Monday, June 15, 2015

Talk on Gratitude: The Catalyst of Discipleship


Gratitude: The Catalyst of Discipleship

When I extended the gratitude challenge, I had no idea what I was going to write about it. As a matter of fact, I was getting a little nervous because day after day, I had nothing. In the second session of the Phoenix Temple Dedication the Spirit opened my understanding in part to what gratitude really was. That night, I began to write my thoughts down and it was absolutely amazing, the spirit just began to teach me. Day after day my understanding of gratitude grew. What was interesting was that I had to progress to a certain point before the next door of understanding would open. Truly, the Lord gives "unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little" (2 Nephi 28:30).

Catalyst is defined as: "something that causes activity between two or more persons or forces without itself being affected. (dictionary.com).

We are all familiar with the Moroni challenge found in Moroni 10:4-5, but I wonder how often verse 3 gets missed or overlooked altogether. I always share verse 3 when I share the Moroni challenge with a non-member. There is something personal and special, to point out that God, in His wisdom has given the Book of Mormon to them at this time to read. Plus, I feel that it begins to soften their heart and prepares them for the next two verses. While this may be true, I believe it is much more than that though. I think it helps everyone, members and non-members alike to prepare for and opens the door to the influence and the power of the Holy Ghost along their pathway to discipleship. Moroni 10:3 reads,

3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
Before I continue, let me tell you a story to strengthen my point. You already know the story, so bear with me.

    I took Kiera to the doctors for an ultrasound visit. We knew something was wrong when the Ultrasound tech asked Kiera, "Who told you that you were pregnant." After a long time she sent us back to the doctors office without telling us anything. We were very concerned. The doctor told us that our sweet Alexa was a tubular pregnancy and showed us a close up picture of the ultrasound where she was located in the tubes. He said that there was a heartbeat but that there was no way to save the baby. Reluctantly, we headed over to the hospital for the surgery. We were living in Illinois at the time and so we asked the missionaries to come and help me give Kiera a priesthood blessing. It was hard watching them wheel her off, so I did the only thing I could do; pray. After the surgery the doctor came in and related to us what had happened. He told us that there's a tool that they normally use which scrambles everything up and would flush out the baby even if it was in the uterus. He said, "Something told me not to use that tool." He went in with tweezers and went up and down both tubes and couldn't find our baby. He called in another doctor to get a second opinion and he couldn't find the baby either. They even did an ultrasound to see if they could find the baby in the uterus and couldn't find our baby. I have never heard of a doctor losing a baby before, but that is what happened. We came back a week or so later and there was Alexa, in the uterus, as if nothing had happened. We knew that she wasn't lost. The Lord in His mercy chose to miraculously save the life of our sweet miracle baby, Alexa.

Now with this new perspective let's look back at Moroni 10:3, "remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men." After my previous story, does this not have a much different or deeper meaning? One thing's for sure; I will never, and I mean never, just simply "remember" this experience. When I remember, my heart literally swells within me with gratitude to my Lord and my God for his mercy and love for me and my family. There are not words sufficient to express the gratitude and love I feel for my Savior for this one act of mercy, let alone all the acts of mercy towards all the children of men.

Moroni gives us direction to help us remember correctly when he said, "and ponder it in your hearts." Going through an experience requires less pondering than one we just read or heard about. Talking about the coming of Christ on the earth, Alma said, "Would to God that it might be in my day; but let it be sooner or later, in it I will rejoice" (Alma 13:25). Why will he rejoice? Because, he has given himself to much pondering to the extent that Christ had become real, as if He had already come among him. Mosiah teaches us this concept too:

13 And the Lord God hath sent his holy prophets among all the children of men, to declare these things to every kindred, nation, and tongue, that thereby whosoever should believe that Christ should come, the same might receive remission of their sins, and rejoice with exceedingly great joy, even as though he had already come among them. (Mosiah 3:13)
To sum it up so far, when we remember and ponder in our hearts, our thoughts are instinctively drawn to gratitude and love for that thing. With this in mind, I would like to further demonstrate the power that gratitude has in our lives. To do this, let's turn back to the scriptures.

13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
(1 Corinthians 13:13)

You might be wondering what faith, hope, and charity have to do with gratitude. But, the question you should be asking is, what does gratitude have to do with faith, hope, and charity? A slight variation makes all the difference in the world. Moroni will be our guide, but first, Joseph Smith gives us great clarity in unlocking Moroni's words.
7. The author of the epistle to the Hebrews, in the eleventh chapter of that epistle and first verse, gives the following definition of the word faith:
8. "Now faith is the substance (assurance) of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
9. From this we learn that faith is the assurance which men have of the existence of things which they have not seen, and the principle of action in all intelligent beings.
10. If men were duly to consider themselves, and turn their thought and reflections to the operations of their own minds, they would readily discover that it is faith, and faith only, which is the moving cause of all action in them; that without it both mind and body would be in a state of inactivity, and all their exertions would cease, both physical and mental.
Lectures on Faith, Lecture 1

Now back to Moroni 7:40-44. I will try to simplify the concepts as we go along and I will also draw a parallel between faith and hope in Christ to obtain eternal life with faith and hope in studying for a test to get a good grade. Also, notice the role that gratitude plays during the whole process.
40 And again, my beloved brethren, I would speak unto you concerning hope. How is it that ye can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope?
  • We develop faith for things that we want to have hope in. Remember Joseph Smith's words above. Gratitude is born, because there is a way and means to achieve what you want.
  • If I study hard (faith) for the test, I can get a good grade (hope). I want a good grade therefore I study. I am grateful that I am able to study to achieve a good grade.
41 And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.
  • We hope to obtain eternal life and this because of our faith in Christ that he is able to save us. As we remember and ponder His life we are filled with great gratitude for Him, which strengthens our faith and hope.
  • I can get a good grade on the test (hope) and this because I have the best study guide (faith in). I am so grateful that such a study guide exists to study from. My faith and hope is strengthened.
42 Wherefore, if a man have faith he must needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope.
  • We have faith in Christ, because of who he is and what he overcame, which means eternal life is possible. Because Christ exists -- Eternal Life exists. Gratitude continues to build and strengthen faith and hope.
  • Because the best study guide exists (faith) -- Good Grade exists (hope). Gratitude continues to build and strengthen faith and hope.
43 And again, behold I say unto you that he cannot have faith and hope, save he shall be meek, and lowly of heart.
44 If so, his faith and hope is vain, for none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart; and if a man be meek and lowly in heart, and confesses by the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ, he must needs have charity...
(Moroni 7:40-44)
I looked up meekness in the Guide to the Scriptures and the first word defining meekness was "Godfearing." The scriptures are filled with references of fearing God. The archaic (very old) definition of fear means: to regard (God) with reverence and awe. In order to do this, one must have a deep and abiding gratitude for God. Meekness is the fruit of gratitude, and the prerequisite of charity. Meekness, is Godfearing, submissive, willingness to be taught and to be obedient to God.

Lowliness in heart is the opposite of pride. Gratitude is being grateful for someone or something besides yourself. When we are grateful for something we develop a love for that someone or something other than ourselves. Charity is the pure love of Christ which is pure love for others.

We have faith in Christ because of His power to save us from our sins and to rest our souls in the mansions prepared for the righteous, which is eternal life. Because of our faith and hope, we gladly submit to His will (with gratitude in our hearts) and are willing to obey His commandments and to be taught how to be like Him; to qualify ourselves through His grace to live the life He lives, even eternal life.
I trust in the study guide (faith in and gratitude for) because it contains sufficient knowledge to secure a good grade (hope). Because of my faith and hope, I am willing to submit myself to sufficient study (faith, cause of action) and am willing to be taught the knowledge it contains (meekness).
Verse 44 contains another powerful key, "if a man be meek and lowly in heart, and confesses by the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ..." Moroni 8:26 helps to unlock this key:

26 And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God.
Moroni 8:26

How does the remission of sins bring meekness? Very simply, because when one receives the remission of their sins, his or her's whole soul is filled with gratitude and love for Him who is able and who has power given to Him by His Father to forgive sins, even our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Thus, gratitude springs forth within him, giving birth to or greatly enhancing his sense of awe and reverence towards God, which begats meekness and lowliness of heart, and "because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love."

The climax of the whole topic is this: Faith, hope, meekness (fruit of gratitude), and charity can only grow or diminish as fast or as slow as each other. Individually and collectively they are proportionally linked. "One for all, and all for one." For if one grows dark, they all grow dark. On the other hand, if one grows lighter, then they all grow lighter, in direct proportion to the growth of the one. And this is how men rise or fall.

To bring this talk to a full circle, I am convinced that the Lord prompted Moroni to put verse 3 in the 10th chapter of Moroni before verse 4-5 for a very specific purpose. To prepare the reader for their journey of faith in Christ and their hope of receiving all the promised blessings, even life eternal. This through their remembering and pondering, which fills their souls with gratitude, which begets meekness and lowliness in heart, which opens the door to the visitation of the Holy Ghost bearing witness of the truthfulness of Him and His power to save us. All of these forces working individually and collectively together, thus developing true discipleship in Christ.

I don't know about you, but I am just blown away at how embedded gratitude is in discipleship. It truly is the catalyst of discipleship. I want you all to know how much the Gospel means to me and my family. I love the Savior and try to emulate His example. I loved learning about gratitude and testify that as we embrace an attitude of gratitude, the Lord will begin to use us in miraculous ways to build His kingdom in these last days. I say these things in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.