Most members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints live outside of the United States and will not celebrate the traditional American holiday of Thanksgiving. Members in Canada celebrate Thanksgiving in October, and other celebrations of gratitude occur around the world at different times. American members will participate this week, but throughout the year, Church members worldwide express gratitude for God’s blessings in personal and family prayer.
Many across the nation and world, including members of the Church, currently face weighty challenges in their lives. In difficult periods of the past, leaders have recognized the collective need to give thanks amid turmoil and to turn to God.
Following the Revolutionary War and ratification of the United States Constitution, President George Washington issued a proclamation designating Thursday, 26 November 1789, as an official holiday of “sincere and humble thanks” for God’s “care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation.” In October 1863, in the midst of a bloody civil war, President Abraham Lincoln made the traditional Thanksgiving celebration a nationwide holiday to be commemorated each year on the fourth Thursday of November.
Lincoln’s proclamation enumerated the blessings of the country, then urged that those blessings “be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people.” He recommended that Americans “fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation.”
As Thanksgiving approaches, we have a similar need to reflect on the good despite difficulty and division. Many on the East Coast of the United States are facing challenging times as they work to rebuild their homes and lives after Hurricane Sandy. They have a long, uphill battle ahead, and our thoughts and prayers are with them in this effort.
As Presidents Washington and Lincoln expressed, reflecting on our blessings when times are trying can help change our perspective on life’s challenges. Prophet and Church President Thomas S. Monson said:
“While there is much that is wrong in the world today, there are many things that are right and good. ... Our lives are blessed in countless ways. …
“… [The] things which provide deep and lasting happiness and gratitude are the things which money cannot buy: our families, the gospel, good friends, our health, our abilities, the love we receive from those around us. Unfortunately, these are some of the things we allow ourselves to take for granted. …
“When we encounter challenges and problems in our lives, it is often difficult for us to focus on our blessings. However, if we reach deep enough and look hard enough, we will be able to feel and recognize just how much we have been given.”
In October, President Monson encouraged listeners of the Church’s general conference to watch over those around them and assist in times of need.
“May we willingly serve one another. May we pray for the inspiration to know of the needs of those around us, and then may we go forward and provide assistance.
“… Difficulties come into our lives, problems we do not anticipate and which we would never choose. None of us is immune. The purpose of mortality is to learn and to grow to be more like our Father, and it is often during the difficult times that we learn the most, as painful as the lessons may be. Our lives can also be filled with joy as we follow the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
We hope that all people will see this Thanksgiving holiday as a time to express gratitude and to serve those around them.