Thanksgiving Day must be turned into a lifetime of showing gratitude. Thankfulness is expressed in words, but gratitude is shown by action.
This speech was given on November 26, 1985.
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"Witness to Our Thankfulness
In an essay called “The Art of Living,” Wilfred Peterson has written:
The art of thanksgiving is thanks-living. It is gratitude in action. . . .
It is thanking God for the gift of life by living it triumphantly. . . .
It is thanking God for opportunities by accepting them as a challenge to achievement. . . .
It is thanking God for inspiration by living to be an inspiration to others. . . .
It is adding to your prayers of thanksgiving, acts of thanks-living. [The Art of Living (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1961), pp. 44–45]
President David O. McKay counseled Church members:
Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts. [Pathways to Happiness (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, Inc., 1957), p. 317]
Some of the beautiful words of Psalm 100 stress: “Know ye that the Lord he is God: . . . be thankful unto him, and bless his name.”
And again, the Lord, through his great prophet King Benjamin, has taught us there is more than just thoughts and prayers to proper thanksgiving. I quote:
I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice. . . .
. . . if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.
. . . all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; . . . if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you. [Mosiah 2:20–22]
If we are truly thankful, our acts will be witness to our thankfulness.
Showing Our Thankfulness
Thanksgiving Day has always been designed to be a religious experience, a day to know the Lord and bless his name.
Three hundred sixty-four years ago, Governor William Bradford declared a three-day fast, and a small group of pilgrims gathered to “worship and give thanks to God.” Two years later, in 1623, on July 30, the first official Thanksgiving Day was set up for “the special purpose of prayer.” During the revolutionary war there were some eight special days of thanks, which were observed for “special blessings that had been received.” On November 26, 1789, more than 100 years after the first special day of prayer, President George Washington issued a special proclamation for a day of “giving thanks.” And about 100 years later in 1863 President Abraham Lincoln designated the last Thursday in November as “a day of thanksgiving and praise to our benevolent Father.” Now, after more than three and a half centuries, we still celebrate a “Thanksgiving Day.”
But in our hearts, is there sufficient thankfulness to really give praise to our benevolent Father? Does this thankfulness result in showing any true gratitude? Do we do any more than say a thanksgiving prayer over the traditional Thanksgiving feast? Or are some of our prayers and our lives like those described by the poet Robert Burns— “Three mile prayers and one-half mile graces”? Have we learned to say thank you and to show thank you?
I like these words—they seem to suggest action:
If you hear a kind word spoken
Of some worthy soul you know,
It may fill his heart with sunshine
If you’d only tell him so.
If a deed, however humble, helps you
On your way to go,
Seek the one whose hand has helped you.
Seek him out and tell him so.
If your heart is touched and tender
Toward a sinner lost and low,
It might help him to do better
If you would only tell him so.