Photo by Magda Ehlers on

Tis the season to overthink gratitude. I doubt turkeys are grateful for Thanksgiving.

Many years ago, I sat listening to a sacrament meeting talk and wondering about how to define a blessing. The speaker listed many blessings that she was grateful for, such as running water, electricity, warm homes in the winter and air conditioning in the summer, broadcasting General Conference so more people can hear it, and so forth. Everything she listed was a temporal blessing – a modern convenience created by technology. She waxed eloquent about how we, in this dispensation, are more blessed than those in earlier dispensations who didn’t have these blessings.

I love modern conveniences. Sign me up for indoor plumbing forever. However, modern conveniences are pretty recent arrivals on the scene. For centuries, millennia even, humankind has lived without hot and cold running water, electricity, and television. Yet earlier dispensations had the fullness of the gospel. Are we more blessed than they are? Is modern technology a blessing? Will we have indoor plumbing in the Celestial Kingdom?

After puzzling over the idea for some time, I decided to define a blessing as anything that brings you closer to God. If modern conveniences bring you closer to God, then they’re a blessing. Like you can use electricity to read the scriptures at night, and use your phone to coordinate a ward response to someone who needs help. But modern conveniences are NOT a blessing if they drive you further away from God. Like you can use phones to fall in love with an old flame and commit adultery, or you can read the Internet to find entire groups of people to hate.

Trials and tribulations split the same way. Some trials and tribulations bring you closer to God; some make you think there is no God. Some force you to redefine God.

Yesterday, those of you in the USA who celebrate Thanksgiving probably had to go around the table and say something you were grateful for. Is what you expressed gratitude for also a blessing? Does it bring you closer to God or just make your life easier?

Is it possible to not be grateful for something that brought you closer to God? 

Or conversely, can you be grateful for something that drove you away from God? 

Or forced you to redefine God?