In uncertain economic times, our yearnings for true prosperity take on greater significance than they might otherwise during times of material abundance. But what is true prosperity? Is it something that can be enjoyed by only a select and “chosen” few? Or is real prosperity a spiritual blessing given to all who will obey divine law, completely independent of worldly economic circumstances?
The scriptures and the prophets are perfectly clear on the matter. Prosperity is the Lord’s expression of his love for his children. It is granted on condition of righteousness and according to what he knows to be best for us, both in what form the prosperity comes and also in the timing in which it is granted.
In tthe Book of Mormon, for example, there is a significant phrase repeated in some form at least 23 separate times. The first instance is found in 1 Nephi 2:20: “And inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments, ye shall prosper.” Variations of this promise are strategically repeated throughout the narrative, suggesting this message would have important value to Latter-day students of the Book of Mormon.
We are all familiar with the so-called “Nephite cycle” as documented in the Book of Mormon. Again and again we read examples of the Nephites becoming wealthy, followed almost immediately, it seems, by the creeping in of pride. The resulting hardening of spiritual arteries subsequently follows, leading to a loss of the Spirit and ultimately to wickedness, war and spiritual death. And yet there are exceptions. Two examples might suffice. In the first chapter of Alma we read of a group of Nephites who appear to withstand this corrosive pattern:
“And now, because of the steadiness of the church they began to be exceedingly rich, having abundance of all things whatsoever they stood in need — an abundance of flocks and herds, and fatlings of every kind, and also abundance of grain, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious things, and abundance of silk and fine-twined linen, and all manner of good homely cloth.
“And thus, in their prosperous circumstances, they did not send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been nourished; and they did not set their hearts upon riches; therefore they were liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church, having no respect to persons as to those who stood in need.
“And thus they did prosper and become far more wealthy than those who did not belong to their church.” (Alma 1:29-31).
Likewise near the end of the book of Alma we find an almost identical example:
“And the people of Nephi began to prosper again in the land, and began to multiply and to wax exceedingly strong again in the land. And they began to grow exceedingly rich.
“But notwithstanding their riches, or their strength, or their prosperity, they were not lifted up in the pride of their eyes; neither were they slow to remember the Lord their God; but they did humble themselves exceedingly before him.
“Yea, they did remember how great things the Lord had done for them, that he had delivered them from death, and from bonds, and from prisons, and from all manner of afflictions, and he had delivered them out of the hands of their enemies.
“And they did pray unto the Lord their God continually, insomuch that the Lord did bless them, according to his word, so that they did wax strong and prosper in the land.” (Alma 62:48-51).
How did they do it? How were these two disparate groups of ancient saints able to enjoy true prosperity while withstanding the seemingly inevitable fate that befell almost every other group in the Book of Mormon? These two accounts teach us at least the following:
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