“Prosper” Means Everyone

by | Apr 18, 2020

coins falling on table

Mosiah 1-3

Prosper is an intriguing word. Most of my life I misunderstood its meaning to relate to one’s material and temporal wealth. How surprising to recently discover “prosper” is instead, a rich word with layers of meaning and probably not about money. It shows up in Mosiah:

Mosiah 1:7 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.

Then it shows up again in the same chapter (verse 17) but doesn’t refer to finances at all. This is about Lehi, the Liahona and his family in the wilderness and the last thing they were worried about were paychecks or more possessions to cart around!

Mosiah 1:17 Therefore, as they were unfaithful they did not prosper nor progress in their journey, but were driven back, and incurred the displeasure of God upon them; and therefore they were smitten with famine and sore afflictions, to stir them up in remembrance of their duty.

Looking up the word online helped me transform my impression of the word. In fact, all of the following definitions do not specify financial wealth.

bloom, catch on, produce, progress, bear fruit, do wonders, get there

President Nelson explains this principle better than I ever could with his endearing, short story:

“That upward reach, drawn from a knowledge of divine doctrines, transforms souls! May I share an illustration with you? Once, Sister Nelson and I were invited to the humble home of Polynesian Saints who had relatively recently joined the Church. By walking carefully on wooden planks, we approached their house, built on wooden piles emerging from the floor of the sea. We climbed a ladder to enter their little one-room dwelling. As we were invited to be seated on freshly woven grass mats, we could peek through holes in the floor and view sea water below. That home was starkly devoid of furniture, except for a used sewing machine provided by sisters of the Relief Society. But the love and warmth of this special family were apparent as our visit continued.”

“We would like to sing for you,” the father said through an interpreter. He put one arm about his wife and the other about the children, as did his wife. Five little ones, dressed in newly sewn clothing, joined their parents in singing songs the father had composed.”

“Concluding, he said: “These songs express our feelings of deep gratitude. Before we joined the Church, we had so little. Now we have so much!”

“While wiping tears from our moistened cheeks, Sister Nelson and I looked at each other, comprehending that the gospel brings spiritual wealth which may bear little relation, at first, to tangible abundance. Conversely, people with plenty can be spiritually poor. Yet the Lord is concerned for them all!”

“Missionary work throughout the world is part of his plan. It brings the light of the gospel to those who embrace the truth. Then, as Saints learn and obey the commandments of God, they will prosper. This promise has been recorded by prophets throughout time and in diverse places.” (General Conference – April 1986)

Even more, prosperity in the world’s tangible, material sense is not always our best friend.

My husband Joel said something which resonated so I wrote it down. He said, “most people in America spend money they don’t have to buy things they’re told they should have and then become indebted. And they end up more burdened and less happy. People think having things will increase happiness. It doesn’t. People think ‘not having’ is the problem. Instead it’s ‘wanting’ which causes the problem.”

Does this ring true?

During several difficult phases of my life, I have found that industry and resourcefulness brings joy and satisfaction. It’s not so much what happens to us as it is how we respond to what happens that determines our level of well-being and happiness.

With more clarity, I now understand “prosper” means to have upward movement, success and increase which can manifest in a variety of ways including: spiritual, physical, intellectual, emotional, perspectives, goal-setting, understanding, gratitude, finding one’s way and well-being. It’s an empowering word!

To you with all my heart…may you prosper.

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  1. Paula

    I loved this article. I have believed a long time ago that less is more. We tend to accumulate things of little worth that takes our time and energy away from thatbwhich is important. This is how I try to live. Simply and I still can’t keep up but it is easier.

    • Shawnie

      Thank you so much for sharing your personal example. I completely agree with you…less IS more. And things do drain our energy and time. I guess it is one of life’s great lessons. I keep trying to whittle down and simplify too. I have a ways to go. Blessings and hugs to you.


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