[The following is from the talk given by Elder Greaves before leaving home for the MTC]
Thomas S. Monson talked about how the feeding of the 5000 during the Sermon on the Mount is an example of gratitude. We know that Christ was journeying in the wilderness for three days, and a crowd had followed him. And it’s not like they could look up His itinerary online or anything, so this was probably a pretty impromptu trip for many of them, and several families didn’t have anything to eat. The Lord had mercy, and wanted to feed them. He asked how much food they had, and the answer was 7 loaves and a few fishes. The Apostles did maybe what we would do, presented with these facts. They said that there was no way they could feed all those people, and immediately noted that they didn’t have enough. President Monson points out that Christ did the opposite. Right away, he expressed gratitude to Heavenly Father for what they did have, and it wasn’t until after this that a miracle was performed, and they had enough plus extra to feed the 5000. He focused and relied on what they did have rather than on the things they didn’t have.
One of my favorite examples from the scriptures is the story of 10 lepers. Christ was traveling somewhere between Samaria and Galilee, and had entered a village, when 10 lepers saw Him, recognized Him, and begged him to heal them. He had mercy on them, and healed them. The 9 left, probably to go see their families or get their health officially passed off by a Priest, both worthy tasks, but the one leper, when he saw that he was healed, turned back and gave thanks to Christ, and worshiped him. Then Christ took him by the hand, lifted him to his feet, and said, “Go thy way, your faith has made thee whole.” This story doesn’t really have details besides that, and we are left to wonder what happens to the 9, how the 1 was different. I don’t think that the 9 were no longer healed. That just doesn’t match up with the merciful attitude of the Lord. I don’t think that the 9 weren’t grateful. I’m just sure that as they ran to see their families, they felt their testimony of Christ strengthened, and they felt extremely grateful. But the last leper, he did something different when he expressed that gratitude. Sometimes we forget that part. I might think privately, ‘that was a real blessing’. But sometimes I forget to pray and say thanks for His help.
And there are a lot of things to be grateful for.
This Gospel is such a gift. There have been times when I really felt unsure about everything, my testimony included. I don’t think this is uncommon, nor do I think that this is wrong. It’s just a natural part of growing up, and beginning to rely more on your testimony than your parents. I hope that any youth or even adult that struggles with that knows that they aren’t doing anything wrong, and that even prophets have felt that, and talked about feeling like they had to pray when in the morning for their testimonies. During those times when I was feeling spiritually low, one thing I always tried to hold on to was that being a part of this gospel makes me happy. And obeying the commandments makes me happy. And praying and scripture study makes me happy. And as long as I remembered that, and kept moving forward, my testimony would always be strengthened eventually.
Something I’ve thought about a lot as I prepare to serve a mission is the Atonement, the single greatest thing anyone has done for anyone else ever. And that’s not even an exaggeration. One of the best illustrations I’ve ever heard of the Atonement was by Deiter F. Uchtdorf, in a talk he gave during this last Priesthood session, so many of you may not have heard it. He describes how we are like toddlers, learning to walk. He said:
“We have all seen a toddler learn to walk. He takes a small step and totters. He falls. Do we scold such an attempt? Of course not. What father would punish a toddler for stumbling? We encourage, we applaud, and we praise because with every small step, the child is becoming more like his parents. Now, brethren, compared to the perfection of God, we mortals are scarcely more than awkward, faltering toddlers. But our loving Heavenly Father wants us to become more like Him, and, dear brethren, that should be our eternal goal too. God understands that we get there not in an instant but by taking one step at a time.”
The more we think about this allegory, the more illuminating it is. We need someone to pick us up, that’s Christ. Sometimes, it is others around us that Christ directs to help us.
Heavenly Father doesn’t get mad when we make mistakes, he just wants us to grow. In fact, the only thing that offends God is “Those who confess not his hand in all things.”
If we start believing that we have accomplished what we have all on our own, that is the only time when we offend God. If the lepers had thought that it was their own power that had healed them, or if those in the crowd at the sermon on the Mount had disregarded the statement that the Meek shall inherit the Earth and thought it was by their power that there was enough food for everyone, they would have had their blessings taken away until they understood. Without gratitude we can’t be humble, but with gratitude for everything around us, we can become closer to God.
And that relationship between gratitude and humility is so important for missionary work.
John 3:30 is one of my favorite missionary scriptures, and says “He must increase, but I must decrease.” I love how much humility this shows, because the people were following John around and honoring him, but he understood that his influence needed to decrease to allow Christ’s to increase. That’s what missionaries need to do as well, decrease their personal interests and desires to allow themselves to be true servants of Christ and bring others to the Gospel.
Also one of my favorite scriptures right now is Helaman 3:35. ”Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.” As a missionary, this will be my goal.
I am grateful for the times when Heavenly Father blesses me in little ways, like when I went to the temple to do baptisms with my little brother, and the Baptism Coordinator was a gentlemen who had grown up in Berlin, joined the church there, and sent his daughter on a mission there. It was just a little way that Heavenly Father helped to comfort me and help me feel how much He cares about me.
I know this Church is true, and I’m so grateful and excited for the opportunity to serve the Lord in Germany and help others learn of Christ.