Mormonism and the Prosperity Gospel

The recent edition of the Ensign, an official magazine of the LDS Church, has several articles that place special emphasis on the Law of Tithing.  These articles, while not unique to Church publications, seem to blur the line between Mormonism and prosperity theology.  One magazine article even called Mormonism the prosperity gospel “on steroids.”

According to wikipedia.org (accessed 8 Mar 2013):

Prosperity theology is a Christian belief that faith, positive speech, and donations to ministries will always increase one’s material wealth.  Based on non-traditional interpretations of the Bible, often with emphasis on the Book of Malachi, the doctrine views the Bible as a contract between God and humans:  if the humans have faith in God, he will deliver his promises of security and prosperity.

According to an article by Carrie Dalby Cox in the Mar 2013 Ensign (an official LDS publication):

I remembered hearing stories of people who wrote their tithing check first when money was tight and then received money by miraculous means. . . .

So she wrote out her tithing check:

The following Monday I received word that a community class I’d signed my oldest son up to had been canceled, and the $20 check I wrote the month before was being returned.  When I balanced my checkbook, figuring back in that $20, I realized I had made a $23 mistake in calculations the week before.  In addition, two days later we received a refund check of $36 from our pediatrician’s office for overpayment of a bill.  Now, rather than being $30 short, we had almost $50 extra.

The Lord had fulfilled His promise in Malachi 3:8-12 that if we paid our tithing, He would pour out blessings. . . .

Raquel Pedraza de Brosio reports (Ensign, Mar 2013), that after her husband was laid off, her friends asked her why she was still paying her tithing?

The answer was always the same:  because the Lord has commanded it, and we do not want to rob God (see Malachi 3:8-9). . . .

Today my husband has a job that helps us make headway against the debts we acquired while he was out of work.  It will still be a long time before we can relax financially, but we know that if we “bring . . . all the tithes into the storehouse,” God will open the windows of heaven “and pour [us] out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” (Malachi 3:10)

Jacqueline Kirbyson writes (Ensign, Mar 2013):

Several years ago my husband lost his job.  We struggled to pay our bills and buy food with the small pension I received, but we managed to survive.

But she paid tithing and subsequently, the family garden flourished:

Our plum trees almost broke from the weight of the fruit.  I spent a busy summer bottling and freezing fruit and vegetables, making jam, baking pies, and sharing extra produce with neighbors.

One day as I walked through our small garden, I remembered God’s promise to open the windows of heaven and “pour out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it (Malachi 3:10).

While I respect that these individuals have strong beliefs about the ties between tithing and personal survival, I think it is unfortunate that they are widely publicized.  It should be remembered that bad things happen to good people.  Unless, LDS publications are willing to look at this other side of the story, they should tread lightly on “faith-promoting” tithing stories.  Among other things, it makes us look like proponents of the prosperity gospel.  And I don’t think that’s a crowd that we should feel comfortable in.

There is also the issue of God’s involvement in earthly activities.  It is very difficult for me to comprehend a God in Heaven who is constantly “stirring the pot” and intervening in individual lives.  But that’s just me.

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One Response to Mormonism and the Prosperity Gospel

  1. Well said (written), Roger. Faith promoting stories can be wonderful, reassuring, and valuable in their moment. But faith built on such stories and the hope of their repetition in one’s own life is faith built on an unstable foundation because, as you say, bad things do happen to good people.

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