Why Do Others Prosper?

Do you ever wonder when someone is doing the level-best to live a good life, a life of giving to others, of sacrificing their means for a good cause, that some around them prosper beyond imagination when apparently they are not so dedicated to high ideals?

Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously? (Jeremiah 12:1.)

If you ever have felt this way, then you are in good company. This quote from a 1952 conference address by Joseph Fielding Smith really helped me. I hope it helps you, too.

Brother Kimball in his remarks this morning spoke of a man who could not quite understand when he paid his tithing and kept the Word of Wisdom, was prayerful, and tried to be obedient to all the commandments the Lord had given him, and yet he had to struggle to make a living; while his neighbor violated the Sabbath day, I suppose he smoked and drank; he had what the world would call a good time, he paid no attention to the teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and yet he prospered.

You know, we have a great many members of the Church that ponder that over in their hearts and wonder why. Why this man seems to be blessed with all the good things of the earth—incidentally, many of the bad things that he thinks are good—and yet so many members of the Church are struggling, laboring diligently to try to make their way through the world.

The answer is a simple thing. If I sometimes, and once in a while I do, go to a football game or a baseball game or some other place of amusement, invariably I will be surrounded by men and women who are puffing on cigarets or cigars or dirty pipes. It gets very annoying, and I get a little disturbed. I will turn to Sister Smith, and I will say something to her, and she will say, “Well, now, you know what you have taught me. You are in their world. This is their world.” And that sort of brings me back to my senses. Yes, we are in their world, but we do not have to be of it.

So, as this is their world we are living in, they prosper, but, my good brethren and sisters, their world is coming to its end. It will not be many years. I can say that. I do not know how many years, but Elijah said when he bestowed his keys: “… by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors,” (D. & C. 110:16) I am sure that over a hundred years later I can say that the end of this world is drawing to its end.

The day will come when we will not have this world. It will be changed. We will get a better world. We will get one that is righteous, because when Christ comes, he will cleanse the earth.

Read what is written in our scriptures. Read what he himself has said. When he comes, he will cleanse this earth from all its wickedness, and, speaking of the Church, he has said that he would send his angels and they would gather out of his kingdom, which is the Church, all things that offend. Then we are going to have a new earth, a new heaven. The earth will be renewed for a thousand years, and there shall be peace, and Christ, whose right it is, shall reign. Afterwards will come the death of the earth, its resurrection, its glorification, as the abode of the righteous or they who belong to the celestial kingdom, and they only shall dwell upon the face of it.

Let us be true and faithful, keep our covenants, be true to every obligation the Lord has given us. I humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen. (Joseph Fielding Smith, in Conference Report, Apr. 1952, 28.)

Seeing the Good in Others

Yesterday, a colleague shared this wonderful story from the life of Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972). If you love horses like I do, you’ll get even more of a kick out of this one. It appeared in the inaugural issue of the New Era magazine, published January 1971. I particularly like the point he makes at the end.

When I was a boy, we had a horse named Junie. She was one of the most intelligent animals I ever saw. She seemed almost human in her ability. I couldn’t keep her locked in the barn because she would continually undo the strap on the door of her stall. I used to put the strap connected to the half-door of the stall over the top of the post, but she would simply lift it off with her nose and teeth. Then she would go out in the yard.

There was a water tap in the yard used for filling the water trough for our animals. Junie would turn this on with her teeth and then leave the water running. My father [Joseph F. Smith] would get after me because I couldn’t keep that horse in the barn. She never ran away; she just turned on the water and then walked around the yard or over the lawn or through the garden. In the middle of the night, I would hear the water running and then I would have to get up and shut if off and lock Junie up again.

My father suggested that the horse seemed smarter than I was. One day he decided that he would lock her in so that she couldn’t get out. He took the strap that usually looped over the top of the post and buckled it around the post and under a crossbar, and then he said, “Young lady, let’s see you get out of there now!” My father and I left the barn and started to walk back to the house; and before we reached it, Junie was at our side. She then went over and turned the water on again.

I suggested that now, perhaps, she was about as smart as either one of us. We just couldn’t keep Junie from getting out of her stall. But that doesn’t mean she was bad, because she wasn’t. Father wasn’t about to sell or trade her, because she had so many other good qualities that made up for this one little fault.

The horse was as reliable and dependable at pulling our buggy as she was adept at getting out of the stall. And this was important, because Mother was a licensed midwife. When she would get called to a confinement somewhere in the valley, usually in the middle of the night, I would have to get up, take a lantern out to the barn, and hitch Junie up to the buggy.

I was only about ten or eleven years old at the time; and that horse had to be gentle and yet strong enough to take me and Mother all over the valley, in all kinds of weather. One thing I never could understand, however, was why most of the babies had to be born at night and so many of them in winter.

Often I would wait in the buggy for Mother, and then it was nice to have the company of gentle old Junie. This experience with this horse was very good for me, because early in life I had to learn to love and appreciate her for herself. She was a wonderful horse with only a couple of bad habits. People are a lot the same way. None of us is perfect; yet each of us is trying to become perfect, even as our Father in heaven. We need to appreciate and love people for themselves.

Maybe you need to remember this when you evaluate your parents or teachers or ward and stake leaders or friends—or brothers and sisters. This lesson has always stayed with me—to see the good in people even though we are trying to help them overcome one or two bad habits.