As Gordon points out, we all seem to be enjoying our post-Thanksgiving naps just a little too much. Before moving too far on from the Thanksgiving theme, I think it is appropriate to reflect on what Thanksgiving means in particular, to Latter-Day Saints. However, the discussion of what Thanksgiving means to Latter Day Saints raises a threshold question:
Is there a distinct LDS attitude, approach, or spirit towards Thanksgiving — an LDS Thanksgiving identity — or are we as church members merely hangers-on to the broad Protestant Thanksgiving tradition?
The evidence seems to suggest that in many ways we are hangers-on. Our thanksgiving hymns, as published in the hymnal, are the normal Protestant standards. Our church talks the week of thanksgiving often focus on the Pilgrims and the Thanksgiving story as heard in churches all over the nation. We eat the turkey, bake the pies, and watch the football games, like everyone else.
On the other hand, I think that there are reasons why there should be a distinct LDS Thanksgiving identity. Church members, who have received the gospel, should be especially thankful for its restoration. A good number of church members are not many generations removed from the hardships that early LDS pioneers faced when crossing the plains. The remainder of church members are not many generations removed from conversions — of themselves, their parent, or grandparents. As church members, we have much to be thankful for.
In addition, the LDS canon contains rich scriptural passages on the subject of gratitude and thanksgiving, passages which can and should be mined to create an LDS identity in celebrating Thanksgiving. A personal favorite is Alma 34:38, which contains a phrase of great power and beauty:
That ye contend no more against the Holy Ghost, but that ye receive it, and take upon you the name of Christ; that ye humble yourselves even to the dust, and worship God, in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth; and that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you.
The phrase “live in thanksgiving daily” is a wonderful admonition to be thankful, and to express that thatnkfulness through daily action. This idea alone could be the root of an LDS Thanksgiving identity.
I am unconvinced that a coherent LDS Thanksgiving identity does exist, but I feel that one certainly should exist. The development of an LDS Thanksgiving identity would enrich our culture as church members and allow us to contribute to the national discourse on Thanksgiving, rather than merely being hangers-on in the traditions of another group of religions.