Prospering in the land

July 19, 2006    By: Geoff J @ 6:04 pm   Category: Life,Mormon Culture/Practices,Scriptures

In my life I’ve discovered that keeping the commandments leads directly to me prospering in the land. I like prospering – it is waaaay better than not prospering. Sure, I have been less prosperous at certain points in time than at others but overall I’ve discernibly prospered as I’ve kept my covenants. (I could give tons of examples but it would come off as bragging or something so I’ll refrain.) The Book of Mormon repeatedly promises that we all will prosper in the land if we keep the commandments of God. Do you consistently experience discernible prosperity as you keep the commandments too? Is my experience the norm or unusual?

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40 Comments »

  1. I have not noticed this directly or personally. I have always thought of this as a general promise in the BofM to the people who inhabit this land as a whole. Not as an individual promise. This is of course not an absolute. Wealth = Righteousness is not always true. I would also be hesitant to say that (Increase in Personal Wealth) = (Increase in Personal Righteousness) as any sure principle or sign.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — July 19, 2006 @ 7:36 pm

  2. I think that as I keep the commandments, I fulfill God’s purposes for me, which others may or may not recognize as prospering.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — July 19, 2006 @ 8:15 pm

  3. Eric,

    The promise may apply to the people in general, but it was promised to individuals as well. And I should point out that prosperity is not necessarily synonymous with wealth/money, although I can’t imagine prosperity not including the ability to feed and clothe yourself.

    Now you do bring up an interesting question: Does the promise also apply to people not in the Americas? (I strongly suspect it does.)

    Comment by Geoff J — July 19, 2006 @ 8:20 pm

  4. So, I’m pretty poor. Maybe you could tell me what covenants I’m not keeping? Maybe you could write a manual or something on getting rich, and outline how to be super righteous. Or maybe you could just tell us a little more specifically how righteous you are, like, tell us all the ways in which you shine at Living the Law of Consecration, for example.

    The Bishop of my ward is pretty poor too…maybe they just couldn’t find anyone righteous enough. Maybe more righteous saints could lower themselves to move my neighborhood, so we could have leaders that keep their covenants.

    Also, maybe we aren’t doing a very good job teaching the gospel in like, Mexico or Africa, or the Pacific Islands. Not only were they lazy in the pre-existance, they must not be keeping their covenants here.

    And the early saints really must have been shoddy covenant-keepers, especially those handcart companies.

    Maybe we should be more like the Vatican? Thats one prosperous country, so, they must be righteous!

    Comment by Veritas — July 19, 2006 @ 8:25 pm

  5. Veritas,

    Wow, that was quite a snotty comment.

    I suspect that you missed my #3 about prosperity not necessarily equaling wealth/money. That seems to be your main point in #4. So are you saying that you have seen no prosperity (of any kind) in your life as a result of keeping the commandments?

    Comment by Geoff J — July 19, 2006 @ 8:57 pm

  6. Interesting, Geoff. I hadn’t really thought about this applying outside of the Book of Mormon. Do our leaders teach it today?

    I’ve also never thought of the word “prosper” outside of material terms. I suppose one could prosper spiritually, but then, it would be a bit of tautology to say that keeping the commandments will lead to spiritual prosperity.

    Comment by Eric Russell — July 19, 2006 @ 9:27 pm

  7. It is interesting that the BofM makes such a big point of the “prosper in the land” promise since it is fairly obvious that keeping the commandments doesn’t guarantee wealth, health, safety, or security. Those are generally the things I’m looking for when I think of prospering, but that may be a mistake.

    If you do a quick search of “prosper” in the BofM and read through the hits, you will find that it is used in many different ways. It is used at different times to refer to obtaining riches, success in missionary work, having the presence of God, having big harvests with plenty to eat, having peace in the land, and more. It seems like a general way of saying God “will bless you.” Blessings come in all kinds of different ways and one of the best blessings is the peace of mind that comes when you know you are doing what is right and that you have the spirit with you.

    It is somewhat telling that that only kind of blessing Veritas could think of was wealth. Of course, there are lots of other ways to prosper in the land. I can say that when I kept my covenants there has been an accompanying assurance that the Lord will help me through whatever bad things come along. I count that as prospering.

    Comment by Jacob — July 19, 2006 @ 9:37 pm

  8. Perhaps prospering is little more than being humble enough to recognize that everything we receive (material or spiritual) comes from God, therefore we are always seeing ourselves as prosperous. This way there isn’t a comparison of one class to another (as Veritas seems to be doing, considering that many on my mission would consider him to be wealthy), rather we only see ourselves in relation to God (and the blessings he constantly bestows).

    Comment by Rusty — July 19, 2006 @ 9:49 pm

  9. Rusty – I’m sure there is something to what you say, but I can’t imagine that is all there is to prospering in the land. I mean what you are describing is simply looking at our circumstances through different lenses no matter how crappy things are. If prospering in the land isn’t something more real and tangible than that then I can’t imagine why it would be very desirable.

    Jacob – I completely agree. The Book of Mormon hammers this prosperity thing home over and over again so it is an important and relevant contemporary subject. I have never thought of prosperity as exclusively meaning earthly wealth and the BoM certainly doesn’t employ such a narrow definition of prosperity either. I think that you are right that prosperity is best equated with blessings and a prosperous person in scriptures is synonymous with a blessed person — not necessarily a rich person.

    Eric – Thanks for your perspective. This thread has already been an eye-opener for me. I have always considered this prosperity promise to be a central part of the restored gospel. It is somewhat startling to me to see that my perspective on this subject is not a mainstream as I thought.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 19, 2006 @ 10:01 pm

  10. Since this question of what prosperity means beyond earthly riches has come up, here are some of the categories I think we can prosper in. I will break them down into 4 categories — Social, Physical, Intellectual, and Spiritual:

    Social prosperity – Friends: Being blessed with true and loyal friends. Also, being blessed with the knowledge of how to be a true and loyal friend. These are great blessings that are universally desired but not universally attained.

    Social prosperity – Family: This is related to social prosperity but deserves a category of its own. Being blessed with loving familial relationships and knowing how to nurture and maintain such relationships is a great blessing. Not everyone has this but those who do enjoy a real kind of prosperity in the land.

    Physical prosperity – Health
    : Good physical health is universally sought after but not universally attained. This is one way God can bless some of us.

    Physical prosperity – Mental/Emotional health
    : I separated this because mental and emotional issues can make life horribly miserable. I have seen faithful people blessed with either healing in these areas or with the wisdom to utilize modern medications to overcome potentially debilitating mental/emotional health issues. I think that is a great blessing that is universally desired but not universally attained.

    Physical prosperity – Wealth
    : This can range from simply getting by (which can sometimes be a great blessing) to having a great abundance. Of course having abundance places a consecration responsibility on a person in this church. But the important thing to note is that this is only one of many potential areas we can be blessed with prosperity in.

    Intellectual prosperity: The ability to work our minds and become educated is a great blessing. Not everyone in the world has this opportunity but those who do can count it a sign of prosperity in that area.

    Spiritual prosperity
    : A personal relationship with God may be the greatest single blessing of all of these. The person who knows God not only has eternal life but also has the greatest friend possible when needs arise in any other area of life or when comfort is needed. Plus, finding personally satisfying answers to the great and terrible questions of the universe — the what’s, why’s, and how’s of existence is among the greatest forms of prosperity.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 19, 2006 @ 10:22 pm

  11. Eric (#6): I hadn’t really thought about this applying outside of the Book of Mormon. Do our leaders teach it today?

    It seems pretty common in modern teaching and curriculum. Here is a link to talks and other sources using the specific term “prosper in the land”

    Comment by Geoff J — July 19, 2006 @ 11:19 pm

  12. “Do you consistently experience discernible prosperity as you keep the commandments too?”

    If enough is enough then I guess it’s pretty consistent.

    Comment by Jack — July 19, 2006 @ 11:52 pm

  13. I agree that this principle applies in general, to societies in particular. However, the Lord has purposes in individuals which preclude them from receiving certain blessings in parts of temporality. Job is a case in point – an individual who probably suffered so the Lord could teach the rest of us a very important lesson. Remember that in the end, all his former blessings were returned, manifold.

    The other purposes of the Lord in trial, service, and suffering – even poverty on occasion – I leave to your imagination.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 20, 2006 @ 2:22 am

  14. Geoff,

    In general, the Lord will bless people for keeping the commandments and withold blessings when they don’t. If they are bad enough, He may even deliberately afflict them. That is the entire purpose of covenant theology, per Lev. 26, Deut 28.

    Sure, at an individual level, the Lord also does the same general thing.

    The potential difficulty/problem is trying to correlate or find causation for everything in your personal life or social groups or societies. Not every “bad” thing is a curse from God and not every “good” thing is a blessing. A lot of times, people’s perceptions of what “good” and “bad” is are contrary to God’s clearly published positions. So, I would be hesitant to see God’s direct hand in every petty detail of my life, not because I dont believe God isnt interested, but because I dont trust my own ability to discern His will and desires, mostly because of my own blindness and selfishness. Am I greatful for all the great many blessings I enjoy? Absolutely. Have I been chastened? Yup. But, exactly what is Providence and what is a curse in my life is hard for me to discern. So, give thanks and do good with what you have.

    Mark,

    Taking the book of Job literally is a mistake. Its content, structure and rhetoric are clearly intended to present it as morality literature and not an accurate recounting of historical facts. There may very well have been a literal person Job, but that account is not an accurate representation of his life, and is not intended as such.

    Comment by Kurt — July 20, 2006 @ 6:07 am

  15. I completely agree with Kurt’s third paragraph. Do what’s right, be grateful for what you have.

    There is also the added issue that what we consider “keeping the commandments” is also just good sense, and good sense leads to good things happening. If I never smoke or drink or have illicit sex I’m likely to avoid any health problems related to any of those things which we could say is a way of prospering in the land. Or it’s just the natural consequence of not participating in those activities. You could say the same for hard work, being humble, being grateful, love & kindness, forgiveness, service, etc.

    In other words, are “natural consequences of good sense” what God calls “prospering”?

    Comment by Rusty — July 20, 2006 @ 7:10 am

  16. In other words, are “natural consequences of good sense” what God calls “prospering”?

    Good point/question Rusty. Maybe with righteousness comes more common sense or clarity in thinking which brings “prosperity”.

    Comment by Kristen J — July 20, 2006 @ 8:14 am

  17. You may not prosper, but you will get ahead, however slowly, if you are honest and try to be a good person. I believe this to be true.

    For instance, my stepson hates the world and he thinks he never has good luck. But he drinks like a fish, smokes, cheats others, and doesn’t pay his bills. He treats people like crap and feels picked on. A few small changes in his attitude and behavior would bring him prosperity. Not riches, but he would prosper. He is his own worst enemy.

    Veritas, I don’t believe prosperity = riches. I believe it means a good life, for the most part. I also am not rich, but I prosper most of the time.

    Comment by annegb — July 20, 2006 @ 9:36 am

  18. Kurt,

    Thanks for mentioning Lev 26, the same chapter came to mind for me.

    Comment by Jacob — July 20, 2006 @ 9:46 am

  19. Kurt (#14).

    Some people say the same thing about Isaiah. Three scriptures:

    Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.

    Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.

    Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.
    (James 5:7-11)

    My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes. Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands.

    Thou art not yet as Job; thy friends do not contend against thee, neither charge thee with transgression, as they did Job. And they who do charge thee with transgression, their hope shall be blasted, and their prospects shall melt away as the hoar frost melteth before the burning rays of the rising sun;
    (D&C 121:7-11)

    In the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
    (Matt 18:16)

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 20, 2006 @ 10:38 am

  20. So, I’m pretty poor. Maybe you could tell me what covenants I’m not keeping? Maybe you could write a manual or something on getting rich, and outline how to be super righteous. Or maybe you could just tell us a little more specifically how righteous you are, like, tell us all the ways in which you shine at Living the Law of Consecration, for example.

    The Bishop of my ward is pretty poor too…maybe they just couldn’t find anyone righteous enough. Maybe more righteous saints could lower themselves to move my neighborhood, so we could have leaders that keep their covenants.

    I realize that many found those statements off-putting, but too often the “prosper in the land” is “yeah, all that spiritual stuff, pluss I make lots of money.” Very few people rejoice publicly in how they are prospering when they are relatively poor by their neighbors’ standards.

    I run into that attitude all the time, though I agree with you and annegb “,i.Veritas, I don’t believe prosperity = riches. I believe it means a good life, for the most part. I also am not rich, but I prosper most of the time.”

    But my brother had a bishop tell him it meant money and a lack of trials and that anyone who had a child die really wasn’t cut out for the Celestial kingdom.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — July 20, 2006 @ 10:46 am

  21. Wow Stephen,

    I guess that guy must believe that folks like Joseph Smith are going straight into an everlasting lake of fire and brimstone.

    Comment by Jack — July 20, 2006 @ 11:04 am

  22. I think that this is dead on. Righteousness brings prosperity in the provident living sense, not in the 4 car garage sense. Wickedness rids us of the same thing.

    Comment by John Anon — July 20, 2006 @ 12:27 pm

  23. Mark (#13, 19) – I think Kurt is right that it is a unwise to read the Book of Job as history. I think it teaches truth and thus is referenced in later scriptures, but that does not make it a reliable historical account.

    Kurt (#14) – Good points all around. For me the warnings and promises to large societies are not nearly as relevant or interesting as the personal and familial applications of the same warnings and promises. Therefore, I am mostly focused on the things I can influence like the prosperity or lack thereof of my own family. If every individual and family took care of business and kept the commandments the prosperity of their nations/societies would be a given.

    I also agree with the problems arising from trying to correlate every good or bad event in life to our choices. I have always said there are two types of troubles in life: Those we could have avoided with better choices and those that we could not have avoided (aka bad luck). But now that I think about it that applies on the other side of the coin as well. There are two types of prosperity we see in life: Prosperity brought on by our good choices and plain old good luck. (Maybe I’ll post on that later… I think that a personal relationship with God and the promptings/revelations that come with that relationship can go a long way to turn “luck” in our favor.)

    Comment by Geoff J — July 20, 2006 @ 1:01 pm

  24. Rusty (#15): In other words, are “natural consequences of good sense” what God calls “prospering”?

    This is an important point you make, Rusty. I think the scriptures teach that prospering has a LOT to do with sowing the right seeds in life to naturally reap prosperity. The commandments seem to be a recipe for happiness and prosperity now and in the eternities:

    Or, in other words, I give unto you directions how you may act before me, that it may bturn to you for your salvation. I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise. (D&C 82: 9-10)

    So as we keep the commandments we are sowing the seeds in life that generally lead to blessings and prosperity in some or most of the areas I mentioned in #10:

    There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated- And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated. (D&C 130: 20-21)

    The implication seems to be that a lot of prosperity follows a natural consequence of adherence to the principles of the gospel.

    I actually think this is why Covey has seen so much success with his 7 Habits model. He takes as many of the principles of the gospel that he can and teaches them in a secular setting. Following those principles can lead to a level of prosperity even in the absence of the first principle of the gospel, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

    But as I mentioned, faith in and a vibrant personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ brings the potential for prosperity even higher (and I think I will post on that separately).

    Comment by Geoff J — July 20, 2006 @ 1:17 pm

  25. annegb (#17) – Yes that is the kind of example I am thinking of too. Keeping the commandments means we are sowing the kind of seeds that will lead to reaping a level of prosperity and happiness that cannot be attained by sowing the seeds of wickedness.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 20, 2006 @ 1:19 pm

  26. The problem I have with overemphasis on the BofM’s repeated aphorisms about keeping commandments = prospering (whatever “prospering” means) is that it leads almost ineluctably to a conclusion that if we aren’t “prospering” (whatever that means), we must not be living right. Job’s “friends” certainly made that point many times while “comforting” their “friend” in his times of adversity. Some of us take a too mechanical view of the universe, and when things don’t work out–a faithful church attending tithe payer goes bankrupt (see Joseph Smith), a lifelong keeper of the word of wisdom who was also a physician dies of lung cancer (my grandmother), an investment in a financial institution made at the invitation of a living prophet is lost (Kirtland Anti-Banking Society)–it is hard to keep one’s faith in the principle or one’s self.

    Comment by DavidH — July 20, 2006 @ 4:38 pm

  27. DavidH,

    So on the whole would you say that your grandmother prospered in the land in her life? My father in law recently was taken by cancer as he was faithfully serving as bishop in his ward. I think that by all the measures that count most he was a highly prosperous man in life though. He prospered greatly in most of the seven areas I mentioned in #10 for instance and I think he would say that prosperity came as a result of his faith in Christ and keeping the commandments. Would your faithful grandmother say the same?

    I certainly think that Joseph Smith prospered in the land in the ways that mattered most to him despite some trials along the way. The ones who seemed to not prosper in the land were many (probably not all) who apostatized in those early days. But as I mentioned, one can still sow seeds of varieties of prosperity in the absence of faith in Christ. The Law of the Harvest applies to everyone after all.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 20, 2006 @ 5:01 pm

  28. Mark,

    Nobody, and I do mean nobody, treat Isaiah and Job the same way. Even the most liberal commentators (e.g., Interpreter’s Bible) grant that the first Isaiah really was Isaiah. No scholarly commentators, and I do mean none, take the book of Job to be historically accurate. It is so obviously literature that reading it any one way is impossible. Thats why is is part of the kethuvim and not the neviim in the tanach. No Rabbi on the planet would say the book of Job was historical.

    Mark, have you ever sat down and seriously read the book of Job from end to end?

    Comment by Kurt — July 20, 2006 @ 6:05 pm

  29. Yes, I have read the book of Job through at least twice, and of course it has a literary character. However, that does not mean that it is not based on a true story, and nor that it is not accurate in most or all of its major elements. We have the word of the Lord to Joseph Smith to vouch for that.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 20, 2006 @ 8:50 pm

  30. Another testimony of the historicity of Job, the voice of the LORD to the prophet Ezekiel:

    The word of the LORD came again to me, saying, Son of man, when the land sinneth against me by trespassing grievously, then will I stretch out mine hand upon it, and will break the staff of the bread thereof, and will send famine upon it, and will cut off man and beast from it:
    Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD.
    (Ezekiel 14:12-14)

    The reference is repeated *four* times. The problem with many modern scholars is they refuse to believe anything that does not fit squarely within their preconceived notions. Most ancient Rabbis believed that Job was a historical figure.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 20, 2006 @ 9:03 pm

  31. Interest post and discussion. I tend to think of prosperity in the same terms as I read Rom 8:28, “all things work together for good to them that love God”—from a godly perspective, “bad luck” brings trials to me that help me learn and grow. So if I learn and grow from everything that happens in my life, whether viewed as good luck or bad luck from a secular perspective, I will spiritually prosper. I think in the long run and as a general rule (as Kurt said), I will also prosper in a materially, but that’s a secondary benefit and does not correlate perfectly in the short term (assuming this kind of perfect correlation is what I think leads to the problems others have brought up on this thread).

    Comment by Robert C. — July 21, 2006 @ 10:16 am

  32. Mark Butler,

    You do not “the word of the Lord to Joseph Smith to vouch for that”. All you have is your misreading of the text, as the D&C 121 reference in no way endorses the reading you assume it does.

    Comment by Kurt — July 21, 2006 @ 6:59 pm

  33. I guess that guy must believe that folks like Joseph Smith are going straight into an everlasting lake of fire and brimstone. Not to mention the president of the Church at that time.

    My brother mentioned it all to the Stake President who said “I’m not going to release him, but we are going to have a talk …” especially after the Bishop had given a talk about how we ought not to engage in charity to the undeserving, lest we interfere with the judgments of God (it was as if he had been reading Benjamin and skipped the context …).

    People have perspective issues, obviously.

    I think that prospering in the land is finding in life those things that God intends for us, especially his Spirit.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — July 22, 2006 @ 8:04 am

  34. Kurt, that is a nice negative assertion, but it communicates no substance. What reason have we to dispute the plain English semantics of the following statement:

    Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands. Thou art not yet as Job; thy friends do not contend against thee, neither charge thee with transgression, as they did Job.
    (D&C 121:9-10)

    Surely you do not mean to suggest that God perjured himself there, or uses Job the way contemporary parents use the doctrine of Santa Claus.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 22, 2006 @ 10:23 am

  35. Mark,

    Section 121 is compelling evidence that God saw no problem with comparing Joseph’s situation with the tale of Job. It possibly could be used as pretty good evidence that Joseph assumed the Book of Job is accurate history too. But that is not compelling evidence to me that the Book of Job actually is historically accurate.

    Of course I don’t begrudge you believing The Book of Job is an accurate historical account – by holding such a literalist view you are probably in the mainstream of Mormons and conservative Protestants. But the evidence I am aware of leads me to believe (along with Kurt and many others in and out of the church) otherwise.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 22, 2006 @ 4:25 pm

  36. One thing I really find interesting about the blessing pronounced upon the land for the righteous is that at the same time, there is a curse on the land for those who are not righteous. This duality shows that it really boils down to the individual righteousness of a specific person. If you’re righteous, you’ll be prospered, and if you’re not, you won’t.

    Some argue that even when they don’t pay tithing, or when they disobey commandments, they still find success and wealth. I would argue that “prospering in the land” entails temporal and spiritual blessings, both now and in the future. Those who are disobedient may be prosperous now, but they’ll get theirs eventually…

    Comment by Connor Boyack — July 24, 2006 @ 10:47 pm

  37. Hey Connor,

    Are you from San Diego? (Poway specifically)

    Comment by Geoff J — July 24, 2006 @ 11:17 pm

  38. I am indeed. Are you Spencer’s older bro? He left a comment on my blog saying that NCT is his older bro’s blog..

    Comment by Connor Boyack — July 25, 2006 @ 6:24 am

  39. Yup, that’s me. Cool — nice to have a fellow Powegian hanging around the ‘nacle! I forgot that I had asked Spencer if you were the same Connor Boyack that I was aware of. Kristen and I actually were in the Poway II/Twin Peaks ward for about 6 months in ’98 as we saved up to buy our first house in Escondido so we have crossed paths in person as well.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 25, 2006 @ 8:47 am

  40. ’98 was my junior year of high school, and the year I was notorious for hiding in my friend’s car (Dan Parks – ring a bell? older bros: Jake, Aaron, Matt, Chris, Jared) during Sunday School to listen to the Top 40 on the radio instead of learning about the Book of Mormon… Good times, good times. Thanks heavens for repentance :)

    Comment by Connor Boyack — July 25, 2006 @ 9:02 pm

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