[The Harvest Festival]
The first pioneers who came to the Salt Lake Valley struggled hard to raise crops in what had been reported to them earlier to be only a desert wasteland.
As the Saints traveled west, Brigham Young recorded in his journal that Jim Bridger, an early explorer of the West, offered to give $1,000 for the first bushel of corn grown in the valley of the Great Salt Lake. This rugged explorer claimed that the late frosts in the spring and the early frosts in the fall made it impossible to raise corn. Brigham Young replied, “Wait a little and we’ll show you.”
Parley P. Pratt told of the suffering of his family in those first months in the valley. He wrote of the invasion of insects, of the drought, and of how he and his family worked constantly to encourage their gardens to grow. He also wrote that many of the people had to go with bare feet for several months, keeping their moccasins for only special occasions. Sometimes they had only a little flour and some cheese.
“In this way,” he wrote, “we lived and raised our first crop in these valleys. And how great was our joy in partaking of the first fruits of our industry … to redeem the desert … and to make her hitherto unknown solitudes blossom as the rose.”
The Saints were full of joy when they found the soil was rich and that they could raise vegetables, fruits, and grains of almost every kind. On August 10, 1848, the year after the pioneers reached the valley, they held a special harvest festival to give thanks for good crops despite the crickets that had almost eaten all of their tender gardens in the month of June.
A bowery was built in the center of the little city and underneath its shade, tables were piled high with vegetables, fruits, and grains. Green peas had grown especially well, and also on the tables were cucumbers, squash, beets, carrots, corn, beans, parsnips, and buttermilk.
A liberty pole was raised. On it hung a white flag, an ear of corn, and sheaves of wheat, rye, and oats.
Sister M. I. Lamson told about the celebration in a letter to a friend:
“There were firing of cannons, band of music, a number of cheers and the harvest song sung, prayer by Brother Parley P. Pratt, speaking by several. All made ready and a bugle sounded, a blessing asked, and when done eating, bugle again. Then the table [was] taken away, dancing commenced.”
What an exciting day it must have been for those pioneers who had been driven from their homes and endured all the hardships of crossing the plains.
On that first Thanksgiving Day, called the Harvest Festival, celebrated by the Mormon pioneers there were prayers of thanksgiving, songs, speeches, music, dancing, smiling faces, and merry hearts.
If thou art merry, praise the Lord with singing, with music, with dancing, and with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving. (D&C 136:28.)
[The Ten Lepers]
The life of Jesus shows His appreciation and thanksgiving for the beauty of the earth, for people who were kind and thoughtful, and especially for our Heavenly Father who blesses all of us.
On the way to Jerusalem one day, Jesus passed through Samaria and Galilee. As He entered into a certain village, ten men who had a dreadful disease known as leprosy met Him. The law did not allow lepers to come near others, so the men cried aloud from far off, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”
Jesus knew that according to Jewish custom a leper could not return to live with his family and friends until he was first declared to be cured or clean by a priest. So He replied, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”
The ten men did as they were told, and as they went on their way, they were made well. Then one of them, seeing he was healed, quickly went back to find Jesus. He fell down before Him and thanked Him for the miracle of being made well. The other nine hurried on their way, never stopping to thank the great Healer.
Jesus asked the man who returned, “Were there not ten lepers made well? Where are the other nine?”
Although Jesus was disappointed that the other nine men did not return, He was pleased that even one would take time to come back and give glory and thanks to God.
Then Jesus turned to the healed man and said, “Arise, go thy way. Thy faith hath made thee whole.” (Luke 17:11–19.)
[Quotes from General Authorities]
We must make certain that we do not offend God by our failure to confess His hand in all things.
Gratitude is expressed in prayer and thanksgiving; but more so in living lives of honor and integrity, of kindness and compassion, in awareness of others and their needs, and an honest expression of gratitude for all those who bless and affect our lives for good. Thanksgiving is best expressed in thanks-living—in lives of goodness and obedience and love and service.
He who has a thankful heart and cultivates the spirit of appreciation will find much to be grateful for each hour of every day.
Thanksgiving day gives each and everyone of us an invitation and a wonderful opportunity to pause and count our many blessings and to give thanks to God and praise Him from whom all blessings flow.
Let us see to it that from henceforth no day shall pass in which we do not fervently, in family and in private prayers, express our gratitude to our Heavenly Father and seek His guidance and protecting care.
It would be very difficult to be grateful without being good, or to be good without being grateful. As we feel and express our appreciation TO God and FOR God, we tend to become more like him.
Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things. (D&C 59:7.)
And ye must give thanks unto God in the Spirit for whatsoever blessing ye are blessed with. (D&C 46:32.)
Verily I say unto you my friends, fear not, let your hearts be comforted; yea, rejoice ever more, and in everything give thanks. (D&C 136:28.)