How many ways can you say “thanks”? Who says “gracias”? Where do they say “danke”? How about “malo”, “tak,” “merci,” “kansha shimasu”? Children all over the world say “thank you” in their own special way, in their own language. (See Children’s Songbook, pages 16–17.) Heavenly Father hears their words and understands each language. He loves to hear children say “thank you” to their parents and other adults, to their friends, and especially to Him.
We can speak our thanks, we can write our thanks, we can sing about how thankful we are, we can feel thankful in our hearts. There are many ways to show our thanks to Heavenly Father. It is good for us to thank Him often. Heavenly Father asks us to be grateful—to express our thanks—because He knows that a grateful heart helps us feel happy.
The scriptures remind us of many things we can be grateful for. In the Book of Mormon, Jacob, the brother of Nephi, had a difficult time engraving his record on the plates. Even though it was hard, he was glad to do it because it would last for years and years. He hoped that whoever finally read those words (the Book of Mormon) would receive them with a thankful heart. (See Jacob 4:3.)
The people of Alma thanked the Lord for delivering them out of bondage and for easing their burdens while they were slaves. You might think there would not be much to be thankful for if you were a slave. But the people of Alma knew that the Lord had blessed them when they needed comfort. In the valley of Alma, all the men, all the women, and all the children who could speak lifted their voices to thank and praise God, (see Mosiah 24:20–22).
Can you think of other things that the scriptures teach us to be thankful for? The people in the Old Testament were grateful because they knew that the Lord would be their Shepherd and protect and comfort them (see Psalm 23). In the Doctrine and Covenants, we learn that we should use and be grateful for all the wholesome herbs, fruits, and other food the Lord gave us (see Doctrine and Covenants 89).
One day when Jesus came to a certain village, ten men who were lepers stood far off and called to Him. Lepers had to stay far away from people so that no one else would catch their disease. They wanted Jesus to heal them of their leprosy. Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priests. As they went, a miracle happened—they were healed. There is a sad part to this story. Ten men were healed. Only one of them turned back to give thanks—only one out of ten! Let us be sure that we always remember to say thank you. Let us “thank the Lord [our] God in all things” (D&C 59:7).
A cornucopia, also called a horn of plenty, is usually filled with fruits, vegetables, and grains. It is a symbol of abundance. Mount page 15 on heavy paper and cut out the cornucopia (cut the slot, too) and the pictures of things that we can be thankful for. Glue the pictures in the opening of the cornucopia, being careful not to cover the slot. Tape a small open envelope behind the slot and hang the cornucopia up for a few days. Invite each family member to write or draw one or more things that they are thankful for on a small piece of paper and slip it into the slot. Open the envelope at a family home evening or a special dinner and take turns reading the papers and showing the drawings.
(Note: CS = Children’s Songbook)
1. To help the children memorize D&C 59:7, recite the scripture. Then call on a child to say, “I am thankful for ___________ (his/her choice).” Have that child join you in repeating the scripture, then ask another child to repeat the phrase, filling in what she/he is thankful for. Continue until many children are reciting with you. To focus on returning thanks, discuss some of their answers and also express what you are thankful for. Talk about appropriate ways to show our thanks, including writing letters. Pass out papers and pencils and have the children write thank-you notes to a family member, a member of the bishopric, a home teacher, a schoolteacher, or a missionary, etc. (Younger children could draw a picture of something they are thankful for.) Conclude by inviting the children to imagine that if they could write a letter of thanks to Heavenly Father, what would they want to include in it? Remind them that each time they pray, they can express their thanks to Heavenly Father. Sing a song about thanks such as “I Love to Pray,” (CS, p. 25) or “Thanks to Our Father,” (CS, p. 20).
2. In advance, ask the music leader to be prepared to teach the rounds “For Health and Strength” and “For Thy Bounteous Blessings,” (CS, p. 21, respectively). Also prepare the following scripture references, each on separate slips of paper for each class: (1) Jacob 4:3 / Jacob hopes that we are grateful for the word of God. (2) Ether 6:8–9 / The Jaredites are grateful for protection and light on their journey. (3) Mosiah 24:20–22 / The people of Alma are thankful because their burdens were made light and they were delivered from bondage. (4) D&C 89:10–12 / We should be grateful for the food God has given for our use. (5) D&C 59:7 / We should thank the Lord for all things (see also D&C 59:15–21). Write on the chalkboard, “Thankful for ___________.” Give the first scripture reference to each class. Ask them to locate the scripture, read it, and decide what the people in the scripture were thankful for (or were encouraging us to be thankful for). Write the correct answer in the blank on the chalkboard. Have the class that found the answer first lead out in their choice of the rounds mentioned above. Let the other classes join in the singing in clockwise order. Repeat the procedure with the other scriptures. Have the older children look up “Thank,” “Thankful,” “Thanks,” and “Thanksgiving” in the Topical Guide. Ask them to read through some of those references, supplying the correct word for the italicized letter.
3. The Psalms are “praises” and have often been set to music (see Bible Dictionary, “Psalms”). If you have an adult (or child) in your ward/branch who enjoys singing, invite him/her to sing “The Lord Is My Shepherd” (Hymns, no. 108) while the children follow along in Psalm 23. Thank the singer. Many of the Psalms express gratitude, thanks, and praise to the Lord in beautiful language that brings to mind strong images (see also Psalms 24:1–4; 27:1; 100). Invite the children to construct a visual image of Psalm 23 by drawing a picture that comes to mind after hearing the Psalm sung (or read). Some children may want to represent the entire Psalm with one picture. Others may prefer to draw a small picture for each verse. (Divide a paper into thirds and then fold it in half—one picture for each section.) While they are drawing, have the pianist play soft music.
4. Have each class create and briefly dramatize a situation where a group receives a service, but only one person gives thanks. E.g., At the end of a lesson, only one student thanks the teacher. Upon arriving at the soccer field, only one of the team members thanks the driver. At the end of the party, only one pauses to thank the hostess. At the end of the game, only one thanks the coach. At the end of a meal, only one thanks the cook. Ask the children which scripture story these situations remind them of. Tell the story of the Ten Lepers (see Luke 17:11–19). Point out that we want to be like the “one” who came back and gave thanks. The Lord wants us to be thankful because it is right and because He knows that we will be happier if we have a grateful heart. If time allows, have each class replay their situations, with every child saying thank you. Sing a favorite gratitude song from the CS (see Topics index). Or, have a song title written behind each letter of the word thanks and put them in a sack. Have a child pull a letter from the sack, post the letter, and have everyone sing the song. Repeat until all the letters have been selected.
5. For additional resources on giving thanks, see the following from the Friend: “Grateful Heart,” May 1994, IFC; “Thank-You Game,” May 1994, p. 30; “Matt & Mandy,” May 1994, p. 34; “God’s Gift,” Nov. 1994, p. 27; “Remembering to Say Thank You,” Feb. 1996, pp. 24–25; “The Most Thankful Thank-you of All,” Nov. 1996, p. 31; “Roberto Remembers,” Nov. 1996, pp. 40–41.