Throughout his service in the Church, President Nelson has helped us to find joy and gratitude in every circumstance. Here are a few of his teachings on the topics, excerpted from the book Teachings of Russell M. Nelson. This article was originally published by LDS Living in November 2018.
We live in the most vibrant era in the history of the world. I wake up every morning eager for the adventures of the day. And I hope you feel that same exuberance for the gift of life. Though our world is filled with serious challenges, I am optimistic about the future and confident about the fundamental goodness of humankind. I marvel at the compassionate outreach we see constantly from the leaders and members of other faiths and from people of goodwill everywhere who seek to reduce human suffering wherever it is found. . . . I give you my assurance that regardless of the world’s condition and your personal circumstances, you can face the future with optimism and joy—if you have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel. (“Go Forward with Faith,” Press Conference, January 16, 2018)
Expressing Gratitude to God
Spiritual self-esteem begins with the realization that each new morning is a gift from God. Even the air we breathe is a loving loan from Him. He preserves us from day to day and supports us from one moment to another (see Mosiah 2:21).
Therefore, our first noble deed of the morning should be a humble prayer of gratitude. Scripture so counsels: “Pray unto God, and he will be favourable unto [you]: and [you] shall see his face with joy” (Job 33:26; see also Alma 34:21; 37:37).
I did not fully appreciate the significance of prayerful greetings until I became a father myself. I am so grateful that our children never gave their mother or dad the silent treatment. Now I sense how our Heavenly Father may appreciate our prayers, morning and night. But I can imagine the pangs of His sorrow because of silence from any of His children. (“‘Joy Cometh in the Morning,’” Ensign, November 1986)
How much better it would be if all could be more aware of God’s providence and love and express that gratitude to Him. Ammon taught, “Let us give thanks to [God], for he doth work righteousness forever” (Alma 26:8). Our degree of gratitude is a measure of our love for Him. (“Thanks Be to God,” Ensign, May 2012)
A Thanksgiving to Remember
[One] Thanksgiving, Sister Nelson and I hosted a memorable gathering. All of our locally available daughters, sons, and grandchildren were there, among others. We counted sixty-three people at the feast. As part of our after-dinner program, Sister Nelson distributed a sheet of paper to each individual, headed, “This year, I am thankful for—.” The remainder of the page was blank. She asked each to complete the thought, either in writing or by drawing a picture. The papers were then collected, redistributed, and read aloud. We were asked to guess who composed each reply, which, incidentally, was not very difficult.
Meanwhile, I observed a pattern. Generally, the children were thankful for food, clothing, shelter, family, and occasionally pets. Their pictures were precious, though not likely to be shown in an art gallery. Our youth broadened their expressions to include gratitude for their country, freedom, and church. The adults noted most of those items but in addition mentioned the temple, their love of the Lord, and appreciation for His Atonement. Their hopes were combined with gratitude. Counting blessings is better than recounting problems. (“‘A More Excellent Hope,’” Church Educational System Fireside, January 8, 1995)
Focusing on Gratitude, Joy, and Optimism
Just as the Savior offers peace that “passeth all understanding” (Philippians 4:7), He also offers an intensity, depth, and breadth of joy that defy human logic or mortal comprehension. For example, it doesn’t seem possible to feel joy when your child suffers with an incurable illness or when you lose your job or when your spouse betrays you. Yet that is precisely the joy the Savior offers. His joy is constant, assuring us that our “afflictions shall be but a small moment” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:7) and be consecrated to our gain (see 2 Nephi 2:2).
How, then, can we claim that joy? We can start by “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) “in every thought” (Doctrine and Covenants 6:36). We can give thanks for Him in our prayers and by keeping covenants we’ve made with Him and our Heavenly Father. As our Savior becomes more and more real to us and as we plead for His joy to be given to us, our joy will increase.
Joy is powerful, and focusing on joy brings God’s power into our lives. As in all things, Jesus Christ is our ultimate exemplar, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2). Think of that! In order for Him to endure the most excruciating experience ever endured on earth, our Savior focused on joy!
And what was the joy that was set before Him? Surely it included the joy of cleansing, healing, and strengthening us; the joy of paying for the sins of all who would repent; the joy of making it possible for you and me to return home—clean and worthy—to live with our Heavenly Parents and families. (“Joy and Spiritual Survival,” Ensign, November 2016)
Happiness comes when scriptures are used in shaping our lives. They speak of the “brightness of hope” for which we yearn (2 Nephi 31:20). But if our hopes were narrowly confined only to moments in mortality, we should surely be disappointed. Our ultimate hope must be anchored to the Atonement of the Lord. He said, “If you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 14:7).
An understanding of that objective should help us approach the future with faith instead of fear, with a more excellent hope in place of despair. (“‘A More Excellent Hope,’” Church Educational System Fireside, January 8, 1995)
The above story originally ran on LDS Living in 2018. Lead image from ChurchofJesusChrist.org
Read more profound insights from our prophet in Teachings of Russell M. Nelson.
Internationally renowned as a surgeon, teacher, and man of great faith, President Russell M. Nelson has dedicated his life to healing hearts and ministering throughout his medical career and his Church service. This definitive volume of his teachings presents excerpts from his speeches and writings spanning more than three decades as an Apostle of the Lord, including many from his recent world tour and other unpublished addresses. Alphabetically arranged by topic, these teachings on more than 100 subjects provide a perfect, easy-to-use resource for talks, lessons, and more.