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We live in a time of extraordinary abundance and resources. As the years slip by we have seen an acceleration of opportunity and possibilities. There is more of everything. What would have been considered extravagant a century or more ago has become routine and common: cars, computers, electricity, clean water, centralized heating and cooling, rapid air travel, educational opportunities, diverse career options, health and longevity, leisure time, and disposable income. We could multiply this list far beyond the imagination of anyone living only a century ago.
Prosperity is how many would label these things. But is that true prosperity?
There are voices in the world today who preach a “prosperity gospel” that faithful Christians should expect God to pour out upon them tremendous material gains and resources.
But is that what God really means when He so loving calls out to us in one of the most persistent themes of the Book of Mormon: “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall prosper in the land” (see 1 Nephi 2:20; 4:14)?
What Is the Basic Meaning of Prosperity?
When we look at the Latin root meaning of the word “prosper” we find the fundamental meaning of “to look forward with hope.” In fact, our word “speed” such as used in “Godspeed” uses the same root for prosper and is focused on the hope that only God can bring.
Prosperity in its purest sense is about hope!
And what do we hope for? Emmanuel. God with us. We want God’s presence. We hope for Him to be with us!
Thus prosperity is not about material blessings, resources, toys and belongings, or objects. Prosperity is about the hope found in Godly relationships as expressed by having God’s presence with us.
What Does the Bible Say about Prosperity?
The Bible reinforces this basic idea of prosperity. There is an interesting case found in the story of Samson. God empowered Samson to do great deeds such as tearing a young lion to pieces with his bare hands, “Behold, a young lion roared against him. And the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon [Samson so that he overpowered the lion]” (Judges 14:5-6).
Underlying the phrase “the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon” is the Hebrew word “to prosper.” Our English translation does not make this connection clear, obvious, overt, or apparent. So we miss the fact that to prosper is to have God’s presence.
What Does the Book of Mormon Teach about Prosperity?
The Book of Mormon provides the clearest evidence of what true prospering is: “Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; but inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence” (2 Nephi 1:20, emphasis added).
The commandments are the instructions for how to show covenantal love to God. As we are faithful we receive the promise of His presence. This saving truth is most beautifully enacted each week at sacrament. Look at how we promise to keep the commandments and always remember Jesus. In return, God promises to always have His presence accompany us.
“O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it; that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them name of thy Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he hath given them, that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.” (Moroni 4:3, emphasis added)
If you want to prosper, seek and maintain God’s presence in your life!
Call to Action
As you read the Book of Mormon this year, look for instances:
- When were people faithful? Did they receive God’s abiding presence in their lives?
- What happened when the people had God’s presence?
Then consider your own life:
- When do you have God’s presence in your life?
- What more can you do to receive God’s prospering presence in your life?
- And what are the consequences your experience from receiving God’s prosperity?