17 December 2009

From the General Relief Society Presidency....

The Nativity

As you reflect on the birth of our Savior this Christmas season, join us in remembering Him by serving someone on His behalf (see Matthew 25:40). We invite you to accept an invitation to do one of the following or something of your choice and share your experience with us (reliefsociety@ldschurch.org.):

  • Visit someone in need.
  • Act on your generous thoughts.
  • Do temple work.
  • Register and search for a family name in the new FamilySearch.

07 December 2009


I've been nursing a cold that has given me a horse voice, and although I really wanted to teach my lesson on Sunday, I'm so thankful for Lisle for stepping in for me on a day's notice. I enjoyed finding the information and content of the lesson. A comment by Robert Emmons, the professor whose study I referred to in the lesson, has stood out in my mind. He said, "Far from being a warm, fuzzy sentiment, gratitude is morally and intellectually demanding. It requires contemplation, reflection and discipline. It can be hard and painful work." Why? ...something to think about as you read through the lesson.


President Monson taught, “Through divine intervention, those who were lepers were spared from a cruel, lingering death and given a new lease on life. The expressed gratitude by one merited the Master’s blessing, the ingratitude shown by the nine, His disappointment.
Like the leprosy of yesteryear are the plagues of today. They linger; they debilitate; they destroy... We know them as selfishness, greed, indulgence, cruelty, and crime, to identify but a few. [Consumed] with their poison, we tend to criticize, to complain, to blame, and, slowly but surely, to abandon the positives and adopt the negatives of life.

  • Think about the "plagues of today" President Monson mentioned. Maybe you can think of a few more.
  • How do the plagues of today effect you? What do you do to lift your spirit and make yourself feel better?
“Gratitude is literally one of the few things that can measurably change people's lives [for the better]." - Dr. Robert Emmons

The following are the results of a “gratitude study” by Dr. Robert Emmons at UC Davis.
Experiment: More than a hundred adults were all asked to keep a journal, and were randomly assigned to 3 different groups. Group A had to write about things they felt grateful about. Group B about things they found annoying, irritating. Group C about things that had had a major impact on them. 2 out of the 3 different experiments were relatively intense and short term (keeping a daily journal for 2-3 weeks), while one required a weekly entry during 10 weeks.

Those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events.

Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions.

A daily gratitude exercise resulted in increased positive alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy compared to a focus on hassles or a downward social comparison (ways in which participants thought they were better off than others).

In a sample of adults with neuromuscular disease, a 21-day gratitude intervention resulted in increased high energy positive moods, a greater sense of feeling connected to others, more optimistic ratings of one’s life, and better sleep duration and sleep quality, relative to a control group.

Children who practice grateful thinking have more positive attitudes toward school and their families. (Froh, Sefick, & Emmons, 2008)

Well-Being: Grateful people report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism and lower levels of depression and stress. The disposition toward gratitude enhances pleasant feeling states more than it diminishes unpleasant emotions without denying or ignoring the negative aspects of life.

Socially: People with a strong disposition toward gratitude have the capacity to be understanding and to take the perspective of others. They are rated as more generous and more helpful by people in their social networks.

Spirituality: Those who regularly attend religious services and engage in religious activities such as prayer reading religious material are more likely to be grateful. Grateful people are more likely to acknowledge a belief in the interconnectedness of all life and a commitment to and responsibility to others (McCullough et. al., 2002). Gratitude does not require religious faith, but faith enhances the ability to be grateful.

Materialism: Grateful individuals place less importance on material goods; they are less likely to judge their own and others success in terms of possessions accumulated; they are less envious of others; and are more likely to share their possessions with others relative to less grateful persons.

A conscious focus on gratitude may also remind you of unassuming pluses that get lost in the ups and downs of a busy life. "The most important blessings are the ones that are most consistent," such as family, health and home, says Philip Watkins, an Eastern Washington University psychologist. "And those are the ones we take for granted." Grateful reflection helps you pick out and savor the good in life, even if the good isn't flashy. Gratitude helps bring to focus, highlights, and underscores what you DO have, and frivolous wants are seen for what they really are- fun and lovely, but absolutely optional.

SUMMORIZE: "The benefits from counting blessings are tangible, emotionally and physically," he said. "People are 25 percent happier and more energetic if they keep gratitude journals, have 20 percent less envy and resentment, sleep 10 percent longer each night and wake up 15 percent more refreshed, exercise 33 percent more and show a 10 percent drop in blood pressure compared to persons who are not keeping these journals."

Gratitude is literally one of the few things that can measurably change people's lives," -Dr Emmons

Gratitude unlocks the fulness of life. It turns what we have into enough and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. -Melody Beattie

Besides thanking those who bless our lives, as members of the church, we know to Whom we give thanks...

Alma chapter 34 is the heartfelt sermon given by the great missionary, Amulek. He and Alma are preaching to poor among the Zoramites who have been humiliated and cast out of the synagogues because of their poverty. As Amulek teaches them he doesn’t waste much time getting to the heart of the matter...
“And we have beheld that the great question which is in your minds is whether the word be in the Son of God, or whether there shall be no Christ.” Amulek, a fairly new convert himself, bears fervent testimony of Christ, and in conclusion he offers one of my favorite invitations found in scripture....

“Live in thanksgiving daily for the many mercies and blessings which He doth bestow upon you.” -Alma 34:38

We can be thankful for our blessings, but when we acknowledge the source of all goodness not just in our daily prayers, but in our hearts throughout each day, we live in thanksgiving and are filled with the Spirit.

Thankfulness helps you see that you're an object of love and care. When we show gratitude for our Savior we acknowledge that He loves us and blesses us individually. We are worthy of His love.

  • How did the Savior “live in Gratitude daily”?

He expressed gratitude to His Heavenly Father in prayer when performing miracles (see John 11:41)
He expressed thanks for earthly things such as food (see Matthew 15:36)
He gave credit to Heavenly Father for giving us all things (see Matthew 11:27).
Through obedience to all He was commanded to do.

Professor Emmons said, "Far from being a warm, fuzzy sentiment, gratitude is morally and intellectually demanding," he says. "It requires contemplation, reflection and discipline. It can be hard and painful work." In the gospel light, Jesus showed that gratitude is more than a sentiment, rather gratitude is a VERB. We too can show this kind of gratitude to our Heavenly Father and “live in thanksgiving daily.”


some of these are fun for kids

  • Keep a running gratitude list
  • Keep a daily journal recording at least one way the Lord has blessed your life.
  • Create a gratitude paper chain that counts down to a holiday or birthday.
  • Take a conscious look at the beauty of the earth & recognize the Creator.
  • Say a prayer of gratitude; asking for nothing, but simply expressing thanks.
  • Study “gratitude” as it is taught in the scriptures.
  • Make a gratitude collage.
  • Spend time with grateful people.
  • Be cautious about being critical---seek understanding and don’t waste energy on negativity.
  • List gratitude ABC style: A- apples, B- brother, Jim, C- church, etc.
  • Don’t gossip or listen to gossips.
  • Write a gratitude letter to your children.
  • Write a letter of gratitude to someone who has blessed your life in some way, but whom you haven’t thanked (enough).
  • Celebrate other people.
  • Sing and/or listen to hymns or songs of gratitude
  • Collect gratitude stories.
  • Establish a Gratitude Book at Thanksgiving.
  • Play Gratitude ”I Spy.”
  • Contemplate your divine worth; you are worthy of the Lord’s love & blessings.
  • Find gratitude in every situation.
  • Simplify your schedule, possessions and relationships. It’s harder to be grateful if you are overwhelmed in any one of these areas.
  • Don’t deny yourself the basics – sleep, healthy food, exercise, solitude, etc.
  • Practice CONTENTMENT by practicing delayed gratification & honestly identifying needs vs. wants.
  • Simplify possessions- Be content with fewer, but good quality clothes.
  • Say “thank you” OFTEN.
May each of us carry the gratitude we focused on during the Thanksgiving holiday throughout our Christmas celebrations. And beyond that, as Amulek taught, may we “Live in Thanksgiving daily for the many mercies and blessings He doth bestow upon you.”

Post edit: The March 2010 issue of the Ensign has a wonderful article on Gratitude that compliments this lesson very well. Click HERE to read the article.

04 December 2009

Christmas Wreathmaking Party

We had a lovely wreathmaking party last night. We were delighted that quite a few women brought friends. Allison's friend attended last years' program as well and mentioned afterward how nice it was to "meet new friends" and she wanted to know the date of next years' wreathmaking party so she could put it on her calendar.
Charlene's neighbor brought wreath accents to donate and a woman from the Marlborough Ward RS brought fresh holly clippings for all to use. Women made wreaths for those who couldn't attend, but had signed up for wreaths. There was a great spirit of kindness, creativity, and sisterhood. We had a ball.
We sincerely missed those of you who were not able to make it for whatever reason. You were in our thoughts. I promised one sister who had to leave early that I would post the program on our Relief Society blog. Hopefully as you read this you can feel a part of our Wreath making party. (Please forgive my weakness in formatting....)

Wreathmaking Party Program

  • Dora M. read: It is a good thing to observe Christmas day. The mere marking of times and seasons, when men agree to stop work and make merry together, is a wise and wholesome custom. It helps one to feel the supremacy of the common life over the individual life. It reminds a man to set his own little watch, now and then, by the great clock of humanity which runs on sun time.

But there is a better thing than the observance of Christmas day, and that is, keeping Christmas.

Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you; to ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world; to put your rights in the background, and your duties in the middle distance, and your chances to do a little more than your duty in the foreground; to see that your fellow-men are just as real as you are, and try to look behind their faces to their hearts, hungry for joy; to own that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life; to close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness--are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.

Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and the desires of little children; to remember the weakness and loneliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on their hearts; to try to understand what those who live in the same house with you really want, without waiting for them to tell you; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thoughts, and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open--are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.

Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world--stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death--and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love? Then you can keep Christmas.

And if you keep it for a day, why not always? - Henry Van Dyke

  • Macy Robison sang a great solo of "We Need a Little Christmas." She made us all smile!
  • Click HERE for the Christmas Story that Santa read from the pulpit.
  • There was a beautiful rendition of "Born to Wear a Crown" by four women in the Marlborough Ward Relief Society.
  • Max read: The real business of Christmas is to courageously reconcile differences; to heal wounds of the heart; to honestly, fully forgive and forget; to love our enemies after the manner of the Savior on the cross; to generously help those who are truly in need; to think less about what we can buy and more about what we can give that will be most meaningful; to lift up the hands that hang down and strengthen the feeble knees and carry each other's burdens in full purpose of comfort and solution. It is remembering that the birth of Jesus introduced mercy, repentance, hope, and love into the world, and that our part is to find ways to implement these virtues into daily living. It is quietly doing what needs to be done, in the name of Jesus Christ, without looking for credit or praise.
Perhaps we can make Christmas the starting point of more Christ-like behavior all year; we can strive to be more kind and patient, more helpful and forgiving. If we can do it for a season, why not for a whole year and then even for a lifetime! - Henry Van Dyke

  • Kayla N. read: The Savior is our great exemplar. At the Christmas season we contemplate anew who He is and what generosity He extended to us by coming into the world to be our Savior.
As the Son of God, born to Mary, He had the power to resist all temptation to sin. He lived a perfect life so that He could be the infinite sacrifice, the unblemished Lamb promised from the foundation of the world.

He gave us that gift at a price we cannot fathom. It was a gift He did not need for Himself; He was without the need for forgiveness.

The Christmas season gives us encouragement to remember Him and His infinite generosity. Remembering His generosity will help us feel and respond to the inspiration that there is someone who needs our help, and it will let us see the hand of God reaching to us when He sends someone to succor us, as He so often does. There is joy in giving and in receiving the generosity that God inspires, especially at Christmas. - Henry B. Eyring, December 2009 Ensign

If we can feel this divine joy for a season, why not for a whole year and then even for a lifetime!