The Somber Irony of Modern-day Thanksgiving (And What You Can Do About It)

Black Friday Thanksgiving Mormon campers

This last week at the elementary school where I teach a lady came in to talk about Thanksgiving with the students. She asked the students if they knew which holiday was coming up. Of course, one student replied “Thanksgiving!” But then I heard another student shout out, “wait, there’s one more—Black Friday!”

I silently chuckled at my student’s silly reply: Black Friday—a holiday?! But the bleak reality is that, in a way, Black Friday has become a holiday in our consumptive culture. Black Friday Advertisements monopolize the television and radio, and some people today even look forward to Black Friday more than Thanksgiving!

The Irony of it All Mormon Black Friday Thanksgiving cartoon funny

The irony of Black Friday in the past has been that we supposedly gave thanks on Thursday but the sales of Black Friday crept up on us the next day, and we became obsessed with buying what we didn’t have before.

But today, Black Friday has become an entirely different beast: today, many stores with sales actually open on Thanksgiving, drawing individuals from their homes to stores so they can save a buck. The way we approach Black Friday on Thanksgiving may indicate the degree of gratitude we are able to express.

Why Should Latter-day Saints Be Concerned?

Mormon Black Friday Thanksgiving Costly Apparel
The Zoramites set their hearts on riches, grew in pride, and neglected the poor.

Look, I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to go shopping on Black Friday—I realize it’s a great time to go early Christmas shopping. I’m just saying that we should be careful Black Friday doesn’t consume our Thanksgiving. Never should our consumption compromise the opportunity to express our gratitude.

In the Book of Mormon, we read of several examples where the Nephites began to set their heats on material things. For example, Jacob admonished the Nephites because “the costliness of [their] apparel” led to pride, competition, and comparison (see Jacob 2:13). Later, Alma gave up his position as Chief Judge to minister unto the Nephites because “The people of the church began to wax proud, because of their exceeding riches” (Alma 4:6).

The Zoramites were another Book of Mormon example of a people obsessed with material goods. Alma even goes so far as to name many of their possessions in a prayer (Alma 31:28) to emphasize their obsession with material things, saying:

Behold, O my God, their costly apparel, and their ringlets, and their bracelets, and their ornaments of gold, and all their precious things which they are ornamented with; and behold, their hearts are set upon them

The Zoramites set their hearts on material things and they began to cast out those who had little. They developed a value system where things were more important than people. Sometimes I wonder what our prophets would write about the people of our day. Would they write that we were lifted up in the pride of our hearts; that we set our hearts upon riches; that we cast out the poor and needy?

How Gratitude Helps Mormon Black Friday Thanksgiving family eating Thanksgiving dinner

When we are grateful, we feel content with what we have been given. We are less likely to feel pride. We do not seek happiness in the material things because we know those things can’t last. Instead, we seek happiness in eternal things.

In his October 2010 conference address titled “The Divine Gift of Gratitude,” President Thomas S. Monson spoke well when he asked:

Do material possessions make us happy and grateful? Perhaps momentarily. However, those things which provide deep and lasting happiness and gratitude are the things which money cannot buy: our families, the gospel, good friends, our health, our abilities, the love we receive from those around us.

If our happiness depends on material things, we will find that one day those things will cease to satisfy us. Let us focus instead on more fulfilling blessings life has to offer.

How Can You Keep Black Friday From Consuming Your Thanksgiving? Mormon Black Friday Thanksgiving thank you note

Here are just ten suggestions that may help you keep Black Friday from spoiling your Thanksgiving:

  1. If possible, avoid shopping on Thanksgiving Day.
  2. Sit down for Thanksgiving dinner with family or friends.
  3. Pick a time to disconnect from media. Turn off your phones, television, radio, etc.
  4. Go on a walk or hike with those you love.
  5. Express your gratitude by writing thank-you letters.
  6. Find a way to volunteer, or donate.
  7. Think of a family that may be in need to visit and serve.
  8. Bring God into your Thanksgiving: pray often and read scriptures and talks on gratitude.
  9. When you go shopping, don’t focus on what you lack materially: focus instead on the priceless blessings God has already given you.
  10. Find a time to personally reflect on how you have seen God’s hand touch your life during the past year and write it down.

Click here for more suggestions to make your Thanksgiving more meaningful.

What other ways help you maintain a spirit of gratitude (even with Black Friday looming) during the Thanksgiving holiday? Let me know!

Derek Lange is an intern at He graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor's in English. Derek grew up in Tehachapi California. He is passionate about football, basketball, water-sports, and reading. He now lives in Provo Utah with his wife Mary and their two children, Edith and Benny.