When I served as a member of the Stake High Council, one of my responsibilities was organizing and teaching the Missionary Preparation classes. The perspective missionaries who attended the classes were encouraged to memorize Doctrine and Covenants Section 4. As they prepared to embark in the service of their God, they were encouraged to not just memorize the words, but to take those words to heart and ponder their meaning.
There are only seven verses of scripture in this section and I feel that it is well worth our time to take just a few minutes to read all seven. Beginning at the first verse we read:
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.
As I read and ponder the words of these verses I find that there is one very important key that is necessary for embarking in the service of God that is often overlooked. That key is contained in the seven words found in the third verse. Those seven words are, “if ye have desires to serve God.” Notice that the verse begins with the word “Therefore” and that word is followed by the little punctuation mark, the comma. Whenever we see a comma in written text it signifies a brief pause to be taken for thought and reflection. In this context, the word “Therefore” is used to introduce a logical conclusion to a given fact.
In the first verse we learn of the fact that “a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men”. In the second verse we are introduced to the first logical conclusion of the matter: that is, if we are to embark in the service of God, we must serve Him with all our heart, might, mind and strength in order that we may be able to stand blameless before Him at the last day. The second logical conclusion follows in the third verse: if we have desires to serve God, we are called to this marvelous work that is about to come forth among the children of men. It is this second logical conclusion that I wish to focus on for the remainder of this brief treatise.
The word “desire” can be defined as a longing or craving, as for something that brings satisfaction. It can be thought of as a hunger, as one who has a hunger and thirst for doing the things of God because of the joy and satisfaction that it brings to their life. If we are to embark in the service of God, we must have a righteous desire or a hunger to do those things which He has called us to do, and we must have the determination to see it through. Let us liken this to the following example.
My father was an outdoors person by nature. He cherished every opportunity to be outdoors to do some of the things that he enjoyed doing most. As a young boy, I remember that one of the things that my father enjoyed doing was planting his own garden. To plant a garden was no easy task. It required some effort and work on his part. First, before any seed could be planted, the area where the garden was to grow had to be prepared. Weeds had to be pulled or cut down, and the fallow ground which was naturally hard, had to be tilled using either a tiller or hand plow. Once the area was properly prepared, and the decision had been made as to what would be planted and where, then the planting of seeds could begin. My father carefully planted each seed into the soil. As he planted each seed he would give it a “drink” of water to help the growing process to begin. As he completed planting each row he would take one of the empty packets that the seeds came in, place it on a stick, and then put the stick in the ground at the end of the row as a means of identifying what had been planted in that particular row. After all of the planting was finished, he would spread fertilizer over the garden.
Now, imagine if you will, if after all of his labor in getting the garden started my father were to have no desire to take care of the garden. What do you suppose would have been the results if he simply just walked away expecting the garden to take care of itself and eventually yield a harvest that he could use to feed his family? You guessed it. The soil would have eventually dried up, weeds would have soon returned and choked the growth of any plants, and the hard work that he put into having a garden would have all been for naught. Thankfully my father had the heart’s desire to see the fruition of his labors, and so he spent the time that was necessary in caring for the garden, and in the end he was rewarded with a harvest of delicious fresh produce for him and his family to enjoy.
Just as my father had to prepare the fallow ground before he could plant his garden, we must prepare ourselves to embark in the service of God. As my father found that it was hard, though satisfying, work to maintain a garden, we too will find that working in our Father’s vineyard is hard work and requires time and effort on our part to do the work that He has called us to do. At first we may be ready and willing to do whatever it is that He wants us to do, but somewhere along the way we may begin to grow weary and tired. Perhaps it is because we are not necessarily seeing the ready fruits of our labors, and so we begin to get discouraged and lose the desire that we once had to serve. Just as my father had to constantly care for his garden in order for it to grow and produce fruit, we have to constantly feed and nourish our hearts, minds, and souls to stay the course and endure to the end. Just as he had a heart’s desire to see the fruition of his labors, if we have the desire to do the work and not give in or give up, we too shall see the fruition of our labors. All of the plants in his garden did not grow at the same rate. Some took more time and more care than others. In the same way, some of the fruits of our labors may be realized almost immediately, but there will be others that may not be realized until a later time.
“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” (Doctrine and Covenants 4:4). Therefore, as we embark in the service of God, may we serve Him with all of our heart, might, mind and strength, that we may stand blameless before Him at the last day.
Keith Lionel Brown is a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was baptized on 10 March 1998 in Reykjavik, Iceland while serving on active duty in the United States Navy in Keflavic, Iceland. He is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of “Morsels Of Bread.”