University Public Safety Director
It was during his first semester at Ricks College that Stephen Bunnell met a member of his ward named Lisa Muma. They were married 34 years ago. They are the parents of five children and have one granddaughter.
Stephen has been employed at Ricks College and BYU-Idaho for 27 years. He is currently the University Public Safety Director.
Stephen has held several callings in the church including ward clerk, youth Sunday School teacher, and counselor in a stake Sunday School presidency. He presently serves as a primary teacher for nine-year-olds.
Please respond to the question below on the devotional discussion board:
In his April 2014 General Conference talk, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf made the following statement: “A thankful heart is the parent of all virtues.”
What does this simple statement mean to you?
Today I would like to share with you some thoughts on gratitude and the blessing one may receive by nurturing a thankful heart. To understand how I learned the principal of gratitude brings forth blessings from heaven you must know a little about my background. In sharing a few personal and significant things I have experienced throughout my life I hope you will be able to better see the Lord’s blessings and workings in your experiences. Like me, as you see His hand at work in your life, it becomes so much easier to nurture a thankful and grateful heart. My father was raised in Connecticut and attended the University of Michigan where he studied geology. After receiving his masters degree, he moved to New Mexico to work in the oil fields. My maternal great-grandparents were among the faithful members of the Church who moved to Mexico. My mother is among the second generation of her family to be born into the Church. When Mom was a child, my grandparents moved their family to Farmington, New Mexico. Several years later, Mom was a single mother of three and working as a waitress in the diner owned by my grandparents. It was in that diner that Mom and Dad met. They married and moved to a small uranium mining town, where I was born and raised. The school system I attended seemed to understand that they had two types of students: those that would work for their education and move on to institutions of higher learning, and those who would only go through the motions and move on to labor in the mines. Through most of my youth, my father was not a member of the Church. As I recall, he was supportive of the family and our church activity, but it wasn’t until I was 15 and my oldest sister was serving a mission in Montana that Dad chose to be baptized. Dad was a quiet, dignified man that took commitment seriously. He liked to garden, and his first calling, which came only a couple of weeks after baptism, was to care for the grounds at our ward building. After a few years he was called to be the bishop. I’m not sure he knew what he was getting into with that calling, but he was committed to learn, and grow, and serve.
After I graduated high school I moved to Texas and worked as a roughneck in the oil fields. A loving mother who knew that was not where she wanted her baby boy, bribed me with a promise to fund a semester of college in Hawaii. I agreed and attended my first semester of college at BYU-Hawaii. It was while on the island I was prompted to go on a mission. I quickly submitted my papers and was called to serve in the Washington Seattle Mission. While serving there, the Lord began to work miracles in my life. He used my companions and me to bless the lives of those we came into contact with. I didn’t recognize the hand of the lord and the blessings poured out upon me until I had returned home. It wasn’t until I learned to express gratitude to our Heavenly Father that I began to realize the Lord’s direction in my life as it was occurring.
In the April 2014 general conference, then President Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught the following:
Over the years, I have had the sacred opportunity to meet with many people whose sorrows seem to reach the very depths of their soul. In these moments, I have listened to my beloved brothers and sisters and grieved with them over their burdens. I have pondered what to say to them, and I have struggled to know how to comfort and support them in their trials.
Often their grief is caused by what seems to them as an ending. Some are facing the end of a cherished relationship, such as the death of a loved one or estrangement from a family member. Others feel they are facing the end of hope—the hope of being married or bearing children or overcoming an illness. Others may be facing the end of their faith, as confusing and conflicting voices in the world tempt them to question, even abandon, what they once knew to be true.
Sooner or later, I believe that all of us experience times when the very fabric of our world tears at the seams, leaving us feeling alone, frustrated, and adrift.
It can happen to anyone. No one is immune. . . .
. . . Why does God command us to be grateful?
All of His commandments are given to make blessings available to us. Commandments are opportunities to exercise our agency and to receive blessings. Our loving Heavenly Father knows that choosing to develop a spirit of gratitude will bring us true joy and great happiness. 
In last week’s devotional Brother Jason Hunt taught that true freedom comes from gaining control of our limbic system. What better way can we show a loving Heavenly Father true gratitude than by exercising control over the body he has entrusted to us?
While I was serving in a small suburb of Seattle, there lived a man who had left the Church and made a profession of speaking out against it. I learned after I left the area he had fallen ill and was hospitalized. It is my understanding he had few visitors wishing him well, except for a faithful elder’s quorum president who magnified his calling.
The work in this area was difficult. While there, within one week’s time I experienced two miracles.
My companion and I lived in a small mobile home next to a highway that was traveled frequently by large trucks. In the morning we would take turns fixing breakfast for each other—one would cook, and the other study the scriptures. This old trailer had gas appliances that were well past their useful life. To use the oven, one would turn on the gas and wait a few seconds before throwing in a lit match.
I was training a new missionary, and I cooked until he had passed off all of the discussions. The first morning after my companion passed them off, he cooked for me. I remember laying on the couch reading, only a few feet from the kitchen area. I recall hearing the sound of my companion sniffing the air and then the striking of a match. There was an immediate explosion rocking the trailer and blowing all the windows open. I jumped to my feet believing that a truck had lost control and run into our small trailer, only to find my companion standing three feet from the oven, match in hand and still burning. His eyebrows and front of his hair were singed, but neither of us was injured. He later told me he smelled the gas and remembered he needed to light the oven with a match. He thought he could stand across the room, light a match, and slowly burn the gas off as he walked toward the oven. We immediately knelt in prayer and expressed gratitude that we were uninjured and able to continue working on the Lord’s errand.
Later that week we were tracting a neighborhood. As we walked up the driveway to a home with several cars parked around it, the power went out. We knocked on the door and found a small group of people who were running a business out of the basement. Normally they would not have entertained the idea of inviting us in, but because of the power outage they were unable to work. After a couple minutes of small talk, the phone rang and one of the men took a call from his wife who was at home with a sick child. He came back into the room and said that his daughter had suddenly taken a turn for the worse. Her fever had spiked, and his wife was making preparations to take her to the hospital. Someone suggested that we gather together and pray. The father of the sick child asked if I would act as voice in the prayer. We stood in a circle and I prayed for a blessing upon the child in the name of Jesus Christ and by the authority of the holy priesthood. I thanked the Lord for the opportunity to meet with these people in a household of faith. Immediately upon closing the prayer, the phone rang. Again, it was the child’s mother stating that within five minutes of her hanging up, the fever had dropped, and the child almost immediately began to act normal. The breaking of the fever coincided in time with the heartfelt prayer that was being offered by all in that room.
At that time, I did not recognize these blessings for what they were. Later when I opened my heart and recognized more fully the Lord’s hand in my life and expressed true gratitude for the trials in my own life, my eyes were opened.
Elder Uchtdorf went on to say:
Brothers and sisters, have we not reason to be filled with gratitude, regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves?
Do we need any greater reason to let our hearts “be full of thanks unto God”?
“Have we not great reason to rejoice?”
How blessed we are if we recognize God’s handiwork in the marvelous tapestry of life. Gratitude to our Father in Heaven broadens our perception and clears our vision. It inspires humility and fosters empathy toward our fellowmen and all of God’s creation. Gratitude is a catalyst to all Christ like attributes! A thankful heart is the parent of all virtues.
The Lord has given us His promise that those “who [receive] all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto [them].” 
On this week’s discussion board, I asked, “What does Elder Uchtdorf’s statement, ‘A thankful heart is the parent of all virtues’ mean to you?” In response, Natalie Rhea posted, “As I look back in my life I can see that my degree of thankfulness is in direct correlation with developing virtues. The most important thing to be thankful for is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. When I am thankful for Him and His gift it sets a foundation for becoming more like Him, which is developing the virtues He has.”
Brothers and sisters, I challenge you to cultivate a thankful heart and express gratitude to your Heavenly Father for the challenges and opportunities He has crafted specifically for you. Take time to tell the people in your life, whether they are your spouse, children, parents, siblings, roommates, co-workers, and so on, that you are grateful for them. Let them know why they are a blessing in your life. Doing so will open lines of communication and conversations will flow. These conversations will bring blessings from heaven.
I would like to share two more incidents in my life that have forever changed the way I think and feel.
In May of 2014 my parents were living in Burley, Idaho. I got a call from my mother that my father had fallen and was in the hospital. It was believed that he would quickly recover and may need a couple of weeks of therapy to get him walking again. He was moved from the hospital to a rehab center where I took the opportunity to visit with him several times a day. Two days after he was moved to the rehab center, he was returned to the hospital to be checked. My mother spoke to the doctors on the phone who assured her that this was routine, and we could come and visit with him while he was there. An hour later we arrived at the hospital to find that he had slipped into a coma and the doctors wanting to know what measures should be taken to preserve his life. We sat in shock for a couple of hours as the man that I had shared a strawberry milkshake with the previous night lay motionless in the hospital bed. At one point Mom and I found ourselves alone with Dad. Standing at the foot of the bed, our hearts full of gratitude, we looked upon the man we had always leaned on as a pillar of strength. My dear, sweet mother took his hand and said, “It’s okay, Ralph. You’ve done enough; you can go home.” Dad took three more breaths and passed away.
I think of my father every day, and I’m grateful for the impact he had on me growing up, and for the example he set.
The second recent event that has forever changed me took place as I was on a business trip to the East Coast. I arrived late at the Idaho Falls Airport. The gate agent told me that I had missed the cut-off time to be able to check my bags by one minute. In a post-9/11 world there was nothing she could do, try as she might, to get the computer to allow her to check me in. I told her I appreciated her efforts and asked her if she could book me on a later flight. I texted my traveling companion and told him that I would not catch up to him until the final leg of our journey at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. Because I was leaving later in the day, my flight connections were very tight and there was no room for error, or I would be sleeping in an airport that night. I came back and caught the next flight to Denver a couple of hours later. Everything was going smoothly, and I made that connection with no problems. We were all set for an on-time departure when the pilot announced that there was a group of vets who had been in Denver for training and were on their way to the airport. If everything went well, we would only be 30 minutes late departing and he felt he could make most of that time up in the air. As I sat there for the next half hour, I became somewhat agitated that we were waiting for a group of people who had probably thoughtlessly lost track of time while they were in the field tending to cows or horses or whatever veterinarians might be training on in the Denver area. After 30 minutes, the pilot came on and said that they were in the airport and being rushed through security. We would be on our way shortly. Soon a group of young men and their traveling companions entered the cabin of the airplane. Each of them was missing at least one limb. I quickly realized the error in my thought process. Because I was concerned only for myself, I hadn’t even considered that “vet” meant veteran. For the next three and a half hours I sat silently and ashamed for the frustration I had been feeling towards these young men that had sacrificed so much for me. As we began our descent into the Washington, D.C., area the pilot once again came on and said he had in fact made up most of the time we had lost in Denver. He said he knew that there were many on the flight who had tight connections but wondered if it would be appropriate as a demonstration of gratitude to allow these young vets to grab their gear and exit the plane first. We landed and taxied to the gateway. I was amazed as not one of the over 200 people on the plane jumped out of their seats and into the aisle to grab their bags to be the first out the door. All sat patiently, in a joint demonstration of respect, gratitude, and thankfulness to these young soldiers.
 Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Grateful in Any Circumstances,” Ensign, May 2014.