The Purpose and Blessings of Thanks Giving

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Horn of Plenty Thanks GivingTraditionally,every fourth Thursday in November is celebrated as Thanksgiving Day. However, Edward Sanford Martin, a graduate of Harvard University and a founder of the Harvard Lampoon, and the first literary editor of Life Magazine, had a totally different perspective about Thanksgiving Day. He said,

Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow.

Family Gathering Thanksgiving DayFor many people, Thanksgiving Day is a joyous time when family and friends from both near and far gather together for a day of feasting and celebration. As they enter the home of their hosts they smell the savory aroma of the delectable victuals prepared for the banquet that will soon be set before them. In addition to the bounteous meal, there will be Thanksgiving Day parades and football games to watch, and of course, a time for catching up on all the latest family gossip. But amidst all the joy and excitement, do families remember to take the time to bow their heads and give thanks for the many blessings, both small and great, that the Lord has bestowed upon them? Or, is this just another family gathering and an opportunity to partake of a delicious meal and sit back and watch football games? In other words, is Thanksgiving Day truly a day of Thanks Giving?

Mon and Dad Early YearsAs a boy growing up, I can remember that some of the most exciting times around our home occurred during the holidays. My beloved mother absolutely loved the holidays, and Thanksgiving Day was one of her favorites. My mother would spend the day before and the morning of Thanksgiving carefully preparing the feast that we were to partake of later that day. I can still smell her homemade rolls, candied yams, and mouth-watering turkey cooking in the oven. There was also homemade dressing and gravy and some sort of vegetable. For dessert my mother would make delicious homemade sweet potato pies. I used to love to eat the left over dough that she had after making the pie crusts. When the meal was finally ready and set on the table, we would gather around as a family, and before anyone would have their first bite, we bowed our heads and gave thanks for our many blessings, the meal which was placed before us, and a special blessing upon the hands that had so lovingly prepared the meal that we were about to partake of.

Family PrayerHowever,Thanksgiving Day was not the only day that we paused to give thanks for the many blessings that we received from above. From the age of small children and continuing into our adult years, we were taught that every day was a day of “Thanks Giving.” We were taught that there is always something to be thankful for and, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). As we learned to give thanks, we also learned to fear not, to let our hearts be comforted, and to rejoice evermore (see Doctrine and Covenants 98:1). We were also taught to not only give thanks for the large blessings that we receive, but for the smallest of blessings as well –in everything give thanks.

Give ThanksThe scriptures are replete with reasons why we should always give thanks unto the Lord. In Psalm 92:1-2 we learn, “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord,and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High: to shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night.” In Psalm 107:8-9 the Psalmist exhorts, “Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.” And in Psalm 69:30, the Psalmist declares, “I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.” The pages of scriptures record accounts of many people who expressed their thanks to the Lord. For example, King Solomon expressed gratitude for Divine faithfulness and goodness (see 1 Kings 8:14-21). King David thanked God after winning a battle (see 2 Samuel 22:1-51, Psalm 98:1). And there are many others.

In 1863, shortly after committing his life to Christ and while America was still in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln penned “Proclamation of Thanksgiving.” It was this proclamation which eventually led to the establishment of our national Thanksgiving holiday. Abraham Lincoln wrote these words in his opening paragraph:

Abraham LincolnThe year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful years and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the Source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

I draw attention to President Lincoln’s words, “To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the Source from which they come.” How often do we take the blessings of the Lord for granted, forgetting to recognize from whom all blessings come? How often are we found guilty of getting so caught up in the grandeur of things that we tend to miss or dismiss the small things that come into our lives to bless us as well? In that same proclamation President Lincoln reminded us,

The Blessing of the LordNo human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It is not the size of the blessings that should concern us, but rather the acknowledgement of those blessings which are bestowed upon us that should call for every day of our lives to be a day of Thanks Giving.

Mormon Young Man PrayingWe should even be thankful in the midst of storms and tribulation. The Apostle Paul said, “Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my glorying of you: I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation” (2 Corinthians 7:4). He knew that, “all things work together for good to them that love God,to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). God will allow storms to come into our lives to send our roots deep into the soil of His Word. As someone has wisely said, God will sometimes place us flat on our backs to get us to look up. Someone has also said, we will see more when we are on our knees than when we are standing on our tiptoes.

The story is told of a man who once watched a butterfly struggling to get out of its cocoon. In an effort to help it, he took a razor blade, and carefully slit the edge of the cocoon. The butterfly escaped from its problem and immediately died. God has a purpose for making the butterfly struggle. It is the struggle that causes its tiny heart to beat fast, and send the life’s blood into its wings. In the same way, the trials that we face in life also have their purpose. They make us struggle—they bring us to our knees. They are the cocoon in which we often find ourselves. It is there that the life’s blood of faith in God helps us to spread our wings.

Faith and giving thanks are close friends. If you have faith in God, you will be thankful because you know His loving hand is upon you, even though you may be standing in a lion’s den, or facing the sweltering heat of a fiery furnace. Regardless of our circumstances or station in life, all of us have so much to be thankful for. God has “given unto us exceeding great and precious promises” and “more to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (2 Peter 1:4; Psalm 19:10). We need to believe those promises and thank God continually for them.

An old farmer once had an ungodly relative visit him. After the farmer had bowed his head and thanked God for the food they were about to eat, the relative rudely said,”What did you do that for? There’s no God. We live in an age of enlightenment.” The old farmer smiled and said, “There is one on the farm who doesn’t thank God before he eats.” The relative sat up and said,”Who is this enlightened one?” To which the farmer quietly replied,“My pig.” If we are to be enlightened, let us be enlightened by the fact that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). Let us be enlightened in our understanding that every day, not just Thanksgiving Day, should be a day of Thanks Giving. I leave these humble thoughts with you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.Amen. Happy Thanks Giving!

What are some of the things that you are thankful for?