Israelites faced by challenge of plenty

As the tribes of ancient Israel prepared to cross over the River Jordan to enter the land of Canaan, Moses gave them his final counsel and instructions. They were about to enter a land that Joshua and Caleb had described as "a land which floweth with milk and honey" (Num. 14:8), noted Elder Dean L. Larsen of the Presidency of the Seventy in the April 1991 general conference.

"It would be a dramatic change in the circumstances of Israel," said Elder Larsen. "For a full generation they had known only the desolation of the desert places, depending upon the Lord for their daily subsistence."Moses felt some concern for the capacity of his people to cope with the abrupt transition they were about to experience. Hear, O Israel,' he said.Thou art to pass over Jordan this day, to go in to possess nations greater and mightier than thyself, cities great and fenced up to heaven' (Deut. 9:1).

" `And it shall be, when the Lord thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not.'

" `And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full.

" `Then beware lest thou forget the Lord, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage' (Deut. 6:10-12).

"Abundance can be a great test," continued Elder Larsen. "The concerns expressed by Moses for his people have been repeated by other prophet leaders through all of the gospel dispensations. It has seemed that one of the inevitable side effects that occurs as people apply gospel principles in their lives is that their material circumstances also improve. . . .

"Historically, the abundance with which the Lord has blessed His people has proved to be one of their greatest tests. The cycles of their acquiring worldly wealth and their subsequent spiritual decline are well-documented in scriptural and historical records.

"Moses' concern for his people proved to be justified in the years following their entry into the land of Canaan. It was when they became settled in this goodly land that they began to take their abundance for granted and to forget the real source of these blessings.

"Not long after the early Latter-day Saints had entered the Salt Lake Valley, and as they struggled in their poverty to establish homes and to survive in a land that had been a wilderness, reports came of the discovery of gold in northern California. It was a great temptation to some of the Saints who were so destitute in their own circumstances.

"Brigham Young said: `The worst fear I have about this people is that they will get rich in this country, forget God and His people, wax fat, and kick themselves out of the Church and go to hell. This people will stand mobbing, robbing, poverty, and all manner of persecution, and be true. But my greater fear . . . is that they cannot stand wealth.' " (In James S. Brown, Life of a Pioneer, pp. 122 - 23.)

"The coveting of wealth so often has resulted in avarice, dishonesty, and greed. The acquisition of wealth has frequently produced pride, self-satisfaction, and arrogance. . . ."

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed