Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Be Wary of Applying "The Prosperity Gospel" at the Individual Level

All the studies I have seen make it clear that the LDS Church membership as a whole is one of the best educated, most financially well off of any Christian denomination - especially after the second or third generation in the Church.

That's not a boast. It's not good or bad, imo - except to be good in the sense that it enables the Church membership as a whole to give enough to self-perpetuate. That's a good thing. However, general prosperity can lead to pride and a focus on money - and our canonized scriptures are replete with examples of what can happen to communities in that condition.

As I have said in numerous settings, I actually do believe in the general concept of communal prosperity through dedication, hard work and "goodness". It's when that general prosperity gets conflated with individual prosperity, and when individual wealth and individual poverty become markers of worthiness and goodness that it becomes a problem - and, unfortunately, that is a very natural human tendency in all communities and groups.

Professional athletes are admired and revered by many. Why? They are rich.

Movie stars are admired and revered by many. Why? They are rich.

Business tycoons are admired and revered by many. Why? They are rich.

At least in the Church, many local leaders (and General Authorities, for that matter) are not rich - so that should mitigate the natural tendency. It does for many, but it doesn't for others. That's not an indictment of the Church, in my opinion, but rather a statement about how strong our natural tendencies are.


Anonymous said...

Yup.I'm struggling with self esteem issues as an unemployed family. I can talk myself into self respect-I'm sick myself and look after two sick young adult children,and I'd tell anyone in my situation that they were doing a very necessary task. But it is hard to maintain self esteem in a society that values success so highly.I also find it difficult to feel included in a busy ward where I am no longer able to be in active service. How things change, time was when a night in together was a very rare occurrence!dsferst

Jeff Spector said...

It's a tool of the adversary that tries to get us to measure ourselves by the world's standard. And Curtis is very correct that the scriptures offers us a number of examples of how riches create a problem for the faithful.

The Lord wants us prosperous to enable us to serve others. If weare just working to provide for our family, that does not leave room to serve others.

And I suppose he expects those who are even more fortunate to just do more with whatthey have been blessed with.