Over 400 years ago, on Nov. 21, 1620, pilgrims from England, who sailed from their homeland to be able to worship freely, disembarked from the ship the Mayflower on the shores of America near the tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
The Pilgrims reached America after 10 weeks at sea with a crew of 30 men and 102 passengers — 74 male and 28 female adults and children. They brought their traditions of days of fasting and days of thanksgiving with them, and in 1621 the first Thanksgiving was prompted by a good harvest celebrated with a Native American tribe, the Wampanoags, who had helped them get through the previous winter by giving them food at that time of scarcity.
The concept of thanksgiving certainly predates our modern holiday, and a number of passages in the Bible reference the concepts — passages many Cache Valley locals turn to during this time of year.
Pastor James Mitchell of the Grace Fellowship Church in Preston, Idaho, cited four scriptures in the Bible of thanksgiving:
1. Thanks to God: “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving…be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” (Psalms 100:4)
2. Thanks for others: Paul writes to the church: “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers.” (1 Thessalonians 1:2)
3. Thanks for those that receive the Bible as God’s word: “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13)
4. Thanks for everything: “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;” (Ephesians 5:20); and “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
For his thankfulness, Pastor James Mitchell shares: “I am most thankful that God has given to me salvation from sin not on the basis of my works but on the basis of Christ’s work on the cross. ‘For by grace are ye saved through faith and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.’” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Smithfield resident Sharol Marchant expresses: “I’m thankful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m grateful for this land and the freedoms that we enjoy here and for the bounties and blessings that surround here. I’m thankful for my family and the support they are to me. We enjoy the typical Thanksgiving traditions and foods. It’s all good.”
Along with giving thanks to God in all things, another key word heard often relating to “thanks” is “gratitude.”
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints counsels on one remedy that can help find joy in hard times: the healing power of gratitude.
“Practicing gratitude may not prevent us from experiencing sorrow, anger, or pain, but it can help us look forward with hope… providing a greater perspective on the very purpose and joy of life,” Nelson said in a 2020 talk. “We can give thanks for our loved ones, for our bodies and minds, for music and literature, for the beauty of the natural world by turning social media into your own gratitude journal, say a prayer of gratitude, and build your relationship with Jesus Christ. By counting our blessings, we can more fully appreciate and enjoy our lives as we work toward greater unity, kindness, honesty, and tolerance.”
LeVell Tippetts of Logan said that for him Thanksgiving is a time he can give thanks for loved ones by getting together with family and friends praying together over their favorite foods.
“When I think of Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for joining with my family with the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and for the food we eat in commemoration of that time. I’m thankful for what everyone brings for the Thanksgiving dinner. We pray over the food as we are so grateful for it,” Tippetts said. “I’m also grateful for the living conditions we live in. And I’m so grateful for my good health.”
Donny Anderson, Utah State University Institute instructor for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, teaches a variety of courses from the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon. Anderson, who has recently been learning the Hawaiian language, said scriptures read in Hawaiian offer “fascinating insights into gratitude.”
“For instance, the word for ‘honor’ in the Old Testament in Exodus 20:12 (Honor thy father and thy mother) in Hawaiian is ’hoʻomaikaʻi,’ which means to bless and praise with ‘gratitude and thanksgiving.’ In the Book of Mormon when Nephi admonishes his brothers to honor their father and mother (1 Nephi 17:55), the word ‘honor’ is translated from Hebrew as e mahalo, which means to ‘give thanks.’ There can be no higher honor given than true and pure gratitude, making Thanksgiving as a season of honor,” Anderson said.
Anderson is personally thankful for relationships, marriage, family, friendships, work associates and neighbors.
“Something I am especially thankful for is development — the opportunity to grow and to help others to develop as well. The older I get, the more I am persuaded that God’s greatest joy comes in relationships and seeing his children develop,” he said.
Anderson continues to explain that “gratitude is among the clearest indicators of individual greatness.”
“An ungrateful person lacks greatness of soul and tends to be consumed with themself. Grateful people tend to have an outward focus and a sharper clarity in how they view the world. Gratitude also relates to capacity for happiness. High-level gratitude is prerequisite to high-level happiness. Gratitude is the capacity to see, welcome, and relish consistent joy,” he said.
On the topic of gratitude and thanksgiving, a scripture found in Philippians 4:6-7 in the New Testament was pointed to by Father Jason Samuel of St. John’s Episcopal Church as particularly meaningful.
“In allowing ourselves to give thanks and to experience gratitude, we can allow the doors to open in experiencing the peace of God that we seek in our lives. In such gratitude, we hopefully find the ability to give thanks for that which truly matters in our lives, that which we can allow to be taken for granted,” Samuel said. “Thanksgiving is very important in our lives not only once a year but in every day of our lives. When we have gratitude, we then are able to see the needs of others and open our hearts to help them.”
To help find joy, see the needs and to help others is all encompassing to open our hearts in gratitude. Gratitude and prayers of thanks are common among people throughout the nation.
Some other Cache Valley residents also shared what their day of prayers and thanksgiving traditions are, why they celebrate Thanksgiving and what they are grateful for.
Faye Reeves, of Dayton, Idaho, said: “I’m thankful for the indoor plumbing where I can just turn a small knob and get hot or cold water in my house. I’m very thankful for electricity throughout my house and that runs my dish washing machine, the miracle of a telephone and cell phone, and to have food to eat and be warm. I’m grateful for the Lord’s gift of friendships, of my physical health and a great deal of continual spiritual guidance.”
Eric Bastian, of Weston, Idaho, shares: “I’m grateful for the freedom I have in this country. I’m grateful for the area in which I live and the people I live among in this area. I’m grateful for the belief I have in God.”