Thanksgiving seems to have been getting a lot of hate lately, more than the normal naysaying that springs up during this time of year while in this era of politics. Not only are the narratives of cringe-inducing family feuds across an over-cooked turkey, and tropes of “how to endure thy racist uncle” dominating the social conversation, I didn’t realize how much people loathed the actual food of Thanksgiving too! So much hate!
So, in service of seeing the forest through the trees, or rather, the casserole in these here green beans, here are a few sermons on which your soul can feast to be mindful of the healing balm of gratitude, and to get in the true spirit of Thanksgiving.
The Divine Gift of Gratitude by Thomas S. Monson
President Monson regales listeners with more anecdotes of The 85 Widows™ but also reminds us of the classic Bible cautionary tale of the 10 lepers. And even a story so well-known deserves a revisit, to think through the examples in our own lives of where we’ve been among the nine, or where we’ve remembered to turn back and give thanks.
The other thing I love about Monson’s sermons is how rife they were with references to literature, scripture and drama. He was so well read and had a knack for bringing the lessons of the best books to light in his talks. Read on for quotes from Aldous Huxley, Epictetus (the Greek philosopher) and a story he remembered from reading it in a magazine years prior about one Gordon Green. In his detailed retelling, President Monson reminds us that he is the master storyteller of General Conference lore, and presents us here with a tale of Thanksgiving to cry over and read year after year.
“To express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven.”
As with any sermon by President Monson, listening to him speak is always recommended. Not sure if this is the talk that coined “attitude of gratitude” but knowing how ol’ “Tommy” was, rest assured he could not resist saying it.
Gratitude and Service by David B. Haight
The gentle powerhouse from the General Conference pulpits of my childhood, here Elder David B. Haight doesn’t really give a sermon about gratitude as he does share stories and memories for which he is grateful.
It’s a deeply personal talk offered near the end of his life wherein he simply expresses his desire to just “say a few words about gratitude and thanksgiving to people who have influenced my life.” And then proceeds to do just that, without any fanfare, just a genuine expression of gratitude for those memories.
“I am grateful for my wife, Ruby, coming into my life, for our children, and then their children, and then their children, and the people that are part of my life today that influence my life. And I hope that I have some influence for good in their lives.”
I’ve always been touched when aging church leaders give this style of a talk, and I find a certain poignancy in its simple prose and unsensational contentedness. It’s gratitude personified, and a reminder that even at the end of life, when we survey all the years and experiences that came before, it’s the little things that we remember, it’s always the little things that matter most.
Gratitude by Steven E. Snow
You probably remember this talk without realizing you do because it’s the one that talked about the man from New York waiting his whole life to see the Grand Canyon and Elder Snow’s brother, Paul, as the man’s gas attendant who admitted he’d never been there. Then the man’s response admitting he’d never been to the Statue of Liberty, with Paul bringing home the irony by saying “I’ve been there!”
No? Maybe it’s me, then, but I think about that story in this talk probably once a month since it was given back in 2001, the year I had traveled to New York to see the Statue of Liberty myself.
“A constant expression of gratitude should be included in all our prayers…the next time we pray, instead of presenting the Lord petition after petition for some action in our behalf, give Him thoughtful thanks for all with which He has blessed us.”
Anyway, he goes on in this talk to remind us of the incredible story—think Shackleton-level incredible—of the San Juan pioneers and their journey to a place called Hole-in-the-Rock. However, this talk is merely a citation of one lesson from that story, a jumping off point for your own deep dive to remember and learn about the brave souls who dared that journey. It does remind us, as so often the tales of pioneering early Saints do, that we have much, indeed, for which to be thankful.
Gratitude On The Sabbath Day by Henry B. Eyring
President Eyring contextualizes his thoughts on gratitude as it relates to the Sabbath Day, and reminds us that it is, indeed, a commandment to “thank the Lord thy God in all things.” It’s even one of those “Thou Shalt” commandments from the scriptures!
But then he reminds us that there’s a trick to remembering to be grateful, hearkening to the old hymn about being upon life’s billows, tempest-tossed and discouraged, which is, as you may guess, to “count your many blessings” and to “name them one by one” promising a realization of surprise at the Lord’s hand in our lives.
“We feel grateful for many things: a kindness from a stranger, a meal when we are hungry, a dry roof over our heads when storms arise, a broken bone that heals, and the hearty cry of a newborn baby.”
Elder Eyring talks about growing up in a small branch in New Jersey, which is a far cry from the classic Utah good-old-boy or Idaho farm kid that typifies the top brass of church leadership. And in the end, he reminds us of the hallmark side-effect of gratitude, which is to go and pay it forward through service to others.
Robert D. Hales Talks About Gratitude
While the excerpt is from a General Conference address, this short video, with gloriously dated b-roll, is really a home-run discourse on the principle and power of gratitude.
“Gratitude is a state of appreciation, an act of Thanksgiving, which causes us to be humble because we recognize an act of kindness, service or caring from someone else who lifts us and strengthens us. “
And despite looking like a boring church commercial from the 70s, it’s definitely worth watching as part of your holiday celebration as a way to embrace the spirit of gratitude and bring the prayer of Thanksgiving to your abundant feast this Thursday.
“In some quiet way, the expression and feelings of gratitude have a wonderful cleansing and healing nature. Gratitude brings warmth to the giver and the receiver alike.”
That we embrace this holiday as an opportunity to feel and express this gratitude is my own prayer for this Thanksgiving.
Now go, be thankful, and don’t forget your stretchy pants.