There are several sections of the Doctrine and Covenants that came about in the early days of the Church when people believed in the work that Joseph Smith was doing, and then wanted to know what the Lord would have them do. Joseph’s father was no exception; it must have been both a humbling and marvelous thing for him to receive this instruction from the Lord at the hands of his own son.
As we read through these revelations directed at specific people, an interesting theme emerges. While some people are given specific assignments, such as preaching the gospel in a certain geographic location, everyone is given the same general counsel. Perhaps this counsel could be summed up in a couple of phrases such as “seek the Lord,” “share the gospel,” and “develop the Christlike qualities that will help you in these labors.” But perhaps it is all summed up most vividly in D&C 4.
Only seven verses long, it’s not too difficult to commit to memory. In fact, full-time missionaries of the Church have been advised to memorize it and recite it regularly because it gives such a great perspective to the things that they are doing. The fact that similar counsel comes up for others shows that these words are important for all of us.
Here it is, in its entirety:
1 Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men.
2 Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.
3 Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work;
4 For behold the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul;
5 And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.
6 Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence.
7 Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Amen.
The words are simple, yet powerful. We are told that something glorious (the restored gospel) is about to come forth to the whole world. Those of us who wish to serve the Lord should do so with our whole hearts.
And this next part really means something to me: if we have desires to serve God, if we truly want to serve Him, then we are called. There will be a place for each of us to serve and build the kingdom of God, no matter how untalented or inexperienced we might think we are. The Lord knows our abilities and where we can best contribute, and He will augment those abilities as we seek to do His will. For there is much work to do and many who are ready for and even searching for the gospel. Those who labor with their all their might “layeth up salvation” unto their souls.
Powerful Christlike qualities are listed next. Each of these words could be a sermon in and of themselves – including faith, knowledge, charity, humility, and diligence. And finally, we are reminded that as we earnestly seek the Lord and the truth, we will be given those things. What a wonderful promise!
In upcoming blogs, we’ll look at some of the specific words and phrases used in this section of scripture in greater detail.