Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day 2020. Most Americans know that the first Thanksgiving took place in 1621 with the Pilgrims and the American Natives feasting together, but the first official Thanksgiving was October 3, 1863. During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln announced that the nation would celebrate an official Thanksgiving Day on November 26, 1863, the fourth Thursday in November. In 1941, Congress adopted Thanksgiving Day as a legal annual national holiday. Between the two official actions, Thanksgiving was observed but not officially as a national holiday.
As I typed the above information, I found it interesting that the two official acts took place when the nation was in great distress. By 1863, the Civil War had been raging for more than three years. Yet, President Lincoln felt the need for the nation to commemorate an official day of thanksgiving. Europe and Asia were both engulfed in war in 1941, but the United States did not enter the war until after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Yet, Congress decided that the nation should have an annual national holiday to give thanks.
The United States is not embroiled in another stressful time. COVID-19 came to our shores from China early in 2020. By mid-March, Americans were quarantined to their homes to slow the infections long enough for the medical profession to prepare. Now we are in the ninth month of efforts to avoid infection with the disease that has been related to more than 250,000 deaths in the United States.
We were doing well until the weather turned cold, and people moved inside. Now the disease is raging through the country once again, and governors are asking/instructing people to isolate as much as possible once again. It seems that the numbers of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths just keep going up here in Alaska. Because my husband and I are among the vulnerable population, we have not ventured far from our home since mid-March except for medical and dental appointments. We have not been inside a grocery store since February and have relied on the goodness of our children and friends to do our shopping for us.
Then, as if 2020 could not get any worse, the presidential election became the victim of fraud. There is clear evidence that fraud took place, but no determination has been made yet about cancelling the election results or overturning them. The nation remains more divided than it has been since the days of the Civil War. Half the nation supported a presidential candidate who would uphold the Constitution, and the other half supported a presidential candidate from a party that wants to change the Constitution. There does not seem to be any middle ground.
It is under these conditions that Russell M. Nelson, the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Lord’s appointed prophet for the world, suggested a way to bring healing to the nation and the world. Before he was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, President Nelson was a world famous cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon and saved many lives with his skills. Now, he is the Prophet and can bless people spiritually. He spoke to members of the Church of Jesus Christ and people worldwide last Friday, November 20, 2020.
As a man of science, and as a man of faith, the current worldwide pandemic has been of great concern to me. As a man of science, I appreciate the critical need to prevent the spread of infection. I also honor the devoted service of healthcare pro-fessionals and grieve for the many whose lives have been upended by COVID-19.
As a man of faith, however, I view the current pandemic as only one of many ills that plague our world, including hate, civil unrest, racism, violence, dishonesty, and lack of civility.
Skilled scientists and researchers are laboring diligently to develop and distribute a vaccine against the coronavirus. But there is no medication or operation that can fix the many spiritual woes and maladies that we face.
There is, however, a remedy – one that may seem surprising – because it flies in the face of our natural intuitions. Nevertheless, its effects have been validated by scientists as well as men and women of faith.
I am referring to the healing power of gratitude….
As a doctor, I know the value of good therapy. So, dear friends, may I prescribe two activities to help us experience the healing power of gratitude.
First, I invite you – just for the next seven days – to turn social media into your own personal gratitude journal. Post every day about what you are grateful for, who you are grateful for and why you are grateful.
At the end of seven days, see if you feel happier and more at peace. Use the hashtag #GiveThanks. Working together, we can flood social media with a wave of gratitude that reaches the four corners of the earth. Perhaps this will fulfill, in part, the promise God gave to Father Abraham, that through his descendants, “all families of the earth [shall] be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3)
Second, let us unite in thanking God through daily prayer. Jesus Christ taught His disciples to pray by first expressing gratitude to God, and then petitioning Him for the things we need. Prayer brings forth miracles.
The Prophet then said that he would like to offer a prayer for the world and all the people in it. He invited us to pour out our hearts “in gratitude for the countless blessings God has given [us], and petitioning Him to heal our hearts, our families, our societies and the world at large.” He then offered the following prayer.
Our Father in Heaven, as fellow passengers on Thy planet Earth, we humbly pray unto Thee. We thank Thee for life and all that sustains life. We thank Thee for the beauties of the earth, for order in the universe, the planets, stars, and all things of eternal significance. We thank Thee for Thy laws that protect and guide us. We thank Thee for Thy mercy and loving watch care. We thank Thee for our families and loved ones, who fill our lives with joy.
We are grateful for all who are striving to combat the COVID pandemic. Please bless them with protection and inspiration. Wilt Thou help us end this virus that has plagued so many of Thy children.
We thank Thee for the leaders of nations and others who strive to lift us. We pray for relief from political strife. Wilt Thou bless us with a healing spirit that unites us despite our differences.
Wilt Thou also help us repent from selfishness, unkindness, pride and prejudice of any kind, so that we can better serve and love one another as brothers and sisters, and as Thy grateful children. We love Thee, our dear Father, and pray for Thy blessings upon us, in the name of Thy Beloved son, Jesus Christ, amen.
The Prophet prayed for the world and all the people in it, and he asked us to pray for healing in our hearts, families, societies, and the world. I immediately posted my first note of gratitude and wrote about my gratitude for a living prophet and his counsel. I noticed that my Facebook feed was soon full of posts from many of my friends and family members about people, places, and things for which they are grateful. In one day, the feed changed from one of rancor about the election to one of gratitude for blessings, and it changed my world.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and the seventh day for showing gratitude. However, it does not mean that we should stop expressing gratitude for our many blessings. I recognize that some people seem to receive many more blessings than other people do. Nevertheless, I know that God does not leave any of us entirely on our own. He loves us and desires to bless us. One way to access His blessings is to show gratitude for the blessings that we already have. I encourage you to try it! #GiveThanks!