On July 17, 1987, my mother and father welcomed me into the world. Today, I turn thirty-three. As I thought whether or not to publicly mention my birthday, I had the idea of listing thirty-three things I’m grateful for. I hope that my list causes you to reflect on things that you are thankful for in your own life. Gratitude is a sorely lacking virtue in modern society. My birthday wish this year is that you will turn to God and thank Him for all those things He has done for you and your family. God bless you and keep you in His loving care!
1. I’m grateful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The English word “Gospel” comes from a much older word meaning “good news.” The good news of our Savior Jesus Christ is the greatest ever proclaimed. He redeemed those who will turn to Him in sincerity of heart. He atoned for their sins in the Garden of Gethsemane. He died for them on the cross. And He rose from the tomb to shatter the shackles of death so that each of us may rise again. Today, the risen Lord stands on the right hand of our Father in Heaven, leading and directing His Church, urging people to come to Him so that He may heal and bless them, and preparing His followers for His swiftly approaching Second Coming.
2. I’m grateful for my family. They mean so very much to me. They’re my best friends. Everything I do is for my God and my family. I love them immensely.
3. I’m thankful for my precious Freedom. The trio of Faith, Family, Freedom is what makes life worthwhile. Liberty is the salt that gives life flavor. Without it, life is drudgery and servitude. I’m so grateful that I have been blessed with personal agency and accountability. Long Live Liberty!
4. I’m grateful for the U.S. Constitution. That divinely-inspired instrument protects my God-given rights. It is the glue that binds the Union together. It is a document worth fighting for. And the men who created it were good, honorable, patriotic men moved upon by God to restore the principles of free government to the world. May we bear off the Constitution and hand it down intact to the next generation.
5. I’m thankful for America. The United States is criticized at home and abroad these days. But I express my sincere appreciation for America, her noble history, her general goodness, and the unsurpassed rights I’m offered here. I’m proud to be an American and unashamed to say so. God bless the good people of America!
6. I’m grateful for Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson is my hero. I gladly call myself a “Jeffersonian constitutionalist.” His words have guided me many times and have informed my own beliefs. His writings are like an endless well of truth and knowledge. He wrote his most famous work, the Declaration of Independence, when he was age thirty-three. I honor his good name.
7. I’m appreciative and thankful for the majestic earth that God created. Though we sometimes muck things up, the earth is a splendid creation. The mountains and forests, rivers and lakes, oceans and beaches, dunes and prairies, are beautiful to look upon. We couldn’t ask for a more pleasant home away from our true Heavenly home!
8. I’m grateful for eternity. I’m thankful for the sure knowledge I have that birth was not the beginning and death is not the end. The human soul existed before and will continue on after our mortal bodies crumble to the earth. We will live on in spirit form until the day of the Resurrection when our bodies and spirits will be reunited once more. If we have followed Jesus Christ, entered into His ordinances, and remained faithful to our sacred covenants, we will enjoy growth and happiness with our loved ones for eternity.
9. I’m grateful for modern technology which allows me to reach out and connect with the world, access the learning and wisdom of generations, and educate and inspire people in multiple locations simultaneously. Our conveniences give us a greater opportunity for learning and promoting goodness than past generations had. They also provide a greater chance to be deceived and to deceive, if we use them improperly. Let’s do our part to use the technology with which God has blessed humanity for our collective benefit.
10. I’m grateful for the color green. Green – emerald in particular – is my favorite color because it is the color of trees, grass, and nature.
11. I express appreciation for sincere friends. George Washington counseled: “Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence—true friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo & withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation” (George Washington to Bushrod Washington, January 15, 1783). Because I don’t count all people I meet or know as friends, I’m profoundly grateful for those who have withstood the “shocks of adversity” with me and have remained by my side.
12. I’m grateful for laughter. The king of silent comedy, Charlie Chaplin, is reported as having said that a day without laughter is wasted. I tend to agree. Laughter enlivens the soul, expands the senses, and helps us see more beauty in life. “[M]en are, that they might have joy,” says the scripture (2 Nephi 2:25). Laughing is a joy and undoubtedly one of my favorite activities!
13. I’m thankful for clean comedy. Much of the so-called “comedy” that contaminates the world today is crude, rude, and profane. True comedy doesn’t need to swear or include sexual references in order to score laughs. Abbott and Costello, The Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers, and all the comedic greats, along with more modern additions such as Studio C, Dry Bar Comedy, and Brian Regan, have filled my life with countless hours of honest humor.
14. I recognize books as one of the greatest of all blessings. “I cannot live without books,” said the Sage of Monticello (Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, June 10, 1815). Neither can I. Reading is a joy that’s hard to explain. It fosters imagination, which is a superlative blessing in and of itself. Books have the ability to transport us to new worlds and give us experiences we couldn’t otherwise have. Books are faithful friends. The pages of a book is where some of our biggest heroes live. As an author myself, I express my gratitude for the refuge from the world that books provide for us.
15. I thank the Lord for majestic mountains. I fondly recall all the times I’ve spent hiking and hunting and exploring in the mountains of Alaska, Idaho, and elsewhere. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be than on a wooded alpine slope.
16. I’m grateful for peace and quiet. With the constant rumble of the city in the background and the hum of electronics in the air, city-dwellers don’t truly comprehend what peace and quiet feels like. Having spent much of my life in rural communities of a few hundred people or less, I’ve come to adore peace and quiet – and to miss it very much whenever I’m in metropolitan areas. Port Lions, Alaska is my pick for most peaceful place I’ve ever been.
17. I’m thankful for little children. I’ve always liked kids and consider myself a kid at heart in many ways. Children are innocent and pure and role models for the rest of us. I can’t wait until my home is filled with children!
18. I’m grateful for music. What would life be without a soundtrack? Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Christmas music, Russian/Slavic folk music, yodeling, and Armenian duduk tunes. Anyone who has not discovered the beauty of instrumental, classical, and folk music, is missing out!
19. I’m grateful for the inestimable gift of language. As biting and deceptive as language often is, it is nonetheless beautiful. Language has the power to move nations, motivate individuals, and change history. It has the power to convert wayward souls, inspire feelings of love, and make a child smile. Language is real power.
20. I’m beyond thankful to see so many people waking up to the corruption that plagues our world. It’s been my life’s work trying to wake folks up to the communist conspiracy’s machinations. Unfortunately, it took a global crisis, the burning of American cities, and the loss of several of our most fundamental Freedoms to jolt some people awake. Of course, many are still sound asleep, but I expect more to continue to open their eyes because, as they say, hindsight is 20/20.
21. I’m grateful for Autumn. I love the vibrant colors of the trees – orange, yellow, red. I’ve been blessed to live in some gorgeous locations with picturesque Autumns. This special season has become my favorite.
22. I’m grateful for guitars. I’ve passed hundreds of hours strumming a guitar and writing songs. As fun as it is to listen to music, it’s even more fulfilling to create music!
23. I’m thankful for my silly little dog G.A. He’s a ten-month-old dachshund-chihuahua mix with endless energy.
24. I’m grateful for the song of the Cocorron here in Panama where I’m temporarily residing. Every Easter, this little insect comes out and makes a wailing noise that can be heard all around. I love hearing it!
25. I’m grateful for pancakes! Though my wife isn’t a big fan, she made delicious homemade pancakes with eggs and sausages for my breakfast today. Pancakes are a little taste of home and a tasty reminder of my childhood. Thank you, Emma! I love you very much!!
26. Speaking of childhood, I’m thankful to my parents for raising me! They’ve been my constant support throughout my life. They gave me a happy upbringing. Most importantly, they taught me to love the Lord. The older I get and the more I meet other families, the more appreciative of my own childhood and home life I become. My Mom and Dad deserve a place of honor for their great work raising me and my siblings.
27. I’m grateful for American history. I draw strength from our forefathers’ valor, honor, and devotion to principle. They landed in this uncivilized land, improved the soil, constructed a Republic, and forged the world’s greatest nation. I praise their good works, their conquests, and their sacrifices.
28. I’m personally thankful for ancestors who helped shape the events just mentioned. The first Strong in the New World was Elder John Strong who arrived in 1635. He was an Indian fighter, churchman, and political figure. One of his descendants, to whom I am also distantly related, was Caleb Strong. Caleb Strong was a forgotten Founding Father who worked intimately with John Adams in drawing up the Massachusetts Constitution, who attended the Constitutional Convention and successfully moved that all financial items originate in the House of Representatives, who served as the first senator from Massachusetts and was often called the “first citizen,” and who later served as governor of that state for eleven years. Other individuals in my family history, such as Leonard Ishmael Smith, were Pioneers and did notable things for their country and posterity that I don’t have space to mention. I honor them all today.
29. I’m grateful to my siblings. My family members are my best friends. My siblings have been right there by me for all these years. They’ve laughed with me, played with me, and shared tender moments with me. They’ve crept down the stairs with me to peak at the presents under the Christmas tree at 2 A.M. They’ve shared too many laughs with me to count. They’ve put up with my antics and have stayed true through everything. They deserve a place on this list. I love each of you!
30. I’m indescribably grateful to my Savior Jesus Christ for His Atonement, His mercy, and His love. Because He suffered for my sins and sicknesses and weaknesses, I can be redeemed, comforted, and healed. Without the Atonement of Jesus Christ, nothing else in life truly matters. It is through the mercy of Jesus Christ that I can return, with my family, to the presence of my Eternal Father.
31. I’m appreciative of the holy scriptures. I love reading the records left by ancient prophets of the Lord. The Bible has so many wonderful stories and teachings, from Joseph of Egypt to Jonah and the whale to Jesus of Nazareth. I also revere The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ and draw so much strength and inspiration from its stories and its heroes, men like Captain Moroni, Nephi, and Alma the Younger. The Lord be thanked for giving us written records of truth to sustain us!
32. Even more than the inspired records of yesteryear, I’m extremely thankful for a living prophet. The man whom the resurrected Lord has called to lead His Church today, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is Russell M. Nelson. President Nelson has been called “Moses in a business suit.” It is a marvelous thing to know that God has not left us alone during these trying times, but that He leads and directs the affairs of His earthly Kingdom through a living prophet just as He did anciently through Moses, Isaiah, or Peter.
33. Last, but absolutely not least, I am immensely grateful for my little baby who is about to be born any day. I haven’t seen this child with my own eyes or held them in my hands, yet my heart expands with pure love for them! This child is a unique and precious soul – a reward from my Father in Heaven (Psalm 127:3-5). I can’t wait to see you, little one.
July 17, 2020