Brothers and sisters, aloha!
This Thursday is Thanksgiving, an annual holiday in the United States and many other countries. Traditionally, Thanksgiving celebrates the harvest season and blessings received throughout the year. Most important for you students, there aren’t classes this Thursday or Friday. You’re thankful for that, I’m sure.
This 1941 painting by American artist Norman Rockwell, titled “Freedom from Want,” idealizes the typical American Thanksgiving.
It also obviously foreshadowed the trend of the selfie shot at family dinner, if you notice the guy in the lower right-hand corner of the painting.
I have fond memories of Thanksgiving growing up in Colorado. Mom would spend many hours in the kitchen preparing a typical Thanksgiving feast of roast turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, vegetables, homemade rolls, and pumpkin pie. Dad would make his world-famous gravy, and we’d sit down together as a family to give thanks for all we had.
As great and as tasty as Thanksgiving is, just focusing on giving thanks one day a year is not ideal. My goal today is to help us develop an attitude my Mom calls ThanksLIVING.
I have prayed a lot to say what God wants me to say, and I hope you will hear what He wants you to hear.
So, just like the beginning of a Thanksgiving feast, let’s dig in!
I’ve identified three elements that lead to a ThanksLiving attitude.
The first element of ThanksLiving is to “see it.” That means we should see what we can be grateful for in our lives.
We are counseled in Psalm 46 to “Come, behold the works of the Lord,” 1 and Alma tells us, “when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God.” 2
How do we let our hearts be full of thanks unto God? How can we behold the works of the Lord?
I have three suggestions:
- Don’t take things for granted
- Watch out for ingratitude
- Tie it to heaven
1. Don’t Take Things for Granted
The English author Aldous Huxley wrote, “Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity to take things for granted.”
President Uchtdorf said, “It seems to be human nature: as we become more familiar with something, even something miraculous, we lose our sense of awe and treat it as commonplace.” 3
President Eyring said being grateful “has always been the hardest for those who are blessed abundantly.” 4
It helps to count our many blessings to remind us of what God has done. Sometimes it also helps to imagine what our lives would be like without those blessings to be able to truly appreciate them.
A modern proverb says, “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”
A Thanksgiving story about the Laie Temple helps us see it.
After the temple was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day in 1919, Saints throughout the islands would plan Thanksgiving trips to the temple each year to commemorate its opening.
Saints on Molokai sacrificed much to save money to attend the temple. All year long they would sell vegetables and fruits and hold bake sales. One family went without electricity in their home to afford the trip to Oahu so they could be sealed in the temple. 5
When the temple is nearby, it’s easy to take that opportunity for granted. We are lucky we don’t have to hold bake sales or go without electricity to be able to go to the temple. Thinking about how blessed we are to live so close to the House of the Lord helps us see God’s love for us, and it helps us to not take the temple for granted.
2. Watch Out for Ingratitude
Elder Hales defines gratitude “as a state of appreciation, an act of thanksgiving, which causes us to be humble because we recognize an act of kindness.”
Ingratitude, he says, “is the attitude of being unaware or not recognizing when someone has helped us, or, even worse, when we know we have been helped and have not given thanks privately or publicly.” 6
Even though it happened 31 years ago, I vividly recall a time on my mission when I was an insensitive, ungrateful clod. I was nursing a bad cold, and my companion and I stayed in for a couple of days while I tried to get better. The sister missionaries were the only other members in our little town in France. They were also feeling sick, but they were worried about me, and brought me some soup one cold, rainy, evening. Instead of showing thanks, I scolded them for being out in the bad weather. The poor sisters were shocked by my attitude. One of them finally said, with much exasperation, “Elder Schlag, we were trying to do something nice for you. What is your problem?” Even now, I can feel the shame I suddenly felt as I realized how rudely I was treating them, while they were just trying to render service.
I have since tried to always look out for kindness sent my way. With heavenly help, I’m developing a sensitivity to service, and an appreciation for even little gifts of graciousness.
President Uchtdorf shared a story of a woman who really wanted to be a wife and a mother:
“But it never happened. As the years went on, she became more and more withdrawn, bitter, and even angry. She could not understand why God would not grant her this righteous desire. She worked as an elementary school teacher, and being around children all day long simply reminded her of unfulfilled dreams. People didn’t like being around her and avoided her whenever they could. She even took her frustration out on the children at school. She found herself losing her temper, and she swung between fits of anger and desperate loneliness.”
Pres. Uchtdorf continues, “The tragedy of this story is that this dear woman failed to notice the blessings she did have. She did not have children in her home, but she was surrounded by them in her classroom. She was not blessed with a family, but the Lord had given her an opportunity few people have—the chance to influence for good the lives of hundreds of children.”
He says, “If we spend our days waiting for fabulous roses, we could miss the beauty and wonder of the tiny forget-me-nots that are all around us.” 7
President Monson shared the antidote to ingratitude: “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.” 8
This is my friend Vinod. He is from India and grew up very poor. He had to get a job when he was seven years old because his mother was sick. He joined the Church in 2012, and his mom was very angry that he abandoned his Hindu faith. But he found everlasting joy in the Plan of Salvation. He went on a mission. Priesthood blessings saved him from malaria. He failed the exams to get into BYU–Hawaii four times. God gave him the courage to try the fifth time. He has had trial after trial in his life. But he is grateful for trials because God always gives him enough strength to overcome them.
Vinod says, “I always find a way to show gratitude to God, because He gives more blessings than trials.” Vinod watches out for ingratitude.
3. Tie It to Heaven
Our gratitude increases when we recognize where our blessings come from. Sister Bonnie D. Parkin said, “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.” 9
These three suggestions—not taking things for granted, watching out for ingratitude, and tying our blessings to heaven—help us to see gratitude all around us.
Thanksgiving meals are often prepared with family recipes passed down through the years. Today I’ve prepared some recipes to help us remember some ThanksLiving dishes, and I’m happy to share these with you. They are tried and true. I have tested these principles, and they help me see God’s hand in my life—to help me have an attitude of gratitude.
Here’s my recipe for what to do to see gratitude in your life. I invite you to follow this recipe sometime today.
First, quickly list five things you’re grateful for.
Then, take one minute to think of something that’s not obviously a blessing at first, ponder it, and write down WHY you’re grateful for it.
Finally, take one thing on your list and tie it to heaven.
Kevin's "See It" ThanksLiving Recipe:
- Quickly list five things you're grateful for.
- Add one minute of meditation to find a non-obvious item; think of WHY you are grateful for it.
- Choose one item from list and tie it to heaven.
- Repeat daily as needed.
Let me share an example of how I followed this recipe that might help you “see it.”
I first quickly jotted down five things I’m grateful for, off the top of my head.
Next, I dug a little deeper to find something to be grateful for that isn’t immediately obvious. The Honor Code and dress and grooming standards came to mind. As I pondered, I realized I’m grateful for the Honor Code because I can instantly show I’m a person of my word. So, I added that to my list.
Then I picked one thing from my list and tied it to heaven, meaning I thought about how God’s hand is in my life.
Thinking about health reminded me of an experience last year when I had to get a CT scan for the first time. When they shot dye into my vein to help get good pictures of my brain, in an instant I became keenly aware of my circulatory system. I felt the dye move with each heartbeat from my arm into my heart, and then down my leg and up into my head, then to the other side of my body, and back again. Something that happens every second of every day of my life I had taken for granted. This led me to think of the wonder of the human body, and how delicate life is. Then I thought of the whole universe, from the tiniest veins on a baby leaf to the spidery filaments of planetary nurseries in the middle of galaxies.
When I think of God, and how He watches over each heartbeat, my attitude of gratitude increases exponentially.
As you follow this “see it” recipe over time, your attitude of gratitude will increase.
President James E. Faust said, “A grateful heart is a beginning of greatness.” 10
The second element of ThanksLiving is to say it.
It’s wonderful to see things we’re grateful for, but our attitude of gratitude becomes much greater when we say it out loud.
I’ve found two ways of saying it that help me move toward ThanksLiving:
- Say it to God
- Say it to others
The scriptures remind us of how important it is to say—or give—thanks to God:
The Psalmist sang, “O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever,” 11 and, “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord.” 12
Paul wrote, “In every thing give thanks.” 13
In the Doctrine and Covenants, we are commanded, “Ye must give thanks unto God,” [xiv] and “Praise the Lord with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving.” 14
While I was growing up, our family had a tradition for our Thanksgiving meal. When we sat down at the table, whoever was asked to pray would give a prayer full of thanks, not asking for anything at all.
Elder Bednar recommends that “periodically you and I offer a prayer in which we only give thanks and express gratitude. Ask for nothing; simply let our souls rejoice and strive to communicate appreciation with all the energy of our hearts.” 15
Sometimes my prayers feel like I’m ordering a meal through the McDonald’s drive-thru: “Please bless my family, keep me safe, and I’ll take a large order of fries.” But when I sincerely thank Him, I feel His love, and I am often prompted about new things to thank Him for. When I give a thanks-only prayer, and as my prayers become deeper in meaning, my attitude of gratitude grows.
This is my friend Aisha, from Tonga. She joined the Church when she was 13, even though her father was opposed to the idea. She worked hard in high school to show her dad how responsible she was, but he passed away before he could see her graduate with honors.
She wanted to serve a mission. That fell through.
She wanted to be sealed to her family. That fell through, too.
Even when her plans completely fall apart, Aisha has a heart of gratitude, because God has other things planned for her. He’s shaping her into what He wants. She loves giving thanks to God.
The scriptures record when the Savior gave prayers of thanks. Elder Robert D. Hales shared some powerful examples:
At the Last Supper:
“And when he had given thanks, he brake the bread, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you.” 16
“And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it.” 17
Elder Hales said, “Like the Savior, it is important for each of us to prepare ourselves to give thanks for the atoning sacrifice each week as we partake of the sacrament.”
Lazarus, Jesus’s friend, had died. Jesus asked, “Where have ye laid him?” 18
“Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.” 19
Elder Hales asks, “Might it be well for us to remember to give thanks to our Heavenly Father prior to asking for his help in solving our problems?” 20
The story of the ten lepers is instructive. All tem were miraculously healed by the Savior, and all went away rejoicing. Only one turned back and fell on his knees, thanking the Savior for blessing him and healing him. “And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?” 21
Elder Haight asks, “How would you like to be part of the ‘nine society’? Wouldn’t that be something—to be numbered among those who failed to return and acknowledge the Savior for the blessings He had given them?” 22
Say It to Others
Besides saying thanks to God, thanking those around us goes a long way toward ThanksLiving.
President Monson said, “Think to thank. ‘Thank you’ frequently expressed, will cheer your spirit, broaden your friendships, and lift your lives to a higher pathway as you journey toward perfection.” 23
Mark Twain said that he could live two months on one good compliment.
President Kauwe is very good at this. I recently worked on a project for the president. I was touched when he warmly and generously thanked me. I’ve seen him shower sincere praise upon others. It comes naturally to him. That’s a characteristic worth striving for. It’s difficult to describe the positive effects of such genuine, heartfelt praise. I can feel his gratitude for me, and it makes me want to do and to be better.
Elder Hales said, “Gratitude brings warmth to the giver and the receiver alike.” 24
Do you remember last year at this time, when President Nelson shared his prayer of gratitude with the whole world? He said: “Turn social media into your own personal gratitude journal. Post every day about what you are grateful for, whom you are grateful for, and why you are grateful. At the end of seven days, see if you feel happier and more at peace.”
That Thanksgiving week last year was wonderful. My feeds were full of thanksgiving and positivity. When I openly share my gratitude to God and to my fellow men and women, I feel better about myself and others, and I add a little bit of light to the world.
I’ve cooked up another dish to help us remember to “say it” when it comes to Thanksliving.
Kevin's "Say It" ThanksLiving Recipe:
- Sometime today, give someone a heartfelt "Mahalo."
- Tonight, give a prayer of Thanksgiving. Don't ask for anything; just give thanks.
- Let simmer; serving size as big as you want.
This recipe helps us “say it” more often.
First, sometime today, give someone a heartfelt “Mahalo.” Don’t think too much about it—just think of the first person who pops into your head, and tell them thanks for something specific.
Then tonight, I suggest that you give a prayer of Thanksgiving. Don’t ask for anything. Just say thanks to God.
The final element of ThanksLIving is to live it—to live in Thanksgiving daily, no matter what.
Elder Oaks said, “When we give thanks in all things, we see hardships and adversities in the context of the purpose of life. We are sent here to be tested. There must be opposition in all things. When we understand this principle, that God offers us opportunities for blessings, and blesses us through our own adversities and the adversities of others, we can understand why He has commanded us again and again to “thank the Lord thy God in all things.” 25
Scriptures reinforce this concept:
“[Do] ALL things with prayer and thanksgiving.” 26
“With a thankful heart in ALL things.” 27
“And he who receiveth ALL things with thankfulness shall be made glorious.” 28
“in EVERYTHING give thanks.” 29
ALL things. Good things, bad things. Little things, big things. Easy things, hard things.
My daughter Ayanna and son-in-law Jonathan had the typical BYU–Hawaii love story. She’s from Hawaii; he’s from the Philippines. They got to know each other on a concert choir trip to the South Pacific. They fell in love and prepared for their sealing date: March 28, 2020.
Then COVID-19 hit.
During that February and early March, wedding plans kept shrinking—family from the Philippines couldn’t come. Family from the Mainland couldn’t come. A reception with just 100 people. A reception with just 20 people. A drive-by reception with food. A drive-by reception with no food. Then, on March 23, just five days before their wedding date, the temple closed. As they thought about what matters most, Ayanna and Jonathan decided to get married civilly, and then get sealed as soon as the temple opened back up. So, on March 25, with just a few friends and family, they got married at a beautiful home on the North Shore.
They could have been mad about what their wedding wasn’t, but they chose to focus on what they were thankful for.
Finally, on June 30 last year, the Torios were the first couple to be sealed when the Laie Temple opened back up. Ayanna and Jonathan’s attitude reminds me that we can choose to be bitter for the circumstances we are given, or we can choose to be grateful for what we have.
This is my friend Vaishali. She is from India, and joined the Church when she was 15. After failing to get into BYU–Idaho, she decided to go on a mission. During her mission, she learned about BYU–Hawaii, and many little miracles and angels guided her to Laie. Life seemed great.
Then COVID-19 hit. She couldn’t go home, and she couldn’t stay here. Again, miracles and angels guided her to friends on the Mainland who opened their homes and hearts to her. As this fall semester approached, again her plans seemed to fall through. Again, miracles suddenly happened, and within a week she was able to come back, find a job, and get going. Vaishali has learned to let God prevail in her life, and she’s grateful for those constant reminders that it’s best when she does things His way.
She says, “I love it when Heavenly Father proves me wrong. So many times He has helped me at the last minute. I’m grateful for those times because I know He won’t let me down.” Vaishali is learning to be thankful for ALL things.
Sister Parkin asks, “When was the last time you thanked the Lord for a trial or tribulation? Adversity compels us to go to our knees; does gratitude for adversity do that as well?” 30
The past few weeks, as I’ve talked and counseled with people, I’ve been looking for gratitude in any circumstance. Here are a few examples:
I recently spoke with someone who is the only member of The Church of Jesus Christ in her family. As she patiently waits for miracles to happen, she finds it sometimes hard to participate in a Church that talks so much about eternal families. When I asked her what she does to keep her spirit strong, she told me that when she sees happy families at Church meetings, rather than feeling sorry for herself, she decides to feel grateful THEY have the chance to be sealed together. Her heart is then filled with gratitude for God and His plan of salvation. That is a powerful example of an attitude of gratitude.
A short time ago a dear friend passed away. When I went to visit his suddenly widowed wife on the most heart-breaking day of her life, through tears we quietly talked about how thankful we both were to be able to see God’s hand in so many details over the years that led up to that tender day.
I was interviewing a sister recently, who shared a time when she was mad at God for some trials she was going through. That anger turned to gratitude because her trials led her to want to attend the temple and make sacred covenants with God.
One of your fellow students shared a struggle with tithing, and how a test of faith led to a simple but needed miracle. Gratitude for financial stretching leads to lifelong commitment and windows of heaven showering down blessings.
A brother who recently confessed to something he had been hiding for quite some time was filled with gratitude, even in the depths of sorrow, for the healing power of the atoning sacrifice of our Savior. His exquisite sorrow turned into exquisite joy, and that gratitude helps him move forward. His life will never be the same.
My final recipe for ThanksLiving will help you find gratitude when things are hard. Some recipes are simple. This one is harder to follow. You have to work at it to get this dish just right. You might have to experiment now and then, and try it several times to get the results you need.
Kevin's "Live It" ThanksLiving Recipe:
- Think of a challenge in your life right now.
- Ask: How is God showing me His love?
- Thank Him for the challenge; ask Him for help.
- Let rest now and then.
- Slow cook over years for best results.
Think of a challenge in your life right now. How can you be grateful for it? What is God teaching you? How does He show He loves you even during this challenge? You might not have any idea what God is teaching you. You might feel that God abandoned you a long time ago.
I know He never leaves us. A sincere, questioning prayer can turn into a conversation. Ask Him for love and comfort. Be willing to listen. Be willing to give up what you want. It’s when we are finally ready to turn it all over to Him that the answers can come. You CAN become grateful for tribulations. As you follow this recipe, sometimes you will need to let the idea rest in your heart and mind for a while, like letting Grandma’s roll dough rise on a warm stove. Little by little, your attitude will change.
President Uchtdorf gave a talk in 2014 called, “Grateful in Any Circumstance.” I wish I could share the whole thing with you, but I’ll highlight just a few things. He said, “Those who set aside the bottle of bitterness and lift instead the goblet of gratitude can find a purifying drink of healing, peace, and understanding. Instead of being thankful for things, we can focus on being thankful in our circumstances—whatever they may be.”
President Uchtdorf continues, “The choice is ours. We can choose to limit our gratitude, based on the blessings we feel we lack. Or we can choose to be like Nephi. When his brothers tied him up on the ship, his ankles and wrists were so sore “they had swollen exceedingly,” and a violent storm threatened to sink them all. “Nevertheless,” Nephi said, “I did look unto my God, and I did praise him all the day long; and I did not murmur against the Lord because of mine afflictions.”
Last quote from President Uchtdorf’s talk: “When we are grateful to God in our circumstances, we can experience gentle peace in the midst of tribulation. We sometimes think that being grateful is what we do after our problems are solved, but how terribly shortsighted that is. How much of life do we miss by waiting to see the rainbow before thanking God that there is rain?” 31
Thanking God that there is rain reminds me of a friend who personifies ThanksLiving. Here’s one last story.
This is my friend Grif the Great.
Grif is amazing. He was a few months old when he was diagnosed with a disease that affects how his blood carries oxygen. When he was four years old, he suffered a massive five-day long stroke that affected the entire left side of his body. He lost his hearing, sight, speech, and the control of his limbs.
Grif the Great is a fighter. He worked hard the next two years to relearn how to use his body. He had some long-term effects, and he couldn’t communicate verbally very much. But he didn’t need words. Grif the Great has an innate ability to tell who is having a bad day. Seeing someone who was sad, he’d cradle their face in his hands, curl up in their lap, or put his arm around them. His smile is 1000 watts of love.
He endured many more physical trials over the next few years, including regular blood transfusions, bouts of epilepsy, and frequent hospital visits. The doctors would constantly tell the family he only had six more months to live, and they’d repeat that every six months. Through it all, Grif the Great spread love and happiness wherever he went.
This picture—one of my favorite pictures ever, which I often look at when I’m having a metaphorical rainy day—says it all. Instead of complaining about the rain, Grif the Great embraces it. He is thankful for the smell and taste of raindrops. Who cares about the rain ruining a school assembly? Rain is a good thing. Be thankful for rain. That’s Grif in a nutshell.
In March last year, a few months after his baptism, on a beautiful Spring day full of his usual happiness and love, Grif the Great suddenly fell unconscious, and never woke up again. Grif the Great’s 1000-watt smile is now lighting up heaven.
I want to live in Thanksgiving like Grif the Great.
At this season of Thanksgiving, I hope we can all strive toward ThanksLiving.
- See it. Don’t take things for granted. Watch out for ingratitude. Tie it to heaven.
- Say it. Say thanks to God and everyone else.
- Live it. Even when life gets hard, live in thanksgiving.
Following these recipes I’ve shared today guarantees joy—not instantly, but over time, as we practice, refine, and improve, adding a dash of thanks here and a pinch of gratitude there.
I close with one final example—the perfect example of ThanksLiving.
Our Savior Jesus Christ took upon Himself the hardest thing anyone could ever do by far. He didn’t want to do it, but He did.
“Which suffering 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—Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.” 32
Why did He do it? Because He loves us and wants us to be with Him.
“Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed;
“Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life.” 33
The Savior suffered tremendously for you, for me, for all of us. Imagine His joy when we repent and come unto Him. He tells missionaries, “And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!” 34
Imagine His joy because of all the souls He has saved through His love and sacrifice.
My older brother died for me. My Father wants to give me everything He has. How can I not be thankful when I think of that? Today and always, let us practice ThanksLiving to honor Jesus and His Father for all They give us.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
1. Psalm 46:8.
2. Alma 37:37.
3. Pres. Uchtdorf, Oct 2016, O How Great the Plan of Our God.
4. Pres. Eyring, “O Remember, Remember,” Oct 2007.
5. Stories of the Temple in Laie, Hawaii, Clinton D. Christensen, p. 82.
6. Robert D. Hales, “Gratitude for the Goodness of God,” April 1992.
7. Pres. Uchtdorf, “Forget Me Not,” Oct 2011.
8. Pres. Monson, “The Divine Gift of Gratitude,” Oct 2010.
9. Sister Bonnie D. Parkin, “Gratitude: A Path to Happiness,” April 2007.
10. Gordon T. Watts, “Gratitude,” Oct 1998.
11. Psalm 30:12.
12. Psalm 92:1.
13. 1 Thessalonians 5: 18.
14. D&C 46:32.
15. D&C 136:28.
16. Elder Bednar, “Pray Always,” Oct 2008.
17. 1 Cor. 11:24.
18. Mark 14:23.
19. John 11:34.
20. John 11:41.
21. Robert D. Hales, “Gratitude for the Goodness of God,” April 1992.
22. Luke 17:17.
23. Elder Haight, “Were There Not Ten Cleansed?” Oct 2002.
24. Pres. Monson, “Think to Thank,” Oct 1998.
25. Robert D. Hales, “Gratitude for the Goodness of God,” April 1992.
26. D&C 59:7. Elder Oaks, “Give Thanks in All Things,” April 2003.
27. D&C 46:7.
28. D&C 62:7.
29. D&C 78:19.
30. D&C 98:1.
31. Sister Bonnie D. Parkin, “Gratitude: A Path to Happiness,” April 2007.
32. Pres. Uchtdorf, “Grateful in Any Circumstances,” April 2014.
33. D&C 19:18-19.
34. D&C 45:3–5.
35. D&C 18:16.