Area Leadership Message

Gratitude Paves The Way To The “Throne of Grace”

Elder Miguel Ribeiro, Portugal
Elder Miguel Ribeiro, Portugal Europe North Area Seventy

Before being called as an Area Seventy, I faced one of the most challenging phases of my faith journey. Financial difficulties left us unable to purchase food, prompting the sale of all our possessions. Witnessing my wife part with cherished mementos from her grandmother and mother was particularly poignant. Since our car was out of gas, I was walking through our town in search of a pawnshop.

While walking, I remembered a conversation with a very good friend undergoing his own profound challenges. In my attempt to help, I advised him to cultivate gratitude. His response struck a chord: 'In order for me to be grateful, I have to think of someone who is going through worse hardships than I am! It is very hard to find someone like that.' I resonated deeply with his sentiment, feeling emotionally trapped amid my wife's suffering and my children's sadness. Despite having placed my trust in the Savior. He had told me: “Thou art mine” (1). He had chosen me with His promises of making me a “special people unto himself” (2) and “to make [me] high above all nations which he hath made” (3). I had adhered faithfully to practices of tithing, fasting, prayer, and Temple worship, the promised 'windows of heaven' (4) remained closed, and I felt abandoned.

In moments of heightened affliction, I adopted the practice of posing two fundamental questions to the divine: 'O Lord, what is thy wish that I do? What is thy wish that I should learn?' Almost immediately, a thought surfaced: 'And it came to pass that he built an altar of stones, and made an offering unto the Lord, and gave thanks unto the Lord our God.'(5) This prompted a contemplation of the plight of Lehi, who, through no fault of his own, was compelled to abandon his home, leaving behind his possessions, including 'his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him.'(6) Having spent his entire life in Jerusalem, leaving behind lifelong dreams and the fruits of his labor, Lehi faced a seemingly insurmountable challenge. Yet, gratitude was the principle by which he lived and sought salvation. 'Great and marvellous are thy works, O Lord God Almighty!”(7)

For Lehi, gratitude was not contingent on circumstances; it was a decision with a specific focus: Jesus Christ. And so I gratefully discovered, 'If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.'(8) In the midst of my own trials, I internalized the practice of building altars of gratitude daily through prayer. My aim was to be grateful without comparison, expectation, or dependence on external circumstances—a profound shift in perspective.

At the beginning of each prayer, I intentionally directed my thoughts toward the life and mission of my Savior. The process was transformative. The more earnestly I expressed gratitude, the more the Spirit bore witness to the truths of mercifulness and grace. Through this practice, I gained a testimony of the 'intent of this last sacrifice'(9) of my Savior and that his 'bowels are filled with compassion towards (us)'(10).

He perfectly knew me in His bowels of mercy. As my gratitude found expression, my faith deepened, and my soul rejoiced. I came to understand that these daily altars of gratitude were paving the way to the 'throne of grace.'(11). We were blessed both materially and spiritually in the days that followed. But, for everything I've been through, I wouldn't want to trade places with any king. My trials led me to draw closer to and know my Savior Jesus Christ. He lives!

1. Isaiah 43:1 

2. Deuteronomy 7:6 

3. Deuteronomy 26:19 

4. Malachi 3:10 

5. 1 Nephi 2:7 

6. 1 Nephi 2:4 

7. 1 Nephi 1:14 

8. Psalms 139:8 

9. Alma 34:15

10. 3 Nephi 17:6,7 

11. Hebrews 4:16