Sunday, April 2, 2017

Promise and Prosperity

As I read again the books of 1st and 2nd Nephi I wondered what it means when the Lord calls a certain place a land of promise and what it means to prosper in that land.

The land to which Moses led the children of Israel was a promised land. It was to be a land of milk and honey, implying a land of plenty. It does not compare, however, to the abundance of the promised land which we know as the Americas for fertile soil, varieties of edible and beautiful flora, abundant deposits of precious and useful minerals, or animals useful for milk, meat, or bearing burdens. The Americas, however, seem to have no more of these natural resources than the African continent. The term "promised land," or "land of promise" has to have a different meaning.

The problem with the term "prosper" is that it is relative. To modern society it would mean something entirely different from a tribal society in the distant past. A closer reading of the context in which these terms are expressed gives me a different meaning for each of them.

Lehi teaches that the land is "consecrated," or in other words, it is blessed and set apart to bring the prophecies and promises f the word of God to pass. Further, it will be a land of peace and liberty so long as the inhabitants are more willing to follow God than to hearken to Satan. The evidence that such is true is in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon. Societies enjoy peace and abundance until they love the lies of Satan more than the words of eternal life. Then societies fail, are lost in wars or are taken captive by an enemy who knows not the god of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Query whether all lands where the people are righteous are lands of promise. They will be blessed and their people favored by God, but their lands are not consecrated. No prophet will arise to open a dispensation, and no scriptural record will emanate from there. Those are evidences of a promised land, in my limited observation. A promised land is a land set apart for a chosen people. A chosen race is not distinguished by skin color, ethnicity or even by ancestors, rather it is a people which has the honor and the obligation of receiving and then sharing and spreading the word of God that comes through His prophets.

What of prosperity? If we prosper are we then prosperous? If so, what does that look like? What one person considers prosperous, another finds scant, and yet another may find fabulously wealthy. Few I have met would define their personal circumstances as prosperous, but consider other's to be so. That is because we equate wealth, money and other material acquisitions with prosperity. Some equate freedom from want of the basics of life and the ability to live independently from the largess of others as prosperity. Others would see prosperity as the ability to afford to do whatever they want or to do nothing at all. That is why we think of prosperity as a relative term

Is that what God promises those who dwell righteously in a promised land? It doesn't seem that He would use a relative term to make such a promise. Otherwise, we could assume that one who suffers a business failure is unrighteous and that the opposite is righteous.

2Nephi 1: 20 states that if we in a promised land keep His commandments, we will "prosper in the land." If we do not, we shall be "cut off" from His presence. Is  prosperity, then, to be in the presence of God? It seems to me that it is. It is also liberty. Verse 23: "...put on the armor of righteousness" and "shake off the chains" of captivity.

Satan makes no such promise; he cannot. Instead, he turns prosperity on its head. Freedom from the restraints of the commandments, as he and his minions would phrase it, always results in captivity in one form or another. When our goal to achieve prosperity is one of accumulation (of wealth, friends, followers, or whatever) the result is insatiable pride. What matters is not what we have, but only that we have more than others.

True prosperity is, no matter what your personal circumstances may be, to live in God's presence.


  1. Brad! this is crazy. While in Utah, visiting our friends Aimee and Brant Stock, we had a discussion this exact topic, and that exact scripture 2Nephi 1:20. He asked: what exactly does prospering in the land really mean? and is having a desire to follow God's commandments a righteous motive for wanting to become financially stable and rich?
    Your thoughts on this have hit the nail on the head, it makes so much sense and I'm going to share this with you, if you don't mind.
    thanks for sharing your thoughts and wisdom with us Brad.

  2. I meant share it with them...not you. typed too fast, because I was excited.