(Revised 23 February 2016)
19) And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart. 20) And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands. 21) And inasmuch as thy brethren shall rebel against thee, they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord. And inasmuch as thou shalt keep my commandments, thou shalt be made a ruler and a teacher over thy brethren.
For the Lord God hath said that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; and inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence.
Nevertheless Helaman did fill the judgment-seat with justice and equity; yea, he did observe to keep the statutes, and the judgments, and the commandments of God; and he did do that which was right in the sight of God continually; and he did walk after the ways of his father, insomuch that he did prosper in the land.
Even a casual reader must admit that after such a list of spiritual superlatives, it would be rather anticlimactic to suggest, as their conclusion, that the king also made a lot of money that year. It says that, of course, if one wishes to read it that way. But it also says something much more important and much more consistent with the spiritual crescendo to which the early part of the verse is building.(4)
....means to come unto Christ–either the process of doing so, or to actually have already done so. Mormon’s narrative and the prophets he quotes use that phrase both ways. He tells one story about what happened when the ideas of the law of consecration began to take hold in the church under king Mosiah. The people became rich in worldly things. After that, as their adherence to the law of consecration matured, “the Lord did visit them and did prosper them” (Mosiah 27:3-7; see also Alma 9:13, 38:1, 50:20).(6)
14) And now, when I, Nephi, had heard these words, I remembered the words of the Lord which he spake unto me in the wilderness, saying that: Inasmuch as thy seed shall keep my commandments, they shall prosper in the land of promise. 15) Yea, and I also thought that they could not keep the commandments of the Lord according to the law of Moses, save they should have the law. 16) And I also knew that the law was engraven upon the plates of brass.
And now, my sons, I would that ye should remember to search them [the plates of brass] diligently, that ye may profit thereby; and I would that ye should keep the commandments of God, that ye may prosper in the land according to the promises which the Lord made unto our fathers.
And now, my brethren, I would that ye should do as ye have hitherto done. As ye have kept my commandments, and also the commandments of my father, and have prospered, and have been kept from falling into the hands of your enemies, even so if ye shall keep the commandments of my son, or the commandments of God which shall be delivered unto you by him, ye shall prosper in the land, and your enemies shall have no power over you.
And this was their faith, that by so doing God would prosper them in the land, or in other words, if they were faithful in keeping the commandments of God that he would prosper them in the land; yea, warn them to flee, or to prepare for war, according to their danger.
20) Blessed art thou and thy children; and they shall be blessed, inasmuch as they shall keep my commandments they shall prosper in the land. But remember, inasmuch as they will not keep my commandments they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord. 21) And we see that these promises have been verified to the people of Nephi; for it has been their quarrelings and their contentions, yea, their murderings, and their plunderings, their idolatry, their whoredoms, and their abominations, which were among themselves, which brought upon them their wars and their destructions. 22) And those who were faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord were delivered at all times, whilst thousands of their wicked brethren have been consigned to bondage, or to perish by the sword, or to dwindle in unbelief, and mingle with the Lamanites.
And I did cause that the women should spin, and toil, and work, and work all manner of fine linen, yea, and cloth of every kind, that we might clothe our nakedness; and thus we did prosper in the land–thus we did have continual peace in the land for the space of twenty and two years.
Fourth is the reward of prospering in the land. The question here is: Our family is not achieving significant material success. Is that because we are not righteous enough? Let me assure you that prospering in the land is not defined by the size of your bank account. It has a much fuller meaning than that.The scriptures are clear that living the commandments allows us to prosper in the land. The prophet Alma, speaking to his son Helaman, teaches, “Inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land; and ye ought to know also, that inasmuch as ye will not keep the commandments of God ye shall be cut off from his presence.”Accordingly, having the Spirit in our lives is the primary ingredient in prospering in the land.(7)
In a conversation I had with President Gordon B. Hinckley on a flight to a temple dedication, he joyfully reported that the Church had the funds to increase the number of temples because the Latter-day Saints had prospered in the land. As faithful tithe payers, they had provided the resources to build temples where sacred ordinances could be performed. Prospering and being wealthy are not necessarily synonymous. A much better gospel definition of prospering in the land is having sufficient for our needs while having the abundant blessing of the Spirit in our lives. When we provide for our families and love and serve the Savior, we will enjoy the reward of having the Spirit and prospering in the land.(8)
I recognize, however, with my brethren, that the sorest trials that have ever come to the Church in any age of the world are the trials of peace and prosperity. But we are to do a new thing, a thing that never has before been done–We are to take the Church of Christ not only through the age of persecution and mob violence, but through the age of peace and prosperity. For we must learn to endure faithfully even in peace and prosperity.
I am not praying for the return of persecution and poverty; I am praying for peace and prosperity; but above all things for strength and power to endure this test. For it was not the design and the intention of the Lord to have this people always in suffering in bondage and distress. They shall come to peace and prosperity, but it is the sorest trial that will come to them.”(9)
I am reminded of what President Spencer W. Kimball said at the dedication of the Washington Temple:
“Bless all people, our Father, that they may prosper, but not more than their faith can stand.... Our Father, in blessing Thy people with prosperity, we pray that they may not be surfeited with flocks and herds and acres and barns and wealth which could bring them to worship these false gods.”
Taking freedom with President Kimball’s admonition, may I, for our purpose today, say, “Oh God, do not bless us with more stocks, bonds, properties, automobiles, or credit cards than our faith can stand or more than our parents can bear.” A worthy prayer, fellow students: “Dear God, in all the days ahead, please bless me with what I need and can stand, not with what I want.”
“Bless us, O God, that we may not have more success than we can stand.” I know some say, “I would sure like to have that challenge”; but, believe me, it is real and difficult. Knowing how to cope with what happens to us, good or bad, is a continuing challenge.”(10)
9. Melvin J. Ballard, Conference Report, April 1929, p. 66, emphasis added.
10. Marvin J. Ashton, “What Shall We Do Then?” BYU Speeches of the Year: BYU Centennial Devotional and Fireside Addresses 1975, (Provo: BYU Press, 1976), p. 23.