Delivered by Nancy Harward in a virtual sacrament meeting of the Dinsdale Ward, Hamilton New Zealand Rotokauri Stake, Sunday 21 November 2021
This week, people in the U.S. are looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving. Elder Harward and I are giving thanks for the birth of our twelfth grandchild, just yesterday. Coincidentally, this baby’s mother was born during the week of Thanksgiving, too, so I’ve been reflecting on how thankful I am for my children and grandchildren, for the opportunity to play an important part in their creation, and that all of them were born without serious complications and have survived thus far as generally healthy, happy individuals.
This train of thought led me to reflect on something I learned on the day of our first child’s birth. I had gone into labor early in the morning, while it was still dark, and labored all through the day without the desired result. Late in the afternoon, my body finally reached the point at which it wanted to push. My mind had long since reached the point at which I just wanted to get the whole thing over with, so I eagerly began to put all the energy I had left into bearing down so that baby would come out.
The doctor didn’t share my enthusiasm, however. “The baby isn’t in the best position,” she said. “The face is up instead of down. I’m going to ask you to stop pushing so we can try to turn the baby over.”
That was one of the hardest things anyone has ever asked me to do. My body quivered all over as I fought against the irresistible urge to keep pushing, while the doctor gently manipulated the little body inside me, coaxing it to do an about-face. Within another hour, the baby turned, I resumed pushing, and out he came.
By the time the baby and I had been cleaned up and he had been weighed and measured and evaluated and so forth, it was close to 8:00 p.m. I had not ingested anything more substantial than ice chips for over 24 hours and Michael hadn’t eaten much more, so both of us were ravenous. A food service aide finally brought us a tray and then left us alone.
“You wanna bless the food?” Michael asked. So I began to pray.
All at once I realized that we had spent the entire day so consumed by the effort to deliver the baby that we hadn’t said a prayer since arriving at the hospital. Until that moment, I had not thought to thank Heavenly Father for anything, and now I had so much more to thank him for than a tray of hospital food. My voice choked up and tears flowed as I gave heartfelt thanks for the safe delivery of a healthy baby, for a doctor with the wisdom and experience to guide us through a difficult situation, for a husband who offered support and encouragement through the whole ordeal, for a clean and comfortable bed—for so many things that I probably forgot to ask for a blessing on the food.
Since then, I have made a conscious effort to never forget to immediately offer thanks to God for my blessings, whether they be big, like the birth of a child, or small, like making it through the Dinsdale roundabout without getting hit.
In more recent years, I have made a more conscious effort to express thanks not only to God, but to other people who have blessed me in some way. Saying thank you is something that tends to come automatically in a lot of situations and may not always seem meaningful, but consider how unsettling it feels when someone neglects to say thank you in such situations. And then consider how great it feels when someone offers very sincere, perhaps unexpected thanks for a gift you gave or a service you rendered.
One of the best birthday gifts I ever received came from our oldest son (the one whose birth I just described) while he was on his mission. In a letter we received from him that week, he wrote:
23 May 2001: Yesterday, we went through the “Work and Personal Responsibility” chapter [of the Gospel Principles manual] with Ernesto and Nacira, the father/daughter who are getting baptized next month. Today I put into effect the results of some parents who learned and lived [the principles in] that chapter; I cleaned the apartment because nobody else was doing it. This weekend our mission will be visited by Elder Kendrick, the Area Authority over our mission. Rumor has it that he likes to inspect apartments, and since ours is one of the closest to the mission home, I am placing my bets that we’ll get hit. And even if we don’t, it’s still nicer to have a kitchen without moldy food on the counters; my roommates don’t really get the idea of preservation by refrigeration. The point I’d like to end the paragraph with is this: thank you, Mom (and Dad) for teaching me the value of clean living quarters. I still don’t make my bed, but cleaning and vacuuming are now enjoyed because I value the result more than I dislike the work.
My son’s simple expression of thanks did more than lift my spirits for the day. It increased our love for each other and strengthened the eternal bonds between us.
In one of his many letters, the apostle Paul advised the Thessalonians: “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus” (1 Thesssalonians 5:18 ). I believe that it is the will of God for us to give thanks not only to him, but to each other, because by acknowledging the ways that others have blessed us, we also acknowledge that God has blessed us through them. Jesus said, “ Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” Matthew 25:40). We usually think of rendering service in connection with this scripture, but I think the idea of expressing sincere appreciation also applies.
Thomas S. Monson said, “We can lift ourselves and others as well when we … cultivate in our hearts an attitude of gratitude. … 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” (“The Gift of Gratitude,” General Conference, October 2010).
As we consider how we can achieve greater unity with one another and with God, let’s consider the positive effects of heartfelt expressions of gratitude.
Gordon B. Hinckley observed that “when you walk with gratitude, you do not walk with arrogance and conceit and egotism” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley , p. 250), and Joseph F. Smith would have agreed. He said that with gratitude, “love overpowers jealousy, and light drives darkness out of this life. … How much happier we are in the presence of a grateful and loving soul, and how careful we should be to cultivate … a thankful attitude toward God and man” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. , p. 263).
I pray that each of us may cultivate an attitude of gratitude so that all of us can enjoy a greater spirit of love and unity with each other and with God.