Slightly more than a year after the first pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley, the Mormon settlers celebrated their first harvest in what is Utah's first recorded Thanksgiving. It was Thursday, Aug. 10, 1848, when people in Great Salt Lake City had a feast under a bowery in the center of the fort to celebrate the first harvest in the Great Basin.
They ate bread, beef, butter, cheese, cakes, pastry, green corn, melons and almost every variety of vegetable. There was a prayer of Thanksgiving, songs, speeches, music, dancing, smiling faces and merry hearts.Parley P. Pratt, a noted early pioneer, remembered that celebration as a "great day and long to be remembered by those who had suffered and waited Anxiously for the results of a first effort to redeem the interior deserts of America and to make her hitherto unknown solitudes `blossom as the rose.' . . ."
The things we are grateful for have dramatically changed for many of us in the years since that harvest feast. As we prepared to celebrate a 1990 Utah Thanksgiving, I asked several prominent citizens what they are personally thankful for this year. Here are their diverse responses:
ALBERTA HENRY, president of the NAACP's Utah chapter - "I'm 70 years old, and nobody will believe it, and I'm thankful to the Lord for a portion of health and strength. It's exciting to be 70 and have a mind! I even thank the Lord for the pains that's in the legs - and a sense of humor."
REX E. LEE, president of Brigham Young University - "I'm happy to be alive. Twice since 1987 I honestly thought that I would never see another Thanksgiving. And I specifically thought of it in terms of thanksgiving. It's funny when you think you're going to die - you think of the things you will never see. But it also has a thanksgiving quality to it that is bigger than that day. It is a gratitude for the quality of life, to be able to spend it outside of hospitals and doctor's offices and be able to carry on a normal life. I had never focused on what a privilege it is to be able to go home at night and sleep in your own bed . . . or drive your car . . . or jog . . . or the great numbers of things you can do when you're not tied to an IV pole. It has made me highly conscious of just how much I appreciate my family and job and day-to-day activities."
ELOISE BELL, author of "Only When I Laugh" - "I'm thankful that my book is out and for Network, the magazine, and network - with a small n - the men and women who work for any cause . . . the "sense" of network. We are all, after all, co-dependent. There is a story about a request for a mini-class in an LDS ward Relief Society. The homemaking leader designed a class, called `I'll Give Up Being Co-dependent If It'll Make You Happy.' The truth is that we all need each other."
LOWELL BENNION, author, humanitarian - "I'm thankful to be born and reared in a country ruled by law rather than by men. I'm grateful to Washington, Madison, Franklin and the thousands of others who brought it to pass. I'm also grateful to be able to think - to use my mind."
GENEVIEVE ATWOOD, geologist, former congressional candidate - "I'm thankful for so much. I'm thankful to be a woman living in the U.S. I'm thankful for my family and all the blessings that come with lots of siblings and a husband who loves me. And I'm very thankful (and this is a two-edged sword), I pray for the rest of the world that does not have all that we have . . . wishing that everyone could have what we have - democracy, energy, plenty of food, education, all those things."
CHRISTINE DURHAM, justice of the Utah Supreme Court - "I'm grateful to be a parent of five children who are all healthy and doing well in school."
JOSEPH SILVERSTEIN, conductor of the Utah Symphony Orchestra - "I'm thankful for having such a great symphony orchestra to work with and for having my whole family join me for the holiday. They come from diverse places - the San Francisco Bay area, Chicago and New York - and they're all converging here. There are four children and two grandchildren. I'm grateful to be living in such a nice place that they all want to come to!"
GOV. NORM BANGERTER - "Primarily that the elections are over! Seriously, as I reflect I turn to the important things . . . and I'm really grateful that I'm privileged to live in America and Utah - the most fantastic place on this earth. And I'm appreciative and grateful that I have a family with common goals and common objectives, and I'm appreciative of the fact that I've had so many opportunities in life to serve in many capacities - in church, government and community. That's been a real privilege and a real blessing to me."
EMMA LOU THAYNE, author, poet - "I'm really thankful for freedom, having seen the really remarkable explosions of freedom in the Eastern bloc countries that Mel and I visited this summer. I have such respect for people who generate their own. There's chaos at first, of course - but we visited with people who thought freedom was like the taste of clear water. We talked to a urologist in Budapest making $200 a month, and we asked him how he made it economically.
"He said, `That's not what I think about - it is that we have freedom!'
"I said, `What does freedom mean to you?'
"He said, `Have you read George Orwell's "1984" '?
"I said, `Yes - with "Big Brother" watching you? Is that what it was like?'
"He said, `It was worse - much worse!'
"So now in the midst of all their shortages these people can elect the person of their choice. To have communism gone there is to have a burden lifted.
"Then of course, I'm thankful for my family, my home, and all the love that we have - but we need freedom to enjoy anything else."
KIMBERLY PERKINS, KTVX, Channel 4, news anchor - "I'm thankful for healthy children and a happy home life that I could not have dreamed of as a young girl growing up. It sounds trite, I know, but I go home at night and I shake my head at how lucky I am. When you're doing stories every day about so many troubled things in this world - I'm just so happy in my marriage, and we like living in Utah so much. It's a quality of life that most working mothers just don't have."
KAREN SHEPHERD, newly elected state senator - "This is the first year that both of my children have been away from home - and one of them will be home for Thanksgiving, and I'm thankful for that. My son at the University of Colorado will be home, but my daughter who is traveling in Australia will not. My son is bringing four friends to ski, and so we will have a house full of great hulking boys. That'll be fun."
RICK MAJERUS, University of Utah basketball coach - " I'm grateful for the academic success of my players. But I'm most thankful for the improvement in my mother's and my sister's health. Personally, I feel terrific now. The kind of problem I had is very common. You can govern your own health to some extent, but you can't govern someone else's. So I'm grateful for their health."