Sunday, August 26, 2012

Farewell Talk - Gratitude

This is my farewell talk from this morning. At the end I filled in what I said impromptu, so I added a few things and tried my best to replicate what I said. Thanks to all those who came to hear me speak!

It’s awesome to see all the support here today, not only for myself but also for Sister Byron. I can’t help but feel humbled by all the positive influence that the majority of you have had in my life.  I feel that within this congregation is the culminating evidence of all that the Lord has truly blessed me with over the past 19 years of my life. You guys are amazing! I’m so glad all of you were willing to wake up early this morning just to hear me speak!

Brothers and sisters, I am excited to be able to speak to you about Gratitude this morning. It is something we all know to be more than JUST important, but which many of us tend to neglect. And so, I’m more than happy to stand here today, and give us all a reminder about how essential the spirit of thanksgiving and gratitude is in our lives.

So what is gratitude? I believe it is more than just “being grateful”.  The spirit of Gratitude is only demonstrated by action, whether through sincere prayer, selfless service or through our conscious efforts to constantly recognize the Lord’s hand in both the small and great, pleasant and unpleasant situations.  Gratitude is not a general, passive feeling; it is a constant, specific, and active measure of our love for our Heavenly Father and his Creation.

Alma made this promise to his son Helaman in Alma 37:36-37:
 36 Yea, and acry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy bdoings be unto the Lord, and whithersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy cthoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever.
 37 aCounsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for bgood; 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 cmorning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day.
Basically, what I understand from these verses is that Gratitude is central to our faith and salvation. Alma promised that if his son would constantly remember and give thanks to the Lord in every thought, word, and deed that he would “be lifted up at the last day.” Certainly, this simple principle applies to us today. If gratitude leads to salvation, then ingratitude will bring damnation.  

President Monson, at the 2010 October General Conference, defined gratitude this way, he stated that “If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues... a grateful heart … comes through expressing gratitude to our Heavenly Father for His blessings and to those around us for all that they bring into our lives” and “a prayerful life is the key to possessing gratitude.”

I love the words of President Monson. His name appears most under the keyword “gratitude” on  As a prophet of our modern day, he both exemplifies and recognizes the essential role that gratitude must play in every moment of our lives.  On multiple occasions, President Monson has recounted D&C 59:
“Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things. …
“And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things.”
From this we learn that to have gratitude is a divine principle and commandment from the Lord. It has been since the first days of Adam when he offered sacrifices to Lord, it is a central theme to many of Christ’s parables and stories, such as that of the ten lepers, and continues to be one of the main subjects in general conference talks every six months. After everything the Lord has given us, the last thing we want to be is ungrateful. Really, we don't want to be ungrateful. I hope and pray that we will all strive to be more diligent in remembering not to take things for granted.

Aside from understanding the meaning of Gratitude, what are the benefits and blessings of Gratitude?

I think the answer can be found in D&C 78:19. 
 19 And he who receiveth all things with athankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an bhundred fold, yea, more.
By practicing Gratitude, we focus on the positive, even in negative situations. It humbles and changes unfriendly perspectives.  Like the scripture says, we “shall be made glorious.” That glory was defined by President Monson when he said these words:

“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. “

As he describes, we “lift ourselves” up when we look for the positive in every person or situation.

The scripture also talks about how “the things of this earth shall be added unto [us], even a hundred fold, yea, more.” We must be careful not to think that gratitude is just a reaction to getting what we want multiplied by a hundred. Sometimes there’s just that awesome feeling that comes from appreciating the simple pleasures of life that we usually take for granted. These are things which money cannot buy: our families, the gospel, good friends, our health, and the love of the Savior and those around us. Sometimes we simply forget to see those things which we see every single day.

I googled “gratitude” and found an article about two college professors who conducted a psychological experiment on the effects of gratitude in people’s lives.

The study split several hundred people into three different groups and all of the participants were asked to keep daily diaries. The first group kept a diary of the events that occurred during the day without being told specifically to write about either good or bad things; the second group was told to record their unpleasant experiences; and the last group was instructed to make a daily list of things for which they were grateful. The results of the study indicated that daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism, and energy. In addition, those in the gratitude group experienced less depression and stress, were more likely to help others, exercised more regularly, and made greater progress toward achieving personal goals.”

Like this study suggests, I think it would be a good idea for all of us to keep a gratitude journal. I wish that I had done this during my first year at BYU. I think that if I had just taken the time to slow down, and write down a list of just a few of my countless blessings, I would have been able to manage my time, stress, and homework a little better.

Speaking of which, during my second semester at BYU this past year, I had a chemistry professor who was probably too intelligent for his own good, but at the same time was certifiably hilarious. When the class was struggling with certain homework problems or complained about difficult test questions he’d say things like "There is no forgiveness for applying principles incorrectly, only outer darkness” or "I lay awake at night thinking I'm thermodynamically favorable to turn into carbon dioxide." So yeah, although he was kind of crazy, he was also an incredible professor who I really respected, and who really brought to light the importance of chemistry in our daily lives.

That class was easy to complain about.  The tests were almost humanly impossible and I’m pretty sure that my professor loved his chemistry labs more than he loved his own kids. But I found that even though I was being challenged to the extreme, I chose to see my professor as someone who was helping me see God’s plan for us through chemistry. By taking a positive outlook on something that was hard and discouraging at times, I began to have gratitude for the complexities of bases and acids, pressure phases, and other complex chemical balances that are essential to God’s intention for life to be on this earth. I’m a nerd, I know, but it really was a significant step in my college career to find gratitude in the big picture of why I’m working hard to receive an education.

I grateful that when we all experience tough challenges to our faith, intelligence, physical well-being, or whatever else may be pressing down on us, we can find the positive and feel love and happiness in Heavenly Father’s grand scheme of things.

My last point is on how we can better implement gratitude into our lives. I think it’s hard for some of us to accept acts of kindness. We only want to give, and never receive. Gratitude is not only demonstrated by our outward actions toward others, but also by the inward acceptance of others’ time, talents, and gifts.

In D&C 88:33, it states:
 33 For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.
Not only do we profit by giving, we also profit by receiving with thankfulness toward others. The following story perfectly emulates this principle:

“The District of Columbia police auctioned off about 100 unclaimed bicycles Friday. “One dollar,” said an 11-year-old boy as the bidding opened on the first bike. The bidding, however, went much higher. “One dollar,” the boy repeated hopefully each time another bike came up.
The auctioneer, who had been auctioning stolen or lost bikes for 43 years, noticed that the boy’s hopes seemed to soar higher whenever a racer-type bicycle was put up.
Then there was just one racer left. The bidding went to eight dollars. “Sold to that boy over there for nine dollars!” said the auctioneer. He took eight dollars from his own pocket and asked the boy for his dollar. The youngster turned it over in pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters—took his bike, and started to leave. But he went only a few feet. Carefully parking his new possession, he went back, gratefully threw his arms around the auctioneer’s neck, and cried.”

I love that story. It is so powerful to me.

Well, I would love to end my talk by expressing gratitude to each of the following (this is where I bore my testimony, and I've added a few things that I wish I had mentioned, but didn't under pressure):

First, I would like to thanks my parents and my family. I love my parents so much. They are incredible examples to me and always have been throughout my life. When I went to Ecuador to do humanitarian work at an orphanage, I saw children who had been left in gutters to die because their mothers could not afford to take care of them. It doesn't seem fair, but I am so glad that my parents had the means to provide for me and love me always. My mothers emulates much of what I would look for in an eternal companion. She is incredible and has always been there for me. She stayed up the whole night preparing for my farewell this morning. I don't know how she's even still awake!
My Dad is so amazing. He is honest and hard-working in everything that he does. Despite challenges to his employment, I know that he is always willing to go the extra mile to provide for our family and he always has, both as a priesthood holder and breadwinner. I love him.

I love my siblings. I am glad that I have been the oldest so that I could be responsible for them in some way. I am setting an example for them because I want them to be happy and successful throughout their lives. It will be crazy to see how much they've grown over the next couple years.

I also want to thank my grandmothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins for all the good times. I have one of the best families anyone could ever ask for. I am truly blessed by spiritual giants. They are all so strong examples to me.

Second, I would like to thank my teachers, both from school, sunday school, and young men's. They are what have helped me develop my testimony over the years, and I want to especially thank Bro. Sandberg, who couldn't be here, for his leadership over the priests quorum. Also, thanks to Bro. Hulsey for his support in helping me complete my eagle in scouting.

Third, I just want to thank my friends. Without them, I don't even know who I would be today. They have had such an incredible and positive influence in my life. I love you guys so much. I know that a lot will change over the next two years, but I am just glad for the times that I have had with them over the past 19 years. They are great examples of Christlike attributes and of wholly committed members of the the church.

Brothers and Sisters, I would just like to conclude with a testimony on Gratitude. I testify that much of the unhappiness in the world today stems from ingratitude. I would challenge us all to think about ways in which we can implement more practices of gratitude every single day. It will bring us happiness and joy. It will point us to the Savior and his atonement. It will bring more satisfaction than anything else. I love this Gospel. I cannot express in words how much that the Lord has blessed me. He truly cares for me, and the rest of us. I am grateful to have the chance to serve in Peru, and to bring this happy message to the people throughout my mission.

I say these things in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.