I have heard it said that “no situation is is so bad that complaining about it can't make it even worse”. Along the same vein, I suggest that “no situation is so bad or even so good that being grateful .. having an attitude of gratitude .. cannot make it better”.
“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. If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues. Someone has said that ‘gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others.’ …
“Do material possessions make us happy and grateful? Perhaps momentarily. However, those things which provide deep and lasting happiness and gratitude are the things which money cannot buy: our families, the gospel, good friends, our health, our abilities, the love we receive from those around us. Unfortunately, these are some of the things we allow ourselves to take for granted. …
“A grateful heart, then, comes through expressing gratitude to our Heavenly Father for His blessings and to those around us for all that they bring into our lives. This requires conscious effort—at least until we have truly learned and cultivated an attitude of gratitude.”
Do you remember as a child being taught to count to ten when you were angry? Even better advise would be to follow the teaching in our LDS Hymn #241: “When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed, when you are discouraged thinking all is lost, count your many blessings, name them one by one. And it will surprise you what the Lord has done ..” Perhaps, instead of just counting to ten when we are angry, we should stop and first think of at least ten blessings we enjoy .. and then proceed to act.
It is not by coincidence that we are taught to pray by (1) addressing our Heavenly Father, and then (2) thanking him for our many blessings .. before (3) listing our many needs and wants and concluding our prayer with (4) Amen.
As we take the sacrament each week, we promise to “always remember him, and keep his commandments which he hath given them, that they may always have his Spirit to be with them” (Sacrament Prayer, Moroni 4:3)
The prophet Alma (in 37:37) urged, “Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; 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 morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day.”
From a jail cell in Liberty we were and are encouraged by our latter day prophet [Joseph Smith] to 'cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed' (D&C 123:17).
No matter where we are at now (physically, emotionally or spiritually), we can improve our situation by trusting in the Lord and doing as he commands. When we take time to be grateful, when we stop and list our 'many blessings', as we 'always remember him' and go and 'cheerfully do all things that lie in our power', we will be blessed. We will be blessed with 'his Spirit to be with [us]'.
D&C 59: 15-21
15 And inasmuch as ye do these things with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances, not with much laughter, for this is sin, but with a glad heart and a cheerful countenance--
16 Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth;
17 Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards;
18 Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;
19 Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.
20 And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.
21 And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.
In April 2009 Conference (“Temple Worship: The Source Of Strength And Power In Times Of Need”) Elder Richard G. Scott shared this story:
“I would like to relate the experience of an ancestor of [his] wife, Jeanene. Her name [was] Sarah Dearmon Pea Rich. Her commentary shows the impact that the temple can have in our lives. When she was 31 years old, she received a calling from Brigham Young to work in the Nauvoo Temple, where all the ordinances possible were performed before the saints had to abandon that temple. This is what she wrote:
“Many were the blessings we had received in the House of the Lord, which has caused us joy and comfort in the midst of all our sorrows and enabled us to have faith in god, knowing he would guide us and sustain us in the unknown journey that lay before us. For if it had not been for the faith and knowledge that was bestowed upon us in that temple by the influence and help of the Spirit of the Lord, our journey would have been like one taking a leap in the dark. To start out on such a journey in the winter as it were and in our state of poverty, it would seem like walking into the jaws of death. But we had faith in our Heavenly Father, and we put our trust in him feeling that we were his chosen people and had embraced his gospel, and instead of sorrow, we felt to rejoice that the day of our deliverance had come.”
In his First Presidency Message back in Sep 2005 entitled 'The Profound Power Of Gratitude' President Monson noted the following:
“Robert W. Woodruff, a prominent business leader of a former time, toured the United States giving a lecture which he entitled “A Capsule Course in Human Relations.” In his message, he said that the two most important words in the English language are these: “Thank you.”
“Gracias, danke, merci—whatever language is spoken, “thank you” frequently expressed will cheer your spirit, broaden your friendships, and lift your lives to a higher pathway as you journey toward perfection. There is a simplicity—even a sincerity—when “thank you” is spoken.”
Conclusion: Gratitude is a choice. It is a way of living your life. It is 'always remembering'. It is saying 'Thank You'. It is stopping and thinking before acting. It is first considering our many blessings. It is a choice. It is our choice to be happy, cheerful, joyful. Jacob's final instruction to his people, and to each of us, is to 'be wise, what can I say more?' (Jacob 6:12).
May we 'choose the right, when the choice is placed before us' by 'counting our many blessings' is my prayer. Amen.