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The Prosperity Gospel, Its Place in Mormonism, and Why the Church is Dumping It

The Prosperity Gospel, Its Place in Mormonism, and Why the Church is Dumping It

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Published by TruthIsReason
The controversial belief that righteousness brings wealth is codified in Mormonism, but the LDS Church now appears to be leaving it behind. There are several potential reasons for this shift.
The controversial belief that righteousness brings wealth is codified in Mormonism, but the LDS Church now appears to be leaving it behind. There are several potential reasons for this shift.

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Published by: TruthIsReason on Jan 17, 2014
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The Prosperity Gospel, its Place in Mormonism, and Why the Church is Dumping It
Last Updated on 1/24/2013 by TruthIsReason Let me explain up front why I have spilled so much digital
ink over this subject. It’s because
I believe it to be of great importance in the everyday lives of many people. What a person believes about the causes of material prosperity can drastically affect their educational and career paths, their priorities, their interests, their self-esteem, their political views, the way they vote, the ways in which they view and treat others, and more. While these factors are
personal for each of us, they can’t help but spill over into the society around us. I
am confident that my own upbringing with regards to this topic put my life on a much different path than it would have taken otherwise and experience tells me that the same is true for many others. My hope is that the future will bring more discussions on this topic in the Mormon community than there have hitherto been.
With that in mind, let us proceed…
 In an upcoming book, the author of the NY Times Bestseller Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Amy Chua, and her husband
 both professors at Yale Law School
 will argue that
there are eight “cultural” groups that atta
in worldly success more readily than others. This already-controversial position holds that this success is the result  
of a “triple package” –
 a set of three qualities that these groups all have in common: 1) a superiority complex, 2) insecurity, and 3) impulse control. Six of the eight groups are ethnic while the other two are Mormons and Jews. As it turns out, the three traits above are not the only things these two religious groups have in common that could be contributing to their worldly success; there is at least one more: they both have scriptures that draw strong connections between wealth and righteousness
 a concept that has come to be known as the prosperity gospel. The prosperity gospel, or prosperity theology, is the belief found in some modern Christian movements (and in some strains of Judaism) that God wants his people to be materially prosperous and will thus reward them with wealth in exchange for their faith and righteousness. In keeping with widely accepted interpretations of the New Testament, most denominations eschew this notion and, as a result, most ministers who preach it are non-denominational and notoriously include televangelists and leaders of mega-churches. In multiple Old Testament passages (such as Deuteronomy 11:13-28, 28:1-13, 30:9-10, Malachi 3:10-12, Joshua 1:8, Psalms 1:1-3), the Israelites were promised every material blessing under the sun if they would keep the Law of Moses. For modern Jews, these scriptures are arguably still in force. For traditional Christians, however, since the Law of Moses was fulfilled by Christ, these verses no longer apply and, according to most interpretations, there is nothing in the New Testament to replace them with. Mormons, on the other hand, have plenty to replace them with since the Book of Mormon is chock full of
 
2
such promises along with examples of the promises being fulfilled when its protagonists, the Nephites, live righteously
(we’ll look at these shortly)
.
Prosperity’s Codification in Scripture
 
Now it’s true that most of these examples
of prosperity theology are found during the time when the Nephites practiced the Law of Moses
 between 600 BC and 34 AD
 however, from a Mormon perspective, this is actually an irrelevant nuance. The Book of Mormon is not divided into two testaments like the bible is since the entire book was written specifically for our day and age. In fact, the prophet Moroni, who was the son of the man after whom the book is named, tells us that he was able to see our modern society (Mormon 8:34-41) and that he compiled the book from records so voluminous that less than 1% of their contents could be included (Words of Mormon 1:5). The implication is that anything that was valuable enough to make the cut is very important for us to understand today. Supporting this point are the words of the first prophet to write in the book, Nephi, who said that
he would “give commandment” to the authors who came after him
to not
write “things which are not of worth unto [mankind]” (1 Nephi 6:6).
Additionally, some of these prosperity passages (see the last four in the list below) are either found after the time when the Law of Moses was in effect or are in regards to people who did not have the law (the Jaredites in the Book of Ether), further showing that the prosperity doctrines they speak of were intended to be independent of the Law of Moses and thus applicable to Mormons today. The promise made to Nephi on the first pages of the Book of Mormon is that if he and his
people “keep [God’s] commandments, they shall prosper in the land of promise” to which
they were being led (1 Nephi 4:14, 2:20). This promise is subsequently quoted and referenced all throughout the book in the commentary that its narrators give on the Nephite civilization. In regard to the many passages
that speak of “prosper[ing] in the land”,
Sherri Dew, the CEO of church-owned Deseret Book and former counselor in the
church’s
Relief Society General Presidency, told the Salt Lake Tribune in early 2012 that "When you study the verses that surround it, in almost every case it's clear that it is referring to spiritual prosperity, meaning an increased knowledge of heaven and more answers to prayers." This assertion, however, is simply untrue. Of the 30+ verses that contain some variation of this phrase, there is no unambiguous indication that it should be understood in a spiritual sense. In a number of them, however, it is clear that it should be understood in a material sense. For example: And they did prosper exceedingly, and they became exceedingly rich; yea, and they did multiply and wax strong in the land. And thus we see how merciful and just are all the dealings of the Lord, to the fulfilling of all his words unto the children of men; yea, we can behold that his words are verified, even at this time, which he spake unto Lehi, saying: Blessed art thou and thy children; and they shall be blessed, inasmuch as they shall keep my commandments they shall prosper in the land. (Alma 50:18-20)
 
3
And we multiplied exceedingly… and became exceedingly rich in gold, and in
silver, and in precious things, and in fine workmanship of wood, in buildings, and in machinery, and also in iron and copper, and brass and steel, making all manner of tools of ever
y kind to till the ground… the word of the Lord was
verified, which he spake unto our fathers, saying that: Inasmuch as ye will keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land. (Jarom 1:8-9) And I did cause that the men should till the ground, and raise all manner of grain and all manner of fruit of every kind. 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
… and thus we did prosper in the land… (Mosiah 10:4
-5) Then we also find passages like the following. Notice that, in each of them, people were materially blessed and/or
“prospered” (or promised that they would be) as a reward for
their righteousness, usually to the point of becoming wealthy. Also notice that, in most of them, it is clear that God himself was blessing his people with the prosperity and therefore, it was not merely coming as a natural consequence of righteous living like some have suggested: The Lord in his great infinite goodness doth bless and prosper those who put their trust in him. Yea, and we may see at the very time when he doth prosper his people, yea, in the increase of their fields, their flocks and their herds, and in gold, and in silver, and in all manner of precious things of every
kind… (Helama
n 12:1-2)
They did abound in the grace of God… And the Lord did visit them and
prosper them, and they became a large and wealthy people. (Mosiah 27:5-7) 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. 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. (2 Nephi 5:10-11) After having bee
n such a highly favored people of the Lord… Yea, and after
having been delivered of God out of the land of Jerusalem, by the hand of the
Lord… and they have been prospered until they are rich in all manner of things… (Alma 9:20
-22) Helaman and his brethren went forth, and did declare the word of God with much power unto the convincing of many people of their wickedness, which did cause them to repent of their sins and to be baptized unto the Lord their
God… And the people of Nephi began to prosper again in
 the land, and began to multiply and to wax exceedingly strong again in the land. And they began
to grow exceedingly rich… And they did pray unto the Lord their God

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