Sunday, June 24, 2018

Elder Quentin L. Cook on having a proper perspective of prosperity

Elder Quentin L. Cook (b. September 8, 1940) was called as a Seventy in 1996, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2007.
"A familiar scripture found in Alma 36:30—and similarly in many other places in the Book of Mormon—has two parts. It reads, 'Inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land.' The second part reads, 'Inasmuch as ye will not keep the commandments of God ye shall be cut off from his presence.' It is clear that having the blessing of the Holy Spirit is a principal element of prospering in the land.
"Along with having the Spirit, sacred teachings of the Church establish having sufficient for our needs as the best measure of temporal prosperity. Lucifer’s paradigm shift here is to elevate the seeking of great wealth and the acquisition of highly visible luxury products. Some seem absolutely driven to achieve the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Excess wealth is not promised to faithful members, nor does it usually bring happiness.
"As a people, the Latter-day Saints have indeed prospered. Some achieve wealth as the result of very worthwhile and appropriate pursuits and use that wealth to bless mankind  veking the kingdom of God first; working, planning, and spending wisely; planning for the future; and using wealth to build up the kingdom of God."
- Quentin L. Cook, "A Banquet of Consequences: The Cumulative Result of All Choices," BYU Devotional, Feb. 7, 2017
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The verse Elder Cook quotes from Alma 36 provides a great key to our understanding of God's promises to us. It's critical to note the parallel descriptions:
  • If we keep God's commandments, we prosper in the land
  • If we do not keep God's commandments, we are cut off from His presence
Given our normal interpretation of prosper in the first condition, we might expect the second one to say, "If you don't keep the commandments you'll be poor and needy."  But perhaps prosper doesn't mean what we sometimes think it means—to have lots of worldly success? Elder Cook suggests that perhaps prosper means "having the blessing of the Holy Spirit." Certainly that aspect of prosperity would be far more meaningful in the eternal perspective than any earthly possession!

So the best way to consider financial or temporal prosperity is to have sufficient for our needs. The challenge is to not succumb to Lucifer's temptation to "elevate the seeking of great wealth." And then to remember that if wealth does come, to remember that the proper use is to build up the kingdom of God. I think those two challenges are harder than we acknowledge; the subtle but pervasive attitudes of our society sink deep into our minds and hearts!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

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