Sunday, November 23, 2014

Gratitude


Good afternoon, brothers and sisters. I am so grateful to speak to you today. With Thanksgiving coming up this week, it is only fitting for me to speak on gratitude. I can still remember a lesson I had in Young Womens when I was probably about 14 years old. The teacher asked us each to write down a list of every single thing we were grateful for. I was quite proud of myself for coming up with such a long list in just a few minutes. Then she had us go back and put a check mark next to all of the blessings we had thanked our Heavenly Father for in prayer recently. I was pretty disappointed in myself when I realized that I had very few check marks on my paper. While I was grateful for many things, I had neglected to actually give thanks for the blessings I had been given. That day I learned about the important difference between gratitude and thanksgiving. If we want to follow the example of our Savior Jesus Chris, we must not only have gratitude in our hearts, but we must give thanks for all that we have been given.
But why is this so important to God? Why does He want us to be thankful? I’m sure that there are lots of reasons, but I came up with 3.
First, we know that He wants us to be happy. I know for myself, I am definitely happier when I am grateful for what I have been given and when I express that gratitude.
Second, our Heavenly Father wants to bless us. We read in Doctrine and Covenants 59:7 “Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things.” This is a commandment. Just like any other commandment, when we obey, it gives our Heavenly Father an opportunity to bless us even more abundantly. If we choose not to be grateful for that which we already have, Heavenly Father is not very likely to give us even more.
The third reason I believe that we are commanded to express thanks to our Heavenly Father is that it helps us avoid pride. Gratitude gives us the perspective that we need to remember that all that we have is not really ours. If we are constantly giving thanks for all that we have, we will be much less inclined to become prideful about what we have been given. King Benjamin is a perfect example. In Mosiah chapter 2, we read how he teaches his people to give thanks and serve God with their whole souls.
“And behold also, if I, whom ye call your king, who has spent his days in your service, and yet has been in the service of God, do merit any thanks from you, O how you ought to thank your heavenly King!

I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—

 I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.”


Now it seems a little bit troubling that even if we do our very best, we will be unprofitable servants. But it is helpful to remember that a profit is not what Christ is looking for. He doesn’t need a profit. If we continue reading in verse 22, we learn what He really wants from us.

“And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.”

What He requires is really quite simple: to keep His commandments.
So understanding the need for gratitude is one thing, but how do we actually do it? I’d like to share a few ideas that have helped me recently.
The first is quite simple but actually really hard: don’t complain. Ever. You can decide today that you are going to be a person that doesn’t complain. It’s completely possible. I started my mission with the goal to never complain and I am so grateful that I did. At first it was really hard, I would complain in my mind sometimes, but I didn’t allow myself to say it out loud. Eventually the negative thoughts just stopped coming altogether and I have become happier than I have ever been. It takes a lot of self-discipline, and definitely some trial and error, but I promise you it is a habit worth developing. During a hard part of my mission, my brother sent me a note. It had a quote from Elder Holland that I just love. It says “No problem is so big that complaining about it won’t make it worse.” Underneath the quote it simply said “Summer in Ukraine! Suck it up.” As soon as I read that, I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and just be happy. And you know what, it actually worked. So that is my second piece of advice, just choose to be happy. Count your blessings. Look on the bright side of things. Find opportunities to serve. Read your scriptures. Listen to uplifting music. Talk to family members or friends. There are a million things that we can do to raise our spirits. We know what they are but sometimes I feel like we get so caught up in life that we don’t take the time to take care of ourselves. Gratitude and happiness are interesting because they feed into each other. The happier you are, the easier it is to be grateful and give thanks. The more grateful you are, the easier it is to be happy.
My third piece of advice is to not get caught up in fairness. I remember as a kid countless times complaining to my mom “but it’s not fair!!!!” She would always respond the same way, “Life isn’t fair, Katie.” That always upset me. It’s not fair that there are bad people who live happy lives and very good people who live sad lives. It’s not fair when cancer strikes or when jobs are lost or when war breaks out. The fact of the matter is that while this life may not be perfectly fair, the next one will be. We have to trust in the promises we have been given and believe in our Savior. When life’s challenges seem too much to bear, I cling on to one sentence from Preach My Gospel that says “All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.” Try not to worry about what’s not fair right now. I know it’s hard. But the more you strengthen your faith in your Savior, the more you will be able to rely on this promise. I can bear testimony that He is the only way that all the wrongs of the world can be made right. If we believe in Him, we will have the strength to be grateful in times of unfairness.
Going along with that, my last piece of advice is to rely on the Savior. Developing gratitude is really about changing hearts. The natural man is not a grateful person. The only way that we can overcome that is with the Savior’s help. In Ezekiel there is a beautiful promise in chapter 11, verses 19 and 20. This is a promise for all of us.

“And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:

That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.”

With the Savior’s help, we can have new hearts. We can become exactly who He wants us to be.
I remember last year around thanksgiving I found a scripture that really struck me. It is in Doctrine and Covenants section 78, verses 18 and 19.
 “And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours.

 And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.”

I love the line that “he who receives all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious.” It’s so true. When I think about the most wonderful people I know, you know those people who you just like to be around, they live their lives with a grateful attitude. There is something special about people who choose to be grateful. As I have studied and thought about gratitude this week, I have come to realize that it’s all about 2 things: attitude and perspective.
Like everything else in this life, gratitude is a choice. And it’s one we have to make pretty much every day. Once my friend told me once that life is just a pile of good things and a pile of bad things. Some days it might seem like the good pile is really really small and the bad pile is really really big, but that good pile is always there. And when we choose to focus on the good, we will be not only happier, but more prepared to overcome the bad.
Now each of us has a different looking good pile, but I know that we all have a Savior. He is our foundation. We can always be grateful for Him and His sacrifice. I remember a time when I did not feel very grateful for anything. I was going through the hardest trial I had ever faced and I knew that this trial came at no fault of my own: it was just something that had happened. It all just seemed so unfair and honestly, I was sick of people telling me to “stay positive” and “look on the bright side.” I was convinced that in this case, there was no bright side. Right in the middle of this trial was general conference, and there was a particular talk that I am positive was given for me. Most of you probably remember it, it was from President Uchtdorf and it is titled “Grateful in any Circumstances.” What I loved about this talk is that President Uchtdorf didn’t demand that I be grateful for my trial, He explained that we can be grateful during our trials.
Once a trial is over and we have some time to heal and little bit of perspective, we can be grateful for our trials. We can look back and see how they have strengthened us and prepared us for the future. But right in the middle of a trial it’s pretty difficult to be grateful for the trial itself, but we can be grateful for other things. I remember as I was watching this talk, my companion slipped a note to me that said “We don’t have to be grateful that this is happening to us. We just have to be grateful that we have a Savior.” Suddenly it became clear and I thought to myself, “okay, I can do that. I am grateful for my Savior. I will always be grateful for Him. If that is enough for a first step, I can do that.” And slowly things started to get easier. President Uchtdorf stated, “When we are grateful to God in our circumstances, we can experience gentle peace in the midst of tribulation. In grief, we can still lift up our hearts in praise. In pain, we can glory in Christ’s Atonement. In the cold of bitter sorrow, we can experience the closeness and warmth of heaven’s embrace.” I know that this is true, because it was my own personal experience. In times of trial, the best thing that we can do is rely on prayer. Talk to your Heavenly Father, be completely open and honest with Him, and never stop giving thanks for the blessings that you do have.
            I want to close with a story from the scriptures. There is a great example of the blessings that come from gratitude in the New Testament. It is a story I’m sure we are all familiar with: the story of the 10 lepers. I have always been intrigued by this story. As we know, 10 men exercised faith and received a miracle, but only 1 chose to stop and give thanks for the blessing he received. All 10 of these men must have been righteous if they had sufficient faith to be healed. And all 10 of them received the same blessing, so what was the grateful man’s reward? How was his experience different from that of the nine?

“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?

 There are 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.”

The answer is pretty simple: he had a personal experience with the Savior. Choosing to not only feel gratitude, but to express it is one of the most powerful ways to draw closer to our Savior. President Monson said: “Sincerely giving thanks not only helps us recognize our blessings, but it also unlocks the doors of heaven and helps us feel God’s love...My brothers and sisters, to express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven.”
            I have a testimony that expressing gratitude is one of the greatest ways we can show our love to our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Even if we can only find it within ourselves to be a tiny bit grateful, they will rejoice. I know that life can be hard and discouraging at times, but when we choose to rely on our Savior, we can have the strength to keep a grateful attitude in our hearts always. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

The Principle of Invitation


Good morning, brothers and sisters. My name is Katie Schrecengost and I have recently returned home from serving a mission. I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to you today. I was very excited when I heard that my topic was going to be the principle of invitation, because that is basically what you do all day every day as a missionary.
            The very first thing that they teach you in the MTC is your missionary purpose. It is “to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel, through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.” I remember that our teacher taught us took look at the verbs in that sentence. The verbs that apply to missionaries are “to invite” and “to help.” The verbs that apply to the people being taught by the missionaries are “to come” and to “receive.” Now we know that every member is a missionary, so this is not just a purpose for the missionaries to learn and internalize, it is for all of us. We all need to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel.  Today I would like to focus on inviting.
            One reason that we know invitation is so important is because it is what the Savior did throughout His entire ministry. The scriptures are full of accounts of Christ inviting others, whether it was inviting others to believe on His words, to follow Him, to repent, or to be healed, it was always an invitation. He never forced or pressured anyone to do anything. In Matthew 11: 28-30, Christ offers the most beautiful invitation.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

This is the invitation that the missionaries extend around the world. And this is the invitation that we can share with our family and friends. In my experience, the more that I accept this invitation and rely on the Savior to ease my burdens, the stronger my own desire is to share the gospel and this wonderful gift that is offered to us. When I think about how much my Savior has done for me, it breaks my heart to know that there are people out there who don’t know Him. Who haven’t recognized His love and help in their lives. 

In 2 Nephi 26:33, we read,

“…And he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”

We know that Christ atoned for everyone, and therefore, this message of the gospel is intended for every human soul, but sometimes, inviting people to learn more can be scary.  It is titled, That We May Rejoice Together. It tells the story of two sister missionaries who were brand new to an area and were basically starting from scratch. They were really excited to go out and work, so they worked really hard and found 40 people to teach! That’s amazing. But, they soon realized that out of those 40 people, none of them were prepared to progress, or to change in order to grow closer to Christ. They eventually had to stop meeting with all 40 people and were right back where they started. They realized that they must be doing something wrong, and one day while studying together they came across John 4:35-37.

“Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.

And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.

And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.”


They realized that in missionary work, there are actually two jobs. The sowers and the reapers. We, as members, are the sowers. We are out building relationships with people, inviting them to things, being their friends, and the missionaries are the reapers. They are the ones who teach the gospel. So these two sister missionaries decided to teach the members in their ward short lessons from Preach My Gospel about how to do missionary work. As they began to work with the members, they saw many miracles.
When I was serving in Mesa, Arizona, my companion and I read this article, and decided to follow the example of these sisters. We made up a series of short lessons to teach to the members to help them with their own missionary work. We first shared this article with them and explained that their most important job is to “invite.” If you want to help the missionaries, the best thing that you can do is simply invite. And there are lots of things that you can invite your friends to. It doesn’t have to be a sit-down lesson with the missionaries, it can be to mutual or family home evening, or even just dinner at your home. When the members and missionaries truly work together, that is when miracles occur. And, like the title of the article, that is when we all will rejoice together. We promised the members that we would see miracles in the ward if they would do their part and invite. The very week that we started teaching these lessons to the members we had 3 new investigators, all who were invited by their friends to meet with the missionaries!  I can testify of the miracles and joy that missionary work brings. There is no greater feeling than helping a soul come unto Christ. It is both our privilege and responsibility to do so.
Sometimes, however, we let our concerns hold us back from doing missionary work. I’d like to quickly go over a few things that sometimes stop us from doing missionary work.
            The first thing that can hold us back from doing missionary work is simply not knowing how. Have you ever had a friend and you thought “oh she’s such a good person, the gospel we be so great for her” but you had absolutely no idea how to bring it up? I have two suggestions for you, first I will quote a title from a talk given by Elder Nelson, “Ask the Missionaries, They Can Help!” The full-time missionaries in your ward have been specially trained to teach you a lesson about inviting your friends to learn more about the gospel. I can promise that there’s nothing they would love more than to help you share the gospel with your friends. My second suggestion is to read Preach My Gospel. It is an amazing resource that our church leaders have encouraged us to study daily along with our scriptures. I have seen a power and spirit come into the lives of members who study Preach My Gospel.
            The second concern that we often have about missionary work is that I have no time. I know that we are all busy. It’s a valid concern, but we don’t need to schedule a 3-hour block of time each week to go and knock doors. The majority of missionary work that we do is during our daily activities. It is in the grocery stores and at band practice and in our neighborhoods that we will find opportunities to invite, if we are truly seeking them.
            A third concern is a fear of rejection. This is very understandable. No one likes being rejected. And if you want to do missionary work, you are going to be rejected a time or two, that’s just the way it is. But, I have always found comfort in John chapter 15:18-21, where the Savior explains to His apostles that He has been rejected and persecuted as well.

 “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.

 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.

 But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.”

While rejection isn’t fun, you can learn to not take it personally. It is hard when something so important to you doesn’t turn out to be very important to someone else. But we have to remember that all we can do is invite, and the rest is out of our control. When we know that we have done our part, we can have inner peace and feel good about ourselves, regardless of the outcome. My absolute favorite section of Preach My Gospel is titled “No Effort is Wasted.” In that section we read, “When people do not accept the gospel, do not be discouraged…Disciples of Christ feel sorrow when people choose not to repent, but they maintain a vision of who they are and what they are doing. They continue to diligently move forward.” In chapter 1 of preach my gospel, it also says “When you have done your very best, you may still experience disappointments, but you will not be disappointed in yourself. You can feel certain that the Lord is pleased when you feel the Spirit working through you.” I can strongly testify of this principle. I have been rejected countless times, but I can promise you that in missionary work, the positive always outweighs the negative. The blessings always outweigh the sacrifice, and the joy always outweighs the sorrow.
            The last concern I want to address is not wanting to offend others. I once saw a bishop come in to teach sharing time in primary. He sat down in front of all of the kids and said “I’m so happy to be here with you today, there’s just something I need to do first before we start.” He then pulled out a big package of chips ahoy cookies and started to eat a cookie. He commented on how delicious the cookie was and decided that he would eat another. At first, the kids were amused, but they became quickly upset that the Bishop wasn’t sharing his cookies with them. Eventually he stopped and said, “oh, I’m sorry! Did you want a cookie?” The kids all answered “yes! Of course!” He said, “Oh, I thought it might be awkward if I offered these cookies to you. I didn’t know if you would want any, and I didn’t want to offend you by offering. Would you be offended if I offered you a cookie?” The kids said “No! That’s silly!” This bishop then went on to explain that even though we love the gospel as much as that chips ahoy cookie, we are afraid to offer it to our friends, because we don’t want to upset them. The truth is, if our motivating factor is love, we will never offend someone by extending an invitation. Even if the person rejects the invitation, they will know that you invited them out of love, and they will be grateful.
            I can testify that love is the most powerful motivator there is. On my mission I used to try to imagine the people as members of my family. If I loved the woman walking down the street as much as I love my little sister, how willing would I be to share the gospel with her? That kind of love doesn’t always come right away, especially for strangers. But it can come, with God’s help. I know that our Heavenly Father can and will help us to love those around us if we truly desire it. And I testify that the best way to increase your desire to do missionary work is to increase your love for those around you.
            I would like to close with a story that illustrate how a simple invitation can change a person’s life. This story is about a woman named Melody. One day my companion and I knocked on Melody’s door. It was a door that we had knocked on many times and had never received an answer. We knew that Melody was a member of the church and that she had not been to church for quite some time. Well, on this particular day she answered the door and was surprisingly very kind and invited us to come back and see her the next day. So the next day we returned and taught her a lesson about prayer. The lesson was nothing extraordinary, but the Spirit was there, and I believe that she felt God’s love for her through us, and her heart was softened. We invited her to come to church that Sunday. She began to cry and she explained to us that she knew the church was true and that she needed to come back to church but that she was afraid. She didn’t know anyone in the ward and she was afraid to go alone. Well, we promised her that she would not be alone and that would we be saving a seat for her in sacrament meeting that Sunday. To our great surprise, she came to church that Sunday, and as far as I am aware, she has come to church every Sunday since that day. She has accepted a calling and is preparing to go back to the temple. All because of a simple invitation.