A while back I posted on the oft repeated promise in the Book of Mormon “Inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land”. I have always taken this to be a self-evident truth in Mormonism but it turns out that lots of people in the church just don’t believe it. Well, they may sorta believe it but apparently many want to water it down and make it only applicable to societies and not to individuals. Or perhaps they misread the word “prosper” and think the only thing it could possibly be referring to is worldly riches (ignoring other ways we can prosper in the land like by having good physical and mental health, true friends, loving relationships, etc.) I think the promise is very literal and applies to individuals today. In this post I’ll explain the two ways I think the promise plays out.
The Law of the Harvest
The “Law of the Harvest” is the first reason that a Mormon who keeps the commandments of God and adheres to the counsels given by the Church will prosper in the land. The Law of the Harvest is the name we attach to the universal law that says you reap what you sow. So the church teaches us to be honest, hard working, kind, charitable, prayerful, chaste, sober, industrious, frugal, and so on. It encourages us to get as much education as we can and to stay out of debt and to forgive others and to take care of our bodies, etc. The fact is that if any person consistently sowed those seeds in life he or she would reap some level of prosperity. The church drives these points home to us on a regular basis but none of these virtues are uniquely Mormon — they are simply prudent life habits. (In fact, I just saw an article today that cited a recent study that said that most success in life is much more correlated with hard work and diligence than with raw talent.) So basically, even without the spirituality of the church, devoutly living a Mormon lifestyle and adhering to the life counsel given by church leaders would lead one to some level of prosperity.
But even when a person sows most of the right seeds, natural and unforeseen disasters can strike. The second factor that can lead a Mormon (or any person with a close personal relationship with God) to prosperity is personal revelation. I would venture to guess that a large percentage of you have had revelatory experiences that have helped you avoid injury or other disasters. Perhaps you have been healed or have participated in the healing of a loved one. Perhaps an impression allowed you to avoid a dangerous situation. The church is filled with people with such stories and you are likely to hear one in any given testimony meeting.
When I taught early morning seminary I used to jokingly call this sort of divine help that the Nephites regularly received “cheating”. Of course receiving help from God isn’t really cheating at all — God wants to communicate with everyone on the earth and anyone who properly approaches him will receive knowledge from him. But it sure came in handy to have a prophet around to help the Nephites make battle decisions when fighting the invading Lamanites. And while some level of personal revelation is available to everyone on the earth, only one group of people has the Gift of the Holy Ghost as bestowed upon them through proper priesthood authority. If we don’t take advantage of that we are largely wasting our Mormonism in my opinion.
Of course neither step one or step two are easy. Working really hard over long periods of time on things that don’t necessarily come naturally to us is not easy. But the law of the harvest applies to all of us and every farmer knows that reaping a prosperous harvest does take hard work. Learning to receive real revelation from God is also very difficult and demanding work; but failing to do so is in many ways failing to achieve our purpose for being here to begin with.
Sure, sometimes God lets bad things happen to us anyway; but as I look back on my life I’m not sure he has ever had to do that to me. Most of the ugly harvests I have reaped in life could probably have been prevented had I sowed better seeds and kept up better dialogue with God along the way.
So here’s to prosperity and problem prevention. It is a lot easier to prevent a mess than clean one up after all.
[Associated radio.blog song: The Beatles – Baby You’re A Rich Man]