To Prosper in the Land

[ 6 ] Comments

by Michaela

Prosperity.  We want some of that, don’t we?  Here’s what my favorite dictionary says:

“Prosper: make steady progress; be at the high point in one’s career or reach a high point in historical significance or importance; bloom, flourish, flower, fly high, thrive” (WordWeb dictionary iPad ap)

(CC) alh1

We tend to look at the word prosper in the scriptures in only a financial/economic sense.  But I have started to realize that in many instances, to prosper refers more to spiritual growth, and that spiritual growth was what the prophets wanted for the people when they promised that keeping the commandments would cause the people to prosper in the land.

Take statements like that of Alma to his son Helaman:

O remember, remember, my son Helaman, how strict are the commandments of God. And he said: If ye will keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land—but if ye keep not his commandments ye shall be cut off from his presence. (Alma 37:13)

Thinking logically, if keeping the commandments brought financial success, then not keeping the commandments would bring financial ruin and failure.  But that is not what the warning part says.
It says not keeping the commandments will cut us off from the presence of the Lord.  It doesn’t make sense for the blessing and the cursing to be such different things, one temporal and the other spiritual.  But if prosperity means spiritual growth, then the cursing of being cut off from the presence of the Lord would make a lot more sense.  If fact, it would be perfectly obvious!

If we are spiritually minded, then spiritual growth will be a higher priority for us than financial success.  Financial gain is not synonymous with godliness, so why should we pretend it is?  Financial success (if honestly gotten) depends on learning skills that others are willing to pay well for: hard work, honesty, and careful use of resources.

Spiritual growth, on the other hand, depends on keeping the commandments.  If so, then it is possible to prosper in the land even if we aren’t financially successful.  There are also people who have gained financial success honestly, but who are cut off from the presence of the Lord because they don’t keep the commandments besides the ones that have implications for financial accumulation.

(CC) Eneas de Troya

In the scriptures we are promised we will prosper (progress spiritually) if we:

Keep the commandments

  • Keep our covenants (“Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do.” Duet. 29:9)
  • Seek the Lord (“And he sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him to prosper.” 2 Chron. 26:5)
  • Trust the Lord  (“We can see that the Lord in his great infinite goodness doth bless and prosper those who put their trust in him.” Hel. 12:1)
  • Believe the prophets (“Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me… Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.” 2 Chron. 20:20)
  • Build temples and keep them purified (“And inasmuch as my people build a house unto me in the name of the Lord, and do not suffer any unclean thing to come into it, that it be not defiled, my glory shall rest upon it…And, now, behold, if Zion do these things she shall prosper, and spread herself and become very glorious, very great, and very terrible.” D&C 97:15,18)

We are similarly promised we will not prosper if we:

Transgress the commandments

  • Cover our sins (“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” Prov. 28:13)
  • Fight against God (“No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.” Isaiah 54:17)
  • Allow ourselves to be lulled into carnal security (“And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.” 2 Nephi 28:21)
  • Don’t reason according to gospel principles (“And my servant Leman shall be ordained unto this work, that he may reason with them, not according to that which he has received of them, but according to that which shall be taught him by you my servants; and by so doing I will bless him, otherwise he shall not prosper.” D&C 49:4)

(CC) Jerry Ferguson

One final thought:  Recently when my husband and I were at the Mesa temple having finished an endowment session, we came down the long grand staircase that leads straight from the third floor to the first floor, and we paused midway at a landing to let two other sessions’ worth of people go up to the ordinance rooms.  I stood there as men and women flowed to the left and to the right past us, climbing upward in a river of white dresses, white shirts, white pants, white packets … the minutes it took for all of them to pass seemed to stretch out and time seemed to slow down for me.  I looked into the eyes of these brothers and sisters climbing diligently, some smiling, some solemn, and I felt like I was midway up on Jacob’s ladder while angels climbed around me.  The impression I got was of multitudes of Saints in eternal progress.  It showed me that the temple is a place of great prosperity, for both those here and those behind the veil.

Now here’s a question for you:

  • Does spiritual growth come from simply keeping the commandments through to the end of your life (enduring to the end), or does it come from improving the exactness with which you keep the commandments?
  • Or does it come from keeping more commandments?
  • Or is it all of the above?
  • What are your thoughts?  And why?

About Michaela

Michaela (Scriptorium Blogorium) is a true-blue, dyed-in-the-wool BYU Cougar who just happened to finish her degree at Arizona State University in Literature, Writing, and Film. She loves reading, writing, studying the scriptures, singing with the primary kids as chorister, helping people organize and de-clutter their stuff, and generally exuding enthusiasm for the simple pleasures and victories of life. She’s an honorary member of the elder’s quorum moving company and aspires to become many things, one of which is a good cook. She blogs at Scriptorium Blogorium and a few other places too..

6 Responses to To Prosper in the Land

  1. Paul says:

    Michaela, I love this post! I like the fact that your prosperity scriptures are from more than just the Book of Mormon, though prospering in the land is certainly a theme of that testament, for sure.

    Interestingly for me, I have thought about prospering as refering to the people of Nephi (in the case of the Book of Mormon) rather than individuals among the people. But I think your suggestion about the spiritual prospering works very well (and appropriately) on an individual level.

    I believe in my case, the exactness with which I keep the commandments changes as I age, because my understanding of the commandments changes as I keep them. And the nature of temptation (or at least what I’m tempted to do) in my life is different in my mid-50’s than it was in my mid-teens.

    I suppose one could keep more commandments later in life assuming one learns new commandments over time, but since there are really only two (Love God; love your fellow humans), I don’t think it’s about keeping more. Indeed, I’m not even sure it’s keeping them “better,” but perhaps with more reverence or more love — more about “being” than “doing” (who gave that talk in conference a couple of conferences ago? Elder Archibald?), with more reverence and less fear. More worship and less work.

    I really liked the image you invoked about the men and women in white flowing past you in the temple. Very cool.

  2. templegoer says:

    These are beautiful and corrective thoughts and enable me to rejoice in the great prosperity I experience whilst we are both unemployed. I have experienced similar thinking Paul, I try to communicate this love to my children, the love that is in all commandments, that enriches and informs all experience.

  3. Bonnie says:

    I can know this, and I can preach this, but I’m still rewriting my cultural assumptions. It is HARD to get the world’s thinking out of my head. We will never financially prosper as a family because I’m unwilling to obey the laws that lead to that. I work hard, I am very frugal, but if someone needed something, I would give it away, and when the Lord has called me to do something without pay, I always have. I don’t have a mind for wealth accumulation. I can feel sorta sad about that sometimes, which is crazy because I’m the one choosing. This post, however, reminds me again to count different blessings. Most of ours are in costs that we didn’t have. We are extraordinarily healthy, and I’m coming to realize that’s not just because I’ve worked at it. Things seldom break. Kids are more resilient than they might be. Without medication or counseling, none of my kids suffer from depression, though the gene pool is saturated with mental illness. We have recovered from more tragedies than would seem normal. None of my kids fight me about faith – a blessing so huge I can’t put a price on it. Our prospering is so much more valuable to me than our balance sheet, and completely undeserved. That’s, to me, the danger of financially prospering. One is always tempted to say that it came at one’s own hand.

  4. Ray says:

    “The Prosperity Gospel” (be righteous, and you will become rich financially) is one of the most pernicious, non-Gospel-centered philosophies of men on the earth – especially since it carries with it a foundation of arrogance and condescension that is divisive and dismissive. (and the same is true of the opposite version – that those who are rich are unrighteous)

    I agree with you, Michaela (and Paul), that when the scriptures speak of prospering being tied to righteousness, the meaning is spiritual and/or communal prosperity – not individual, financial prosperity.

    I would add only that I believe this sort of prosperity has nothing to do with the “objective” measure of our obedience (how precisely we obey everything or the sheer number of things we obey). Rather, I believe it has everything to do with our effort to do what we can and our willingness to accept the Atonement as the great equalizer. If I can see a wealthy, active Mormon and a dirty, smelly, drunken beggar and understand that each might be exactly equal in “righteousness” (being right with God) . . . that, imo, is a truer measure of my spiritual prosperity than any more objective measure of my adherence to specific commandments. Also, if I can realize that anyone might be living more closely according to the dictates of their own consciences than I do, even if they are “breaking the commandments” as I understand those commandments . . . then, and only then, am I being and becoming a spiritually prosperous child of God.

  5. John says:

    I’ve seen in my life that one does not prosper in spirit alone or overwhelmingly, then not prosper also in temporal things too (but requisite for that person and God decides that).

    For me, prosper is of both spiritual and temporal and cannot be separated when one keeps the Lord’s commandments i.e. Their spirit will grow as their temporal grows, all in accordance to the Lord’s wisdom as He judges our efforts and knows our intentions. Plus it all links back to faith building.

    Note that Nephi did not only build ships of fine workmanship from the Spirit, but in 2 Nephi 5:15 we see that Nephi also taught many other things to his people which obviously the Spirit would have had to teach him:

    “And I did teach my people to build buildings, and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance.”

    Basically the Lord led Nephi and prepared all knowledge required for him to build a prosperous Kingdom, of much spirit and economy even!

    If you keep the commandments, all of them, including the latter day ones, then you’ll qualify for the Spirit, which in my experience has taught me all things required for my family and I to prosper in both Spirit and Land, and I have a firm Testimony of this truth, as I have come from virtually nothing to much education and career opportunities. Seek not to only know the commandments, but to gain a profound understanding of why they were given and how they should be lived, then comes the testimony.

    Henry B Eyring has also shared that he spent much of his time serving the Lord, when he was in Harvard studying for his MBA. He served the Lord, did not study on Sunday’s and had confidence the Lord would bless him. He notes that the Spirit taught him ideas and understandings that more than matched that of his class mates, and he only prepared minutes before his class.

    I’ve witnessed very similar workings of the spirit with me and my academic accomplishments, as I did my best to keep all His commandments, His way. Then hoped for His blessings.

    If we don’t see the temporal blessings promised to us, the best option we have, is to be patient and pray to the Lord that He teaches us why He’s withholding His hand i.e. What understanding do we need to learn? What about us that needs to change.

    Joshua 1:7 also states the relationship between observance of laws and prospering (although in the land is not explicitly clear, I do not think it means it’s not included!)

    Anyways, Jacob 2:18-19 make it pretty clear too, that we should seek the Kingdom of God first, than the “riches” can be added to us. To seek the Kingdom of God we must at least keep His commandments.

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