“No people ought to feel greater obligations to celebrate the goodness of the Great Disposer of Events and of the Destiny of Nations than the people of the United States. His kind providence originally conducted them to one of the best portions of the dwelling place allotted for the great family of the human race…And to the same Divine Author of Every Good and Perfect Gift we are indebted for all those privileges and advantages, religious as well as civil, which are so richly enjoyed in this favored land.”
– From James Madison’s 1815 Thanksgiving Proclamation, as 4th President of the United States of America
Happy Thanksgiving! To celebrate this holiday, several of our members have written about a right or an American hero they are grateful for. If everyone living in America was truly grateful for the blessings they have, showing their gratitude for their actions, the world would have a lot less problems. Gratitude can change an individual, change a family, change a community, change a nation.
Who/what are you grateful for and why? Put them in the comments below.
President Russell M. Nelson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said “When our hearts turn to our ancestors something changes inside us.” There is no better time than amongst the celebration and thanksgiving to seek out our lineage. It is estimated that 35 Million people worldwide are descended from someone on the Mayflower. Of the 35 Million, many of them are descendants of John Howland, also known as the “The One Who Fell Overboard,” for the remarkable miracle that saved his life. Equally well known is John’s wife Elizabeth Tilley, who travelled on the Mayflower when she was thirteen, she married John who is fifteen years her senior, four years after landing in the new world. There is something solemn and sacred surrounding this couple that was both hard to ignore during their time, and purly inspirational today.
Predestined to settle in the new world, neither disease, or the elements could foil John and Elizabeth. The well known story of the miracle that saved John Howland’s life, as recorded by William Bradford illustrates the invincibility of this Pilgrim. He had a mission to perform and the hand of God is present throughout John’s whole life. As for Elizabeth, as the youngest of five children she was the only child to travel to the new world with her parents. Both of Elizabeth’s parents died on the voyage leaving her orphaned and alone, she was taken in by the Carvers, who would eventually die during the first winter. Saved from the ruthless conditions during the voyage, harsh weather, and scurvy; John and Elizabeth came out triumphant after the first year in the new world. Mourning the loss of loved ones they moved forward, got married and had ten children, the two oldest Desire Howland, and John Howland II would be the ancestors of two influential and beloved individuals.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has now reached a population of 16,565,036 people. Its founder Joseph Smith Jr and his wife are direct descendants of John and Elizabeth, Joseph through John Howland II, and Emma through Desire Howland. Smithsonian magazine listed 100 people, who they believed to be the most influential Americans of all time. Among the 100, 11 were religious figures, the first one listed was Joseph Smith Jr. The widespread impact of the church organized by Joseph Smith is incalculable, numerous humanitarian aid projects, 167 temples, and their rising numbers are the consequences of Elizabeth and John’s choices and the stellar lives they lived. Amongst Joseph and Emma, there are many other influential and famous people who are the descendants of John and Elizabeth Howland.
It is impossible to get the grand scope of the heroic tale of John and Elizabeth without doing research on your own. If we are grateful for the freedoms we enjoy today, for this amazing country, and for our families, it is essential to understand those who set the foundation for this nation. It is because of their sacrifice, devotion to God, and resilience we are where we are today. I am grateful for the sacrifice and risks John and Elizabeth Howland took to come to the new world, and I am glad to live in a country that respects the freedom of religion. I am grateful for what John and Elizabeth have taught me about what it means to take risks for freedom. I believe that missions and purpose are passed down in family lines, and I am grateful for the lineage I have of John and Elizabeth Howland.
Benjamin Franklin. I think most of us know the name. He invented the bifocal glasses. His face graces the $100 bill. He signed the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. He was an ambassador to France, instrumental in getting the alliance that helped us win the Revolutionary War. He wrote his own autobiography. He wrote Poor Richard’s Almanac. When we look at the founding of America, it’s easy to see the giants – George Washington. Thomas Jefferson. James Madison. Alexander Hamilton. Their input and influence was huge and irreplaceable.
But the influence of Benjamin Franklin was also huge and irreplaceable. He might not have written one of the founding documents, or united the bickering colonies, or led a rag-tag army to victory against the world superpower. But he is a great example of continually learning, serving where we can, and always seeking for truth. I’m thankful for Benjamin Franklin and the role he played in the founding of this nation.
In the book Bendigo Shacter by Louis L’Amour, a mountain man named Stacey Follet sets out on a mission to kill a man named Drake Morrel. He stakes out a spot above the town where Morrel is residing and learns of his ways. He determines the place to kill Morrel is the schoolhouse, where Morrel teaches. At his chosen time, Follet walks into the school house and invites Drake outside where he can kill him. At this moment every student in that room pulls out a gun and points it at Stacey, because of how much they love their teacher. In the end Stacey and Drake become friends because of the incident just layed out. Many people in this world realize how important it is to be armed but not enough of us show gratitude for the opportunity we have to be armed. This Thanksgiving I am voicing my gratitude for the 2nd amendment and for the chance I have to live in America and own firearms, and use them.
Joan of Arc, of all of the heroes who made America, perhaps Joan of Arc is the most overlooked, sure she gets credit for what she did for France, but very rarely do we stop the think what became of this, simply put, we have to ask the question of how would the revolution for freedom have changed if not only we didn’t have France’s support, but had that very land against us as well? Even in death she saved America, as her murder supported, and perhaps inspired Martin Luther and his quest for freedom of religion.
On this Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful for George Washington. Not just because he’s one of the most well known patriots or because he was our first president, but because of his strong moral character. After the birth of our country, when the American Colonies were still very unstable, George Washington was asked to be the head of a military dictatorship. He turned them down. In fact, he pleaded with them to keep America free. Not many people would have had the character to turn them down. And what’s more, not many people would have been able to sway the military away from setting up a dictatorship. But George Washington did it. Not only did he lead a few colonies to victory against the world’s greatest military power, but he kept that victory. And I’m thankful for that.
We all know of Paul Revere’s famous ride, transformed by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow into the epic poem, Paul Revere’s Ride. But who was he, really?
Paul Revere was a silversmith by trade, and he owned and operated his own shop throughout his life. He was also involved in other areas of business, including the casting of cannons and bells in his later life.
He was a family man, if there ever was one. In 1757 he married Sarah Orne, and together they had eight children. When she died in 1773, he married Rachel Walker, and they had eight more children!
Paul Revere was a member of the Masonic Lodge of St. He was a messenger for the Boston Committee of Correspondence and the Massachusetts Committee of Safety, and rode express for the Continental Congress. Gathering information on the activity of British troops, he helped to keep the colonists well-informed. At 10 PM on the night of April 18, 1775, he was instructed by a fellow Mason, Dr. Joseph Warren, to warn the militias of Lexington and Concord that the British were approaching. He rode all night, warning people of the coming danger. You know the rest. In the first battle of the revolution, the British were defeated.
During the war, Paul Revere was assigned to command an artillery unit in an expedition to capture the British fort at Castine, in what was then the Maine district of Massachusetts. This was a failure, and Revere was court-martialed, but found not guilty.
Paul Revere was an ordinary man, with a mostly ordinary life, but what I find inspiring about his story is how one ordinary person can make a difference. On the night of his famous ride, Revere set out to deliver a message, as he had many times before. To him, it was all in the line of duty. But imagine what would have happened if he had been too lazy to do the task instructed to him? What would have happened to the revolution? Where would we be now? I’m so thankful for the commitment and determination of Paul Revere, and the important job he accomplished, and I’m deeply grateful for the thousands of Americans who, like Paul Revere, do their work with determination and commitment so that we can enjoy life to the fullest.
James Madison, also known as the Father of the Constitution, was a small and sickly man who was 5 feet 4 inches tall and barely more than 100 pounds. He was soft-spoken and shy, but despite this and his small stature, he brilliantly persisted in advocating the things he believed in. Madison studied ancient governments and came up with his “Virginia Plan”, which turned out to be the blueprint of our Constitution today. After the Constitution was drafted, he worked incredibly hard to ensure its ratification, working with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay to write the Federalist Papers to explain to the colonists why the Constitution was important. I am grateful for James Madison because of the role he played in upholding freedom and a stable government. Surely this little man was a big hero.
As James Madison wrote: “If justice, good faith, honor, gratitude & all the other Qualities which enoble the character of a nation, and fulfil the ends of Government, be the fruits of our establishments, the cause of liberty will acquire a dignity and lustre, which it has never yet enjoyed; and an example will be set which can not but have the most favorable influence on the rights of mankind.”
- James Madison, Proclamation 20—Recommending a Day of Public Thanksgiving for Peace Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/205466
- “John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley: Their Life and Legacy in Plymouth Colony.” • FamilySearch Blog, 28 Aug. 2020, www.familysearch.org/en/blog/john-howland-elizabeth-tilley. Accessed 19 Nov. 2021.
- The Pilgrim Hypothesis. Thepilgrimhypothesis.com. Accessed 19 Nov. 2021.
- Nelson, Rian. “Pilgrims- John Howland & Elizabeth Tilley.” Book of Mormon Evidence, 20 Feb. 2020, bookofmormonevidence.org/pilgrim-john-howland/. Accessed 19 Nov. 2021.
- “Family History Quotes Russell M Nelson. QuotesGram.” Quotesgram.com, quotesgram.com/family-history-quotes-russell-m-nelson/. Accessed 19 Nov. 2021.
- “Statistics and Church Facts | Total Church Membership.” Newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org, newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/facts-and-statistics.
- “11 Religious Figures Named amongst the 100 Most Significant Americans of All Time by Smithsonian Magazine.” World Religion News, 8 Oct. 2014, www.worldreligionnews.com/religion-news/christianity/11-religious-figures-named-amongst-100-significant-americans-time-smithsonian-magazine. Accessed 22 Nov. 2021.