Thanksgiving is of course a time for me to realize how truly blessed I am, and to see the hand of God in my own life. I really like this video by Hilary Weeks from the last Time Out for Women. It helps me to see that we all have challenges and heartbreaks, and even in the heartbreaks we can find gratitude. Here is another video from Stephanie Neilson, who is featured in Hilary’s video. She survived a burn from a plane crash.
This year is the first year I get to celebrate Thanksgiving Day with the knowledge that I am a descendant of a Mayflower Pilgrim. Last year for my mom’s December birthday my sis-in-law and brother put together a DVD telling the story of how my mom is descended from three famous Americans. They are, first, John Howland (a Pilgrim, the guy who fell overboard on the Mayflower voyage), second, Roger Williams, the man who founded Rhode Island, and John Lathrop, a famous early minister who was exiled from England because he taught that the Church of England was corrupt. I am actually descended from two Pilgrims, because John married Elizabeth Tilley, another Pilgrim. John is famous for being the one who fell overboard during a storm on the Mayflower voyage. He was strong enough to grab hold of a rope, hanging overboard, the topsail halyard, and the people on board pulled him up.
When I was a child, when my family lived in New York, we spent one Thanksgiving week touring New York City, Boston, and Plymouth Plantation. We got to visit a replica of the Mayflower. As we toured Plymouth Plantation, little did we know that we were walking in the steps of our ancestors. According to Doug Phillips’ blog over at visionforum.com, 30 million descendants live today from the approximately 50 Pilgrims who survived the first winter. So you might be a descendant too!
Here’s how I am descended from him:
John Howland — Desire Howland — four generations of Gorhams — Melissa Shurtliff — my grandpa — my mom — me
Both of Elizabeth’s parents died the first winter, so she was orphaned. She was adopted by the Carver family. John Carver was the first governor of the Plymouth plantation but he died the first spring, and so then William Bradford became the governor. In his book, Of Plymouth Plantation, Bradford describes John Howland as a “lusty young man.” Howland was part of the exploring party that left the Mayflower ship in early December 1620 to find the best place to settle. Howland had been an indentured servant of Carver’s. He ended up inheriting John Carver’s estate, since Carver died, as well as Carver’s wife and child. Howland married Elizabeth Tilley when she was 16 and he was 30. He was part of the exploring party that left the Mayflower ship in early December 1620 to find the best place to settle. They had 10 children, 88 grandchildren, and a huge posterity, including Joseph Smith, Emma Hale, Brigham Young, and Nathaniel Gorham, one of the signers of the U. S. Constitution. He died in 1673 and is buried in Burial Hill, the cemetery for many Pilgrims in Plymouth. He is described in the records as a “godly man and an ardent professor in the ways of Christ.”
So from now on Thanksgiving for me will also be an anniversary celebration of my family settling in America as part of the Pilgrims. I am grateful for the hand of God bringing my family to this great land. As a family we read this morning in the Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi, that everyone who comes to America is brought by the hand of God. God didn’t just leave our ancestors after he brought them here, He continues to watch over us. This makes me remember that General Conference talk by President Eyring a while back where he suggested that at the end of the day we reflect back on how we saw the hand of God in our lives that day and write it down. I really like what Doug Phillips over at his blog says about God’s providence with the Pilgrims http://www.visionforum.com/news/blogs/doug/. He’s not LDS but I like that he is so fervent about God’s role in American history.
Sometimes I feel deprived of certain blessings like a bigger home, more kitchen counter space, a huge freezer, and a thinner body. I’ve been reading the story Mary of Old Plymouth to my core phasers every night. It helps me be grateful as I see all the things that I have that the Pilgrims didn’t have: a warm house, variety of food, a car, running water, indoor plumbing, electricity, healthy body, a storage of food. So Wendy Roberts, thank you for sharing the Hilary Weeks video with me. And whoever posted the link to the Mary of Old Plymouth on one of my email lists, thank you, and thank you God for blessing me, for helping me to see blessings in the midst of heartbreaks. I am also thankful for my sis in law and her example of keeping the spirit of Elijah. Learning about my ancestors is helping me to feel stronger and more connected to God and good things. I am loving watching the Generations Project TV shows over at http://byutv.org. These aren’t dry and boring, they are about real people who get help for their problems by connecting to their roots.