Mr. and Mrs. Eldon lived with their two daughters and son in a small village in South Carolina.
Once prosperous, the family was having a struggle to gain the necessities of life. The father had lost his eyesight in a farm accident, and now the mother and the girls did sewing for some of the wealthier families in the village. Johnny, the son, received a small wage working in a local store.
One Thanksgiving Day, the Eldons were trying to help each other forget the sadness in their lives. Mother had many times looked up from her sewing that morning to mention some blessing they enjoyed. Once she said, “How happy we should be that another year has passed and that we can all be together this day.”
At noon Mother decided they had all worked enough for the day, and it was time to clean the house and then prepare the Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone readily agreed to the plan, and soon the small house had a bright appearance.
Then came the question of dinner. One of the few remaining chickens must be sacrificed. Johnny considered himself the executioner and soon brought in his headless victim.
Meanwhile, Mother mysteriously disappeared, but she soon returned with a surprise in the shape of a large yellow pumpkin, declaring that she knew it would not seem like a Thanksgiving dinner without pumpkin pies.
Even Father began to laugh and enjoy the happy spirit of his family. He went to and fro with Johnny, bringing in wood and helping in other ways. Their father’s happier attitude made everyone feel brighter, for he had taken little interest in anything since he had fully realized that he could not expect to ever see again.
When all was ready for Thanksgiving dinner, the eldest daughter said, “Mother, we really have more than enough to eat. I wish some needy person would come to our door that we might share with him. Wouldn’t that be nice?”
“Yes, we have much to be thankful for this day, I’m sure,” answered Mother, and then she added, “Come, Father, your chair is waiting.”
Everything smelled tempting indeed. The chicken had been made into soup, and there was plenty of it. The pies were delicious. The large plain cake was light and wholesome. The rosy apples had been polished until they shone. And the bunch of autumn leaves and red berries in the center of the table helped to make the meal appear even more tempting. Loving hands and thankful hearts had prepared it so that it was really more than a royal feast.
While this festive meal was being prepared, two weary young men were walking toward the village where the Eldons lived. They introduced themselves at each house they came to, and explained, “We are missionaries, traveling without purse or scrip. Can you take us in for the night?”
“What church do you claim to be missionaries for?” they were asked and the answer was given with pride, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
“That’s another name for the ‘Mormon’ Church is it not?”
“Then you can leave, for Mormons aren’t welcome here.”
Having been turned away from several houses with similar replies, one of the missionaries said to his companion, “It seems to me we might as well make up our minds to sleep outside tonight.”
But his companion answered, “We must continue to have faith. Somewhere there are honest hearts awaiting us, and we will be led to them.”
Finally, the young elders came to the Eldons’ door where they paused and overheard the father of the house earnestly thanking God for their food and also asking His blessings on their household. When the simple prayer was ended, the elders knocked lightly, for they felt in their hearts that they had found a place where they could rest.
When Mother answered the door and heard their story, she said, “You must be the ones we were wishing for to help us eat our Thanksgiving dinner. Come right in. They are welcome, are they not, Father?” she asked, turning to her husband.
“Indeed they are,” he answered. “You know the stranger has ever been welcome in our home.”
Places were quickly made at the table, and the missionaries soon felt at ease. They were happy to have found one family who had the true Thanksgiving spirit in their hearts.
Then to the family seated around the cheerful fire on that Thanksgiving night the missionaries told the simple story of the gospel being restored to the earth through Joseph Smith and of God’s great goodness to His children in these latter days.
Each listener within that little house felt that what these young missionaries were saying was true. The father and mother especially rejoiced, for the gospel as Christ taught when He ministered upon the earth was something they had longed for and often spoken of.
It was late when the family thought of retiring. Father asked the elders to pray, which they did in a simple, fervent manner that touched every heart.
It was certainly a Thanksgiving Day never to be forgotten. To the Eldons had come the greatest of all blessings—a new understanding of the gospel of Christ.