While missionaries are in the Missionary Training Center and when they are serving in the field, they are often called upon to repeat one of the shorter sections of the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 4 [D&C 4]. But though this section is made up of only 145 words—it takes approximately 45 seconds to read—it contains a power out of proportion to its length.
Section 4 was revealed 14 months before the Church was formally organized. The Lord recognized that success in Church affairs, like all other success, is made up of knowledge, attitudes, skills, habits, and personality traits. We can develop these more quickly and profitably when we have the proper direction in the procedures we need to follow. Our problem is like that of a good contractor. If we can carefully follow the blueprint, the final objective will be assured.
Looking one at a time at the seven verses that make up Section 4, we see that the Lord has here revealed a straightforward formula for success, in our Church and missionary activities and in life in general.
The first verse [D&C 4:1] says, “Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men.” There is danger that this first sentence may seem a little too commonplace and therefore escape our notice. But in this sentence is found the very foundation of all success.
Do we really understand the significance of the fact that the gospel of Jesus Christ is again upon the earth, with authority to minister in all of the ordinances having to do with the celestial kingdom? When this fact is firmly established in our minds and hearts, then we believe success is achievable.
The first principle of the gospel is faith. The foundation of all success is faith. One must be a convert before any real accomplishment is possible. The first step in any progress is to believe it is possible. And so the first sentence in this accomplishment formula is a faith clause, an affirmation of belief.
There is another significant implication in the first verse, to the effect that we may have as great a part in this marvelous work as we choose. We may have any blessing included in the gospel that we are willing to live for. But many of us fail to reach our maximum possibilities simply because we do not comprehend the overwhelming importance of this “marvelous work.”
Not only should we feel and understand the tremendous importance of the work, but we should also feel and understand the tremendous importance of the worker. Sometimes people are unable to distinguish between the two, and they judge the importance of the work by the quality of the lives of those who carry it forward.
This is the greatest and last of all the gospel dispensations, the dispensation of the fulness of times, the dispensation that shall prepare the way before the glorious second coming of the Lord. What can you think of in the world that is more thrilling than this single idea? How vigorous we should be in performing our part of this “marvelous work” with corresponding skill and devotion!
The second verse [D&C 4:2] says, “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.”
This is the cooperation and coordination clause. When we embark in such an important undertaking as the work of God, both our Heavenly Father and we ourselves ought to be assured of our whole-souled effort. We ought to make up our minds once and for all that our service will be enthusiastic, vigorous, continuous, and of high quality.
Success is not made up of fractional devotion, marginal morals, or minimum performance. Success does not come easily to one who is disabled by every little discouragement, nor does it come to one who has a large degree of personal irresponsibility.
Like the first verse, this one also contains one of the great keys of success in any undertaking. This is the ability to coordinate all of our powers into one cooperative effort. This involves a joint action of heart, mind, might, and strength.
To serve Him with all our hearts means that our love and devotion should be genuine and complete. To serve Him with all our might is to employ to the utmost our determination, commitment, and willpower. It does not mean to walk the irregular pathway of vacillation and procrastination. To serve Him with all our mind requires a strong, positive mental attitude. It means continual study, thoughtfulness, meditation, and firm, positive decisions on each of the questions involved. To serve Him with all of our strength requires vigorous, persistent, continuous physical activity.
By this process of consolidation and joint action one may concentrate all of the elements of personal effectiveness into one united, fiery, and powerful effort. We thereby achieve a centrality in our purpose. Our effort becomes not only highly concentrated but well focused and accurately directed.
Psychologically speaking, a person whose life is characterized by this united effort is all in one piece, rather than a bundle of conflicting impulses held loosely together by circumstances. Such a consolidated personality is capable of maximum efficiency and accomplishment.
The third verse [D&C 4:3] says, “Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work.”
A greater success principle than this can hardly be imagined. A consuming desire is the greatest qualification for any success and is the basis for our call to serve. If our desire is strong enough, accomplishment is assured. But if we don’t want to do it, we probably won’t.
One of the ways a physician judges physical health is by the appetite. God judges our devotion by our desire to serve and has made that the outstanding qualification. It is easy to lose our appetite for the things of God if we lack desire.
What a great thrill it should give us to hear these qualifying words, “If ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work.” The desire brings the call! That is not only our opportunity, it is also the big test that each of us must pass. We should learn to hunger and thirst after righteousness, to use capital letters when we WANT to serve God.
We must desire with greater intensity. Desire is the father of initiative, resourcefulness, ambition, and all of the other virtues. Desire is the quality that makes us want to “do many things of [our] own free will” (D&C 58:27). The desire clause is the power clause. God grants to us “according to [our] desires” (Alma 29:5).
The fourth verse [D&C 4:4] says, “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.”
This is the opportunity clause. Now is one of the most productive gospel harvest times in the history of the world. This is not a time of gleaning or unproductivity; this is the harvest of greatest abundance. What a great time to live and be in the field. May God help us that we may not lack strength, but strike with full power while the opportunity is before us.
The fifth verse [D&C 4:5] says, “And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.”
One of the most vital qualifications for spiritual success is to have an “eye single to the glory of God.” That means concentration, to keep just one thing in our focus. When we start to see double or triple, we become confused, and conflict and failure are the natural results. The scripture says that “a double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8). “No man can serve two masters” (Matt. 6:24).
It is easy to serve God if we give our all, all of the time, under all circumstances. But we can’t very well ride two horses in the same race. One man tried that once; and he just got everything going to his liking when the horses ran on opposite sides of a tree.
When we do right things part of the time and wrong things the other part, we always get into trouble. We tear our success down during our negative periods as much as we build it up during the positive periods. Consistency is one of the jewels of our personality. A devoted singleness of purpose can always be depended upon to perform a miracle of accomplishment.
The sixth verse [D&C 4:6] says, “Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence.”
These are the attributes of God himself. These personality traits determine what we are. Almost all of success is determined by the kind of personality we build in ourselves. We must not overlook the personality clause.
The seventh verse [D&C 4:7] says, “Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Amen.”
To get all of the blessings of the Lord is as simple as that. This seventh verse is the appraisal or evaluation clause. All of the benefits of the gospel are ours for the asking, providing only that we do it in time.
Suppose that we had unlimited funds and were asked to pay for our blessings. How long would our money last? That is, what would be a fair price for repentance if you couldn’t repent? How much would it be worth to live forever in the celestial kingdom, if you had already been consigned elsewhere? How much would you be willing to pay to get your family back, if they were eternally lost?
Try to imagine a fair price for the priesthood, or a godly character, or eternal progression, or eternal increase. What would be your appraisal of the value of a celestial body, a celestial mind, a celestial personality, a chance to live forever on celestial earth with celestial friends and loved ones? We may even share in the profession of God, which is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
These and a thousand other things have been provided for us. And what do these traits of godliness and intelligence cost us? Just “ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” What a thrilling opportunity!
The success formula of Section 4 is expressed in these seven short verses. What great spiritual wealth and power can be ours if we live up to them. What a transformation there would be in our personal effectiveness if we strictly followed this blueprint for success, given and organized by the Lord.