Thanksgiving Day – a Time to Reflect on Blessings

by Orlean Koehle

site search by freefind advanced


"The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth" (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe, Museum De Lakenhal

We are told in these last days that there will be perilous times and great trials.  We have witnessed some of those very recently with over 5,000 dead because of the typhoon and earthquake in the Philippines; the many tornadoes in Illinois (77 to be exact) killing six people, and even the deaths of three people here in California because of the recent high winds and power outages.     We all know of many people who have lost jobs and even homes because of the financial crisis or because of companies having to lay off workers or only give them part time work. Many of us are facing other challenges because of health problems. 

In spite of all of this, the Lord still tells us that we are to “be of good cheer and “have peace.” (John 16:33)    Especially at this time of Thanksgiving, we are reminded to reflect on our blessings and give gratitude to God for all that we have.   In spite of the many problems facing our great nation, this is still a wonderful time to be living here on earth and, America is still a blessed land.  We just need to remain vigilant to keep it that way.

The following are some historical facts about the first Thanksgiving, about the Pilgrims, the Mayflower Compact, the early lessons they learned about what form of government works, other Thanksgiving proclamations, followed by quotes on gratitude.  I hope they can help put our thoughts into the right perspective this Thanksgiving season:

The Mayflower Compact was a Covenant with God:  On November 11, 1620, before the Pilgrims embarked from their ship to begin settling their colony of Plymouth, they signed the historical Mayflower Compact, which has been the basis for so many other town charters, laws, ordinances, and even the U.S. Constitution, reaffirming that government should be under the guiding hand of God.  Under the words, “In the Name of God, Amen,” the Mayflower compact signified that “it is a pledge of union with God that the Pilgrims were promising to conduct all public affairs under Godly principles and to secure the Biblical foundation upon which to frame future laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and affairs.” [1]

The Pilgrims Learned Early that Communism Does not Work – that it is upon the Principles of Private Property Ownership and the Free Enterprise System that a Community and a Nation Should be Built:  The Pilgrims had formed a partnership with a company called John Pierce and Associates to get funding for their voyage and to begin their colony.  There was a stipulation in the contract that they had to establish their colony according to the Plato utopian philosophy of John Pierce who believed in a form of Communism - that “no one should own property, that all would work for the good of the community or commonwealth,” and they would all be “happy and flourishing” and could easily repay what was owed the Company in seven years.  It sounded good, but it did not work.  The Pilgrims were not happy and not flourishing.  “The young men who were most able and fit for labor and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense.”  And so they didn’t work very hard.  Very few did.   There was such little food being produced, that half the population died that first year. 

After three years, in 1623, Governor William Bradshaw said no to the demands of the Company and issued each family their own particle of land for them to own and to care for and to plant their own crops on.  Then the colony began to flourish.  People went willingly to work, more corn was produced than ever before - so much so, that there was an abundance to sell.  The Company was able to be paid back earlier than seven years.   Bradshaw described it as: 

  • This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble and gave far better content.  The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set the corn, which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression. [2]

The Pilgrims Celebrated Thanksgiving in 1621 to Give Thanks to God – not to the Indians: The Pilgrims were very grateful to the Indians who helped them, especially to Squanto, who knew how to speak English and was the one most responsible for teaching them how to plant corn, where to go to hunt for game, and to survive in their new location with its cold, harsh winters.  We now have revised history text books that try to wipe out any mention of God, and say that the first Thanksgiving was the time that the Pilgrims were giving thanks to the Indians for helping them.  No, the first Thanksgiving was a time to express gratitude to God for his protection and help to get them safely across the ocean and to survive their first difficult year in this new land.  The Pilgrims (53) invited the Indians (90) as their neighbors and guests to come and share their day of Thanksgiving with them. This reference gives the actual words of Governor Bradford in his Thanksgiving Proclamation.  As you will read, he thanks the Lord for their blessings and provisions, not the Indians. [3]

President George Washington’s Proclamation, Oct. 3, 1789:  His Proclamation of National Thanksgiving stated, “Thursday, the 26th day of November next, as a day to be devoted to expressing thanks and offering prayer and supplications to God.  The proclamation begins:

  • Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Washington also thanked God for his help in the late war, in creating the Constitution, and for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed.  And he humbly added a request that the Almighty would “pardon our national and other transgressions.”

Abraham Lincoln’s Proclamation issued Oct. 3, 1863, (while still involved in the Civil War):  It established the last Thursday of November as the official “day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”  Lincoln also recommended that Americans pray for “all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged” and that God would soon “heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it…to “peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”[4]

Gratitude Quotes: Hopefully, these quotes can inspire and remind us of the importance of expressing our gratitude:

  • “Give thanks unto the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people.” I Chronicles 16:8

  • “Know ye that the Lord he is God; it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.  Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise; be thankful unto him and bless his name.”  Psalm 100:3-4

  • “A thankful heart is not only a great virtue but the parent of all others.”  —Cicero “

  • In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer

  • “You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance.”   —Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

  • We should certainly count our blessings, but we should also make our blessings count.”  ― Neal A. Maxwell

  • “We can lift ourselves, and others as well, when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude. If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues.” — Thomas S. Monson

  • “Where there is appreciation, there is courtesy, there is concern for the rights and property of others. Without apprecia-tion, there is arrogance and evil. Where there is gratitude, there is humility, as opposed to pride" —Gordon B. Hinckley

  • “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” ―Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • “Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” ― Marcel Proust

  • “Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” ― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

  • “If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.”  ― Meister Eckhart  

  • “When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive—to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love—then make that day count!” ― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

[1] Daniel J. Ford, In the Name of God, Amen, Rediscovering Biblical and Historic Covenants, Lex Rex Publishing, St. Louis, Missouri, 2003, p. 152.
[2] Murray N. Rothbard, “The Founding of Plymouth Colony,” taken from Chapter 18 of Conceived in Liberty, Vol I, now available as a free e-book.
[3] (Gives the Thanksgiving Day proclamation made by Governor Bradford)





website index