SALT LAKE CITY — With Thanksgiving in the rearview mirror and Christmas quickly approaching, leaders for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints shared a message over the weekend reminding members of the true spirit of the holiday: focusing on Jesus Christ.
The First Presidency of the church, comprised of President Russell M. Nelson, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring, sent a letter on Friday inviting all to feel that spirit this holiday season.
The message comes one week before the presidency will address millions in the annual (now virtual-only) Christmas devotional on Sunday.
In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the church has helped with several relief measures all while encouraging members and nonmembers alike to look outward this holiday season in service, and reminding people that others may need help now more than ever.
One week before Thanksgiving, President Nelson issued a global call to express gratitude on social media through the hashtag #GiveThanks, and asked participants to share something they are thankful for each day for one week.
Millions of posts were published on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as people shared messages of gratitude.
When President Nelson issued the call, KSL.com asked readers to share what they were thankful for; while some felt the hashtag encouraged virtue signaling or bragging, others were uplifted by the messages. Out of over 90 responses, here’s what a few of them had to say:
“I would like to give my thanks to the scientists and pharmaceutical companies that have performed a modern-day miracle,” wrote Michele B. Davis, of St. George. “They have produced a Covid-19 vaccine in 10 months! It will bless us all!”
Another reader expressed thanks for something many wouldn’t see as a positive — her cancer.
“I want to express my gratitude for the cervical cancer that I have had these past 3 1/2 years! It has taught compassion; it has taught me that I can handle more than I thought possible; it has taught me to reach for God even more than after my husband died from cancer almost 18 years ago, leaving me to raise our 3 young children,” shared a KSL.com reader. “The Lord sent the Missionaries to my door in Springfield, Oregon, after he died, and I heard truth in the messages they faithfully brought! I am truly grateful for the many tender mercies and kindnesses that I have received from the Lord.”
Irene Hatch, of West Valley City, shared thanks for the challenges she has faced.
“I am so grateful for everything in my life including the adversities,” she wrote. “Although I know our Father in Heaven doesn’t like to see us suffer, I also know that some lessons can only be learned through discomfort and often pain. Once they are past we see the lessons and the growth. If we were able to look past the pain while we are experiencing it, we might react differently and feel less ‘victimized.’ Gratitude in and of itself invites more blessings which I believe we all enjoy in great abundance.”
For Esli Morales, of Logan, it’s simple what they are thankful for: “My health, a home, and a job.”
Joe Shaw, from Alpine, Wyoming, is grateful for his family and hopes others continue to come together during difficult times.
“I’m blessed to have 5 beautiful daughters, and 15 grandchildren,” he wrote. “I’m now fortunate to be able to spend more time with them. Fortunate to live in a wonderful state and country. I do not deserve the blessings my family has given me, I pray we can come together as families and as a nation to rid us of this pandemic. Let’s love one another, regardless of race.”
As President Nelson, a heart surgeon, said in his video call to action, gratitude can be a remedy for the sorrow caused by the worldwide crisis — not a solution, but a means to help people get through it.
Experts recently affirmed this idea. Dr. Travis Mickelson, a psychiatrist and associate medical director of mental health integration at Intermountain Healthcare, said last week a focus on positivity can help people cope with stress.
Similar to what President Nelson suggested, Mickelson said finding three positive things that happened in one’s day every day for two weeks can have lasting mental health benefits for up to six months.
On Sunday President Nelson shared his appreciation for all who joined him in giving thanks and said he felt humbled by the experience.
“I urge you to make expressing gratitude to God a part of your daily life,” President Nelson wrote on social media. “An attitude of gratitude gives us better perspective and more peace of mind and heart.”
The faith leader invited all to continue sharing uplifting messages and looking outward in service, and invited all to participate in the church’s #LightTheWorld initiative that encourages service.