If you are a regular reader of my posts, you know that I love to get into the nuts and bolts of words. I’m all about definitions, parts of speech, and the like. So when I looked at this hymn, I decided to start by defining thanksgiving. And notice, I’m using the lower case word, indicating that I’m not defining the holiday.
Thanksgiving is a noun. It’s an expression of gratitude, or a prayer of thanks. With that definition in mind, the title explains what this song is: it is a prayer of gratitude.
The first line says, “We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing.” The rest of the lines, however, innumerate many of the things the Lord does for His people. So this is a group prayer, where we gather with the intent of seeking blessings as well as listing some of the things we, as a group, are thankful for.
I, like many of you, took the opportunity during the month of November, to write down one thing a day that I am grateful for. I have done this the last several years, and I’ve noticed something really interesting. When I actively look for my blessings, I am more patient, more kind, more able to see blessings when I would otherwise only see my trials. The effect was so noticeable the first year I did this that I ended up writing down these things I was thankful for during the months of December and January as well.
President Monson, in the October 2010 General Conference, stated:
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.
Are there times that it would be easier to list our struggles than our blessings? I would be lying if I said no. But we, as Latter-Day Saints, know that God loves us, that His mission is for us to be happy and to return to Him, and that He allows us to stretch that we may grow. Regardless of the situation, the trial, or the hardship, there are some fundamental truths to which we can cling:
“He forgets not his own.”
“Beside us to guide us”
“Thou, Lord, wast at our side.”
“Our defender [He] wilt be.”
He will never leave us. He will never forsake us. He will never desert us. Isaiah 54:10 states, “For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee.”
Ultimately, that is the greatest blessing we have. We have a Father who loves us to the bitter end, despite and in spite of our decisions, our circumstances, our acting in accordance with our agency. He wants us to be better, to reach higher, to achieve more, but He loves us anyway, simply because we are His.
What more could we ask for? What more could we give thanks for, especially on today, Thanksgiving, a day dedicated to focusing on those things we have been given by our Almighty God?
“Thy name be ever praised!
O Lord, make us free!”