Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Spirit of Thanksgiving

                    We all have bad days - days when things just don't go right.  Sometimes those days lengthen into bad weeks or even bad months.  When I was young, my father often sang hymns as he worked.  One of the hymns I learned from my father is entitled "Count Your Blessings" (Hymns, 241) written by Johnson Oatman, Jr. (1856-1922) with music by Edwin O. Excell (1851-1921).
                    When upon life's billows you are tempest-tossed,
                    When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
                    Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
                    And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

                    Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
                    Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
                    Count your many blessings; every doubt will fly,
                    And you will be singing as the days go by.
                    When you look at others with their lands and gold,
                    Think that Christ has promised you his wealth untold.
                    Count your many blessings; money cannot buy
                    Your reward in heaven nor your home on high.

                    So amid the conflict, whether great or small,
                    Do not be discouraged; God is over all.
                    Count your many blessings; angels will attend,
                    Help and comfort give you to your journey's end.

                    Chorus:  Count your blessings; Name them one by one.
                    Count your blessings; See what God hath done.
                    Count your blessings; Name them one by one.
                    Count your many blessings; See what God hath done.

                    There are many problems in our world today.  It is easy to get discouraged and think that all is lost.  It is easy to think that our load is too heavy to bear any longer.  It is easy to be envious of others who have more worldly goods than we have.  No matter how bad life is for any of us, we each receive many blessings.  Some of those blessings may be general blessings such as wonderful sunshine; other blessings are very individual.  When I am discouraged or feeling unloved or unappreciated, I return to the hymn "Count Your Blessings."  When I start counting my blessings, I realize that my life is very good.

                Researchers at the University of California at Davis are pioneering research about gratitude.  Their research is "part of a larger movement calling positive psychology.  Positive psychology, instead of focusing on illness and other problems, studies health-promoting behavior and the pleasurable parts of parts of life."  The studies are summarized in Robert Emmons' book, How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier (Houghton Mifflin, 2007).  More information about these studies can be found here.  

The Thanksgiving season is a great time to count our blessings.  Thanksgiving can fill us spiritually, emotionally, and mentally as well as physically if we cultivate the spirit of thanksgiving.  The spirit of thanksgiving is to “Live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you” (Alma 34:38).

Thanksgiving Day marks the beginning of what has been called “the big holiday trilogy – Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.  By celebrating this holiday trilogy appropriately, we can be better prepared to receive the “renewal of Easter.”

Thanksgiving is a time to express gratitude for our many blessings.  It is a time to look forward to spending time with family and special friends.  It is a wonderful excuse to gather together and remind ourselves that our families are the foundation upon which we build our lives.  Our families are what enable us to be the very best version of ourselves.  We should give thanks for our families for they truly are the foundation of our lives.

Christmas is a time of love.  Heavenly Father loves His children so much that He sent His Beloved Son to earth on a mission to save all of His other children.  Jesus Christ accepted and fulfilled that mission because of His love for His Father and for all of us.  We celebrate the birth of the Son because we love Him and because we love the Father.  We give gifts to our family members and friends because we love them.  Christmas is a gift of redemption, a gift that can transform us.  It is a wonderful present given to all mankind.  Once we open the gift, we can better understand how our lives can be truly fulfilling and rich.

New Year’s Day is a holiday that is often meant to end the Christmas season.  It marks the time when children go back to school, adult children leave for college, and family members return to their own homes, careers, jobs, and lives.  It is also an excellent time to set goals for self-improvement.  It is truly a clean page in our lives.  It gives us a fresh start and a new beginning with endless possibilities.

Easter is a time when we celebrate the Atonement and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.  When we make family the foundation of our lives, learn to love others as God loves us, and learn to use the new year as an opportunity to improve, we are better prepared to truly celebrate Easter.

This wonderful experience begins with Thanksgiving Day and the true spirit of thanksgiving.  So how do we go about gaining this special spirit?  President Gordon B. Hinckley stated, “How magnificently we are blessed!  How thankful we ought to be!  Cultivate the spirit of thanksgiving in your lives.  Make it of the very nature of your lives.  It will impart an added dimension to your character that will give depth and strength” (Stand A Little Taller, 347).

We can gain the spirit of thanksgiving by being grateful for the many blessings that we receive.  It is so easy to get caught up in complaining about what we do not have instead of expressing thanks for what we do enjoy.  Some of the many blessings for which I am grateful include:  life itself and the opportunity to live in this beautiful world, the ability to walk, run, and do whatever I desire, clean water to drink, a house to provide warmth and comfort, food to eat, clothes to wear, freedom to go wherever I desire, family, friends, and knowledge.  I know that I am truly blessed.

 Helene Rothschild wrote about Thanksgiving, “… the essence of the holiday is to acknowledge and celebrate all the positive things in your life.  It is a time that reminds us to be grateful and appreciate everything and everyone, including ourselves….”

Sean Carter wrote:  “… However, we excel most in keeping the spirit of Thanksgiving alive even today through our undying faith in what our forefathers believed in, the freedom of the soul to choose between what is right and what is wrong and our inner strength to practice this faith in God and ourselves openly.  In our national songs, `In God We Trust,’ or `one nation under God,’ this faith finds special attention as well.
“… Thanksgiving is a time to rediscover the spiritual being within and draw strength from our founders and political zealots whose prolific faith has created a nation that we as well as our progeny will be proud of.”

We are all individuals and will each be thankful for specific items and people.  We can strengthen ourselves and each other by cultivating the spirit of thanksgiving.  We will become more happy and content if we will live in the spirit of thanksgiving.  


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