In early 2012, the economy wasn’t feeling all that good. The Great Recession had technically ended in 2009, but the recovery was weak. The Center for American Progress lamented “the slowest growth during the first eight quarters of an economic recovery since World War II.” Unemployment was still high–9.1% in August 2011–and job growth had slowed. The European sovereign debt crisis was keeping markets nervous. And DJIA, which had climbed to 20,000 in 2007 before plunging to 10,000 in 2009, was only back up to around 17,000.
I remember being a newlywed then, discussing with my husband how on earth to plan for the future when things seemed so uncertain. But we were at least a few years out from graduation, with a decent toehold in the job market. It must have seemed much more daunting to anyone just graduating college.
Against this backdrop, Elder M. Russell Ballard traveled to Rexburg to give the commencement address at BYU-Idaho.
Elder Ballard acknowledged the difficulty: “The conditions in the world are uncertain and dangerous, and the economies of the world are unstable and unpredictable.” But he continued: “Face the future with optimism.”
It’s hardly ground-breaking to encourage graduates to be brave and optimistic, but what absolutely floored me about this address is how specific he got. He was bold, and prophetic.:
I believe we are standing on the threshold of a new era of growth, prosperity, and abundance. Barring a calamity or unexpected international crisis, I think the next few years will bring a resurgence in the world economy as new discoveries are made in communication, medicine, energy, transportation, physics, computer technology, and other fields of endeavor…With these discoveries and advances will come new employment opportunities and prosperity for those who work hard and especially for those who strive to keep the commandments of God.
Elder Ballard was so bold in predicting economic success that he included a lengthy warning to the graduates that their wealth would tempt them to pride and worldliness:
I believe many of today’s young adults will be active participants in temporal blessings if they keep the commandments of the Lord. With prosperity will come a unique challenge—a test that will try many to their spiritual core…The trial of your faith in the next few years will likely not be that you lack the material things of this world. Rather it will be in choosing what to do with the temporal blessings you receive.
He was also clear that the coming economic boom was not an accident, but a blessing from God to accomplish His specific purposes:
In addition, many of these discoveries will be made to help bring to pass the purposes and work of God and to quicken, including through missionary work, the building of His kingdom on earth today…
As the gospel is carried to billions of spiritually hungry souls, miracles will be performed by the hand of the Lord. Missionaries of many nationalities will serve the Lord throughout the earth. New chapels and many more temples will be built to bless the Saints, as has been prophesied regarding premillennial growth of the Church. You may ask, ‘Where will the financial resources come from to fund this growth?’ The resources will come from faithful members through their tithes and offerings. As we do our part, the Lord will bless us with prosperity…
So for yet a season, possibly a short season, it will seem as though the windows of heaven will have truly opened so that ‘there shall not be room enough to receive it.’
Again, that was on April 6, 2012.
I’m not much of a Facebooker anymore, but one big reason I’ve kept a perfunctory account is to follow the pages from various saints all over the world–the Ghana MTC, Area pages for various regions in Africa and Asia, a few scattered branches in Nepal and Pakistan and Sri Lanka and India and Uganda, etc. It’s a daily dose of straight-up miracles in my newsfeed. The constant stream of pictures of missionaries coming through the Ghana MTC is the first thing that came to mind when I read Elder Ballard’s promise that “missionaries of many nationalities will serve the Lord.” They’re preparing to serve in almost every country in Africa, and it’s so amazing and lovely to see their faces and think of the miracles they’re about to be the Lord’s hand in bringing about.
So many of those missions and branches didn’t exist in 2012.
In 2012, there were about 140 temples. We’re up to 315 now.
And shortly after April 2012, what did the stock market proceed to do?
Fwoom. Even with the huge Covid dip in 2020, the peak at nearly 40,000 is just amazing. As Elder Ballard predicted, the windows of heaven opened so that there was hardly room enough to receive it.
A lot of news orgs have figured out “Mormon” = clickbait. Put Mormon in your headline and clicks increase. That’s part of the reason why the Church’s recent tussle with the SEC over how it reports its investment funds is getting so much attention. I don’t think the Church did anything morally wrong, and only biffed a couple of regulatory issues out of a good-faith desire to keep naive members from concluding “I’m going to copy the prophet’s investment strategy!” when it wouldn’t be good for them to do so.
Some people have reacted negatively to the mere fact that the Church has a lot of money. To them, I wanted to highlight this mostly-forgotten speech by Elder (now President) Ballard. The Church has a lot of money because it has missionaries to send, and temples to build, and students to educate. It has a worldwide kingdom to build.
The Church has a lot of money because the Lord blessed the Church with a lot of money.
This was foreseen in Elder Ballard’s prophetic address. Church leaders are using the money to carry out God’s will. The Good Ship Zion is not a luxury cruiser, and its crew are not amassing personal wealth. But it takes a lot of dough to carry out the most epic, most important mission in the history of seafaring, just before she pulls into her Millennial port. Literal prophets and seers are at the helm, literally prophesying.
Stay on board and grab an oar.
Cassandra Hedelius serves on the board for FAIR. She has a JD from the University of Colorado and has practiced domestic and business law. She is currently raising and homeschooling her three children.