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Thanksgiving is a time of family, friends, and most importantly, gratitude. For many, this year has been very challenging and disheartening as the world has struggled with economic instability, civil unrest, and a global pandemic. Thanksgiving is an important time to pause and reflect upon all the many blessings God has given. The Book of Mormon has quite a few lessons on gratitude (and even feasting!) that can help us truly enjoy this Thanksgiving season.
We Can Offer a Broken Heart and a Contrite Spirit in Gratitude
Gratitude for God in times of great trial is a major theme of the Book of Mormon. The faithful men and women in that sacred text teach readers that gratitude can be felt even in the worst of times. Giving thanks, as the people of Alma displayed, while suffering under the cruel reign of Amulon, can help lift spirits even in times of tremendous distress (Mosiah 24:21–22). Also, as King Benjamin taught, giving God our heart-felt thanks can help us stay humble and faithful during the most wonderful and prosperous of times (Mosiah 2:4, 19).
In the Book of Mormon, faithful peoples gave animal sacrifices as tokens of their gratitude. Today, as Christ commanded, we are to sincerely offer up ourselves to the Lord, by giving him our humble heart, completely willing to give generously of our time and talents in serving our fellow man.
Book of Mormon Central, “Why Should We Take the Time to Give Thanks to God? (Mosiah 24:22),” KnoWhy 238 (November 24, 2016).
We Can Be Grateful Even During Times of Hardship
On October 3, 1863, when the United States was in the midst of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving Day to be a national holiday in the United States.1 The middle of a war might seem like a strange time to declare a holiday devoted to giving thanks, yet the Book of Mormon shows us how times of hardship are actually perfect occasions to show our gratitude. Sometimes, it is only in the depths of sorrow, struggle, or trial that we fully realize how all along the Lord has been “supporting [us] from one moment to another” through His tender mercies (Mosiah 2:21).
For example, Lehi endured many trials, leaving his home and property and having family members murmur and turn against him. But, after traveling a safe distance from Jerusalem, He did something unexpected under such strenuous conditions: he built an altar and gave thanks. By turning his mind to the Lord and giving thanks, Lehi was able to feel gratitude in his heart and be an example to his children (1 Nephi 2:7).
Another example later in the Book of Mormon, took place during a period of much warfare and death. After achieving a decisive victory, the Nephites “did thank the Lord their God” (Alma 49:28). By thanking the Lord after defeating their enemies in warfare, the Nephites were able to see God’s hand in supporting them, instead of taking his help for granted.
These stories help us understand why we should be grateful during times of trial. Sometimes, it is only in the depths of sorrow, struggle, or trial that we fully realize how the Lord has been supporting us all along.
Book of Mormon Central, “How Can We Be Thankful During Times of Hardship? (1 Nephi 2:6–7),” KnoWhy 384 (November 23, 2017).
Thanking God for Food is an Ancient Tradition
After facing rejection in Ammonihah, an angel commanded Alma to go back (Alma 8:8–18). Upon returning, Alma was invited by Amulek, who was commanded by an angel, to his home (vv. 19–20). Amulek “brought forth bread and meat and set before Alma.” After eating the meal, Alma “blessed Amulek and his house, and he gave thanks unto God” (v. 22).
Today, it is common practice to bless the food before eating, so what was at play in Alma’s culture to cause him to pray after? In Judaism, as presented in Deuteronomy and the Mishnah, the main prayer over the meal and home is said after one has eaten and is full.
As the High Priest, Alma showed here his ample awareness of the law in Deuteronomy. Praying after the meal was likely a way for Alma to recognize the blessings of food and safety God had provided to him after they were secured, as was traditional in ancient Jewish cultures.
The Savior followed a similar pattern during his first day among the Nephites at the temple in Bountiful. As the sacrament was administered to the people there in 3 Nephi 18, “they were filled” (v. 9), after which Jesus “blessed” them (vv. 10, 14). He then taught them to keep the Father’s commandments and to pray always to the Father in the name of Jesus Christ (vv. 14–20), so that their wives and children “may be blessed” (v. 21).
So as you gather around the table this Thanksgiving to enjoy a joyous meal, remember to give thanks to the Lord you God for all the blessings he has given you. You may find that are burdens become a little easier to bear as you remember the tender mercies of God throughout this year.
Book of Mormon Central, “Why Did Alma Bless and Thank God After Eating? (Alma 8:22),” KnoWhy 115 (June 6, 2016).