Dan Cravens family

Dan Cravens, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ communications representative in Blackfoot, recently shared this photo of his wife and children via Facebook with the #GiveThanks hashtag.

In a special video message released on Friday, Russell M. Nelson encouraged people throughout the world to “flood social media with a wave of gratitude.”

The president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints asked people to turn their social media accounts into their personal gratitude journals for seven days and to use #GiveThanks on their posts.

Hundreds of thousands of people have responded to the invitation, filling Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites with messages about the people and things they’re most grateful for and why.

The Deseret News reported that #GiveThanks was the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter in the U.S. shortly after the video was released and remained in the top 5 for several hours.

Natalie Permann, social media specialist for the Church’s Coordinating Council for the Pocatello area, said there were 2.9 million posts referencing #GiveThanks on Instagram as of Tuesday morning. There were 2.7 million references on Facebook by that afternoon.

Many are expressing thanks for blessings like family, friends, coaches, teachers, modern medicine, music, art, animals, nature, countries, clean water, shoes, memories and more.

“I love that it can be something simple. You don’t have to get on and post (some) amazing experience,” Permann said, adding that people can write about the hot shower they were able to take that day. “Simple is so helpful. Simple is life changing when you focus on it.”

Nelson, who was a cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon prior to his ministry, calls himself a man of science and a man of faith. During his video message, he expressed concerns about not only the COVID-19 pandemic, but also other ills that are plaguing the world: hate, civil unrest, racism, violence, dishonesty and lack of civility.

“Skilled scientists and researchers are laboring diligently to develop and distribute a vaccine against the coronavirus. But there is no medication or operation that can fix the many spiritual woes and maladies that we face,” Nelson said during his video message. “There is, however, a remedy — one that may seem surprising — because it flies in the face of our natural intuitions. Nevertheless, its effects have been validated by scientists as well as men and women of faith. I’m referring to the healing power of gratitude.”

Nelson went on to prescribe two activities he believes will help people experience that healing power: posting gratitude journals on social media for seven days and saying prayers of thanks.

“Jesus Christ taught his disciples to pray by first expressing gratitude to God and then petitioning him for the things we need. Prayer brings forth miracles,” Nelson said in his video before offering a prayer of his own for the world and everyone in it.

Nelson’s video has been viewed millions of times in multiple languages across YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, according to the Deseret News.

And people continue to flood social media with their personal gratitude journals.

“It’s great to see that not only members of the Church but people all over social media are reacting to this and expressing their gratitude for the things they do have,” said Larry Fisher, director for the Church’s Pocatello Communications, adding that Nelson’s message wasn’t meant just for members of the Church but for the whole world.

Permann says people are not only expressing their gratitude on social media, but they are also reconnecting with family and friends who read their posts and want to catch up with them.

“It’s spurred a lot of really great interaction,” she said.

Dan Cravens, the Church’s communications representative in Blackfoot, says people are also commenting on each other’s posts and expressing how much they appreciate each other.

“It builds friendship and goodwill in our society (by) doing that,” Cravens said, adding that he’s grateful for Nelson’s invitation, which facilitated that.

Cravens says at least half of the posts he sees on his Facebook page right now involve people expressing gratitude for their blessings and giving thanks to God.

It’s a positive change over the negative posts he’s been seeing recently, he said. And it’s timely.

“One of the purposes of Thanksgiving is to give thanks for the blessings we enjoy,” Cravens said, adding that this invitation gives everyone an opportunity to do that. “There’s been such a dark mood this year. This really has been a positive opportunity to step away from that and take stock of the things we all enjoy and thank God for that.”