Mission Farewell – D&C 4

Good morning brothers and sisters. It’s so great to have the opportunity to be able to speak here in my home ward before I go out into the mission field. For one last time, those who are unaware, I report to the Mexico MTC on Tuesday where I will then proceed to my mission area, in Texas Houston East. This includes Lake Charles and Beaumont for those who are familiar with the geography. It is such a privilege to speak with my little brother and an actual missionary so I believe the Lord’s hand was involved with this.

Today, I have given the topic of D&C 4. This particular section is a shorter one, only 7 verses. But these seven verses stand out in their own ways. I remember very vividly reading this time and time again going to missionary prep in the mornings while still in school. This was one of the things that we recited as a class before we began our lesson. I never fully understood why this particular section besides the fact that it’s short until I was reading it over again preparing for this talk. Before starting, I looked in Gospel Library for the phrase ‘missionary work’ and found this:

The Lord has declared that missionary work is the responsibility of all who follow Him. Members of the Lord’s Church can, by the goodness of their lives and the strength of their testimonies, share the gospel message and help prepare family members, friends, and other acquaintances who are not Latter-day Saints to be taught by the full-time missionaries.

When we experience the blessings of gospel living, we naturally want to share those blessings with others. The Lord spoke of the joy that comes into our lives when we share His gospel:

“If it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!

“And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!” (Doctrine and Covenants 18:15–16).

After His Resurrection, the Lord commanded His disciples to “go … and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19). In fulfillment of this command, able young men in the Church have a duty to prepare spiritually, physically, and emotionally to serve as full-time missionaries. Single women and mature couples also have the opportunity to serve full-time missions.

Missionary work also includes helping and supporting those who join the Church. As instructed by President Gordon B. Hinckley, each new member of the Church needs three things: a friend, a responsibility, and nurturing with “the good word of God” (Moroni 6:4)

Gospel Topics, “Missionary Work

I’m not going to read the entire section of D&C 4 here as that would more than likely put you to sleep. So I’m going to break it down into little bits.

1 Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men.

This particular verse can mean a lot of different things. While also found in Isaiah 29:14, I’d like to focus on the D&C version of this verse. In relation to missionary work, yes, a marvelous work is about to come forth. And it already has. With so many missionaries out in the mission field, we have been seeing a rise in membership numbers. But that’s not what it’s about. Missionaries, like me, don’t dedicate two years of our lives just…because. There is a reason and it’s not about numbers. It’s about the spiritual well-being of those that we minister to. Some missionaries go into the mission field thinking they’ll be ‘fishers of men’ and end up only baptizing two people their entire mission. Does that mean the missionary was a failure? Absolutely not. God does not intend for all of us to be the same; that’s not even close. We are all different, with different wants, needs, desires. We all learn different, some better with words, others better with visuals or hands-on experience. And God knows and understands this. For a missionary that only baptized two people on their mission need not feel despair. God knew those people, what they needed and how they learn best. So he sent one of his servants to fulfill those needs. While we may not understand the reasons as to why things happen when and how they do, we trust that God knows.

A marvelous work…among the children of men. A beautiful statement indeed. For history at this time, this meant the organization of the Church being established. Now, it means the missionary work and ongoing efforts of the Church. Things are constantly changing now, with new procedures, the removal of programs, the reduction to two hour church. Things have been changing and they will continue. Just this week, the First Presidency is releasing a new Missionary Handbook with updated procedures and other new things that I don’t know about yet.

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.

That first part, “O ye that embark in the service of God” confuses some readers, including me. But put it on a deeper level of understanding. Yes, it is referencing missionary work. But it is also referencing things we can do in our own daily lives to help serve those that need it most. For example, someone prays that day for guidance to help their friend with an issue they have been struggling with recently. That is embarking in the service of God. By being spiritually in tune in the Spirit, we can be instruments in the Lord’s hand and be guided to who we need to be guided to, what we may need to say to them, and how that needs to be said. I believe this is best described in an email I received recently from a cousin of mine serving a mission in Germany.

“In every single situation, put your trust in the Lord. Remember you don’t have to rely on your knowledge of Spanish, your knowledge of the Gospel, your knowledge of a person and their needs, etc. This is the Lord’s work and you have the promise to have His spirit to be with you always. You are never alone in any situation. Trust Him, trust Him, trust Him. I can also promise it helps SO MUCH. Trust you are in the right place, speaking the right language, with the right companion at the right time in your life.”

As I was reading this, it felt as though God himself was speaking this to my Spirit. We don’t need to know the backstory of everyone was come across in life down to the detail of the cat they got in the 4th grade that died two days later. We will know what we need to know by the power of the Spirit. I can already testify of that power now. I worked many jobs over the summer as some people may know. As I was leaving one of mine early on, they asked me “What is this mission? Why are you going?” and I had the opportunity to explain to the them what I was going to do in this experience. They then started asking questions that I didn’t know off the top of my head but I put my trust and faith into the Spirit to help guide the conversation. By the end of it, they all seemed to understand in their own way. I have no idea what I said during that time but I know that the Spirit was there that day guiding me what to say.

3 Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work;

God is not going to force us to do anything. We have our own free agency to do what we want. That’s why this verse specifically says “if ye have desires”. Not ‘if your friend has desires’ or ‘if I have desires’. He’s specifically saying ‘if YOU have desires’. Another way that God shows his true love for us.

This is also interpreted differently. Elder David A. Bednar gave a talk in the priesthood session of the April 2017 conference titled “Called to the Work”. I’d like to share some sections of his message.

“Every year tens of thousands of young men and young women, and many senior couples, eagerly anticipate receiving a special letter from Salt Lake City [our mission call letter]. …the first two sentences read as follows: ‘You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the _____ Mission.’

Please note that the first sentence is a call to serve as a full-time missionary in the Lord’s restored Church. The second sentence indicates an assignment to labor in a specific place and mission. The important distinction expressed in these two sentences is essential for all of us to understand.

… Each mission call and assignment, or a later reassignment, is the result of revelation through the Lord’s servants.

… The single greatest reason for addressing this matter is what I have learned over time about the concern, the worry, and even the guilt felt by many missionaries who for various reasons were reassigned to a different field of labor during their time of service. Such reassignments sometimes are necessary because of events and circumstances such as physical accidents and injuries, delays and challenges in obtaining visas, political instability, creating and staffing new missions, or the evolving and ever-changing needs around the world in the work of proclaiming the gospel. [As the Lord has said:] ‘Wherefore, go ye and preach my gospel, whether to the north or to the south, to the east or to the west, it mattereth not, for ye cannot go amiss. (D&C 80:3).”

Elder David A. Bednar, “Called to the Work

An excellent example of this can be found in Bolivia, South America at this very moment.

“The Church is in the process of transferring 63 missionaries from the Bolivia Cochabamba Mission. This is due to growing political unrest as well as the U.S. government’s recent decision to pull non-emergency workers from that country. The missionaries — who are all from North America — are being temporarily reassigned to other missions. A few who are nearing the end of their missions will return home. At this point, in coordination with security professionals, all other missionaries throughout Bolivia are remaining where they are and will continue with limited missionary work in those areas where it is safe to do so. The safety of our missionaries is our highest priority, and we will continue to carefully monitor developments in Bolivia and make further adjustments and decisions as circumstances require. We pray for the people in Bolivia as they navigate this difficult time in their country.”

Church Newsroom, “Church Transferring 63 Missionaries from Bolivia

Those serving there right now have been on my mind frequently. I certainly hope that all of those missionaries understand what is happening and why, both in regards to being reassigned to different missions and being released a little early. Regardless, this goes to show that the Lord looks after his children and will help us so long as we are following the commandments and covenants that we have made with Him.

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;

I have this verse along with verse 5 marked in Gospel Library with the note that I took during Seminary “The amount of effort you put in on the earth will be matched in Heaven.” Fun fact, I know it was Seminary because of the timestamp that was with the note. Anyhow, ‘the field is white and ready to harvest’. That’s an interesting way of putting that. So what does it mean? When wheat ‘blooms’, it is white. So when all the wheat blooms, it looks like a white field. That field is then ready to harvest because it has all bloomed. This is similar to the spread of the gospel throughout the Earth. Those that are ‘ready to harvest’ are those that the missionaries are lead to by the Spirit and introduced to the gospel. A verse almost identical to this is found in John 4:35.

‘He that thrusteth in his sickle with is might, the same layeth up in store…’ You may be a little concerned now that missionaries carry sickles with them. I can assure you that we do not. This is simply a metaphor. See, when wheat is ready to harvest, that stuff is hard to cut through, especially if your just casually doing it. You have to, as my dad would say, ‘put your back into it’. And for those that have been ‘have desires’ and are ‘called to the work’, they thrust in that sickle. But remember ‘the same’, meaning that amount of work that you did here on Earth, ‘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.

For missionaries, everything we do, is ‘with an eye single to the glory of God’. We all strive to do what God himself would do if he were in our place. We are representatives of God so we try to take every action that we can to be like Him. Now remember that we are not missionaries just because we have been called to serve in an area away from home. As Elder Bednar says later in his talk,

“…each of you is a missionary now. All around you, every day, are friends and neighbors ‘who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it.’ (D&C 123:12). As you are directed by the Spirit, you can share a thought, an invitation, a text or tweet that will introduce your friends to the truths of the restored gospel. You need not and should not wait for your official call to become anxiously engaged in missionary work.”

Elder David A. Bednar, “Called to the Work

6 Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence.

This are characteristics that we need to have as church members, especially now. We need to accept anyone that walks through our church doors with brotherly or sisterly kindness. Some come to church after encouragement from missionaries just so see what it’s all about. But if we give them a judgmental look, or likewise, even if they have felt the Spirit here, won’t want to return. What a sad thought! We can be aware of these things if we are in tune and attentive to the Spirit and its promptings.

7 Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Amen.

We’ve heard this verse many times over. Ask and we’ll receive what we’re asking for. Don’t be like the ten virgins and wait until the last minute to prepare. We need to prepare now. The Second Coming is approaching quickly, far quicker than we may notice. Things are going to get harder from here on out. Scrutiny against the Church is already rampant with accusations of many kinds thrown at us left and right. Yes, some are true but remember that we are all human; we make mistakes. Stick to the fact that God is ‘the same yesterday, today, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him.’ (1 Nephi 10:18)