Why keeping the commandments will lead to prospering in the land

October 23, 2006    By: Geoff J @ 3:45 pm   Category: Money and getting gain,Mormon Culture/Practices,Personal Revelation,Theology

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.

Personal Revelation

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.

Sounds easy…

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]

37 Comments »

  1. Hmmm. Well I’ll just tell myself that no reponses = nods of approval.

    But where are all the “prosperity promises only apply to societies” folks?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 23, 2006 @ 5:37 pm

  2. I am not so sure about this. Of course we all know folks who are faithful LDS and yet do not prosper in terms of worldly riches. I have known bishops and stake presidents who got laid off and whose families went through difficult financial times that could not be considered “prospering” by your definition.

    Also, while you put the best face on Mormonism and hard work, etc., the reality is that Mormonism may also interfere with career development, and in some cases the negatives may outweight the positives. My husband was called to be scoutmaster during his college years when he also had 3 little children, we’ve known people called into bishoprics during dental school, and of course the common LDS practice of having-kids-during-school thing can be a drain. Not to mention the encouragement for women to take years off to be home with children.

    So I think those of us who have been blessed should acknowledge the Lord’s hand in our prosperity, but I don’t see it as such a general rule that any of us could expect to be blessed.

    Comment by Naismith — October 23, 2006 @ 6:53 pm

  3. I agree with what you say here. I might add that properity may be in the long run instead of the short run. I don’t think it is like winning the lottery. More like winning job security or getting a raise.

    I also like the idea of avoiding trouble. This can be it’s own long term prosperity. Just in a simple divorse, misery and financial ruin can result. Avoiding this kind of thing is high prosperity indeed.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — October 23, 2006 @ 7:48 pm

  4. Ok, so I was thinking about this on the way home from work and anticipating the sort of response given by Naismith (which I agree with). It seems obvious that the sort of thing you are arguing for in this post is not disproven by anecdotal evidence of people who didn’t seem to prosper despite their righteous living. By the same token, your own anecdotal evidence of having looked back on your life and decided most of your ugly harvests could have been avoided is not very persuasive either.

    However, it seems that if you are correct, you should be committed to the idea that this “prospering” could be demonstrated via statistical analysis. Are you committed to that idea? If we take some obvious types of prospering like wealth, health, and general happiness with life, do you think that it could be shown that righteous people are more likely to prosper in these areas than their unrighteous fellow citizens?

    Comment by Jacob — October 23, 2006 @ 8:22 pm

  5. I think this is correct, but prosperityis an extremely subjective term, so I think an attempt at statistical analysis would be complex.

    Comment by Matt Witten — October 23, 2006 @ 9:47 pm

  6. Ok, I’ll respond in reverse order…

    Jacob: not disproven by anecdotal evidence of people who didn’t seem to prosper despite their righteous living.

    The Law of the Harvest applies equally to the wicked and the righteous. We all reap what we sow over time. So if a person sows seeds of financial prosperity and properly nourishes those seeds then they will harvest financial prosperity in due season — even if theey are sowing wicked seeds in many other parts of their life. The inverse is true as well. Of course one can shortcut their way to riches by lying, stealing, murdering, etc; but those seeds tend to lead to ugly harvests of their own in due season as well.

    However, it seems that if you are correct, you should be committed to the idea that this “prospering” could be demonstrated via statistical analysis. Are you committed to that idea?

    Yes. If you find any such studies let me know.

    If we take some obvious types of prospering like wealth, health, and general happiness with life, do you think that it could be shown that righteous people are more likely to prosper in these areas than their unrighteous fellow citizens?

    Wealth, health, and general happiness in life are all separate harvests so each would require separate tilling, sowing, watering, fertilizing, and nurturing to result in reaping the desired “crop”. Therefore the word “righteous” would need to be very well defined. One might be as kind and nice and charitable as can be while sowing seeds of personal financial disaster. (I know several Mormons that fit this description actually.)

    Comment by Geoff J — October 23, 2006 @ 9:55 pm

  7. Matt W – I agree

    Eric: I might add that properity may be in the long run instead of the short run.

    I think the Law of the Harvest imagery deals with the timing issue by default. You can’t rush a harvest by adding more light or water — it always requires time and patience and perserverance.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 23, 2006 @ 9:58 pm

  8. Naismith,

    I think I responded to most of your points in #6. I do think you have a point about church assignments sometimes interferring with us sowing and nurturing the seeds of some kinds of prosperity. Thankfully church assignments tend to be temporary.

    So I think those of us who have been blessed should acknowledge the Lord’s hand in our prosperity, but I don’t see it as such a general rule that any of us could expect to be blessed.

    Surely you don’t believe that some people are exempt from the Law of the Harvest do you? I do think we should expect to reap what we sow.

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

    Comment by Geoff J — October 23, 2006 @ 10:07 pm

  9. Surely you don’t believe that some people are exempt from the Law of the Harvest do you?

    But you haven’t proven that “the Law of the Harvest” applies to worldly riches. Saying it in your first paragraph does not make it true.

    And a lot of those outside the church would say that LDS *are* reaping the consequences of their lifestyle when they fail to get promoted because they don’ t work Sundays, etc.

    Further, I am thinking of my time living in south america, and how hard those folks worked. Some of them made a decent living, but they sure had to scramble for it, much more than we norte americanos do, with our paid holidays. Most newlyweds had to live with one of the parents for a few years because they couldn’t afford their own place.

    I was confused the first time a temple trip was announced to be leaving at 10 o’clock, because I was used to leaving early in the morning. Well, no, they patiently explained it was 10 p.m. They would work all day, ride the bus, do two sessions, and return on the bus, and go to work the next day.

    And they felt blessed to have a temple so close, and blessed by the gospel in their lives. They just didn’t think that their righteous living entitled them to worldly riches.

    Also, with medical bills being the single most common reason for USAmericans to declare bankruptcy, I don’t think it is worth the effort to separate out health and wordly riches the way you have insisted on doing. I think that they are all closely tied together under the banner of prosperity.

    Comment by Naismith — October 24, 2006 @ 4:05 am

  10. I agree, as a general proposition, of course. But suppose one receives a commandment to sell all that he has and give to the poor, and come and follow Him. Is that prospering or not? Spiritually, yes. Temporally (as pertaining to the wealth of men) perhaps not.

    Comment by Mark Butler — October 24, 2006 @ 7:04 am

  11. Naismith,

    I think Mark has the right tactic here. The issue is defining the word “prosper”, not proving that there are causal factors that will lead to worldly riches. It seems self evident that any person with average talents but obsessive desire to become rich can do so. Of course it often leads to an unbalanced life where everything but the person’s Net worth is in total disarray, but the fact that one can choose to sow seeds that will lead to earthly wealth is the subject of untold numbers of books and studies. The latest study I cited in the post shows that. But would we call such a person truly prosperous? I wouldn’t.

    Further, I am thinking of my time living in south america, and how hard those folks worked.

    Again, you seem to be equating riches with prosperity. That is not a safe assumption. Second, you are making the assumption that working hard at any old thing ought to lead to wealth. That is like saying planting and nurturing any old seed will lead to a crop of corn.

    Here is my point: If one wants to reap earthly riches one must plant the seeds of earthly riches and then work very hard to cultivate them over time in order to reap that harvest (and yes this applies even to South Americans). The same applies to reaping physical health, virtuosity in music or some other skill, mental health, professional expertise, loving relationships, etc.

    But we do not have time in life to plant and nurture every desirable crop possible so we must pick and choose which we will plant, nurture, and reap. (For instance, Tiger Woods has planted and nurtured the seeds that lead him to be the best golfer in the world — I have not). So the real question is which combinations of harvests in our lives qualify as prosperity and how dedicated are we to reaping those harvests. I imagine that lots of combinations could fit the bill depending on the make-up and deep desires/needs of each individual.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 24, 2006 @ 9:10 am

  12. I should add that choosing which harvests we should focus on (which seeds to plant and nurture) is a very difficult task and another reason why my #2, personal revelation, is so crucial to prospering. God is willing to act as our ultimate farming advisor along the way and to guide and instruct us as to which crops we should insist on reaping and which we ought to pass on in order to have a balanced and prosperous life overall. You know the old saying: “The best should never be at the mercy of the good”. (Or something like that). This applies to the crops we plant and nurture and harvest in our lives too. So without personal revelation it is difficult to know how to properly use the Law of the Harvest in our lives to achieve real overall prosperity.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 24, 2006 @ 9:19 am

  13. Geoff: Here is my point: If one wants to reap earthly riches one must plant the seeds of earthly riches and then work very hard to cultivate them over time in order to reap that harvest

    I think this approach is a bit problematic. It seems like you are saying: “If you want to be rich, you have to go work at being rich and make riches your priority. If you don’t do this, then don’t complain about not being rich because you can’t expect to reap where you have not sown.” But if that is true, then truly living the gospel should be negatively correlated to riches, since the gospel tells us to put other things at higher priority than riches. This is Naismith’s point about working Sundays, etc. She is pointing out that things like paying tithing, keeping the sabbath day holy, and being honest with your fellow men quite often lead to less wealth.

    For this reason, I think reducing the scripture to a statement about “you get what you pursue most vigorously” is a real watering-down of the meaning. I would like it to mean something more like “seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and other forms of prosperity will be added unto you.”

    Comment by Jacob — October 24, 2006 @ 9:55 am

  14. Yes, that is what I am saying, Jacob.

    But if that is true, then truly living the gospel should be negatively correlated to riches, since the gospel tells us to put other things at higher priority than riches.

    Can you define “living the gospel” for me here? What makes you assume that living the gospel (“living the ‘good news'”?)is not compatible with sowing, nurturing, and harvesting some measure of earthly riches?

    Sticking with the analogy: One thing to keep in mind is that earthly riches would be just one crop among many. While it is certainly not the most important crop God wants us to grow it is also not a crop he is against one growing if the other more important crops are being properly nourished as well. And since it is one of those crops that can help feed other farmers around us it often is very useful to the community. But I agree with the point that nurturing the other crops can sometimes take nearly all of our time and interfere with us properly reaping a crop of earthly wealth. I suspect that usually such problems have to do with our farming skill and knowledge and efficiency though.

    I would like it to mean something more like “seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and other forms of prosperity will be added unto you.”

    Hehe. Yeah, lots of people hope that. But D&C 130 clearly says it just ain’t so.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 24, 2006 @ 10:30 am

  15. Geoff: I do not see any interpretation of any of the mini-sermons in D&C 130 that gives credibility to your thesis, if in fact your thesis is that obedience = higher pay check. There seems to be some flip-flopping of terminology in this thread which makes it confusing to follow.

    Prosperity is very subjective. For me, the greatest prosperity I have received in Mormonism is the solidarity that following and believing it’s principles gives my immediate family. This is a solidarity that was not otherwise there.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 24, 2006 @ 10:48 am

  16. I understand the D&C 130 principle to refer not to a bunch of natural laws that are predictable and fixed to which obedience will bring propserity (though that is certainly a defensible reading). Instead, I focus on the fact that there is *a* law, rather than that there are laws. That law, it seems to me, is faith. If we receive any blessing from God, it is because we had faith to receive it.

    This avoids what I find to be an uncomfortable conclusion that we somehow deserve the blessings God gives us. This is, in my mind, a misunderstanding of the law of justice. I say uncomfortable because when it comes to mind I immediately remember the writings of both Paul and King Benjamin, among others, that make it clear (to me) that we are literally less than the dust of the earth and that it is only by grace that we can do any good thing. How can we do as Alma says and “acknowledge [our] unworthiness before God at all times” if we think we are entitled, because of justice, the law of the harvest, or D&C 130, to his blessings? The two attitudes just don’t mesh for me.

    Comment by JKC — October 24, 2006 @ 10:49 am

  17. Utah ranks around 35th in U.S. median household income, and in recent years has been #1 in bankruptcy filings per household. I’ll start believing that the scriptural definition of “prosperity” is linked to worldly riches when these statistics improve.

    Comment by lief — October 24, 2006 @ 10:59 am

  18. Matt: if in fact your thesis is that obedience = higher pay check.

    That is not my thesis. Part of my thesis is that obedience to the natural laws that lead to higher paychecks = higher paychecks. The other thing I am saying is that higher paychecks and prosperity are not necessarily the same thing. Prosperity seems to be a largely subjective thing.

    Lief: I’ll start believing that the scriptural definition of “prosperity” is linked to worldly riches when these statistics improve.

    I have the feeling you have not followed this thread at all…

    Comment by Geoff J — October 24, 2006 @ 11:06 am

  19. JKC: That law, it seems to me, is faith. If we receive any blessing from God, it is because we had faith to receive it.

    I don’t think that reading conflicts with the reading I gave that passage in section 130. Even if we are talking about immutable natural laws that lead deterministically to various results, free-willed actors like us must have enough faith in those outcomes to experiment on the laws.

    How can we do as Alma says and “acknowledge [our] unworthiness before God at all times” if we think we are entitled, because of justice, the law of the harvest, or D&C 130, to his blessings?

    God’s blessings mostly have to do with the invitation he extends to us to enter a personal relationship with him. We are indeed unworthy of a personal relationship with him but he graciously offers it anyway. Further, he offers to help us know how to sow and nurture the kinds of seeds in this life that will lead to our harvesting “prosperity” in whatever form that manifests itself in our lives. The fact that God graciously loves and helps us does not conflict with the notion that there are deterministic laws in the Universe as well.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 24, 2006 @ 11:15 am

  20. Geoff (#14),

    I agree with JKC that your reading of D&C 130 is problematic, and posted on that not too long ago. So, I don’t accept that as a proof-text against the reading I am suggesting.

    You are stripping all of the meaning out of these “prospering” scriptures. Think about it from the BofM person’s perspective. God says “if you are righteous you will prosper in the land.” Geoff interprets: “If you want to eat, remember to plant food. If you like meat, learn how to hunt.” That is just not a compelling reading to me. Of course, I believe in the law of the harvest as you have described it, but can that be the substance behind God’s promises of prosperity? To me, that is not enough.

    Can you define “living the gospel” for me here?

    I already mentioned some specifics for you in my previous comment: paying tithing, keeping the Sabbath day holy, being honest. You know my views well enough to know that I don’t think living the gospel is incompatible with gaining worldly wealth, but it seems pretty clear that obeying these laws works against the accumulation of worldly wealth.

    Comment by Jacob — October 24, 2006 @ 11:18 am

  21. Thanks for the clarification. It gets confusing coming back to this between work, etc. I guess, and your dialogue with Jacob through me from what was going on.

    I agree with you partly, but do have some reservations of overly broadening the definition here. I guess it depends on the elusive defintion of prosperity. After all, in an attempt at reductio ad absurdem, It can easily be said that following the best practices for robbing a bank = higher probability of getting away with it (ie- prosperity) there is definitely no way to place this in the circle of divine prosperity (unless you’re robin hood. Dang it! I know I should have gone with the murder in cold blood example instead!)

    Anyway, I don’t think the issue is whether or not following natural laws can lead to success,but whether a larger pay-check has any direct correlation to prosperity. Since I beleive one can prosper (Be happy now and in eternity) with or without a larger paycheck, I would say it is not essential. On the other hand, it is a consumer nation we live in, and I have to confess that financial means does seem to pose some interesting issues for faithful church work. After all, the requirements to serve as a Senior Missionary are Good Health and Financial Means, which both decline the later in life you are able to retire.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 24, 2006 @ 11:29 am

  22. Jacob: So, I don’t accept that as a proof-text against the reading I am suggesting. Which was – I would like it to mean something more like “seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and other forms of prosperity will be added unto you.”

    Ok Jacob, I can buy that your reading could work — especially if you are not implying that God is magically giving people harvests that are disconnected from that which they sow.

    So here is how I think your reading could be ok. If we properly seek first the kingdom of God we will inevitably develop a personal relationship with God that includes regular revelation and dialogue. Through that dialogue, God will give us guidance about which seeds to plant and how to properly nurture them. Sowing and nurturing those seeds will lead to us reaping prosperity.

    This is all in harmony with my post, of course.

    it seems pretty clear that obeying these laws [paying tithing, keeping the Sabbath day holy, being honest] works against the accumulation of worldly wealth.

    I’ll grant that as well. But I think these laws end up being rather insignificant stumbling blocks in most cases.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 24, 2006 @ 11:37 am

  23. But I think these laws end up being rather insignificant stumbling blocks in most cases.

    That’s not what the study you cited said. The authors noted, notes, “Elite performers in many diverse domains have been found to practice, on the average, roughly the same amount every day, including weekends.”

    Every day. That would make not working on Sundays a disadvantage. And many athletes and musicians would concur.

    Comment by Naismith — October 24, 2006 @ 12:49 pm

  24. Naismith: Every day. That would make not working on Sundays a disadvantage. And many athletes and musicians would concur.

    I agree that there is somewhat of a disadvantage to elite performers who take Sundays off. In fact I would venture to guess that if one wanted to be the very best in the world at their discipline (say in sports or music) then observing the Sabbath would be a stumbling block. But I’m not sure that is all that relevant in this conversation about general prosperity and the Law of the Harvest. For instance, I think a person could reach the 90th percentile in their chosen field (or in net worth for that matter) and not be hampered much by observing a Sabbath — at least in professions that normally do not work on Sundays.

    Matt W: but whether a larger pay-check has any direct correlation to prosperity.

    I read about a study recently that claimed that money really does increase happiness until one starts making $40,000 per year. After that it no longer significantly increases overall happiness. I do think that probably loosely fits with the definition of prosperity in the scriptures though — it is harder to call a financially destitute person prosperous and really mean it. But it is easy for me to imagine an American family that makes $60,000 per year in the being much more “prosperous” overall than one who makes $600,000 per year when all the other factors of prosperity are included…

    Here are some good quotes from that article, BTW:

    In fact, the rule is well established in research: The first $40,000 makes a big difference in one’s level of happiness. After that, the impact is much smaller. The difference between someone making $40,000 and someone making $15,000 is far greater than the difference between $100,000 and $1 million.

    Happiness is dependent on being able to meet basic needs for food, shelter and clothing. After meeting those needs you need to turn to something other than consumerism because additional money has negligible impact on how happy you are. Your level of happiness is largely dependent on your outlook.

    Maybe you’re thinking there’s another magic threshold beyond $40,000. Like maybe $40 million. But you’re wrong. When I ran in circles of venture capitalists, there was a common phrase, “It’s not jet money.” Which was a way of saying, it was a good deal, but it wouldn’t earn enough money to pay for a private jet. No matter what size the pile of money, there’s always a way to see it as small.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 24, 2006 @ 2:27 pm

  25. Happiness is dependent on being able to meet basic needs for food, shelter and clothing. After meeting those needs you need to turn to something other than consumerism because additional money has negligible impact on how happy you are. Your level of happiness is largely dependent on your outlook.

    But is meeting basic needs the same as “prospering”? Most definitions see prospering as something more, something extra and above. (Not to mention that I think “health care” should be part of that list, and a family insurance plan will put the cost of “basics” far above the dollar figures being suggested.)

    I think that when folks “turn to something else,” they may or may not need more money, depending on what their joy in life and talents happen to be. If you enjoy reading, the public library is a no-cost solution. But what if you play the violin, and need lessons and instrument maintenance? What if your joy is scuba diving?

    I think one is only “prospering” (well-off over and above the basics) when those things are taken care of, as well.

    Comment by Naismith — October 24, 2006 @ 6:11 pm

  26. The statement that strikes me as most important in your post was when you said: “…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.”

    Wow, you’re right!! And if we would follow what the H.G. tells us, we would prosper in the land, however you define that.

    Following the H.G. is the greatest Farmer’s Almanac, mentor, and fertiziler money can’t buy.

    Comment by don — October 24, 2006 @ 6:12 pm

  27. Don: Following the H.G. is the greatest Farmer’s Almanac, mentor, and fertiziler money can’t buy.

    Hehe. Thanks. I’m glad someone is picking up what I’m layin’ down.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 24, 2006 @ 7:05 pm

  28. Naismith,

    I can’t answer for the author of that article, but I get the impression that what you are describing as prosperity is not at odds with what she had in mind. I think her point is that money increases happiness (and presumably overall prosperity) only to a point and after that it provides diminshing returns.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 24, 2006 @ 7:05 pm

  29. Geoff #22,

    Just to clarify where I am coming from here, I like the ideas you expressed in the post and I wasn’t trying to take issue with your main points there. I particularly noticed the point about “cheating” with the help of the Holy Ghost. I used to think about this a lot when I was in college because I truly believe I owe some of my grades to inspiration received while in the testing center.

    My only concern is that the scriptures about prosperity seem to mean more (not less) than the law of the harvest and personal revelation. You mentioned that the law of tithing ends up being an insignificant stumbling block. The promise in Malachi seems to say that far from being a stumbling block at all, the law of tithing is the key to unlocking the windows of heaven. I read the prospering scriptures in the same vein. I don’t think they can be totally divorced from the idea of God promising to intervene on our behalf. For people in former times who had to grow their own food or starve, they knew they had to plant, but they also looked and prayed to God for rain. As God promised the covenant keepers in the law of Moses:

    If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them;
    Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. (Lev 26:3-4)

    In addition to the law of the harvest as you have described it, God promises to send rain and cause the land to yield her increase. He promises to generally prosper the endeavors of the faithful.

    Of course, any suggestion that God blesses the righteous as I have described above leads to people offering anecdotal counter examples. That is the reason I made the point about statistics in #4. I agree with Matt in #5 that actually showing this through some study would be difficult. (I am not particularly interested in trying to prove it with statistics, I just think we need to remember to think of it statistically so we aren’t confused by the fact that bad things happen to good people.)

    Comment by Jacob — October 24, 2006 @ 11:25 pm

  30. Jacob,

    The stumbling block comment was largely in response to the angle Naismith was taking about how keeping the commandments can make it harder to sow the seeds of some kinds of prosperity.

    You are right, of course, that prosperity as a result of righteousness can sometime come in the form of outward miracles. I sort of had that part lumped in with my #2 in my mind. What I mean is that part of a personal revelatory relationship with God is the ability to ask for and get miraculous help sometimes. If that means prophecy about an oncoming drought and inspiration how to prepare for it (a la Joseph in Egypt) or rains to break a drought (a la Nephi in Hemaman) it is all part of a close personal relationship with God I think. I think that keeping commandments like tithing allow our confidence to wax strong in the presence of God when we have pressing needs to approach him with.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 25, 2006 @ 12:07 am

  31. (19)

    I think we might be talking about two different conceptualizations of faith here. I’m not talking about faith merely as “I believe that obedience will yeild this result, so therefore I obey.” That is one valid version of faith. But the first principle of the gospel is not merely faith; it is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s the faith I’m talking about in my reading of the irrevocable law passage of section 130. In other words, I am blessed not because I deserve it on my merits, but because I beleive in the Savior and in his atonement I can do all things.

    I think this relates to another passage from the D&C that you brought up, the “then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God” clause of section 121. You seem to be linking that confidence to something that we deserve because of obedience. That is one valid way to read it, and I will not argue that that reading is wrong. But a more compelling reading (to me) is that the confidence referred to comes not from trust in our own obedience but trust in the grace of Christ, knowing that I deserve nothing, but that his merits, mercy and grace are sufficient for me, and that he is forgiving and willing to bless those that trust in him. The passage from section 121 says nothing directly about performance of obedience; it says that our confidence will wax strong in the presence of God if we are filled with charity (the pure love of Christ) and our thoughts are garnished (i.e. protected) with virtue. I find it significant that these ideas focus more on attitudes and thoughts than actions. It seems to describe faith more than obedience.

    Of course, I don’t mean to suggest that one can truly have faith and be disobedient; they kind of come together. The point I am trying to make is that our trust should be in the Savior’s grace rather than our own obedience, which is a natural outgrowth of faith, but is woefully insufficient to ever merit any blessing on its own.

    Comment by JKC — October 25, 2006 @ 7:24 am

  32. Geoff J:
    I think I can accept their being a money thresh hold, but would say it varies by individual. After all, not everyone is american and has the same $40k standard of living, and not every american has the same perceived needs for saving and or debt, which I would think could cause fluctation in the perceived financial security threshhold.

    There are some nuances to work out here though, but completely in a tangent. That being that there are too conflicting concepts of spirtuality for me. 1 is the idea that it is hard to feel the spirit when your stomach is growling and the other is that you can feel the spirit better when you are humble…

    Jacob:
    On the Statistics issue, which is really what dragged me into this thread in the first place, it would be complex to measure, but I don’t know that it would be impossible to measure. I think Top and Chadwick have done some interesting work on Relgiosity and General Happiness and Well-Being and come up with some very pro-LDS results that support the thesis of prosperity coming from keeping the commandments.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 25, 2006 @ 7:59 am

  33. Matt W,

    I certainly think such statistical analysis is possible. Experience tells me that convincing people with such studies will be relatively easy if they already agree, and relatively difficult if they do not already agree. But, as a believer, I would love to see such studies ;). Are there online links to the Top and Chadwick studies you refer?

    Comment by Jacob — October 25, 2006 @ 8:35 am

  34. I’ll have to look for it.

    For now, here is the curriculum vitae:
    Chadwick
    Top

    It was a few months ago that I was reading this material, so it’s a bit foggy.

    And yes, it doesn’t really mean crap to a non-believer, but is facinating to those of us who hold on.

    If you have kids, The same authors have tons of awesome material. Really good stuff.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 25, 2006 @ 8:47 am

  35. Here is a brief one in relation to teens

    I grabbed it as being the most dirrect and easiest to follow.

    Different Sources give different results. Here is one from BYU that gives some frightening activity results and has measures for marital happiness. It says Women are more happy than average and Men are less happy than average. Go figure. There also two full length books on staistical analyses of the Church that I know of, but I won’t throw them out here, as I’ve not read, and thus can not recommend either.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 25, 2006 @ 9:46 am

  36. JKC,

    Not sure if you’ll be back to see this but I wanted to respond to your #31.

    In other words, I am blessed not because I deserve it on my merits, but because I beleive in the Savior and in his atonement I can do all things.

    The question is where does the law of the harvest end and the blessing start in the model you are laying out. I think the blessing is usually in the form of revelatory advice and knowledge about how to utilze natural laws to our benefit and happiness. (I like Don’s comment about God being “the greatest Farmer’s Almanac, mentor, and fertiziler money can’t buy”). So if we are prospering (or not) we can take credit for doing our part in the sowing and reaping department, but we don’t take credit for the advice and counsel and occasional intervention God freely and graciously offers us if we are willing to receive.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 27, 2006 @ 1:13 pm

  37. I guess the difference is that I see the blessing as encompassing the law of the harvest rather than as something separate. Really, I think we are saying the same thing but that it is only a matter of emphasis. I guess I would say I don’t think we can take credit for the sowing and reaping since even our ability to sow and reap is itself undeserved. I am reminded of Paul’s comment that one sowed and another reaped but God gave the increase. Maybe in the ends its nothing more than a semantic distinction, but I think it’s an important one given that it is so central to the operation of grace. Christ’s vine metaphor is appropriate, I think.

    Comment by JKC — October 30, 2006 @ 5:14 pm

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