Lesson 13: Doctrine and Covenants 4

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual, 2013


Introduction

This revelation, given in February 1829 to Joseph Smith Sr., the Prophet’s father, was the first of several early revelations given to individuals who desired to assist the Lord in His work (see also D&C 11–12; 14–16; 25). In it, Joseph Smith Sr. was called to labor in God’s service. In addition, the Lord outlined qualifications and key attributes for those who serve Him.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 4:1–3

Joseph Smith Sr. is called to labor in God’s service

    Begin by asking students to ponder the following question:
  • Have you ever felt a desire to serve God and wanted to know His will regarding how you could best assist in doing His work?

Explain that Joseph Smith’s father felt such a desire, but he didn’t know what the Lord wanted him to do. In February 1829, Joseph Smith Sr. and his wife, Lucy, visited their son Joseph Smith Jr. in Harmony, Pennsylvania. During that visit, Joseph Smith Jr. received a revelation in answer to his father’s question. Doctrine and Covenants 4 is the Lord’s response, in which He outlined the qualities He expects in those who assist in His work.

Remind students that at the time of this revelation, the Church had not yet been organized and the priesthood had not yet been restored. Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 4:1 silently, looking for how the Lord described the Restoration that was just beginning to unfold.

  • What word did the Lord use to describe the Restoration of the gospel in the latter days?

  • In what ways was the Restoration of the gospel “marvelous”?

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 4:2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord asks of those who embark in His service. (You may want to explain that the word embark means to begin.)

  • According to this verse, what does the Lord expect of those who serve Him?

  • What does it mean to do something “with all your heart, might, mind and strength”?

To help students better understand this phrase, ask them to describe what actions or attributes they might expect to see in a person who is striving to serve God with all his or her heart, might, mind, and strength. You might also want to invite them to give examples of people they know who serve the Lord in this way.

Write the following incomplete statement on the board: If we serve God with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength, ____________________________________________________________________________________________________.

    To help students identify a principle taught in Doctrine and Covenants 4:2, ask the following questions:
  • According to Doctrine and Covenants 4:2, what blessing comes from serving God “with all [our] heart, might, mind and strength”? (As students answer, ask one of them to complete the statement on the board. It should read something similar to the following: If we serve God with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength, we may stand blameless before Him at the last day. You may want to suggest that students mark this phrase in their scriptures.)

  • Why do you think serving the Lord with all our heart, might, mind, and strength will allow us to stand blameless before God?

Encourage students to ponder what it might feel like to stand in God’s presence and be “blameless.” You may want to invite one or two students to share their thoughts.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 4:3 aloud. Ask students to follow along, looking for an attribute that individuals need in order to assist the Lord in His work.

  • What attribute does a person need to have in order to assist the Lord in His work? (A desire to serve God.)

You may want to explain that some consider Doctrine and Covenants 4 only as a call to full-time missionary service. However, Joseph Smith’s father, to whom this revelation was given, was not being called as a full-time missionary. He did, however, follow the counsel in Doctrine and Covenants 4:2–3 for the rest of his life, serving with commitment wherever and whenever he was called. He was one of the Eight Witnesses of the Book of Mormon and one of the first to be baptized when the Church was officially organized on April 6, 1830. He also served as the first Patriarch to the Church and as Assistant Counselor to the First Presidency.

The counsel given in this section can be applied to all who desire to serve the Lord and to the many ways in which we can build the kingdom of God.

  • In addition to full-time missionary service, what are some ways in which we can assist the Lord in His work?

To give students ideas on how they can act on their desire to assist in the Lord’s work now, invite a class member to read aloud the following statement from For the Strength of Youth:

“Some of the most important service you can give will be within your own home. You can also serve in your Church assignments, school, and community. You can serve by doing temple and family history work. You can serve by sharing the gospel with others now and as a full-time missionary in the future. Often the most meaningful service is expressed through simple, everyday acts of kindness. Seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost each day to know whom to serve and how to help meet their needs. Follow the example of the Savior as you serve others” (For the Strength of Youth [booklet, 2011], 32).

Invite students to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals a specific way they want to assist the Lord in His work at this time in their lives.

Doctrine and Covenants 4:4

The field is ready to harvest

If possible, bring a small sample of a grain to class. If none is available, show students a picture of a field of grain, or draw a simple picture of a stalk of wheat on the board. Explain that grains such as wheat or barley change color as they grow. When grain is young it is green, but as it matures it grows pale. When the grain is ready for harvesting, it is often described as “white.”

wheat drawing

Write the following words on the board: field, harvest, sickle. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 4:4 aloud. Before he or she reads, explain that in this verse the Lord compared the people of the world to a field of grain. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the Lord describes the field (or the people of the world).

  • What does the Lord say about His field (or the people of the world)?

  • What do you think is the meaning of the phrase “the field is white already to harvest”? (The people of the world are prepared to be gathered to the Lord and His Church.)

Ask if anyone can explain what a sickle is and what it is used for. (A sickle is a curved knife that is used for harvesting grain. You may want to draw a simple picture of a sickle on the board.)

sickle drawing
  • What do you think it means to thrust in your sickle with all your might? (Work diligently to bring others to Jesus Christ.)

  • According to Doctrine and Covenants 4:4, what blessing comes to those who labor diligently to bring others to Jesus Christ? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following truth: As we labor diligently to bring others unto Jesus Christ, we can also receive salvation for ourselves. You may want to write this principle on the board.)

  • How does helping others come unto Jesus Christ help us come unto Him as well?

To help students strengthen their testimonies of this principle, invite a few of them to give examples of how they have felt closer to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ as they have worked to help others come to Them. You may also want to share your own experience or witness of this principle.

Doctrine and Covenants 4:5–7

The Lord outlines qualifications and key attributes for serving Him

Ask students to name a few occupations. Choose one or two of the occupations they mention, and ask them to identify qualifications and necessary attributes that someone would need in order to succeed in that occupation. Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 4:5 silently, looking for the attributes that qualify a person to assist in the Lord’s work. (You may want to invite a student to list these attributes on the board as the class identifies them. You might also want to suggest that students mark them in their scriptures.)

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 4:6 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, noting the additional attributes the Lord counsels His servants to “remember.” (You may want to ask a student to write these attributes on the board next to the ones from verse 5.)

Ask students to identify a truth from verses 5–6 about what developing divine attributes allows us to do. Students may use different words, but they should identify the following truth: Our efforts to develop divine attributes will help us qualify to assist in the work of the Lord. (You may want to write this principle on the board. You may also want to suggest that students write it in their scriptures next to Doctrine and Covenants 4:5–6.)

  • How might developing each of the attributes in verses 5–6 help us be more effective in assisting in the Lord’s work?

  • Which of the attributes listed in these verses would you like to develop more fully? Why?

Ask a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 4:7 aloud while the class searches for how we can seek after and develop these attributes.

  • What does it mean to “ask” and to “knock”?

  • How do you think prayer can help us develop divine attributes?

To conclude the lesson, you may want to invite students to testify of the blessings they have received as they have assisted in the Lord’s work.

Commentary and Background Information

Doctrine and Covenants 4. Instruction to those who desire to serve in the Church

President Joseph Fielding Smith of the First Presidency declared:

“[Doctrine and Covenants 4] is very short, only seven verses, but it contains sufficient counsel and instruction for a lifetime of study. No one has yet mastered it. It was not intended as a personal revelation to Joseph Smith, but to be of benefit to all who desire to embark in the service of God. It is a revelation to each member of the Church, especially to all who hold the Priesthood. Perhaps there is no other revelation in all our scriptures that embodies greater instruction pertaining to the manner of qualification of members of the Church for the service of God, and in such condensed form than this revelation. It is as broad, as high and as deep as eternity. No elder of the Church is qualified to teach in the Church, or carry the message of Salvation to the world, until he has absorbed, in part at least, this heaven-sent instruction” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 2 vols. [1953], 1:35).

Supplemental Teaching Idea

Doctrine and Covenants 4:5–7. Developing divine attributes

The following activity can help students ponder the divine attributes they already have and those they desire to obtain. Provide each student with a copy of the following self-assessment, or display it on the board. Invite students to read each item on the assessment silently, decide how true each statement is about them, and choose the most appropriate response from the response key. Invite them to write their responses in their class notebooks or scripture study journals or on their individual copies of the assessment. Remind them that spiritual growth is a gradual process, so they should expect to rate themselves better on some items than on others.

After sufficient time, consider asking several students to share what they have learned from this activity. Ask students to write a sentence or two about one attribute they would like to develop more fully.

Response Key

1 = never 2 = sometimes 3 = often 4 = almost always 5 = always
Faith
  1. 1.

    ____ I believe in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

  2. 2.

    ____ I trust Heavenly Father enough to accept His will and do
    whatever He asks.

  3. 3.

    ____ I have the faith necessary to help make good things happen in my
    life and the lives of others.

  4. 4.

    ____ I have enough faith in Jesus Christ to obtain answers to my prayers.

Hope
  1. 1.

    ____ One of my greatest desires is to inherit eternal life in the celestial kingdom of God.

  2. 2.

    ____ I feel peaceful and optimistic about the future.

  3. 3.

    ____ I firmly believe that someday I will dwell with God and become like Him.

Charity and Love
  1. 1.

    ____ I feel a sincere desire for the eternal welfare and happiness of other people.

  2. 2.

    ____ When I pray, I ask for charity—the pure love of Christ.

  3. 3.

    ____ I try to help other people when they are struggling or discouraged.

  4. 4.

    ____ I look for opportunities to serve other people.

Eye Single to the Glory of God
  1. 1.

    ____ I focus my efforts on the things of God rather than the things of the world.

  2. 2.

    ____ I focus my thoughts on the things of God rather than the things of the world.

  3. 3.

    ____ I do good things because I love God, not because I want to impress others.

Virtue
  1. 1.

    ____ I am clean and pure in heart.

  2. 2.

    ____ I am dependable—I do what I say I will do.

  3. 3.

    ____ I focus on righteous, uplifting thoughts and put unwholesome thoughts out of my mind.

  4. 4.

    ____ I repent of my sins and strive to overcome my weaknesses.

Knowledge
  1. 1.

    ____ I feel confident in my understanding of gospel doctrines and principles.

  2. 2.

    ____ I study the scriptures daily.

  3. 3.

    ____ I receive knowledge and guidance through the Spirit.

Temperance
  1. 1.

    ____ I live the Word of Wisdom, as outlined in D&C 89.

  2. 2.

    ____ I control what I think, say, and do, even in tense or frustrating situations.

  3. 3.

    ____ I successfully balance schoolwork, family time, Church callings, and social life.

Patience
  1. 1.

    ____ I am patient with myself and rely on the Lord as I work to overcome my weaknesses.

  2. 2.

    ____ I am patient with the faults and weaknesses of others.

  3. 3.

    ____ I face problems and challenges calmly and hopefully.

Brotherly Kindness
  1. 1.

    ____ I am nice to others, even when they might not deserve it.

  2. 2.

    ____ I say positive things about others.

  3. 3.

    ____ I am considerate of the feelings of others.

Godliness
  1. 1.

    ____ I know Heavenly Father lives, and I want to be like Him.

  2. 2.

    ____ I try to be like Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in all that I think, say, and do.

Humility
  1. 1.

    ____ I am sincerely grateful for the blessings I receive from Heavenly Father.

  2. 2.

    ____ My prayers are sincere and meaningful.

  3. 3.

    ____ I appreciate advice and guidance from my leaders, teachers, and parents.

  4. 4.

    ____ I strive to be submissive to Heavenly Father’s will, whatever it may be.

Diligence
  1. 1.

    ____ I work effectively, even when I’m not under pressure or close supervision.

  2. 2.

    ____ I focus my efforts on the most important things.

  3. 3.

    ____ I work hard until a job is finished successfully.