by Kathy Penrod
I believe that most people are mostly thankful for most things. But the Lord asks us to be thankful in all things. Elder James E. Faust taught that gratitude is “more than a social courtesy; it is a binding commandment” (April 1990, General Conference) We are commanded to “Thank the Lord in ALL things” D& C 59:7.
But why? Why is it so important to be grateful? To thank the Lord in ALL things?
A story is told in the Book of Mormon of a people who had to trust the Lord to see beyond their current circumstances. Many times, I have heard this story - of the Brother of Jared. But there are a few verses in the chapters of Ether that I have stood out to me more clearly than ever.
In chapter 2 of Ether, the Lord forewarns the Brother of Jared about their upcoming journey. He says… I will bring you up again out of the depths of the sea; for the winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and also the rains and the floods have I sent forth.
And behold, I prepare you against these things; for ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds which have gone forth, and the floods which shall come.
And the Lord, as usual kept his word. We are told in Chapter 6 that the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters; and thus they were driven forth before the wind.
These people were in small barges, with a great amount of livestock, little ventilation and lots of family. Now, I have been in confined, smelly spaces with family before and I know my first thought wouldn’t be to be thankful – and probably not even to be pleasant.
But, as we read on, they did sing praises unto the Lord; yea, the brother of Jared did sing praises unto the Lord, and he did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord.
The story continues to tell us that they were driven forth; and no monster of the sea could break them, neither whale that could mar them; and they did have light continually, whether it was above the water or under the water.
I love the scriptures! I love the lessons that a person can learn from them. Each person who reads with a sincere heart can gain insight to whatever situation they are presented with. And for me, I have learned a great deal about gratitude from these few verses.
If we use the terms wind, rain, waves, etc., as synonyms for trials, tribulations and challenges in our own lives, we find an important lesson.
The Lord has promised He would bring us above our trials. He will prepare us for them, not giving us anything we can’t handle. The trials will come and we will be driven forth by those trials. Like the wind that challenged our friends in the book of Ether and drove them to the promised land, our trials can shape us and guide us back to our Heavenly Father. And, if we, like the Brother of Jared offer up prayers of thanksgiving continually, even for those things we do not understand, then there will be, like the people in the barges, no trial that can break us and we will have light, or the spirit of God, with us continually with and without trials.
For me, this story is much more than an account of a family on a field trip. It offers a formula to withstand the storms that life may present to us.
President Thomas S Monson admonishes us to “Think to thank. In these three words is the finest capsule course for a happy marriage, a formula for enduring friendship, and a pattern for personal happiness” (Pathways to Perfection , 254).
Through gratitude, we humbly acknowledge our complete dependence on the Lord. We recognize His tender hand in our lives. We are aware that the very breath we take is lent to us by a gracious God. Through gratitude we invite the Spirit of the Lord to dwell with us. Through gratitude we are able to have God's light with us always. We gain peace and quite possibly, as time goes on, understanding.
We can not understand what the Lord has in store for us. We only need to understand that He has prepared many blessings for us and He will lead us along. If we receive all things – not just the good stuff – with thankfulness, we shall be made glorious. (see D&C 78:17-18)
It all comes down to gratitude.