If I understand my history well enough, the tradition of large groups gathering for a meal and giving thanks to God even predates the 1621 celebration we sometimes refer to as the “First Thanksgiving.” And some of the traditions or practices we now enjoy probably weren’t part of that 1621 gathering. For example, there is some question as to whether turkey was on the menu, the Pilgrims probably didn’t dress in black and white (black fabric then being exceptionally expensive), and the fork apparently had not yet been invented. But we do know, without question, that those Pilgrims gathered to express thanks for the Lord’s bounteous blessings and tender mercies.
We might not have had a national Thanksgiving holiday were it not for Sarah Joseph Hale’s persistent pleas to U.S. presidents over the course of many years to set aside a day of thanks. The fifth president she importuned, Abraham Lincoln, finally declared in 1863 that the last Thursday in November be set aside to remember a feast celebrated now nearly 400 years ago. (In doing some reading, I learned that Sarah Joseph Hale is also the author of the nursery rhyme, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”). In 1941, Congress officially declared the fourth day of every November to be Thanksgiving. Sisters (and brethren), Sarah Joseph Hale’s pattern in persistently seeking a good thing is a pattern for all of us!
As Latter-day Saints we, both individually and collectively, have much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving day. As I think of my own prayers this morning, and what I will tell my family around a bounteous table this afternoon, I am grateful for a loving, kind Heavenly Father. I am thankful for His plan of happiness and His most earnest desire that we, as His children, return at the appointed time to our Heavenly Home. I am thankful for his first-born Son, the Lord Jesus Chris, who with the Father wants to help us return home and partake of eternal life. That will be another day of Thanksgiving—but not until you and I have finished our labors here. I am thankful to be a free man, able to choose for myself and to live and work and worship as I see fit and proper. I am thankful that all of God’s children have been created equal, and that in this land our inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are guaranteed and protected. I am grateful for parents who love me, for a kind spouse who stands by me, and for children who—although faced with their own struggles and hardships—enjoy the same opportunities and blessings that I do. I am thankful to know that for those who do not at least at present enjoy all of the unearned privileges and advantages I have been granted, I can at least play a small part in sharing my bounty with them—and that a perfectly fair and loving Father will grant His blessings to all who truly seek them, in their due time. As the Prophet explained: “All of your losses will be made up to you in the resurrection, provided you continue faithful. By the visions of the Almighty I have seen it.”
I am thankful for my fellow Latter-day Saints, particularly those who live in the Santa Margarita Stake. I live and worship and serve alongside men and women, and boys and girls, of faith, conviction, hope, and compassion. So many of my brothers and sisters have helped me along life’s journey, teaching me valuable lessons and filling in the gaps I could not otherwise fill on my own.
This Thanksgiving I thank you, my friends. And I thank God in Heaven for His bounteous blessings.
This day I adopt as my testimony that of God’s chosen Apostles:
“Jesus is the Living Christ, the immortal Son of God. He is the great King Immanuel, who stands today on the right hand of His Father. He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son.”