Over the years since I first began to make my way in the world, I have been interested in the repeated references in the Book of Mormon to prospering. Some form of the word prosper occurs 89 times in the Book of Mormon, most commonly in the context of the oft repeated promise, a form of which first appears in 1 Nephi 2:20,
"And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; year, even a land of promise…"
Prosperity in the Book of Mormon often led to pride, which would lead in turn to wickedness and being cut off from the Lord’s presence. Often, war would ensue with great and terrible losses. The humbled people would then repent and keep the commandments. The people would then prosper and the cycle would continue. The full cycle typically seems to take about a generous to develop, but at times it takes only a few years.
Today, we are at the same risk of being cut off when we as Latter-day Saints fail to live up to our covenants.
Alma summarized the obligations associated with baptism as follows (Mosiah 18:8-9):
"…and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places that ye may be in, even until death…"
It is interesting to note that the enumeration of our duties is primarily to help, love and serve one another and to stand as a witness.
If we connect the ideas of prosperity to our baptismal covenant it seems to suggest that our obligation is to use our resources to care for the needy.
Of course, Jacob makes this point clear in his popular statement:
But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.
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.
Jacob leaves little doubt about what we are to do with our promised prosperity. Giving directly to the poor and needy is no substitute for our tithes and offerings to the Church—many of which serve to feed the hungry and clothe the naked—but Jacob seems to leave little doubt that our obligation to give to the poor exceeds (but does not supersede) our obligations to the Church. In other words, it is not enough to pay our tithes and offerings, we must in addition seek out the hungry and cold and administer relief to the sick and afflicted.