, my belly was empty and my heart brimming with the selfishness of ingratitude.
Then the camp director asked us to bow our heads in prayer to remember the poor. After a heartfelt prayer, he also thanked Heavenly Father for "the wonderful fried chicken and mashed potatoes we are about to receive."
When the hot lunch suddenly appeared from the kitchen, I wanted to slither under the table. The scowls from my fellow campers are indelibly etched in my mind. Sometimes our painfully public moments yield rich lessons in humility and honest self-assessment.
The gift of gratitude
Whether ingratitude takes us far from God or distantly from our own potential, gratitude can turn our hearts toward heaven. Nourished with charity grown in the garden of gratitude, we can shoulder the burdens of others and bear our own with greater ease.
President James E. Faust, former counselor in the First Presidency, has said, "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" (President James E. Faust, "Gratitude As A Saving Principle," Ensign, Dec. 1996).
The Lord commanded, "Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all thy doings ... 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" (Doctrine and Covenants 59:7,21).
As with all commandments, gratitude is a description of a successful mode of living.
May we acknowledge our manna from heaven with a grateful heart. As we do, our daily bread will be sweet to the taste. Our trials will be swallowed up in the lessons learned and our ability to nurture the less fortunate will increase as we develop the charitable heart.
Such is the daily bread and eternal fruit of gratitude.
William Monahan graduated from BYU law school. An Air Force veteran and former Phoenix stake president, he teaches law and serves as a high councilor for Queen Creek Arizona Chandler Heights Stake. Monahan begins service in July 2012 as a mission president.