We tend to look at the word prosper in the scriptures in only a financial/economic sense. But I have started to realize that in many instances, to prosper refers more to spiritual growth, and that spiritual growth was what the prophets wanted for the people when they promised that keeping the commandments would cause the people to prosper in the land.“Prosper: make steady progress; be at the high point in one’s career or reach a high point in historical significance or importance; bloom, flourish, flower, fly high, thrive” (WordWeb dictionary iPad ap)
Take statements like that of Alma to his son Helaman:
Thinking logically, if keeping the commandments brought financial success, then not keeping the commandments would bring financial ruin and failure. But that is not what the warning part says. It says not keeping the commandments will cut us off from the presence of the Lord. It doesn’t make sense for the blessing and the cursing to be such different things, one temporal and the other spiritual. But if prosperity means spiritual growth, then the cursing of being cut off from the presence of the Lord would make a lot more sense. If fact, it would be perfectly obvious!O remember, remember, my son Helaman,how strict are the commandments of God.And he said: If ye will keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land—but if ye keep not his commandments ye shall be cut off from his presence. (Alma 37:13)
If we are spiritually minded, then spiritual growth will be a higher priority for us than financial success. Financial gain is not synonymous with godliness, so why should we pretend it is? Financial success (if honestly gotten) depends on learning skills that others are willing to pay well for, hard work, honesty, and careful use of resources.
Spiritual growth, on the other hand, depends on keeping the commandments. If so, then it is possible to prosper in the land even if we aren’t financially successful. There are also people who have gained financial success honestly, but who are cut off from the presence of the Lord because they don’t keep the commandments besides the ones that have implications for financial accumulation.
In the scriptures we are promised we will prosper (progress spiritually) if we:
- Keep the commandments
- Keep our covenants (“Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do.” (Duet. 29:9))
- Seek the Lord (“And he sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him to prosper.” (2 Chron. 26:5))
- Trust the Lord (“we can see that the Lord in his great infinite goodness doth bless and prosper those who put their trust in him.” (Hel. 12:1))
- Believe the prophets (“Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me… Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.” (2 Chron. 20:20))
- Build temples and keep them purified (“And inasmuch as my people build a house unto me in the name of the Lord, and do not suffer any unclean thing to come into it, that it be not defiled, my glory shall rest upon it…And, now, behold, if Zion do these things she shall prosper, and spread herself and become very glorious, very great, and very terrible.” (D&C 97:15,18))
- Transgress the commandments
- Cover our sins (“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” (Prov. 28:13))
- Fight against God (“No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 54:17).)
- Allow ourselves to be lulled into carnal security (“And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.”(2 Nephi 28:21))
- Don’t reason according to gospel principles (“And my servant Leman shall be ordained unto this work, that he may reason with them, not according to that which he has received of them, but according to that which shall be taught him by you my servants; and by so doing I will bless him, otherwise he shall not prosper.”(D&C 49:4))
Now here’s a question for you: Does spiritual growth come from simply keeping the commandments through to the end of your life (enduring to the end), or does it come from improving the exactness with which you keep the commandments? Or does it come from keeping more commandments? Or is it all of the above? What are your thoughts? And why?