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Questions of general interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy

In Doctrine and Covenants 4:4 [D&C 4:4], the Lord indicates that sharing the gospel brings salvation to the souls of those thus engaged. How is this accomplished?

James T. Johnson, former president of the France Paris Mission, now bishop of the White Oak Ward, Silver Spring Maryland Stake.

Doctrine and Covenants section 4 is a beautiful, comprehensive overview of the Lord’s requirements for acceptable missionary service. It sets forth the qualities of heart and mind and the virtues of work and diligence that qualify us to take part in the Lord’s harvest.

This revelation, committed to memory and action by missionaries the world over, affirms that a person who “layeth up in store that he perisheth not” will “stand blameless before God at the last day” and consequently bring “salvation to his soul” (D&C 4:2, 4). That powerful, divine promise applies to every Church member, whether formally called as a missionary or not, and merits our diligent effort to understand and comply with its requirements.

It will be helpful to review a sequence of events and blessings that constitute bringing salvation to our souls. These blessings flow from sharing the gospel.

We covenant. Although there are no words in the baptismal ordinance that specifically commit a new member to share the gospel, there are many scriptural injunctions that clarify the Lord’s expectations in this regard for his disciples. For example, in 1830 the Lord said, “Ye are chosen out of the world to declare my gospel with the sound of rejoicing, as with the voice of a trump” (D&C 29:4; see also D&C 88:81). The prerequisites to baptism outlined in Mosiah 18:8–10 include the willingness “to stand as witnesses of God at all times … even until death, that ye may … have eternal life.”

Joseph Smith said that “the greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel” (History of the Church, 2:478). Other latter-day prophets have made it clear that missionary work is a covenant responsibility for every member of the Church. In honoring our covenants, which are renewed during sacrament meeting and expanded in the temple, we help assure ourselves of an eternal inheritance.

We are proved and guided. One of the Lord’s basic purposes in designing our mortal experience was “to see if [we] will do all things whatsoever the Lord [our] God shall command [us]” (Abr. 3:25). Well aware of the soul-destroying dangers inherent in mortal life, the Lord gave us a guide and companion, the Holy Ghost. Without that influence, few if any of us would regain the Lord’s presence (see 1 Ne. 13:37).

Those who willingly and prayerfully share the gospel in order to establish Zion qualify for power from heaven. The Prophet Joseph Smith penned this important prophecy as comfort to the Saints: “The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion” (D&C 121:46). This mighty helper, the Holy Ghost, so vital in leading us to exaltation, is the special companion of those who share the gospel.

We are forgiven. Since we as his messengers are liable to succumb to evil influences that can jeopardize our spiritual well-being, the Lord has given us the principles of repentance and forgiveness. He provides extra help for those who witness of him: “Ye are blessed, for the testimony which ye have borne is recorded in heaven … , and your sins are forgiven you” (D&C 62:3).

That is a glorious promise. By testifying of the Lord and His gospel, we facilitate our own forgiveness. The adversary’s power is thus curtailed. Our hands and hearts are cleansed, and we are helped toward exaltation. Conversely, if we are negligent in our duty and privilege to share the gospel, “not only is our eternal welfare at stake, but also the eternal welfare of many of our brothers and sisters who are not now members of this church” (Spencer W. Kimball, “It Becometh Every Man,” Ensign, Oct. 1977, 7).

We share His work and glory. The Lord delegates to His covenant people an enormous responsibility in the plan of salvation. Walking in concert with the Holy Ghost, the faithful have a key role to find, teach, and invite all to come unto Christ.

In seeking to help save the souls of others, we help save our own. The Lord has promised, “If it so be that you … bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!” (D&C 18:15; emphasis added; see also D&C 18:16.)

We unite families and friends. The Lord has often described the earth as a field ripe for harvest. In John 4:36 He adds, “He that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.” Life would be hollow and meaningless without family, friends, and acquaintances bonded together in a shared eternal relationship.

Those who persevere in helping “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life” of others (Moses 1:39) experience true peace of mind. They have no regrets about not having been valiant in sharing the gospel. Salvation for them is sweet; their joy is full.

President George Albert Smith said: “Unless we stir ourselves more than we are doing, … when we go to the other side of the veil, we will meet there men and women who have been our neighbors, and associates, … that will condemn us because we have been so inconsiderate of them in not telling them of the truth of the gospel of our Lord” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1916, 49–50).

We gain godlike qualities. Lest we become negligent in our missionary duties, the Lord has warned, “With some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them” (D&C 60:2). And further, “Whosoever … shall be ashamed of me and of my words … ; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).

By strengthening our efforts to establish and enlarge the borders of Zion through spreading the gospel, we help prepare the earth for the Savior’s return and help make salvation and eventual exaltation possible for ourselves and others.

A final, overarching point is that the Lord does not jealously hoard the riches of His creation. Rather, He shares responsibilities and blessings with us. In sacrificing, in subduing the flesh, in performing living and vicarious redemptive ordinances in the temple, in sharing the gospel by word and deed, we progress toward the ideal the Lord expects of us: to become as He is (see 3 Ne. 12:48; Moro. 7:48).

In undertaking the selfless act of love of sharing the gospel, one tastes of eternal joy, develops godlike character, and lives in harmony with the model of sacrifice for others so beautifully exemplified by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In short, in bringing others unto Christ, we too “come unto Christ” and are “perfected in him” (Moro. 10:32).

[photo] Sharing the gospel can turn casual acquaintances into eternal friends.