The Gospel Promise of Prosperity

The Gospel Promise of Prosperity April 24, 2023

A primary motivation for being a faithful Christian is the promise of enduring happiness based upon following the teachings of Jesus Christ. Although it is expected that the greatest of the blessings promised by the Savior will be received after this life is finished, living the gospel carries with it the promise of receiving divine assistance with the temporal needs and wants each person has while on this mortal journey.

The scriptures are full of promises from prophets related to prosperity.  There are more than 20 references in The Book of Mormon to God’s offer of temporal prosperity for those who keep the commandments of God.

Here are a few of my favorites.

  • Alma 36:1, 30: Alma’s Counsel to Helaman

Alma begins his conversation with his son Helaman by making this strong assertion: “I swear unto you, that inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land.” 

Later in that discussion, Alma also warns against what will happen for those who neglect keeping God’s commandments. After reiterating that “inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land”, Alma makes it clear that “inasmuch as ye will not keep the commandments of God ye shall be cut off from his presence.” It is clear from the context here that being cut off from God’s presence infers becoming ineligible for His protection and blessings, which bring prosperity.

  • 2 Nephi 5:10-11: Early Days of the Nephite Society

After Nephi and those who chose to follow him separated themselves from Laman, Lemuel, and their group of antagonists, they founded their new society upon a commitment to being righteous.

10 And we did observe to keep the judgments, and the statutes, and the commandments of the Lord in all things, according to the law of Moses.

11 And the Lord was with us; and we did prosper exceedingly; for we did sow seed, and we did reap again in abundance. And we began to raise flocks, and herds, and animals of every kind.

In describing the establishment of, Nephi explicitly connects the prosperity experienced among his new society to their dedication to following God’s laws as they had been revealed to Moses.

  • 4 Nephi 1:16,23: Nephite Prosperity After Christ’s Visit

Following the Savior’s ministry to the Nephites after his resurrection, their civilization enjoyed a period of continual peace for 200 years. Mormon, describing the results of this society’s determination to be righteous, asserted that “there could not be a happier people” (v 16) while also pointing out that “they had become exceedingly rich, because of their prosperity in Christ” (v 23).

These examples and many others from The Book of Mormon, the Bible, and modern scriptures make it clear that there is strong correlation between prosperity, including thriving economically, and following those principles which have been established for receiving any particular blessing.

In Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21, the relationship between keeping commandments and receiving blessings is spelled out clearly.

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.

The word “blessing” here doesn’t have to necessarily imply obtaining wealth. Indeed, riches are often viewed as a curse, and there is no shortage of examples of people who have lost relationships, family, and a sense of fulfillment because of personal destruction brought about by their wealth or pursuit of riches. However, God’s blessings tend to include discernment, avoiding pitfalls, motivation to improve one’s education and the extent of one’s influence: things that ultimately coincide with an increase in one’s financial net worth.

When Righteousness Doesn’t Result in Prosperity

The scriptures, examples from history, and our own life experiences demonstrate that there have always been good Christian people who are also poor, those who suffer physical and financial hardship. Many of these people have wondered how the gospel promise of prosperity somehow overlooked them individually.

Some examples from the scriptures may help understand why this apparent inconsistency between promises and reality might exist.

Job Lost Everything

From reading the Bible story about him, we know that Job was a just and upright, God-fearing man. While he had accumulated much – ten children and more than ten thousand sheep, camels, oxen, and donkeys – because of the blessings of God upon him, he is best known for having to endure severe physical hardships as difficult as his previous life was abundant. God’s willingness to allow Satan to wreak havoc upon Job as a way of proving that Job’s commitment to righteousness was not simply a calculated financial investment gives us insight into the fact that there are reasons why the righteousness = prosperity formula doesn’t always hold up.

In Job’s case, although his story is one of tragedy, having lost his posterity and his wealth, “the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning.” Having passed the test of patience and dedication to the Lord, Job was blessed with ten more children, and he accumulated twice the possessions he’d had before Satan’s meddling in his life.

Joseph: From Birthright Son to Slave to Governor of Egypt

The plight of Joseph Egypt is another example of an exception, at least in the short term, from the coupling of prosperity with righteousness. Joseph’s goodness as a young man earned him the jealousy of his brothers, who sold him as a slave, ultimately to end up as a servant in Potiphar’s house.

Potiphar recognized that good things came from his association with Joseph, that “he was a prosperous man…and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand.” Joseph’s example of being prosperous as an individual illustrates how the gospel’s promise of prosperity works: when a person shows faithfulness and diligence, God amplifies his or her ability to accomplish more good. That’s the essence of the gospel’s promise of prosperity. Often God’s amplification of our faithful efforts shows up in financial and other temporal ways. Sometimes it shows up as lessons learned that ultimately lead us to eternal prosperity, even as we’re occasionally taken by Him through paths of hardship and even poverty.

Joseph’s integrity in resisting the advances of Potiphar’s wife caused him to be imprisoned, a situation that’s not exactly associated with prosperity. However, even in prison Joseph experiences a relative form of prosperity, as the keeper of the prison quickly grew to trust Joseph, and committed the management of the prison to Joseph.

Joseph’s opportunity to finally experience temporal prosperity, including freedom and status, came when his worthiness to have unique access to inspiration led him to correctly interpret the Pharoah’s dream, which warned about a coming famine following a period of abundance. Made governor over the land of Egypt, Joseph was able to save himself, his family, the Egyptians, and surrounding nations from starvation

God’s Understanding of Prosperity Differs From Ours

Despite the repeated exuberant expressions in the scriptures promoting the idea that being in good favor with God will bring prosperity to a person, the typical manifestations of prosperity – riches, wealth, and even physical protection – are far from guaranteed as immediate rewards for being faithful. One explanation of why that may be the case is found in Isaiah’s explanation of how the understanding of God sees things much differently from mankind.

Isaiah 55:8-9

8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.

9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

It is useful to know that the prosperity described in scriptural promises is dealt out according to the thoughts and plans and on the timeline of One who sees a much bigger picture than what we see.

Prosperity is to Be Shared, Not Hoarded

A theme that is almost as recurring as the promise itself of prosperity to the faithful is the strong admonition regarding the use of worldly gifts.

The explanation of the purposes of riches by Jacob in The Book of Mormon provides a guideline for anyone who wants to take advantage of the blessings of prosperity offered in the scriptures.

Jacob 2: 17-19

17 Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.

18 But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.

19 And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.

As I’ve gone about building my own career and executing a wealth plan, I’ve often referred back to Jacob’s counsel to use riches for the intent to do good. I have found that approach to be productive. Although we are not rich by most worldly measures, my wife and I have been able to provide well for our family as we’ve welcomed eight children over the years. We have been able to pay for music lessons, sports activities, travel experiences, education, and a comfortable home and lifestyle. We have prospered.

Ultimate Prosperity Happens After This Life

Ultimate prosperity includes having access to everything God offers to us as His children. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we understand this promise in terms of what is referred to as the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood, found in the 84th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verses 33 through 39:

33 For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.

34 They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.

35 And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord;

36 For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me;

37 And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father;

38 And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.

39 And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood.

It is important to note that while in this life the priesthood is only given to men, this priesthood covenant applies equally to women, who have equal access to the promises and ultimately will jointly hold the priesthood during eternity.

As Latter-day Saints, with the belief that we are literally spiritual offspring of Heavenly Parents, we expect that the ultimate fulfillment of the gospel promise of prosperity is that we will inherit everything our Father (and Mother, although we don’t know much about Her) has, including becoming like him, equal in knowledge, power, and status.

So What Does the Gospel Promise Regarding Prosperity?

Having looked at the promises made in the scriptures regarding prosperity, and considering that those promises may seem to be unfulfilled for many people, what exactly does the gospel promise with regard to prosperity?

The promise of prosperity in this life as a reward for faithfulness typically involves more temporal abundance, more physical and spiritual blessings, more sense of purpose and fulfillment, more access to the goodness that comes from God. As discussed, there are often individual exceptions for various reasons known to God to the reception of riches, health, and other aspects of prosperity.

The promise of prosperity after this life is that we can each enjoy ultimate fulfillment as “heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.” (Romans 8:16)

About Richard Robbins
Richard Robbins is a Latter-day Saint husband, father of eight children, and internet marketing entrepreneur. You can read more about the author here.

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!