“Lesson 11: ‘The Field Is White Already to Harvest’” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual (1999), 58–62
To help class members resolve to strengthen the kingdom of God through diligent service, particularly by sharing the gospel through missionary work.
Prayerfully study the following scriptures and other materials:
Doctrine and Covenants 4, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 18, 31, 33, 75, and the other scriptures in this lesson.
Our Heritage, page 11.
Review the material for this lesson in the Class Member Study Guide (35686). Plan ways to refer to the material during the lesson.
To gain a greater understanding of historical events related to the doctrine in this lesson, consider reviewing the following:
“Ezra Thayer: From Skeptic to Believer.”
“‘I Quit Other Business’: Early Missionaries.”
“The Knight and Whitmer Families.”
“A Mission to the Lamanites.”
Additional historical material for this lesson.
As appropriate, use the following activity or one of your own to begin the lesson.
Write on the chalkboard Samuel Smith → Phinehas Young and John P. Greene → . Explain that once the gospel was restored, the Church began a tremendous missionary effort to spread these glad tidings throughout the world. Many new converts responded with zeal to missionary calls. One of these converts was Joseph Smith’s brother Samuel.
In April 1830, Samuel Smith began traveling to neighboring towns in New York to preach the gospel and introduce people to the Book of Mormon. He had little success, though he did sell a copy of the book to a man named Phinehas Young. In June 1830, Samuel was set apart by the Prophet Joseph to take a missionary journey to the east. He walked 25 miles the first day and stopped at many houses, but the people treated him unkindly and would not listen. The next day he left a copy of the Book of Mormon with John P. Greene, a Methodist minister. John Greene’s wife, Rhoda, was Phinehas Young’s sister.
Facing rejection from almost everyone he contacted, Samuel felt that his mission had not been very successful. However, the books he left with Phinehas Young and John P. Greene led to their conversion and the conversion of many others. For example, Phinehas Young and Rhoda Greene had a brother named Brigham, who was converted and later became the second President of the Church. Brigham Young’s friend Heber C. Kimball also joined the Church. He later served in the First Presidency. Both Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball were instrumental in the conversion of thousands in the United States and England.
Point out that if you were to fill in the blank on the chalkboard with the names of all the people who have been influenced by Samuel Smith’s missionary work, you would have to write millions of names. Those directly influenced included some of the great leaders of the Church. Many of those you teach, if not all of them, have in some way been touched by this service. You may want to write your name and the names of some of the class members on the chalkboard.
This lesson discusses some of the key revelations the Lord has given concerning service in His kingdom, particularly in sharing the gospel. Point out that just as Samuel Smith’s missionary efforts have blessed many generations of Church members, when we share the gospel there is potential to bless many people now and hundreds or even thousands in the future.
This lesson contains more material than is possible to teach in one class period. Prayerfully select the material that will best meet class members’ needs.
In February 1829, Joseph Smith’s parents came to visit Joseph and Emma in Harmony, Pennsylvania. During this time, the Prophet inquired of the Lord and received the revelation recorded in D&C 4 for his father, Joseph Smith Sr.
In addition to this revelation for his father, the Prophet received revelations for many others who asked him to inquire of the Lord and learn of His will for them. Some of these revelations are recorded in D&C 11, 12, 14, 15, and 16. Although these revelations were given for individuals, the principles pertain to all who serve in the Lord’s kingdom (D&C 11:27).
Read D&C 4:1–2 with class members. According to verse 2, what does the Lord require of those who serve in His kingdom? What does it mean to serve with all our heart, might, mind, and strength? (This suggests total dedication to the Lord’s service.)
Why is it important that we devote our whole souls to the Lord’s service? Why are we sometimes less than fully committed to the Lord’s service? How can we improve our commitment to serve the Lord with full devotion?
Explain that Joseph Smith’s father devoted his life to serving the Lord, as he was instructed in D&C 4. Share the following account, which shows the depth of his commitment to share the gospel:
“Joseph Smith, Sr., was filled with the testimony of the truth, and was always anxious to share it with others. He was almost sixty when he made the tedious journey … to carry the gospel to his father and mother, his sisters and brothers. Soon after his return [home,] he was imprisoned for a small debt of fourteen dollars, rather than deny the divinity of the Book of Mormon and be forgiven the debt! He was cast into a cell with a condemned murderer and left for four days without food. Later he was transferred to the prison workyard where he preached the gospel and converted two persons whom he later baptized. He was in prison a full month before his family was able to obtain his release” (E. Cecil McGavin, The Family of Joseph Smith , 68; see also Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith, ed. Preston Nibley , 172–73, 179–86).
How can we show the same commitment to sharing the gospel that Joseph Smith Sr. showed? What experiences have you had when sharing the gospel with your family or neighbors? with people at school or work? with people you meet as you travel? in other circumstances?
Throughout the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord counsels us in how to prepare ourselves to serve Him. Explain that this preparation should be a continual effort throughout our lives.
What are some of the attributes the Lord desires in those who serve Him? (See the following scriptures. List the attributes on the chalkboard and use the questions to encourage discussion.)
D&C 4:3; 11:8. Why is desire an important attribute in serving the Lord? How can we increase our desire to serve Him?
D&C 4:5–6; 12:8; 18:19. Which attributes are repeated most frequently in these verses? Invite class members to share experiences that show the importance of any of these attributes in serving the Lord.
D&C 11:6, 20. Why is obedience important in serving the Lord?
D&C 4:7; 31:12. How has prayer helped you in serving the Lord?
Encourage class members to select one of these attributes and prayerfully strive to improve in it.
Read D&C 11:21 with class members. What can we learn from this verse about preparing to serve the Lord? How have your experiences shown the wisdom of this counsel?
Throughout the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord communicates a sense of urgency about spreading the gospel. This is because the purpose of missionary work is “the salvation of souls” (D&C 100:4).
Read D&C 4:4, 11:3, and D&C 33:3 with class members. What did the Lord mean by comparing missionary work to a field that is ready to be harvested? (Answers could include that many people are prepared to receive the gospel.)
The Lord warned the elders not to be idle and said that they should “go forth” rather than “tarry” (D&C 60:13; 75:3). How might this warning apply to us? Why do some of us delay sharing the gospel?
Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve related the following experience:
“It’s easy to say, ‘The time isn’t right.’ But there is danger in procrastination. Years ago I worked for a man in California. He hired me; he was kind to me; he seemed to regard me highly. I may have been the only Latter-day Saint he ever knew well. I don’t know all the reasons I found to wait for a better moment to talk with him about the gospel. I just remember my feeling of sorrow when I learned, after he had retired and I lived far away, that he and his wife had been killed in a late-night drive to their home in Carmel, California. He loved his wife. He loved his children. He had loved his parents. He loved his grandchildren, and he will love their children and will want to be with them forever.
“Now, I don’t know how the crowds will be handled in the world to come. But I suppose that I will meet him, that he will look into my eyes, and that I will see in them the question, ‘Hal, you knew. Why didn’t you tell me?’” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1998, 42; or Ensign, Nov. 1998, 33).
In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord gives direction about what we should teach and how we should teach as we share the gospel. He also encourages us to share the gospel without fear, promising to help when we feel inadequate.
Read some of the following verses with class members: D&C 11:9, 15:6, 18:6, 31:3–4, 33:10–11, 42:12, and D&C 52:8–9. What do these verses reveal about what the Lord’s servants should teach? Why is the message of repentance so important? (See D&C 18:10–14.)
Read some of the following verses with class members: D&C 18:20–21, 38:41, 42:6, 14, 75:4, and D&C 100:7–8. What do these verses reveal about how the Lord’s servants should teach? Why is it important to avoid contention in teaching the gospel? What does it mean to “[lift] up your voices as with the sound of a trump”? (D&C 42:6; 75:4). How can we be both bold and meek as we teach the gospel? (See Alma 38:10–12.)
The Lord repeatedly exhorted the elders to open their mouths to declare His gospel, “not fearing what man can do” (D&C 30:11; see also D&C 30:5; 33:8–11). The Lord also said that He is not pleased with those who “will not open their mouths … because of the fear of man” (D&C 60:2). How might this apply to us? How can we overcome fear in sharing the gospel? (See D&C 19:38; 33:12–14; 75:9–13.)
Explain that some of us hesitate to share the gospel because we lack confidence in our speaking or teaching abilities. How can we overcome such a concern? (See D&C 11:21; 14:8; 31:3.) Invite class members to tell of experiences when the Spirit has prompted their words as they have shared the gospel.
Refer to the account of Samuel Smith’s first mission, summarized in the attention activity. Why might Samuel Smith have felt like a failure after his first mission? In what ways was he successful? What can we learn from his experience to help us in our missionary efforts?
What does the Lord promise those who labor diligently in His service? (Select some of the following scripture passages to read with class members. Discuss the promises in each passage. Summarize the information on the chalkboard and use the discussion suggestions to encourage application.)
D&C 4:4; 11:3; 75:5.
D&C 18:15–16. Invite class members to express their feelings for Church members who shared the gospel with them or to describe their feelings as they shared the gospel.
D&C 31:5; 84:60–61.
D&C 31:7; 109:55–57. Invite class members to share experiences when the Lord has opened their hearts or the hearts of others to the gospel.
D&C 31:11; 84:85; 100:5–6. Invite class members to share experiences when the Spirit has guided their efforts or inspired them as they have shared the gospel.
D&C 31:13; 75:9–13; 84:88. Invite class members to share experiences when they have felt the Lord support them and bear them up as they have shared the gospel.
D&C 71:9–10. Point out that the Lord gave this promise at a time when the Church was under attack from a bitter apostate. How can this promise help us today?
D&C 84:80. Invite class members to tell how the Lord has sustained them mentally, physically, and spiritually as they have preached the gospel.
D&C 100:7–8. Invite class members to share experiences when they have felt the Holy Ghost bear record while they have shared the gospel.
Encourage class members to give full devotion to serving the Lord. Emphasize that the Lord will bless them as they share the gospel with others. As directed by the Spirit, testify of the truths discussed during the lesson.
You may want to use one or more of the following ideas to supplement the suggested lesson outline.
Have class members each turn to four different sections: D&C 6, 11, 12, and 14. Have one person read the first six verses of any of these sections, and ask the others to follow along in the other sections. Explain that in the scriptures the Lord repeats many instructions, often word for word.
What can we learn from the Lord’s repetition of these instructions? Why is an understanding of these instructions important to us today?
Several times the Lord admonished His servants to “seek to bring forth and establish the cause of Zion” (D&C 6:6; 11:6; 12:6; 14:6). How can we help establish the cause of Zion? (Answers could include by living righteously and building up the kingdom of God in our families, in our stakes and wards, through missionary work, and through temple work.) What are some causes that may distract us from establishing the cause of Zion?
If the videocassette Called to Serve is available (53072), consider showing part of it during class (21 minutes).