As a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints so many years ago, I loved section 4 of the Doctrine and Covenants. In fact, these verses were part of several quotes and scriptures that we read daily and were encouraged to memorize. The field truly was “white already to harvest” (Doctrine and Covenants 4:4), and harvest we did. I loved my time as a full-time missionary for the restored Church of Jesus Christ in the Philippines and will forever recall the people I served and the experiences I had.
But now, here I am 20 years later, wondering how this section of the Doctrine and Covenants can apply to me and my family today.
Many Ways to Serve God
One of the “Ideas for Personal Scripture Study” in the January 18-24 Doctrine and Covenants 2021: Come, Follow Me--For Individuals and Families lesson explains: “Section 4 is often applied to full-time missionaries. However, it’s interesting to note that this revelation was given originally to Joseph Smith Sr., who wasn’t being called on a mission but still had ‘desires to serve God.’”
With this insight, the question becomes: Do we each have a desire to serve God? In order to do that, we don’t have to be amazing, super talented individuals. It may not be the time to serve a full-time mission, but there are many ways that we can serve God every day.
A few weeks ago, one of my children told me that they saw all that we (mom and dad) were doing to fulfill our callings in the Church, and they wondered if they had the ability to give so much. This conversation left me with a lot to think about. What does it take to serve God? I could see their desire to serve, but I could also see that they didn’t know if they had what it would take to serve.
This is where Doctrine and Covenants Section 4 comes in and tells us what is required to be a part of the work—”Faith, hope, charity and love ... qualify him for the work” (Doctrine and Covenants 4:5). We don’t have to have unique spiritual gifts, like the gift of tongues or the gift of healing. We don’t have to be able to sing like angels. We don’t even have to be able to speak in public. It starts with a desire that leads to nurturing faith, hope, and charity.
Growing Faith, Hope, and Charity
Consider what faith, hope, and charity are.
Faith is something that is always growing. We teach our children that faith is like a little seed. As we have that desire, we experiment upon the word as taught by Alma, “yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow” (Alma 32:30). Our faith in Christ can always be growing and developing.
The Gospel Topics manual provides this definition of hope: “Hope is the confident expectation of and longing for the promised blessings of righteousness. The scriptures often speak of hope as anticipation of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ” (“Hope,” Gospel Topics).
President Dallin H. Oaks described charity and what one must do to obtain it: “Charity, ‘the pure love of Christ’ (Moroni 7:47), is not an act but a condition or state of being. Charity is attained through a succession of acts that result in a conversion. Charity is something one becomes” (“The Challenge to Become,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 34).
In an address to BYU in January 1995, President Russell M. Nelson explained how all three attributes are interrelated: “Hope is often linked with faith. Hope and faith are commonly connected to charity. Why? Because hope is essential to faith; faith is essential to hope; faith and hope are essential to charity. They support one another like legs on a three-legged stool. All three relate to our Redeemer. Faith is rooted in Jesus Christ. Hope centers in his Atonement. Charity is manifest in the ‘pure love of Christ.’ These three attributes are intertwined like strands in a cable and may not always be precisely distinguished” (“A More Excellent Hope,” Ensign, Feb. 1997).
Becoming Instruments in God’s Hands
God doesn’t require perfection; He doesn’t require brilliance or amazing strength. All He requires is the desire to be more like Him. Through this desire we learn to have faith in Heavenly Father, combined with our hope centered on our Savior’s atonement, and guiding us to Christ’s pure love being manifest in the actions of our lives. All God requires is a desire to serve Him, and He will make us instruments in His hands.
Now, as we circle back to the conversation with one of my children, I was surprised that child thought I was giving so much. I didn’t see it as much, just doing what I had been asked to do. God will always make what little we have to offer more. He will make the small offering of our desire to serve Him bigger than we could ever imagine. Whether our desire is serving a full-time mission or simply being the best class president, nursery leader, or Sunday School teacher that we can be, Christ will accept our offering and make it grand.
While Joseph Smith Sr. didn’t ever serve a mission, he did go on to become the first Patriarch to the Church and a strong supporter of his son—Joseph Smith Jr.—and of the Church of Jesus Christ. This all began with a simple desire to serve God. Imagine the great things we might do when we act on our desire to serve and then do so with all our “heart, might, mind and strength” (Doctrine and Covenants 4:2).