In this very unusual year of 2020, every life has been affected by the worldwide pandemic associated with Covid-19. As so many of God’s children struggle with personal sickness, loss of employment and worry, and even the death of loved ones, we might wonder what we can do to make the world a better place.
I wish that I knew each one of you personally. I want you to know that Elder Meurs and Elder Homer and I have prayed for you as if we do know you personally. We have added your names and causes to the prayer rolls of the temple; even asking the First Presidency and the Twelve to remember you in their prayers. We wept with some of you as we learned of your losses during this unusual time. Throughout this year, I have rejoiced as I have seen so many remember their baptismal covenant to “…bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light . . . and . . . mourn with those that mourn . . . and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places…”1, including when faith is tested and circumstances are difficult.
I think of the life of President Samson Pattaraj, who lived his life faithfully, seeking to make the world a better place. At the time of his sudden death because of Covid-19, he was serving as a counselor in the Bengaluru India Stake Presidency. He was only 57 years old and left behind his wonderful wife, Judy, and two beautiful teenage daughters. Brother Samson was baptized as one of the very early members of the Church in India in 1984, at the age of 21 years of age. In 1986 he was ordained an Elder and soon began his fulltime missionary service. Through his teaching and influence, many were converted. In 2002, he and his beloved Judy were married and then sealed in the Hong Kong temple, and from this marriage came two beautiful daughters. President Samson served faithfully and was an example to many.
Does gratitude spare us from sorrow, sadness, grief and pain? No, but it does soothe our feelings. It provides us with a greater perspective on the very purpose and joy of life.November 20, 2020, Church Newsroom, “The Prophet Releases a Message on the Healing Power of Gratitude.”
As I got to know President and Sister Samson, I learned that they shared the joy of life as well as some of the disappointments associated with this mortal experience. And yet, through it all, they loved each other and found ways to provide for their family, love their children, serve their fellowmen, and fulfill the callings that God extended to them in His Church. Despite the goodness of his life, on July 20, 2020, President Samson was called “home to that God who gave [him] life.” 2 and returned to His Heavenly Father. His test is over. It is now our opportunity and challenge to love enough, be grateful enough, and be faithful enough that we can join him and be together forever.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf observed:
“Sooner or later, I believe that all of us experience times when the very fabric of our world tears at the seams, leaving us feeling alone, frustrated, and adrift.
It can happen to anyone. No one is immune.
Everyone’s situation is different, and the details of each life are unique. Nevertheless, I have learned that there is something that would take away the bitterness that may come into our lives…
As disciples of Christ, we are commanded to ‘thank the Lord [our] God in all things,’ to “sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving,” and to ‘let [our] heart be full of thanks unto God.’” 3
In this same General Conference talk, President Uchtdorf promises that “Our loving Heavenly Father knows that choosing to develop a spirit of gratitude will bring us true joy and great happiness.”
President Nelson has promised the same blessings as we express gratitude for the many blessings of our lives.
“Over my nine and a half decades of life, I have concluded that counting our blessings is far better than recounting our problems. No matter our situation, showing gratitude for our privileges is a fast-acting and long-lasting spiritual prescription.
“Does gratitude spare us from sorrow, sadness, grief and pain? No, but it does soothe our feelings. It provides us with a greater perspective on the very purpose and joy of life.” 4
While there are many ways that we can work to make the world a better place, let us start by expressing gratitude for our blessings. We can join President Nelson in offering our own prayers of gratitude and be grateful for what we have, rather than focusing on what we do not have. We can ask for Heaven’s help to fulfill our baptismal covenant to help others throughout our lives and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all circumstances, even when our circumstances are difficult. Let us be grateful to God for life and loved ones, for our testimonies, and for the gospel. May we rejoice in the blessing of knowing that this life is but a little season, and that if we “endure it well,” 5 every blessing, including eternal life with our family, will be granted.
I bear my witness of the blessings of gratitude in “all things.” 6 I bear witness and promise that God will heal each broken heart and provide a way forward in our lives as we love and serve each other, strengthen each other, and express gratitude to God for what we have.
2. Alma 40:11
3. 2014 April General Conference, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Grateful in Any Circumstances”
4. November 20, 2020, Church Newsroom, “The Prophet Releases a Message on the Healing Power of Gratitude”.
5. D&C 121:8
6. D&C 59:7