1 Nephi 2:20-22 — LeGrand Baker — “Prosper” as a Code Word in the Psalms

1 Nephi 2:20-22 

20 And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, even a land which I have prepared for you; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands.
21 And inasmuch as thy brethren shall rebel against thee, they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.
22 And inasmuch as thou shalt keep my commandments, thou shalt be made a ruler and a teacher over thy brethren.

“Prosper in the land” is one of those key phrases in the Book of Mormon that was frequently employed by its authors to convey an obvious message, but also a sacred, unspoken one. The obvious meaning is something akin to a rich harvest. The encoded meaning of the phrase is clarified here where it is first used. The opposite of prospering has nothing to do with a poor crop harvest. Rather, the opposite of “prosper” is to “be cut off from the presence of the Lord,” so to “prosper” is to be brought into the presence of the Lord. “Land” also has two meanings, one is the land of promise (America) to which the Nephites would come. The encoded meaning is the same as “earth” in the promise that “the meek shall inherit the earth.” That is clarified in D&C 88:17-20, which says that to inherit the earth means to “be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father.”

The importance of the Lord’s promise to Nephi is emphasized by its frequent use by other prophets who employed the phrase the same way.{1} One of the most interesting uses of that phrase is in Zeniff’s short autobiography.

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, that we might clothe our nakedness; and thus we did prosper in the land–thus we did have continual peace in the land for the space of twenty and two years (Mosiah 10:4-5).

Perhaps the earliest use of “prosper” to mean being in the presence of the Lord is found in Elohim’s blessing to the king, in Psalm 45.{2} There the word “prosperously” includes the promise of the earthly and eternal successes of the king’s reign. It was probably no coincidence that the Lord chose to use the word “prosper” when he spoke the blessing that promised Nephi’s eternal kingship.

{1} Other examples are 2 Nephi 1:9, 1:20, 4:4; Enos 10; Jarom 9-10; Omni 6; Alma 9:13; 36:1; 37:13; 48:25; 50:20; 3 Nephi 5:22; 4 Nephi 18;and Ether 2:7-10.

{2} For a discussion of the king’s premortal blessing and the meaning of “prosper” see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, First edition, p. 259-90; Second edition, p. 188-206.


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