Exploring D&C Section 4 - My Work Shall Go Forth


More than a year before the Church was restored, many of the early brethren were anxious to share the rapidly unfolding knowledge with family and friends—indeed they wanted to share the gospel with the world.

The most famous section on missionary work was given to Joseph Smith’s father, Joseph Smith Senior. In Doctrine and Covenants section 4, the Lord outlines the necessary motivation and qualifications to be a successful missionary. A quick summary may be helpful in cementing in your mind the starting place the Lord outlined for His future missionaries.

This is an excerpt from The Doctrine & Covenants - Key to Sharing the Gospel with Plainness and Simplicity by Randy Bott.

In verse 2 the Lord explains that He wants focused, fully engaged missionaries. You are to serve the Lord with all of your heart, might, mind, and strength. That is total involvement. There are three promised blessings for that focused service:

1. You will stand “blameless before God at the last days.” (verse 2)

2. You will not perish—presumably at the destruction at the Second Coming or at the judgment day. (verse 4)

3. You will bring salvation to your soul. (verse 4)

To qualify to be on the Lord’s first team in the last minutes of the fourth quarter of the super bowl of all time, you must have a burning “desire” (see verse 3). As essential as a self-generated desire is, that merely puts you in line to be considered. The qualifications for missionary service are listed in verse 5. They are:

1. Faith

2. Hope

3. Charity

4. Love

5. With an eye single to the glory of God

Remember God’s work and His glory is to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (see Moses 1:39)—that must be your singular focus.

But if you want to be a superstar on the Lord’s first team, verse 6 adds more qualifications. You will note that two of those qualifiers listed above, faith and charity, are mentioned a second time, emphasizing the importance of these characteristics. The others not mentioned in the basic list of qualifications are:

1. Virtue

2. Knowledge

3. Temperance

4. Patience

5. Brotherly kindness

6. Godliness

7. Humility

8. Diligence

Then follows the first of many references to God’s willingness to assist you in your efforts to share His gospel: “Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened to you” (verse 7).

Hyrum Smith, the prophet’s older brother, could hardly contain himself. He wanted to share the gospel “now” and not wait. In Doctrine and Covenants 11, the Lord had to slow him down and in so doing gave us some vital counsel to help us prepare.

In verses 6, 9, 18, and 20, the Lord punctuated the absolute importance of keeping His commandments. You might think Hyrum must have been a wayward brother. On the contrary, Hyrum was one of the most faithful and obedient sons of our Heavenly Father. So why so much emphasis?

In verse 27, the Lord generalizes this revelation to you and me and all who are called to serve. He says: “Behold, I speak unto all who have good desires, and have thrust in their sickle to reap.”

The Lord continues His instructions in verse 9. He said His gospel is to be shared according to His commandments. Your mission president will be the one to set the directions for your mission. It may vary according to the geographical location where you are serving. Follow his counsel.

In verses 12–14, the Lord commands us to put our trust in His Spirit. You can tell when you are acting according to His Spirit because you will be led to:

1. Do good

2. Do justly

3. Walk humbly

4. Judge righteously

A wise preparing missionary will learn to live his or her life according to that Spirit long before entering the mission field.

What will that Spirit do for you—not only on your mission but throughout your life? The Lord says in verses 13 and 14 that He “will impart unto you of [His] Spirit which shall”:

1. Enlighten your mind.

2. Fill your soul with joy.

3. Enable you to know anything you desire of Him.

From the testimonial of thousands of college students in my classes, they testified that they could learn ten times the amount of knowledge in one-tenth the time when the Spirit was with them.

Then the Lord cautions Hyrum (and by extension all of us): You “need not suppose that you are called to preach until you are called” (verse 15). So, what are we to do in the meantime?

Verses 21 and 22 give His answer (emphasis added): Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men.

But now hold your peace; study my word which hath gone forth among the children of men, and also study my word which shall come forth among the children of men, or that which is now translating, yea, until you have obtained all which I shall grant unto the children of men in this generation, and then shall all things be added thereto.

There you have the Lord’s sequence for preparing: Study the scriptures that have been printed. Study also the counsel given through His living prophets. You have plenty to do to prepare. Everything you do now to prepare will make you that much more powerful when you enter the mission field after “being called.”

Some of you may have a high paying job, or a special someone who wants you to stay home and get married, or you have a scholarship— any number of reasons I have heard over forty years of teaching.

However, the Lord (who knows everything) stated and then emphasized what was the most valuable thing you could do.

To two young Whitmer brothers (John and Peter Jr.) when they asked Joseph what was most important and productive, the Lord said:

For many times you have desired of me to know that which would be of the most worth unto you. . . . And now, behold, I say unto you that the thing which will be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto this people, that you may bring souls unto me, that you may rest with them in the kingdom of my Father. (D&C 15:4, 6; 16:4, 6)

No matter what you or I may think, the All-Knowing God has spelled out the answer in unmistakable words what is the most valuable way we can spend our time before beginning our adult life.


Several years later, the Lord answered those who want to decide for themselves when they should serve. Hearken, O ye who have given your names to go forth to proclaim my gospel, and to prune my vineyard.

Behold, I say unto you that it is my will that you should go forth and not tarry, neither be idle but labor with your might. (D&C 75:2–3)

The gospel is being spread so rapidly throughout the world that the Lord has made multiple opportunities to serve if a full-time proselyting mission is not a possibility for you. Please contact your bishop and stake president for alternate mission opportunities. They are just as valuable and necessary as proselyting mission are. 

Perhaps it would be well to take a minute and elaborate a little on the rewards for service. Although “what’s in it for me” is not the reason we serve, you might be interested in what the Lord said faithful missionaries would receive.

Although the blessings for faithful service are scattered through the four standard works, Mark 10:28–30 gives a very good, concise explanation. Just a little background. A rich young man had come to the Savior asking what he needed to do to qualify for eternal life. The Savior told him to “keep the commandments” and then He listed six of the original Ten Commandments. Evidently the young man was (in our way of speaking today) an Eagle Scout, a seminary graduate, assistant to the Bishop in the Priest’s quorum, daily read the scriptures, and kept all of the commandments Church leaders had given him.

Mark then records: Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me [in other words: come on a mission!].

And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:21–22)


At that point the Savior gives the thought-provoking statement about a camel going through the eye of a needle being easier than a rich man, who trusts in riches, to enter into the celestial kingdom.

Peter, who generally asks the questions we want the answer to, says: “Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.” As if to say: “we have given up everything and followed You. What is in it for us?”

Mark continues: And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. (Mark 10:28–30)

Note the Savior’s promised blessings:

1. A hundred times the blessings of houses and barns (i.e. physical possessions)

2. A hundred times brethren, mothers, children. Not that you would have a hundred wives or a hundred children—that may not be a blessing here on earth!

But the quality of your relationship would be one hundred times better if you use what you will learn while on your mission.

3. Eternal life in the world to come. Eternal life is the highest degree of the celestial kingdom. Not a bad exchange for eighteen or twenty-four months in His service!

Your selfless service has not only personal promised blessings but extends to blessing your family as well. The Lord said: Therefore, thrust in your sickle with all your soul, and your sins are forgiven you, and you shall be laden with sheaves upon your back, for the laborer is worthy of his hire. Wherefore, your family shall live. (D&C 31:5)

If you are still wondering whether some kind of mission is a personal choice, perhaps a careful reading of Doctrine and Covenants 36: 4–7 can clarify the answer to that question (emphasis added): And now this calling and commandment give I unto you concerning all men— That as many as shall come before my servants Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith, Jun., embracing this calling and commandment, shall be ordained and sent forth to preach the everlasting gospel among the nations—Crying repentance, saying: Save yourselves from this untoward generation, and come forth out of the fire, hating even the garments spotted with the flesh.

And this commandment shall be given unto the elders of my church, that every man which will embrace it with singleness of heart may be ordained and sent forth, even as I have spoken.

Of course, our names are not presented before Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon but you receive your call from the President of the Church who stands in the same position that Joseph Smith did.

Joseph Smith taught: Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of heaven before this world was. I suppose that I was ordained to this very office in that Grand Council. (History of the Church, 6:364)

What a privilege! What an opportunity! What a responsibility! No wonder the Lord told Thomas B. Marsh: “Lift up your heart and rejoice, for the hour of your mission is come; and your tongue shall be loosed, and you shall declare glad tidings of great joy unto this generation” (D&C 31:3).

Just showing up to the MTC with little or no preparation, will result in a lot of wasted time as you try to catch up. Avoid that disappointment and frustration by preparing more diligently right now!


For your Investigators:

Perhaps, other than planting the seeds of a mission in the heart and mind of a young man or young woman you are teaching, this chapter is focused specifically for you—the preparing missionary.

This is an excerpt from The Doctrine & Covenants - Key to Sharing the Gospel with Plainness and Simplicity by Randy Bott.