Joy Is…Week 1/52

Well, I posted about my joy project last week, and I’ve made the decision that I will post one highlight from the week on the blog. I’m not doing it daily because it takes too long.

I am keeping my daily experiences in my special joy journal, but I’m only blogging this weekly.

So – for this week, I think that I’ll have to share the experience I had today.

T-Rex and Sasquatch in Primary

T-Rex and Sasquatch in Primary

In general, I find a lot of joy each week in primary. I really love my calling. However, today was extra-special. It was the T-Rex’s first day in Primary. He is my fourth and youngest child, so I must admit that it was bittersweet to see him growing up like that.

But, the T-Rex is so sweet. He’s so vibrant, active, and funny. He’s particular. He’s outnumbered in a home full of girls. I wasn’t exactly sure how he’d like sitting in Primary.

It turns out, he loves it!

In primary today, he insisted on sitting next to his sister. (I let him, no big deal to me). I couldn’t help it – I had to snap a photo! While I was teaching the singing time, I asked “What kinds of things make you cry?”
T-Rex raised his hand (!) and responded, “I cry when I can’t have hot chocolate.”
(for some context, we were talking about the experience that Christ has in the Americas when He visits the people shortly after his resurrection, blesses the children, and wept. We talked about how usually we cry when we’re sad, but Jesus was crying when He was happy.)

(Oh, and another note – I was so surprised that T-Rex raised his hand. He’s kind of shy. I was delighted that he wanted to contribute to my lesson. And, yes, it’s true – he definitely cries when he can’t have hot chocolate…don’t we all?!)

I could really relate to the concept of Christ weeping for joy because throughout the day, I felt like my heart was brimming with love and joy, and I wanted to cry or jump or something.

Seeing my little ones in primary brings me joy. 🙂 🙂 🙂

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What brought you joy this week?

The Fruit of the Tree of Life and Joy

Joy and Thanksgiving ButtonJoin me for the next two weeks as we study Joy and Thanksgiving. This is part One of my thoughts as I study the assignments.

The scriptures, like any form of literature, is rife with symbolism. One symbol used often is the tree of life and it’s fruit. Studying this symbol will help us to learn more about joy and how to obtain it.

Soon this fruit will be filling me up with joy. :)

Soon this fruit will be filling me up with joy. 🙂

Lehi’s Dream

Before I really talk about Lehi’s dream, I want to discuss the end result: Lehi and others partake of the fruit of the tree of life. Nephi teaches us about this fruit:

“Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?

And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.

And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul.” – 1 Nephi 11:22-23

So, not only does Lehi partake of the fruit of the tree of life, but this fruit is amazing. It tastes great and fills him with joy. He desires to share it, and many other people partake of the fruit.

Now, as this dream opens, Lehi is suffering in a dark and dreary waste. He suffers in this state for many hours until finally, he decides to pray. I wonder, is there a point that the Lord would have just shown him the tree of life, even if Lehi didn’t pray? I doubt it. I think that Lehi only progressed because He prayed, and the Lord answered His prayer.

Additionally, the Lord didn’t simply hand Lehi a piece of fruit after Lehi uttered his prayer, instead, Lehi had to embark on a journey. But the path was laid out before Him, and he was taken from the dark and dreary waste thanks to the mercy of God.

After going to the tree, Lehi was able to experience the opposite of what he suffered before. He partook of the fruit of the tree of life which was sweet, desirable, and better than anything he had ever tasted. It filled his soul with joy.

I love this example because it is a reminder to me that we must struggle a little bit before we are able to partake of the fruit of the tree. And when I struggle, I know where I can turn: the Lord.

The Struggle

We learn a little bit more about obtaining the fruit that Lehi ate. There are a few struggles that must be endured before partaking of the fruit.
The Mist of Darkness
Before partaking of the fruit of the tree of life, we must pass through the “mists of darkness.” In my life, I guess I could say that there have been mists of darkness that I have passed through–depression, difficulty, the death of loved ones, divorce, loneliness, sickness, etc. These are dark times, and it can be easy to feel lost as trial seems to choke your ability to see even the next step ahead of you.

The Great and Spacious Building
Not only do we pass through tribulations as we press forward to the Tree of life, but we must also endure the temptations of the world. This seems especially hard these days. We are bombarded with images and ideas that tell us if we just buy x then we’ll be happy.

An interesting thing to note, even when we partake of the fruit of the tree of life, we have the agency to accept it. Some of those who partook of the fruit then chose to feel embarrassment and shame as they allowed the voices of those in the great and spacious building to interrupt the joy of partaking of the sought-after fruit. As a result of this distraction, they left the fruit of the tree of life, then wandered off into strange paths and were lost.

The Lord won’t force us to choose happiness. It is always our choice.

Alma’s Analogy

Later on in the Book of Mormon, Alma taught the people about faith. He compared faith to a seed. Often, we think of this story solely as a story of faith, but it is so much more than that!

The seed of faith will eventually sprout, and if we nourish it, it will turn into a tree that produces fruit. Alma describes the fruit:

“the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.” – Alma 32:42

Does this fruit sound familiar???

The sermon given by Alma is basically amazing. There is one part that especially struck me this time:

“And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life.” – Alma 32:40, emphasis added

Looking forward with an eye of faith is the real way to one day partake of the fruit of the tree of life. This is the way that we will be able to make it through the mists of darkness. Having an eye of faith will help us to discern that the taunts of those in the great and spacious building are nothing but lies. We won’t be overwhelmed or distracted when we keep our eye on the prize: the fruit of the tree of life.

I struggle with this at times. I’m not the best at visualizing or imagining my success. I just think, “geez, I hope…” and then proceed with naivete. But the thing is, I realize that won’t be enough to get me to the tree of life. I want to partake of this fruit. It is the most difficult thing that any of us will ever do. It requires constant attention and effort. And, at this point in my life, I can see how we get burned out. I can see how, if we don’t have this vision in our hearts, then we can be overcome by the constant barrage of Satan’s temptations and distractions. We have to be able to envision this fruit if we want to someday experience it.

***
What have you learned about Joy through the symbol of the fruit of the tree of life?

Joy and Thanksgiving 2013 – Opposition, Misery, and Joy

Joy and Thanksgiving ButtonJoin me for the next two weeks as we study Joy and Thanksgiving. This is part One of my thoughts as I study the assignments.

I originally wrote this scripture study program two years ago as a part of class that I taught on studying the scriptures. I haven’t ever gone back and re-studied any of my scripture study series. (I like making new ones!) But I have been feeling a little down and out lately. Sometimes Joy feels elusive, and I don’t like that! I’ve always been a happy person, and I still feel that I’m essentially happy–that I’m just having a tough go of it right now.

So…I figured it would be the perfect time to re-visit the concepts of joy and thanksgiving. It’s the perfect time of year for it. Above all, I like life more when I’m happier and when I’m more grateful. And I also know enough to know that happiness is a choice. I’m excited to study these scriptures again and remember what I can do to continue on in this life joyful and grateful.

The Connections taught by Lehi: Sin, Misery, Righteousness, and Joy

In 2 Nephi 2:13 and 23 Lehi teaches his son Jacob a few connections between Sin, Misery, Righteousness, and Joy. There are multiple levels of connections here.

First Level Connections

The first level of connections are the concepts that are directly related through cause and effect.
Righteousness→Joy – When we choose righteousness, we will also choose joy. Joy is the result of righteousness. There is no other way around this. It is important to remember that joy is not the same as pleasure. Joy is deep. It is abiding. It is what will help to get us through dark times. It is meaningful and fulfilling.

Sin→Misery When we choose sin, we choose misery. There is no other way around it. The important thing to know is why. Misery is a result of sin; it is NOT an emotion we feel because Heavenly Father is a dictatorial God. We learn in Alma that the nature of God is the nature of happiness. (See Alma 41:11.) If we want to experience happiness, then we need to adopt God’s nature as well. That’s just how it is.

Each of these connections are the first level connections. They are obviously related. They are progressive in nature. It is easy to see their relationship and why they have this relationship.

Second Level Connections

The “second level” connections are opposing in nature. They are connected to one another because they oppose one another. (Think of heads and tails of a coin, or the north and south ends of a pole). Even though these forces oppose one another, they are still inseparable.

Sin and Righteousness – Both sin and righteousness are also related. They are opposing forces. Both sin and righteousness are choices we make. We can’t not make a choice. We all must choose. We choose either to follow Christ and be righteous, or we choose to sin. You can’t say, “I refuse to choose.” Even a refusal to choose is a choice (and often a sin because following Christ implies an active and conscientious decision).

Misery and Joy
This connection can be looked at in two different ways.
One–as a result of choice – Both Misery and Joy are results of our choices and are related because they are the results of either sin or righteousness. When we choose sin, we choose misery. When we choose righteousness, we choose joy.

When others choose sin, they choose misery, and sometimes the misery that they choose not only effects them, but spreads to others involved, too. Sometimes we must endure misery because of the bad choices made by others.

Two–as a part of mortal life – Not only are misery and joy results of our choices, but they are also simply a part of mortal life. Because Adam fell, we have gained knowledge. We have gained the ability to perceive all of our emotions. We are not freed from these experiences. It is a part of living here on earth.

We learn in 2 Nephi 2:25:

“Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” – 2 Nephi 2:25.

Because Adam fell, we exist. And we exist in the state that He has brought us into: the fallen, natural world. Yet, we aren’t here to be subjected only to misery. We are here to experience joy.

The thing is, both misery and joy are connected – like two sides of a coin. So, if we want to pick up the “joy” coin, then we also pick up the “misery” coin. You can’t choose to only pick up the “heads” side of a coin. It seems like it would be nice, but it’s not possible.

So, there are times in this life when we go through Misery–not because we have sinned, not even because others have sinned, but because enduring misery is a part of receiving a fulness of joy.

What do these connections mean for you and me?

I love understanding the connections between misery and joy because it helps me to be able to endure difficulty.

Recently I have been going through a kind of depression. I’m fairly certain that it has been caused by fluctuating hormones (I had a hysterectomy a little over a year ago) plus other little “issues” that I hadn’t really resolved in my life. No matter the cause, the fact is, I have been more prone to feeling “down in the dumps” lately.

This is not really who I am. I feel like I’ve always been a very happy person. Even though I’ve been a little depressed lately, I still feel like I’m a happy person, overall. But I, like everyone else, still struggle. I don’t like struggling, but there’s a way to endure: knowledge, perspective, and gratitude.

I have a very dear friend in my life–Spunky. We became friends when we were teenagers. She is the most vivacious, fun, and life-loving person I have ever known. She has always embraced life with everything she has. Her love of life can be exhausting at times, but it is also contagious, and you are always having a good time when you’re with her. These qualities attracted me to her as a youth. I still look up to her example now.

Spunky would have her fair share of hard days, don’t get me wrong. She was diagnosed bi-polar as a teenager. This was like 20 years ago–long before being bi-polar was popular and/or acceptable. My point is, Spunky wasn’t vivacious because she was ignorant or unaware of hard days. She had her fair share of really difficult times in life.

Yet, even during her trying, depressing times, she would admit, “Life sucks, but I love it.” She didn’t mean this in a sarcastic tone. She honestly meant that even though she wasn’t happy with life at the moment, she still loved it. She didn’t love life in spite of it sucking or despite it sucking. Instead, she had learned to embrace the sucky days, too. They were a reminder that she was alive, that she had a life. She was grateful for the core of her own life–even if it meant she had a bad day or two. She seemed to understand that the ups and downs are equally valuable; that they are inseparably connected; that they are all good because they amount to this gift called life.

I also love life. Sometimes I forget that I love life, and I let the doldrums or the trials of life get to me. Sometimes I get sad enough to forget the blessing it is to be sad and am tempted to think What is there to like about life when life is like this? Yet even misery is a blessing because it is connected to joy.

It can be hard to remember that our trials will bring us joy–especially as we are enduring them. Some of the trials that we endure don’t seem to have a silver lining. Sometimes it is hard to understand how we will grow from a trial. Sometimes it is hard to have faith and put mind over matter during these times of intense suffering.

To get through the most difficult times, I think that we have to come to understand the connections that Lehi teaches. We must learn from our past experiences–where we suffered then felt joy. We need to trust that the pattern we have experienced in life will repeat itself, and that we will feel happy as we faithfully follow Christ. Not only must we learn from our past experiences, but we need to remember what we have learned–read journals, post inspirational quotes around the house, frame pictures taken of accomplishments that you have completed after a time of trial and suffering (Graduation, marathon, brand new baby). Keeping these thoughts in the forefronts of our minds will help us to trust God and in His perspective–that though we experience exquisite misery we will at one point experience exquisite joy. (See Alma 36:20-21.)

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What impresses you about these connections? What do they teach you about joy and thanksgiving? What do you do to choose joy and thanksgiving in your life?

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Check out more thoughts on the connections between Righteousness, Joy, Sin, and Misery here.

Joy and Thanksgiving Scripture Study Series

A few years ago, I created my first ever Scripture Study Series – about Joy and Thanksgiving.

Study along with me!

Study along with me!

I’ve been thinking about both joy and thanksgiving a lot lately. Of course, this is the season to think of gratitude and giving thanks. (I love this time of year). Additionally, joy and happiness have felt elusive to me lately. I feel snatches of happiness, then there are times when I feel a bit depressed. It is the perfect time for me to remember that happiness is a choice and that through the scriptures I can be instructed on how to choose joy and gratitude.

So, I’m going to complete this scripture study series again. You can download all of the assignments here:

I will be blogging some of my own thoughts throughout the next two weeks. If you start this Scripture Study Series tomorrow, then it will be done by Thanksgiving!

I hope you enjoy it!

Joy and Thanksgiving: Connection – Joy and Thanksgiving!

Well, today is the last day of the Joy and Thanksgiving Study Series. I hope that you have enjoyed it. I have! It has been great to learn more about the true meaning of happiness, how to find it, and how it is related to gratitude. Studying these scriptures has inspired me to make positive changes so I can be happier.

Anyways…today’s scripture block is a connection – between Joy and Thanksgiving.

“And the earth did cleave together again, that it stood; and the mourning, and the weeping, and the wailing of the people who were spared alive did cease; and their mourning was turned into joy, and their lamentations into the praise and thanksgiving unto the Lord Jesus Christ, their Redeemer.” – 3 Nephi 10:10

Okay…so the first part of this scripture assignment doesn’t seem very joyful, but I think that one of the biggest things I’ve been noticing about happiness is it’s relationship with pain. Sounds strange, I know, but happiness and misery, joy and pain, are related. They are related – especially in this life – as they are in opposition one to another.

My friend, “Curls” made the best observation…“I think for me the most important thing I’ve learned about happiness is that it is NOT constant. Because happiness comes from God and we are not yet in perfect unity with Him there will be times (sometimes short and sometimes long) where we don’t feel happy or joyful. These times are usually when I have the opportunity to experience serious growth since they try my character and my faith.

I think another important thing I’ve learned is that the world expects happiness ALL the time. So if something doesn’t make you happy constantly then you should let go of it and try something else. I think this is one of the selfish roots of the many problems of our day, divorce, broken families, entitlement, greed, etc.

And finally the scripture in 2 Nephi 2:11 stating that there is opposition in all things. No happiness without misery as they are a compound in one.” Don’t you think that’s great! I love this concept…

Once, I was teaching a class to a group of Young Women, and one of the girls asked me if God is happy. That question still comes to me all the time – is He happy? Will we be happy?

And, I think that the answer is YES! It doesn’t mean that he’s happy in the way the world has taught us to be happy. But He’s really happy. Does this mean that misery does not exist? No. He is perfect though, and as God, he is above sin and everything that misery causes.

So, as we learn to be like Him, we overcome the pains of misery. And, as taught in 3 Nephi 10:10, our overcoming misery and the pains of mortality is through Jesus Christ.

Jesus heals our broken hearts. He brings peace to our souls. He will turn our mourning into joy and our lamentations into thanksgiving. And here’s how it can be done…

“If thou art sorrowful, call on the Lord thy God with supplication, that your souls may be joyful.” – Doctrine and Covenants 136:29

I have to admit, I don’t do this enough. Often, I go through, suffering pain or affliction, worrying, moping, whatever – I do this on my own. I don’t always call on God with supplication. Instead, I think that either 1) I have to suffer or 2) I have to figure it out on my own. or 3) I’m just crazy.

No!

The Lord wants to help our souls to be joyful. We need to turn to Him.

And when we do, our souls are joyful. We are happy, and this is how we should respond to such a blessing:

“If thou art merry, praise the Lord with singing, with music, with dancing, and with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving” – Doctrine and Covenants 136:28

We give thanks.

One thing I love about this scripture is that we give thanks through creative expression. We give thanks with praise and singing, music, dancing, and prayer! (Prayer – to supplicate the father; Prayer – to thank the father!)…so much prayer!

One thing I’ve noticed, when I’m taking the time to be grateful, I’m more aware of the world around me. I’m not taking it for granted. I’m listening better, observing more clearly. And, when I’m doing this, it is impossible not to be grateful – even for the ugly things. For it is the ugly things that make the beautiful things even more amazing.

So…be happy; be grateful. Be grateful; be happy!

I hope you have a good Thanksgiving. I have really enjoyed doing this scripture study series. I have learned a lot about thanksgiving and happiness. I’m grateful for the love I experience, daily, from my Heavenly Father. I’m grateful for the mercy and blessings He gives me.

What are you grateful for? What are some of the lessons you’ve learned as you’ve studied Joy and Thanksgiving?

Joy and Thanksgiving – Gratitude: Words from a Living Prophet

So, today, we are reading the talk by President Monson: The Divine Gift of Gratitude. It is so good!

I love what we learn about gratitude from this talk. It is the perfect thing to read at Thanksgiving – or any time of year.

This last two weeks, we’ve been studying Joy and Thanksgiving. As I put this study series together, I kind of separated the two concepts, but I knew that they weren’t separate. I love this talk because it clearly teaches how the two principles are related.

President Monson teaches:

“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.”

This is the secret – the link between gratitude and happiness. When we are grateful, we “unlock the doors of heaven.” We “feel God’s love.” We have established that God’s love is the fruit of the tree of life – that it is happiness; it is joy.

Heavenly Father loves us – whether or not we recognize and accept His love. However, when we are grateful, we can feel more of our Father’s love and joy in our lives. A grateful heart becomes a happy heart.

Now, President Monson doesn’t give this talk with the expectation that we’ll be blissfully ignorant of the problems around us. We just ned to recognize the good – amongst the troubling. We need to choose to see the beautiful rose among the thorns. He states,

“This is a wonderful time to be on earth. While there is much that is wrong in the world today, there are many things that are right and good. There are marriages that make it, parents who love their children and sacrifice for them, friends who care about us and help us, teachers who teach. Our lives are blessed in countless ways.

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. If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues. Someone has said that ‘gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.’”

It is so easy to focus on what is negative in the world around us, and all of this negativity can drown out the positive. It can wear on our souls.

I know that when I pay too much attention to “the news” I begin to feel depressed – as if there is no solution to the ailments of society. I forget the blessings we have – that I have. I forget that temples dot the earth; that there are amazing people working hard and serving others. I forget that I have been blessed abundantly.

I think that gratitude is being aware – of the difficulties we have while celebrating the blessings that God has give us to face them. Gratitude is acceptance of God’s will – no matter what that is for us. Gratitude is not a state of blind faith or pretended happiness. A grateful heart is a broken one. And when our hearts are broken, they can then be filled with God’s love..

There are times when I am not great at being grateful – or showing my appreciation to others. This last year, both my piano teacher and my brother have passed away. There are times when I have wished I could have done more to show each of them that I appreciate them. I feel especially haunted by the idea that I never was open with my brother. President Monson speaks on this, saying:

“”The loss of loved ones almost inevitably brings some regrets to our hearts. Let’s minimize such feelings as much as humanly possible by frequently expressing our love and gratitude to them. We never know how soon it will be too late.”

President Monson gave this talk in October 2010. A few weeks before my brother’s 18th birthday; eight months before his passing. And the prophet’s words ring true to me – especially now. The loss of Sean has brought regret to my heart. And I know that I could have minimized these feelings by being more open with my love and gratitude for all of my siblings and family members.

I know this, yet, it is hard to change. I get stuck in the little doldrums of life, forgetting the divine miracles I witness all the time. I get annoyed by little habits and foibles of others, forgetting that this is a temporary life, and I will miss them – foibles and all.

Gratitude – it is the key to joy; and the key to minimized regret.

Finally, President Monson teaches us how to obtain a grateful heart.

“A grateful heart, then, comes through expressing gratitude to our Heavenly Father for His blessings and to those around us for all that they bring into our lives. This requires conscious effort—at least until we have truly learned and cultivated an attitude of gratitude. Often we feel grateful and intend to express our thanks but forget to do so or just don’t get around to it. Someone has said that “feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.’”

So – here’s the remedy…we get a grateful heart through expressing gratitude – to our Heavenly Father and to those around us. I’m actually grateful to know that such a heart requires a conscious effort.

I feel like I’m a somewhat grateful person. I mean, I say my prayers. I know that my life is really great. I have been very richly blessed. But I don’t know that am as grateful as I ought to be. I don’t know if my siblings know how grateful I am for them. I don’t know if my parents know how much I love them and thank them for their examples, sacrifices, and raising me. I don’t know if my husband knows that I’m thankful that he works tirelessly at a job that he’s not thrilled about – so I can be at home to raise my kids.

Sometimes, I selfishly look inward. I only think of the fights I’ve had with my brothers and sisters. I think of the mistakes my parents made, and how those mistakes have effected me for years. I selfishly think that my husband doesn’t understand the sacrifice I make – while he’s out with other people, improving his own life, and contributing to our family in an obvious and important way. These thoughts! ACK! I don’t even like typing them. They are so depressing. It is amazing – how gratitude changes it all…

So, I’m going to make a goal – to be more grateful. And this is a conscious effort. I’ve heard of gratitude journals. Maybe that’s the way to go. What do you do to be grateful?

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For tomorrow’s Joy and Thanksgiving assignment, click here.

Joy and Thanksgiving – Gratitude Scripture Chain

Today, we are studying a scripture chain on Gratitude. I wish I could say that there was more of a “theme” to these scriptures, but mostly the theme is: Gratitude Scriptures I Like. That being said, I think that there are definitely themes and things to learn with this series of scriptures.

“Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day.” – Alma 37:37

I love this scripture because it makes prayer seem so personal. We need to counsel with the Lord. We need to discuss our ideas with him, share our dreams with him, and also let him have a part of our plans and daily lives. If we counsel with Him, then He will advise us. Pretty awesome.

Oh yeah, and we need to be grateful – this scripture gives us good advice on what gratitude is: a heart full of thanks.

A grateful heart is an important part of counseling with the Lord. Here’s the thing…In Alma 37:37, we are taught to counsel with the Lord. And we are also taught in Jacob “Wherefore, brethren, seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand. For behold, ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy, over all his works.” – Jacob 4:10 There is a difference – between counseling with the Lord and telling Him what to do. I have a tendency to “tell the Lord what to do.” I mean, I just ask for blessings and kind of leave it at that. Counseling with the Lord implies a conversation. We discuss with the Lord what we’re thinking, desiring, and doing. Yet, with the attitude of a grateful heart, we also allow Him to speak, and that is how we will get the guidance we need.

“And ye must give thanks unto God in the Spirit for whatsoever blessing ye are blessed with.” – Doctrine and Covenants 46:32

We must give thanks to God for all of the blessings we receive. This section is specifically speaking giving thanks when we are blessed with gifts of the Spirit. I think that this commandment is not limited to such blessings. We need to give thanks for every blessing we receive from the Lord.

One thing that is difficult for me is to be grateful for all of the ways that Heavenly Father blesses me – especially when these blessings come in the form of trials. I don’t think that we are expected to be all “jumpy” and “happy” when enduring trials, but we are expected to look to the Lord with cheer, hope, and gratitude.

“Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous; and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.” – Psalms 97:12

I like this scripture because it brings up two different but related concepts: joy and thanksgiving. I feel like the concepts of rejoicing and thanksgiving are more closely related than I’ve ever really recognize before. As we rejoice in the Lord and in His holiness, we really recognize our need for Him. Rejoicing in the Lord, finding Joy in His blessings, humbles us. And, as we rejoice in Him and find joy in our lives, we become more grateful.

But I don’t think that joy necessarily comes first. It almost seems like joy and thanksgiving are companions. Because as we fill our hearts with gratitude, joy comes along. The joy leads to greater gratitude, which leads to greater joy.

I’ve noticed something about the gospel: it is an upward cycle.

Oh, and before I move to the next scripture, again, I’m thinking about Joy and Gratitude within the context of our trials. I think that the end of this verse helps us understand how this is possible: “give thanks at the remembrance of His Holiness.” Often, when we go through trials, we have intimate experiences with the Lord and His atonement. We have personal, deep experiences with His Holiness. Even though our trials are difficult, when we experience His Holiness and atonement so personally, our gratitude and joy grow.

“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.” – Doctrine and Covenants 62:7

I like this verse because it teaches us more about the nature of God. He is willing to bless us in any way that is within His will or power. We simply need to receive such blessings with a thankful heart.

He loves us so much.

“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.” – Doctrine and Covenants 78:19

Again, I’m struck by the word all in this verse. There is no caveat that we are to be grateful only for the things that seem to be positive or favorable. We need to be grateful for all.

When we are grateful for all, then we’re made glorious.

I think that this is because when we are grateful – even for our adversities – we manage them better. We let the Lord work miracles in our lives. And ultimately, the miracle He works is our perfection. (pretty glorious if you ask me…)

Gratitude is essential in our progression. As we live gratefully, we receive more blessings from Heavenly Father – including the instruction and Spiritual gifts that we need to be like Him. As we become more like Heavenly Father – we come closer to His nature…and His nature is happiness. So, gratitude leads to happiness.

Pretty cool. 🙂

***
For tomorrow’s assignment, please read The Divine Gift of Gratitude. As you read, mark anything that stands out to you. Write a few notes on why these things made an impression. Take a minute to really learn from the Spirit.

Joy and Thanksgiving – Gratitude and Blessings

Today, in our study, we are learning about a pattern given in the scriptures. This pattern is given in various places throughout the scriptures.

The first instance of this pattern that we study will be from the life of Christ.

“And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.

And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full.” – Matthew 15:36-37

Christ is always the master example for us, which is why I love this story.

A few things to consider:

  • Christ had to feed at least 4,000 people – with seven loaves and fishes.
    • This doesn’t seem like it will be enough food to feed the multitude.
  • With gratitude, He gave thanks for the food that had been provided.
    • He was confident in His gratitude and thanksgiving. He was confident that the multitude would be fed and blessed.
    • Sometimes, I hesitate in gratitude because I feel like what I have been given (ie. 7 loaves and fishes) isn’t enough for what I want. (ie- to feed a multitude). Instead of seeing what I have and recognizing that the Lord also knows what is available, I seem to have a tendency to focus on what I think I lack.
    • Sometimes, I am tempted to think of course it was easy for Jesus to be confident…he was Jesus!…but when I think about it, why should my faith be any different. Jesus believed in the same God I believe in. He had the power of the priesthood, the same power we’ve been blessed with. We can trust in the Lord and in Heavenly Father. So…I can be confident in the power of the Lord, and I can show my gratitude for His love and blessing.
  • The people ate, and were filled, and there was food leftover.
    • When we are grateful, the Lord blesses us and fills us. – and He is capable of doing that – even with only seven loaves and fishes!

Paul teaches us this pattern:

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” – Philippians 4:6

The Pattern

  1. Be confident – in the Lord. – The first part of this scripture “Be careful” – means that we shouldn’t be overly concerned or afflicted about anything. Again, Christ is a great example of this. Instead of fretting about the multitude he had to feed with only seven loaves and fishes, he was confident.

    As I ponder this, I am thinking about the connection between confidence and gratitude. And I don’t mean confidence in ourselves, but confidence in the Lord. Confidence shows that we trust the Lord, which is a key ingredient in our gratitude.

  2. Instead of worry, pray.
    • Supplication – I have always had a “feeling” of what this meant, but just to be sure, I looked it up in the dictionary: ask or beg for something earnestly or humbly. That is how we ought to pray – with humility. And in a sense “begging” – we do kneel, and when we pray, we know that we, in and of ourselves, aren’t worthy of any blessing, so we must ask God to bless us out of His mercy and love for us.
    • Thanksgiving – I don’t think that we can supplicate without thanksgiving. As we recognize the blessings we have already received (even if they don’t seem like they’re enough), we recognize our Need of Heavenly Father. We become more humble. A grateful heart is the fertile ground for faith. Why was it easy for Christ to be confident that the multitude could be fed with such a small amount of food: because His faith was perfect.
  3. Let your requests be made known to God. – Heavenly Father wants to know what we want. He wants us to make requests. He wants us to ask. And when we do, we just need to ask with humility and Thanksgiving – having faith that we will receive.
  4. So – this is the pattern…

    We can find various examples of this in the scriptures.

    Paul follows the pattern he taught, as recorded in Acts 16:25-34.

    Another example is when Nephi is tied up on the boat, as recorded in 1 Nephi 15:18-21

    Finally, an example that I particularly love is in Ether 6:4-12 Throughout their journey, they sang praises to the Lord, even though the winds and storms never ceased. It is interesting to realize, too – that the Jaredites needed these storms to progress to the promised land. We can be grateful for all that we have – even trials, AND supplicate the Lord for needed blessings at the same time. In fact, the most effective way to get the blessings we need in this life is through humility and gratitude. Asking for desired blessings isn’t complaining.

    The Lord wants us to do ask. He wants to bless us. He wants us to Be Happy. He wants us to come to Him. He wants us to make it to our “promised land”, and we won’t be able to do that without Him.

    So, we need to go forward, confidently, grateful, and asking God, in His mercy, to bless us with what we need to overcome whatever problem happens to stand in our way.

    Have you experienced this in your life? How has humbling yourself and being grateful helped you to receive needed blessings? How has this pattern contributed to your overall happiness?
    ***
    For tomorrow’s assignment, click here.

Joy and Thanksgiving – The Commandment of Gratitude

For the assignment today, we read Doctrine and Covenants 59.

This chapter goes out to the saints – those who have already covenanted with God, and have kept many of the commandments. They are blessed for the commandments that they have kept. In verse four, The Lord says something that I find especially interesting:

“And they shall also be crowned with blessings from above, yea, and with commandments not a few, and with revelations in their time—they that are faithful and diligent before me.” – Doctrine and Covenants 59:4

So, the people who have been blessed because they kept the commandments are blessed with:

  1. Blessings from above
  2. Commandments – not a few
  3. Revelations in their time

Now – I’m accustomed to hearing that those who keep the commandments will receive blessings and revelation, but here we learn that those who keep the commandments will be blessed with more commandments.

I found this intriguing, so I followed the footnote for “commandments” to Alma 29:9

“I know that which the Lord hath commanded me, and I glory in it. I do not glory of myself, but I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me; yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy. – Alma 29:9

And here we go! Alma, who had first appeared in the Book of Mormon as antagonistic towards the church – completely uninterested in God’s commandments – was now glorying in the commandments of God. About 26 years or so had passed between these two events. Alma had been converted to the gospel, and had lived according to the commandments. The closer he got to God, the more he learned how to be righteous.

It is the same for us, as we covenant with God and keep the commandments, we receive more commandments. They are not given by a power hungry God, but are given to help fine-tune our path to perfection. And, like Alma, we ought to receive these commandments gratefully.

So – continuing with Section 59. The Lord then gives us commandments:

  • Love God with all our might, and in the name of Christ, serve God. (This commandment implies many things, but I don’t have time to write them all right now…interesting to think about, though)
  • Love thy neighbor as thyself (The Lord gives a few commandments that falls into this general commandment).
  • Thank God in all things!
  • Offer a sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite Spirit.
  • Keep the Sabbath Day Holy.

– So, the Third commandment he gives is to thank Him. We are commanded to be grateful. And he wants us to be grateful in all things – not just our blessings. We need to be grateful in our trials, too…interesting.

A few years ago, I was troubled with a health issue. I had no idea what was wrong. I was in excruciating pain, and my husband felt prompted to give me a blessing (I was in way too much pain to ask for one). In the blessing, I wasn’t necessarily promised I would get better. Instead, I was told to seek medical attention, and to study more about the Savior. I was also told that this physical trial would be given to me so I could learn to be grateful for my trials while enduring them.

After the blessing, I was somewhat comforted, but somewhat surprised. I followed the advice of the blessing – and found medical attention the next day. It turned out I had an ovarian cyst bursting – which was the cause of such intense pain. And after months of tests and finally a surgery, I found out that I had endometriosis (which was the cause of other chronic pain that I was experiencing).

Anyways – I don’t want to sidetrack from the point of this story. I was really intrigued that the Lord would take time to single out the concept of being grateful for my trial – while in the midst of the trial. And I wonder what I learned from that scenario.

I feel especially sheepish recalling this experience as I think about my current situation.

We are always going through trials of one kind or another – at varying degrees of intensity. And currently, my life is great, but I feel like I’m dealing with a few trials of my own (not intense…nothing really to complain about…just learning to adjust to the normal things in life), and I’m forgetting to be grateful. I try to be grateful for my blessings, but I forget to be grateful for my trials, even though I know that my trials bring me strength and purpose, and that, eventually, the trial will be over. We don’t want our trials to make us bitter, and if we wade through our afflictions without gratitude, even when the trial is over, we will be cynical, bitter, and unhappy.

We must be grateful in ALL things…

– now – back to section 59.
When the Lord gives the commandments, he then tells us what our attitude should be.

“And inasmuch as ye do these things with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances, not with much laughter, for this is sin, but with a glad heart and a cheerful countenance—” – Doctrine and Covenants 59:15

When we work to keep the commandments, we should not be grudging or upset. We shouldn’t feel sorry for ourselves, but we should be like Alma – glorying in the Lord – keeping the commandments that God has given us with thanksgiving and good cheer.

Doesn’t this make a world of difference? It almost feels easier to keep the commandments when we’re happy about it.

– Finally –
When we keep the commandments (which includes gratitude), and when we keep them with an attitude of gratitude and cheer, then the Lord blesses us. He doesn’t skimp on the blessings, either.

And then, guess what…we need to be grateful for our blessings!

“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 59:21

Sometimes, this is the part where we “fall off the wagon.” God will bless us, but we still have agency on how we choose to receive our blessings. When we receive our blessings with thanksgiving, then we really feel joy. We feel the Love that God has for us, and we rejoice in it. We are happy.

I’m grateful for this chapter in the Doctrine and Covenants. I know that gratitude is important, but this section has opened my eyes on how an attitude of gratitude is essential throughout the path – it is a commandments, it is an attitude we need in order to keep the commandments, and it is the way that we need to accept our blessings from God.

Every day, I keep learning that Gratitude is a lot more than just saying “thanks.”

***
For tomorrows assignment, click here

Joy and Thanksgiving – List – Gratitude and Salvation

So, today we’re studying another list that can be found in the scriptures. I really like finding lists. In some ways, I think that I’m a list person, so seeing these lists in the scriptures really helps me know how I can apply the advice given into my own life.

So…before we get into the list, here’s what it’s all about:

“And now, my beloved brethren, I desire that ye should remember these things, and that ye should work out your salvation with fear before God,…” – Alma 34:37

Here, Amulek is advising that we work out our salvation with fear before God – based on our study this last week about happiness – we know that salvation is a really great thing. Salvation is eternal and endless happiness. So, if we want to inherit it, we need to work it out before God.

Amulek doesn’t just leave us hanging without any further explanation. What continues is a list that can help us to work out our salvation with the Lord. (starting in verse 37)

“…and that ye should no more deny the coming of Christ;

That ye contend no more against the Holy Ghost, but that ye receive it, and take upon you the name of Christ; that ye humble yourselves even to the dust, and worship God, in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth; and that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you.” – Alma 34:37-38

So – here is the list that he gives us…

  • No more denying of the coming of Christ
  • Contend no more against the Holy Ghost
  • Receive the Holy Ghost
  • Take upon the name of Christ
  • Humble yourselves
  • Worship God
  • Live in thanksgiving daily
  • Be watchful unto prayer continually (see verse 39)
  • Have patience (see verse 40)

You can take time to study each of these points- because they are really great, but I want to really think about the overall attitude of gratitude.

We can see in the list that Amulek has included to “live in thanksgiving daily.” But I think that gratitude is a general attitude – a way of being – that really can fit into, and help us accomplish, every single bullet point listed here.

For example, if we are living with a grateful heart, then will we deny Christ? Think about denying Christ…Even Peter denied Christ. I don’t say this to slam Peter. I say this because I think that we all deny Christ at some level – even when we’ve covenanted with The Savior.

So – how do we refrain from denying Christ? Perhaps an attitude of gratitude helps. When we remember Christ, when we remember that He was born, a small babe in Bethlehem and placed in a manger…

When we remember that he taught the people...

...when we remember that He called His apostles and organized the Church...

...when we remember how Christ healed the people...

...when we remember how He, the Messiah, loved and served others...

...when we remember that He suffered for our sins and infirmities...

...when we remember that He died for us...

...and when we remember that three days after his death, He was resurrected...

When we remember Christ, then we are filled with a sense of His love, and we feel gratitude for Him. It is hard to even think about Christ’s life and love for us without feeling humbled, and grateful.

So…gratitude can help us – to refrain from denying Christ.

Let’s look at that list again:
Working our Salvation before the Lord with gratitude

  • No more denying of the Christ – gratitude for Christ shows our willingness to accept Him and the Love Him.
  • Contend no more against the Holy Ghost – Gratitude helps us to be more agreeable with the Holy Ghost and the promptings He gives.
  • Receive the Holy Ghost – I’m not sure if we could receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost with an ungrateful heart.
  • Take upon the name of Christ – When we are grateful for the Savior and His willingness to atone for our sins, we are led to the waters of baptism – there to covenant with Him and take on His name. Gratitude for the Savior and all the blessings we enjoy will also help us to ensure that we bear His name honorably once we have taken it on ourselves.
  • Humble Yourselves – Gratitude is essential in humbling ourselves. I’m not sure that you can be humble and ungrateful.
  • Worship God – That’s the thing that I think I’m learning about gratitude. I think that gratitude is a form of worship. When Christ healed the ten lepers, only one gave thanks, and he did more than just say thank you. He fell down at the Savior’s feet and glorified Him. We need to have a grateful heart when worshipping God, and I think that gratitude helps us to worship the Lord more purely and genuinely.
  • Live in Thanksgiving Daily. – Gratitude helps us to live in thanksgiving daily because we are already grateful. If we are truly grateful, then we’re going to express our thanks.
  • Be watchful unto prayer continually – An attitude of gratitude will help us to remember to pray always.
  • Have Patience – Gratitude helps us to turn our heart to the Lord, even in times of trial. The Lord can then bless us with the patience we need to overcome the difficulties of the world.

So – with gratitude, we can accomplish what Amulek has taught us to do. I feel like as I begin to understand the Savior more, why I need, Him, His love for me, my gratitude for Him grows. The trick, too, is really remembering this all the time. I have a tendency to get a little bit self-centered and even “spoiled”. Gratitude can help us to do get closer to the Savior and His spirit. When we are close to the Savior, and have His Spirit, we are closer to His happiness and peace.

***
For Tomorrow’s Assignment, please click here.

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