Between turkey(s) and dessert


A Thanksgiving meal from the film “Man’s Search for Happiness,” produced for the Mormon Pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. The family’s widowed grandfather will enter the room soon, and will offer the blessing on the food. Note the grim atmosphere, and the rigid fasting. Note how determined the Church was, in this brief film, to deemphasize the beloved American holiday of Thanksgiving. Note how truly and completely off-the-wall some criticisms of Mormonism are.


The preparations are long over, the meal just finished.  Dessert will be served in an hour or so.  In the meantime, some are playing games, others are simply talking.  I think I just caught the sound of a football game.


I decided to spend a bit of time surfing the web before joining in a game of “Sequence.”  (I always lose at “Sequence,” so postponing the inevitable for a few minutes seems a pleasant option.)


I’ve run across some really weird claims just now.  One person, responding to my article in the Deseret News earlier today, seems to imagine that I think one has to choose, on Thanksgiving Day, between eating a meal and socializing with family and friends, on the one hand, or, on the other, reflecting on one’s blessings.  He seems to think, as another comment says, that my article is summoning people to spend Thanksgiving Day fasting, in grim solitude.


Another person, writing on a message board, claims that Mormons deemphasize Thanksgiving, and wonders why.  Thus far, people replying to him have suggested, in their attempts to explain this phony and completely manufactured phenomenon, that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints indoctrinates its members to ignore Thanksgiving and other holidays since money spent on such celebrations is money that could, otherwise, have gone into the pockets of Mormon leaders; that devout Mormons are simply uncomfortable around their families; and that, since holidays give people time and occasion to think, the leadership of the Church desperately wants to discourage their observance.


I get a kick out of such comments.  One of my favorite television shows, when I was young, was The Twilight Zone.


Anyway, all of my wife’s four brothers and her sister are here — including a brother visiting from Washington State and another visiting from Arizona.  (The kids all grew up in Colorado, but four out of six have found their way to Utah.)  One of the spouses is visiting other family in Oregon, and couldn’t come, but we spoke with her via videoconference before dinner.  Many of the kids/grandkids/cousins are here, as well, with spouses where applicable.  There are, I think, about twenty-five of us.  As is usual for this holiday.  My father-in-law did the turkey and the family’s traditional red cabbage.  Everybody else brought something, too.  The food was very good.


We all miss the matriarch of the family, my wife’s mother, who passed away on 6 April after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s.  I miss my own family, too.  I have no parents and no sibling left.  It’s sometimes pretty lonely.


This is, in other words, a pretty typical American Thanksgiving Day.  Even the blessing on the food was, I would guess, fairly standard — as other families, Mormon and non-Mormon, have gathered across the country and, in many cases, offered prayers of gratitude and blessing.  No grimness.  No fasting.  Certainly not ignored.  Completely mainstream.  Quintessentially American.


Some of our critics are simply bizarre.


Actually, the seldom-used and rather British word daft comes to mind.


Posted from Bountiful, Utah



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  • kiwi57

    Since your Deseret News commenter (Dennis from Harwich) seems to think you are offering an “either/or” proposition, can we gather that, in choosing to eat dinner and enjoy time with his family, he is also choosing to spend the entire day in completely non-reflective self-indulgence?

    • DanielPeterson

      LOL. That seems to me a reasonable inference.

  • Ray Agostini

    Dan, I know your father served in General Patton’s army, which was responsible for the liberation of Germany. Although we in Oz don’t officially celebrate Thanksgiving, I am ever mindful of the sacrifices that have been made, and are still being made, such as those by your late father. No Thanksgiving would be complete without without recognition of them.

    • DanielPeterson

      Thanks for that very touching video, Ray.