I had an interesting conversation with a friend this past week that sparked some study in the scriptures and some deep thinking about gratitude. He said, “gratitude is the law of preservation.”
Whenever someone uses the word law in a gospel context, my mind always reverts to these verses of scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants:
20. There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
21. And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.
Is it possible that being grateful for something preserves it? Is the opposite true that ingratitude is the thing that brings something to ruin?
Eternal laws are established for a reason. It’s not to control us or do some kind of Pavlovian behavioral science on us. It’s to teach us how eternal attributes operate in our lives.
As eternal and infinite beings, we are having a telestial moment, cocooned in a body veil that blocks our direct access to the spiritual realm. We have forgotten everything due to this separation wall that we willingly entered into. Laws of God are designed to take us step by step through a process of thinning this veil until we reconcile to God through the atonement of Jesus Christ and are again brought into his presence.
The scriptures are full of laws and blessings with one obvious one in Doctrine & Covenants 89 on laws and blessings of health.
King Benjamin outlined some principles of laws and blessings in one of the greatest sermons in the Book of Mormon.
22. And behold, all that [God] 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.
23. And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.
24. And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?
Every law of God that is obeyed, generates a blessing. Those blessings are both immediate, and extended.
The immediate blessing is a confirmation by the Spirit that we have followed an eternal law. It comes in the form of peace and gratitude inside of us.
The longer term blessings that come are a change of nature, spiritual endowments of power, and eternal life and exaltation.
These blessings teach us that submission to God is not captivation, but the ultimate liberty, freedom, and power to act as God does. Laws and blessings are the irrevocable laws of heaven by which God trains us to become like him by learning to understand the limitations and bounds by which He Himself lives. When we live those laws, it is his great pleasure to bless us. He is eager to do so and bestow on us everything we righteously seek and ask for. Asking is another law of heaven…
If you’ve ever heard of “law of attraction” type books or movies, you may be aware that a component of these things is to express gratitude or even create a gratitude journal. Why is that? Depending on the source, they will explain it as God (or the universe for secularists), responds to the vibration gratitude generates by rewarding it with more of what you are grateful for. They’ll even encourage having the feelings of gratitude BEFORE the blessing has arrived in order to generate the frequency of gratitude necessary to receive that blessing.
My own opinion is there is something to this. We receive what we desire (another law) and if we spiritually create those things in our mind and feel the gratitude for them as we seek inspiration on creating them, why would that not generate the guidance that will be helpful in physically manifesting those spiritual creations?
President Thomas S. Monson coined the phrase (or at least made it more well known) to have an “attitude of gratitude.”
In the scriptures, the Lord declared:
7. I, the Lord, am willing, if any among you desire to ride upon horses, or upon mules, or in chariots, he shall receive this blessing, if he receive it from the hand of the Lord, with a thankful heart in all things.
He is essentially stating if you desire this thing, you will receive it through gratitude for the things you have. It’s an expansionist concept. Gratitude for what we have (“all things”) brings about more things that can be a blessing to us. It’s a matter of determining what is both expedient and desirous, explaining to the Lord why it’s needful, and being grateful he would bring that into our lives.
So what else do the scriptures say about gratitude?
Well, going to the topical guide reveals the subject of gratitude has ZERO scriptural references. That was surprising but a search of the scriptures reveals the word isn’t used in the scriptures except as a shorter version. The words “gratify” and “gratified” both appear once. One in a positive use and the other negative.
The words that are linked to in the topical guide from “gratitude” are “ingratitude” and “thanksgiving.”
The topic of ingratitude shows 21 verses and thanksgiving 24 verses, but interestingly, thanksgiving also has a length “see also” list including praise, prayer, rejoice, thankful, and thanks.
These verses display the forgetfulness of blessings and consequent pride of the people, and the blessings . They get blessed and forget the Lord and he can’t preserve them. In Doctrine & Covenants 59:21 we read:
21. 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.
We are to obey God and acknowledge that everything we have is a blessing from him.
Paul lumped ingratitude in with pretty serious sins of people that are completely self-centered.
2 Timothy 3:2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,…
Jesus was certainly not self-centered, and expressed gratitude to his Heavenly Father.
John 11:41 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.
Are we grateful to the Jews for preserving the Bible? (2 Nephi 29:4)
Are we grateful for lungs that work and air to breathe? (Mosiah 2:21)
Are we grateful for the day to day money we are given by God? (Malachi 3:8)
Are we grateful for the mercy God shows us in forgiving us of our sins? (Alma 38:14)
Are we thankful our clothing doesn’t wear out? (Deut. 8:4)
Are we thankful for the gospel and those that brought it to us? (Alma 24:7)
Are we thankful the Lord leads us across troubled waters to our own promised lands? (Ether 6:9)
And a million other things, some of which are in the scriptures. Would we like to preserve what we have? Be grateful for everything and the Lord is bound to bless us.
Doctrine and Covenants 59:7 Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things.
This week, open a text file on your computer and keep a gratitude journal. Without repeating yourself, each morning or night, or both, write “today I’m grateful for” and then for 2-3 minutes write down what comes to mind. Stretch yourself. Start looking around at people and things. Look inwardly at what you are and feel the love and gratitude. If you feel grateful to someone else, send them a note thanking them. See how you feel after 7 days and what changes you experience. Then if you’re grateful for the experience, come back here and share a comment on what happened to you during this experiment. Maybe you won’t want to stop doing it…
(Featured image by tomertu at 123rf.com)
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