A short post after a long week. Hope everyone has an excellent holiday.
Growing up, Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday. Of course I love Christmastime, but the traditional Rupp family thanksgiving was always one of my favorite days of the year. The entire clan would overtake a church cultural hall in Salt Lake City for the day. We started with an early morning game of basketball (we're a tall and skinny bunch; it was always basketball and never football); then everyone would get cleaned up in time for the traditional thanksgiving meal. The food was exactly the same every year. You could count on it. Turkey, stuffing, yams, fluffy rolls, and whipped mashed-potatoes formed into a nice little crater filled with gravy and corn. This was all followed by pie for dessert, which was my mom’s specialty. After lunch we would play volleyball and then spend the rest of the afternoon in general shenanigans involving lots of laughter and frequent pointless physical challenges. What we did was fun, but it was doing it with my uncles, aunts, and cousins that really made it special. I love my family. We have a great time together.
Years have passed and those holiday traditions continue with surprisingly little change. We live 700 miles away and rarely make it back for the Rupp family Thanksgiving, but I still look forward to the holiday. I’ve come to really appreciate a day set aside to celebrate gratitude. Since Adam and Eve first expressed gratitude for their fall (see Moses 5), we have seen that gratitude is an essential attribute of all those striving to become like their Heavenly Father. Depending on our circumstances, it can sometimes seem hard to be grateful, but I know no matter what is happening in our lives, a grateful person is a happy person. Gratitude is an essential attribute in the Plan of Salvation.
One of my favorite ways to practice gratitude was taught by Elder David A. Bednar in 2008. He told of a time when a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was staying in their home. When they knelt to pray at the end of the day the Apostle encouraged Sister Bednar to "express only appreciation for blessings received and ask for nothing,” which she did. Elder Bednar described the special blessings that came from her “gratitude prayer” that night. Elder Bednar went on to say, "The most meaningful and spiritual prayers I have experienced contained many expressions of thanks and few, if any, requests.”
I’ve found this to be true. The first time I remember offering a gratitude prayer was on my mission. It was at the close of a leadership meeting where we had been greatly blessed by the Spirit as we listened to our mission president and set goals together. My heart was full, and I had the feeling to simply express our gratitude as we knelt together. This still stands out as a special spiritual experience in my life. Since then, I have noticed that in some of my darkest hours, I feel heaven’s help the most when I simply pause to thank God for the literally countless blessings he has given. The Holy Spirit is given in abundance when we have, and express, gratitude.