In the closing days of his life, King Benjamin brought his people together and taught them saying, "If ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move, and do according to your own will, and even supporting you form one moment to another - I say, if you should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants" (Mosiah 2:21).
At Thanksgiving we take time to meditate upon the many blessings of life which we enjoy. And there are many to be thankful for. Most of us today live in decent, comfortable homes, especially compared to the type our ancestors lived in just a hundred years ago. There are many in the world who go to bed hungry every night, but most of us don't really know what that feeling is like. There are the blessings of modern conveniences and a style of living that is considered normal for today, but would be unthinkable for all but the extremely wealthy less than a hundred years ago.
Then there are the intangible blessings of peace and freedom. Although there are many opposing viewpoints on political matters that often boil to the surface during elections, in America we live in a nation whose public officers come to power in a peaceful, orderly, if not noisy, manner. We don't have government candidates gunned down in the streets, or military dictators overthrowing constitutionally elected leaders. We have the freedom to move about and live wherever we want without any governmental interference, and we have the freedom to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience.
Although there is fighting and bloodshed occurring all over the world, we enjoy a time of peace from major battles. In this country we are not entangled in a civil war fueled by hatred and prejudices as there is in Ireland, Bosnia and Chechnya. Nor do we have outside enemies that seek to destroy us as is true for Israel.
As members of Christ's church, we are especially thankful for the restored gospel which has been brought into our lives, either through birth or conversion. We are thankful for a prophet to lead us in the way of truth and righteousness. We are thankful for the priesthood with its many attending blessings. We are thankful for the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and other scriptural writings that help teach us the gospel more plainly. We are thankful for the temples where we can receive our own endowments and be sealed together as families, and we're also thankful for the opportunity of assisting our deceased relatives in receiving the fullness of the gospel by performing vicarious work for them.
We are thankful for Christ and His atoning sacrifice for our sins. Without His mercy and love that enabled Him to open the way for us to receive salvation and exaltation, we would remain in our sins for all eternity. We are thankful that He was "willing to come from His throne divine," to be born into mortality "to rescue a soul like mine". We are thankful for His ministry and the great example He set for us to follow. We are thankful for His willingness to be crucified so that we might live.
There are so many blessings we enjoy, especially at this time in the world's history, that we could go on for hours counting them one by one. Yet when listing them there is one that is almost never mentioned, even though it is one of the greatest gifts that God has given us. Perhaps that's because we take it for granted. It's so common, so universal, so obvious that we over look it when being thankful. What makes our forgetfulness even more amazing is that we talk about this gift all the time.
But righteous King Benjamin didn't forget about it, and he taught his people to remember God's great gift. He reminded them, "If ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you form one moment to another - I say, if you should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants" (Mosiah 2:21)
We know that eternal life is the greatest gift of God, but mortal life is just as important a gift, for without it we could never receive exaltation. Husbands and wives can produce the biological clothing which a spirit wears, but they cannot create life. Only God can infuse that physical body with a beating heart, a knowing mind, a seeing eye or a hearing ear. Even before mortality, we were born to a set of heavenly parents who gave us life as spirit beings. And with the granting of that life, we have been given the means to grow and achieve all that our Father has. Life is precious. Life is sacred. Life is one of the basic qualities of Godhood because He is the source of all life. God has the ability to give life to whomever and whatever He wants. .
To be alive, whether in mortality or in a spirit state, is a wondrous gift. Even Satan - who was once known by the glorious name of Lucifer, the son of the morning - was given a premortal life in which to learn and grow to become like his Heavenly Father. Instead of realizing what a great gift life was, he chose to rebel against the very person who created him! We, on the other hand - meaning all those who have ever lived on this earth or will yet live - fought a war to preserve the opportunity to experience mortality as our Father in heaven designed. This is what King Benjamin was referring to when he explained that even if we spent our entire lifetime serving God, yet we would still be unprofitable servants. There is nothing we can do to repay our Father in heaven for the precious gift of life in mortality which He has freely given to us.
However, with the memory of that glorious plan removed from our consciousness, it's all too easy to view life differently than we once did. We see poverty and suffering all around us and wonder, "Why does God allows this to happen?" We see wickedness and selfishness everywhere and wonder, "How come God created man if this is the way he behaves?" We see people physically crippled and infirmed and wonder, "How could God be so cruel as to do this to someone?" We see so much that is unfair and people who are so callous to the needs of others that it's hard to imagine we wanted to be part of such an experience. But this is exactly why we came here!
Life in mortality is meant to be hard. I don't mean that we're to seek out opportunities to be miserable, but this life is meant for us to work by the sweat of our brow. Thorns and thistles were deliberately placed here to torment and afflict the soul of man. But it is by such problems that we grow strong, physically, emotionally and spiritually. As Eve declared, "Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient" (Moses 5:11).
Unfortunately, knowing this doesn't make things any easier to endure. No one wants to suffer. We do everything in our power to prevent pain. Yet, despite our best efforts, heartache and tragedy follow each of us, whether we are faithful to the gospel or not. Spenser W. Kimball, after being called as an apostle to preach the gospel to all nations, lost his vocal cords due to throat cancer. Although faithful to God all of his life, and through no fault of his own, he suddenly was unable to speak at a time when he had been commissioned to testify of Christ to the world. The anguish of spirit he went through was something he never would have wish on anyone, yet, that was what life asked of him.
Each of us has times of sorrow, heartache, pain, disappointment and despair. Each of us has times when life seems to get us down. Each of us has times when we get frustrated with ourselves and others. For some, there may be times when they wonder why God isn't listening to their pleas for help. And for still others there may be times when life doesn't seem worth living. It's at such times as these that we often lose sight of what a glorious gift life really is, because it's hard to understand that this is what life in mortality is all about - facing and overcoming our problems, our fears, our doubts and our weaknesses.
Joseph Smith was called of God to restore the knowledge of the true gospel, yet, from the first time he saw the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, his life was filled with problems. He was slandered, cursed at, whipped, beaten, imprisoned and finally shot to death because of his faithfulness to God's commandments. Although, from our earthly perspective, this hardly seems like the kind of life we would desire, the Lord told Joseph, "Know this my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he" (D&C 122:7,8)?
Life was not always easy for Jesus. His mission was to be the Savior to all mankind. Therefore, with that realization, it wasn't easy for Him to preach to an unreceptive generation that often criticized Him for everything He said and did. It wasn't easy for Him to watch Satan's influence turn people against Him as He struggled to help them find eternal life. It wasn't easy for Him to know that Jerusalem and its temple - which He had watched over for hundreds of years like a mother watches over her children - would be destroyed and its people taken captive in less than seventy years because of their disbelief. These things weighed heavily on the Savior's heart.
How did He handle these stressful, difficult times? Through prayer and faith in His God. In the scriptures we read of the many times Jesus prayed for help, guidance and inspiration to get through some of the tough situations life had to offer him. It wasn't easy for Jesus to fast forty days and still stand up to the temptations of Satan himself. The scriptures tell us that at such a time, Jesus prayed. Out of all of His followers, it wasn't easy to know which twelve men should be chosen to lead the church after His death. The scriptures tell us that Jesus spent all night in prayer on this matter. It wasn't easy for Him to teach His apostles great truths, only to find they didn't understand His words, and it wasn't easy for Him to eat His last meal with them, knowing how His death would affect them. The scriptures records Christ's beautiful prayer of blessing not only on His apostles but on those who would afterward believe on their words.
It wasn't easy for Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane where He suffered both body and soul more than any man could possibly withstand. The apostle John revealed to us Christ's fervent prayer for help, only to concede, "Not my will be done, but thine." It wasn't easy as He hung in great agony on the cross, nails piercing his hands and feet. Again He prayed, this time not only for Himself, but for His enemies saying, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."
Yes, life is hard to live, but it is precisely because of that which makes it such a great, wondrous, glorious gift to be prized above all other gifts from God. However, rather than despair when problems come upon us, we need to remember that our Father hasn't left us to struggle alone. The same source of strength to endure and grow from life's challenges that Christ used is available to help us get through our difficult times. And because we live in a day when the true gospel has been restored, we know who we are, why we're here and where we are going. That knowledge doesn't take away the pain of our suffering, but it does give us comfort to know that we aren't simply the result of a biological creation on some lonely speck of cosmic dust in the midst of a vast universe. We are children of God! He is literally our Father, and He is watching over each one of His children at all times, whether we accept Him or not. More than that, He is ready to help and guide each person who calls upon Him.
Yes, life isn't always easy, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be grateful for this wonderful gift known as mortality. As Joseph Smith learned, it is through problems, heartaches and troubles that we become better prepared to receive God's greatest gift, eternal life. And when problems do come upon us, as they most certainly will, we need to always remember the source of strength that Jesus Christ Himself drew upon in His times of need when we are called upon to endure our own personal crosses.
Return to main menu