One year after #GiveThanks, Church members express gratitude again for a prophetic invitation

Goldie Burt is a great-grandmother who had never really used social media — until she heard the Prophet’s invitation one year ago to post with #GiveThanks.

The 88-year-old Burt had her granddaughter help her post on Instagram “to let other people realize how I felt, and especially my family, that we do have so many things to be thankful for,” she said from her Salt Lake City home.

Burt’s posts about her family and faith joined countless others around the world as people followed President Russell M. Nelson’s call to “flood social media with a wave of gratitude that reaches the four corners of the earth.”

On Nov. 20, 2020, President Nelson released a video on the healing power of gratitude. 

“Gratitude provides us with a greater perspective on the very purpose and joy of life,” he said.

President Nelson spoke about seeing almost everything in his 96 years of life — a Great Depression, a world war and a global pandemic, to name a few. And he proposed gratitude as a remedy to help find joy in hard times.

“Practicing gratitude may not prevent us from experiencing sorrow, anger or pain, but it can help us look forward with hope,” said President Nelson in the video.

It’s exactly what happened for Laura Hudson in Calgary, Alberta. Gratitude helped her family find joy during a hard time. Her husband had lost his job at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, he had been gone all summer, and the odd jobs he was doing were starting to dry up with the cold weather. She was pregnant, and they were feeling discouraged about Christmas for their children.

“I had every reason to wallow and whine,” said Hudson. “The invitation to give thanks, and have the accountability of doing it online, was really helpful. Even with all the hard things, having the Prophet ask me to look at the good really lifted my spirits.”

Hudson said her mom recently reminded her just how scary those times were. “I had truly forgotten. I really think the act of gratitude is what got me through it.”

Read more: Church leaders respond to President Nelson’s invitation to #GiveThanks

Nancy Meidell, in Salt Lake City, also said #GiveThanks made all the difference for her.  Meidell’s husband, Phillip, died in 2020 after a long battle with cancer. 

“It was a hard, grief-filled year with all kinds of newness I did not want or desire to embrace,” she said. “Then I was challenged to be grateful for something — anything — and my attitude softly, gently, in a way I could embrace, changed my thinking every morning, giving me just a bit of new hope each day that I could survive and actually perhaps thrive again in my new unwanted life and situation.”

The video resonated globally with over 65 million people who heard the #GiveThanks message, pointed out Canada Newsroom. Stevi Ginolfi, the director of content promotion for the Deseret News and Church News, said the posts immediately started trending on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms.

“It was really powerful and cool to see all of these things come through, and really it was [President Nelson] giving people the power to share their actual true self rather than, ‘Here’s my social media presence, I have to be very hands off, I have to look perfect,’” said Ginolfi in an upcoming Church News podcast.

Sister Lisa L. Harkness, first counselor in the Primary general presidency, reads with children. She shared this photo in a #GiveThanks post on social media on Nov. 22, 2020.
Sister Lisa L. Harkness, first counselor in the Primary general presidency, reads with children. She shared this photo in a #GiveThanks post on social media on Nov. 22, 2020. Credit: Lisa L. Harkness Facebook

People who rarely posted or who never posted felt prompted to share more, said Ginolfi, in part because of the sincerity of President Nelson’s message. He was genuine and open as he spoke about losing his first wife and two of his daughters. “And that opened the door for us to be open about those things that we don’t tell people all the time,” she said.

While Burt learned to post on social media at age 88 and publicly share her gratitude for her Father in Heaven and her Savior, she also wrote in her journal every day that week.

“I think of all of the blessings I have in my life, and that I’ve had in my life, it’s just awesome, because there have been so many. It’s hard to categorize them. And you don’t need to categorize them. They are just there,” she said.

President Nelson said the video message he shared that day one year ago was not one that came by chance, it was one that came from heaven. He said he woke up in the middle of the night a few weeks before with the thought that he should offer a prayer of gratitude to God for all His children around the globe.

“Thoughts flooded my mind of all of the things for which we should be grateful and how expressing that gratitude could become a healing spirit in our lives. As the inspiration came, specific details, including when and how I should share this message, came to my mind and heart,” he wrote about the experience.

By counting blessings, he said, all can more fully appreciate and enjoy their lives as they work toward greater unity, kindness, honesty and tolerance.​

Read more: President Nelson is ‘humbled, grateful’ by response to #GiveThanks and invites all to #LightTheWorld

For many people like Rikki Meece, who lives in the Salt Lake Valley, it was prophetic and life-changing.

“Last year, amid all the negativity that literally constantly showed up in my feeds, here and there a spark of brightness started shining through the hate, the ugly, the downright inappropriate posts,” she said. “It only takes a pinpoint of light to shine in complete darkness, and my eyes were drawn to those posts. I needed them so much!”

Meece’s first post for the #GiveThanks initiative was about Jesus Christ. President Nelson had suggested that as people wrote about gratitude, and said prayers of gratitude, they could build their relationships with the Savior.

Brother Bradley R. Wilcox, second counselor in the Young Men general presidency, posted about the Savior last year, as well as his gratitude for the Restoration, parents, teachers, nurses and others. “My social media was flooded with positive messages from friends and family. I loved it so much I decided to do a miniversion of that this year,” he wrote on Instagram.

Burt said she and her extended family will continue to use that pattern of writing down what they are grateful for, especially during Thanksgiving time. 

“I think it will help everyone from now on through the Church. They will want to talk about gratitude and President Nelson’s invitation.”

Church members have now been invited to “Light the World” for Christmas 2021 in the annual initiative from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The new #LightTheWorld daily calendar and new children’s service calendar can be found here.