While gratitude is an attribute we strive to have all year long, it seems to be the personality of autumn. There is something about the falling leaves, garden harvests, vibrant colors, comforting scents, and tantalizing tastes that just make a person glad. As we approach this season of giving thanks, here are three inspiring stories about gratitude you may or may not have caught in the most recent general conference.
The story of the bakery from “Tithing: Opening the Windows of Heaven” by Elder Neil L. Andersen
Elder Andersen shared the following story from Brother Roger Parra in Venezuela:
“In 2019 Venezuela was shaken by problems that caused a power blackout for five days.
“Chaos and anarchy reigned in the streets, and many desperate people did not have sufficient food.
“Some began looting food businesses, destroying everything in their path.
“As the owner of a small bakery, I was very worried about our business. As a family, we decided to give away all the food in our bakery to people in need.
“Through one very dark night riots were everywhere. My only concern was for the safety of my beloved wife and children.
“At dawn, I went to our bakery. Sadly, every nearby food business had been destroyed by looters, but to my great astonishment, our bakery was intact. Nothing had been destroyed. I humbly thanked my Heavenly Father.
“Arriving home, I told my family of God’s blessing and protection.
“They were all so grateful.
“My oldest son, Rogelio, only 12 years old, said, ‘Papa! I know why our store was protected. You and Mama always pay your tithes.’
“The words of Malachi came into my mind. ‘I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground’ [Malachi 3:11]. We knelt down and gratefully thanked our Heavenly Father for His miracle.”
This story is a touching reminder that Heavenly Father often performs miracles in our lives, but it is up to us to recognize and be grateful for them. What a wonderful thing to be grateful for!
The story of the archery merit badge from “Hallmarks of Happiness” by Elder Gary B. Sabin
“Many years ago, I went to a summer Scout camp with our son Justin. As the activities got underway, he excitedly announced that he and his friends wanted to earn the archery merit badge. Doing so required the boys to pass a short, written test and hit a target with their arrows.
“My heart sank. At the time, Justin was quite frail due to cystic fibrosis, a disease he had been battling since birth. I wondered if he could pull the bow back far enough to send the arrow to the target.
“As he and his friends left for the archery class, I silently prayed that he would not be humiliated by the experience. A couple of anxious hours later, I saw him coming up the path toward me with a big smile. ‘Dad!’ he exclaimed. ‘I got the merit badge! I got a bull’s eye; it was on the target next to mine, but I hit a bull’s eye!’ He had pulled the bow back with all his might and let the arrow fly, unable to control its trajectory. How grateful I am for that understanding archery instructor who never said, ‘Sorry, wrong target!’ Rather, upon seeing Justin’s obvious limitations and earnest effort, he kindly responded, ‘Good job!’
“That is how it will be for us if we do our very best to follow Christ and His prophets in spite of our limitations. If we come unto Him by keeping our covenants and repenting of our sins, we will joyfully hear our Savior’s commendation: ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant.’”
Elder Sabin’s gratitude for the kind way the instructor responded to his son reminded me of our own Heavenly Father—how grateful He must be when we take the time to be kind to and treat our brothers and sisters with respect. We are all grateful for when kind words are spoken to us.
The story of humanitarian work in Africa from “Love Thy Neighbour” by Elder Ian S. Ardern
Elder Ardern shared some poignant descriptions of experiences that he has had on Church humanitarian trips:
“This morning, I invite you to join with me on an African journey. You won’t see any lions, zebras, or elephants, but perhaps, by journey’s end, you will see how thousands of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are responding to Christ’s second great commandment to “’love thy neighbour’ (Mark 12:31).
“Imagine for a moment the rural, red dirt of Africa. You see from the parched and barren earth that rain has not fallen in any measurable quantity for too many years. The few cattle which cross your path are more bones than flesh and are being driven by a blanket-covered Karamojong herdsman who, with sandalled feet, trudges on in hope of finding vegetation and water.
“As you navigate the rough and rocky road, you see several groups of beautiful children and wonder why they are not in school. The children smile and wave, and you wave back with a tear and a smile. Ninety-two percent of the youngest children you see on this journey live in food poverty, and your heart groans with anguish.
“Ahead, you see a mother carrying a carefully balanced five-gallon (19 L) container of water on her head and another in her hand. She represents one of every two households in this area where women, young and old, walk more than 30 minutes each way, each day, to a source of water for their family. A wave of sorrow washes over you.
“Two hours pass, and you arrive at a secluded, shady clearing. The meeting place is not a hall or even a tent but rather under a few large trees providing shelter from the sweltering sun. In this place, you notice there is no running water, no electricity, no flush toilets. You look around and know you are amongst a people who love God, and you instantly feel God’s love for them. They have gathered to receive help and hope, and you have arrived to share it….
“As heart-wrenching as it was to see malnourished children and the effects of tuberculosis, malaria, and incessant diarrhea, there came to each of us an increase of hope for a better tomorrow for those we met.
“That hope came, in part, through the kindness of Church members from around the world who donate time and money to the Church humanitarian effort. As I saw the sick and the afflicted being helped and lifted, I bowed my head in gratitude. At that moment, I better understood what was meant by the King of kings, who said:
“’Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you … :
“’For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in’ (Matthew 25:34–35).
“Our Saviour’s plea is to ‘let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven’ (Matthew 5:16; see also verses 14–15). In that far-flung corner of the earth, your good works brightened the lives and lightened the load of a people in desperate need, and God was glorified.
“On that hot and dusty day, I wished you could have heard their prayers of praise and gratitude to God. They would have me say to you in their native Karamojong, ‘Alakara.’ Thank you.
With Thanksgiving approaching, this story is a reminder to us to not only be grateful for the comforts and necessities that we have but to also generously give to those to do not have but who are still grateful. It is a reminder that we have many things to be grateful for and that one way to show that is by serving and loving God’s children.
All three of these stories remind us that gratitude and joy go hand in hand—if we remember to be kind, faithful, generous, and compassionate this season, gratitude and the happiness that comes from it will be abundant in all that we do.
Journals will begin shipping in November.