Doctrine & Covenants/Church History
“The Field Is White Already to Harvest”
"Serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength."
Prepare to serve the Lord.
"The field is white."
"Open your mouths and they shall be filled."
The Lord promises great blessings to those who labor in His service.
A study of this lesson will help us resolve to strengthen the kingdom of God
through diligent service, particularly by sharing the gospel through missionary
Scripture references for study:
Note: Underlined scripture references have been hyperlinked
to the LDS Scriptures at LDS.org and will open in a new window.
Lesson 11 Handout (PDF)
The Field Is White
Joseph and Emma Smith spent the winter of 1829 in Harmony, Pennsylvania. This period follows the events surrounding the early translation of the
plates, Martin Harris' visit to Professor Anthon in New York, and the loss
of the 116 page manuscript.
In February 1829 the Joseph and Emma were visited by Joseph's parents,
Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith.
"The monotony of the winter of 1829 was broken
by a visit from his father in February, who was naturally anxious about
the progress of his son's work. During his visit the Prophet inquired of
the Lord to learn the relationship his father was to occupy to the work
then coming forth, and in which he had such unlimited faith. In answer
the Prophet received the following revelation [D&C 4] through Urim
and Thummim" (CHC, 1:116).
President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote concerning this revelation: "This
revelation is very short, only seven verses, but it contains sufficient
counsel and instruction for a life-time 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 & Modern Revelation, p33)
For additional background information on this period in Church history, see
Revelations in Context at LDS.org.
The words of the Lord to the Prophet's father: "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" (D&C 4:4).
In a later revelation to Hyrum Smith the Lord said: "Behold,
the field is white already to harvest; therefore, whoso desireth to reap
let him thrust in his sickle with his might, and reap while the day lasts,
that he may treasure up for his soul everlasting salvation in the kingdom
of God" (D&C 11:3).
In a revelation given in October 1830 to Ezra Thayre and Northrop Sweet
the Lord said: "For behold, the field is
white already to harvest; and it is the eleventh hour, and the last time
that I shall call laborers into my vineyard" (D&C 33:3). The Lord also used this phrase about the readiness of the field in
WHAT DOES THE LORD MEAN WHEN HE SAYS "THE FIELD IS WHITE ALREADY TO HARVEST"?
Brother Richard O. Cowen: "The Lord has
compared his work on earth to harvesting crops in a field or a vineyard
(see Matthew 9:37-38; John 4:35-36). The heads of grain in a field take
on a white color when they are ready to be harvested. The field is not
'all ready to harvest' but is 'already to harvest'—that is, the harvest
is not just about to begin but is now in progress. Hence our need to get
involved is urgent." (Answers To Your Questions About
the Doctrine & Covenants, p9)
Some symbols (see A Companion To Your Study of the New Testament, p127):
The field = the world, or that part of the world, in which the activity
was being carried forth.
Harvest = the precious souls of mankind in the world; sometimes the word
also has reference to the actual process of teaching the gospel.
Laborers = the missionaries or others who have the responsibility to teach
Reap with a sickle or scythe = the process of harvesting or of teaching
the gospel; the sickle is an important implement used in cutting the grain
or crop so it can be harvested.
A few years ago my son and I made a bicycle trip that took us into
south central Washington. We traveled south from Yakima to Prosser. At Prosser, we climbed a long hill to a plateau that borders the Columbia
River. Once up on the plateau we saw wheat fields that seemed to stretch
to the horizon. We traveled through the area at a time when
the wheat was near harvest. No longer was the wheat green, but it
was yellow or white and ready to be harvested. If my son and I taken
a sickle and began harvesting this massive crop, we could have made little more
than a dent in the fields. Many laborers, thousands, would have been necessary
to harvest the crops by hand.
So it is with the missionary work. The field
of the world has been, and continues to be, ready for harvesting. The laborers have gone out, but they are few. These few are harvesting
a great crop, but the fields seem to stretch on and on just as the wheat
fields stretched on for miles in south central Washington. There
is still a great work to do.
As we look out at the "field" we sometimes think that the task is so large
that we do not believe we can make a difference. We are often discouraged
and might give up the task because it seems so difficult or great. We should not and cannot make that mistake. We do not know what impact
our efforts, our testimonies, and our examples have on those around us. Consider the following missionary stories:
Samuel Smith (see Joseph Smith and the Restoration,
At the first conference of the Church, in June 1830, the Prophet's brother
Samuel was ordained an elder. Shortly thereafter, the Prophet set
Samuel apart as a missionary to take the Book of Mormon to the people in
the vicinity of Palmyra.
On June 30th, Samuel started down the road with a knapsack filled with copies
of the Book of Mormon. On that first day Samuel walked 25 miles without
a favorable contact. After a tiring and discouraging day, Samuel
stopped at a wayside tavern. He told the tavern keeper about the
Book of Mormon and how it came to be. The man, in a rage, said, "Get
out! You shan't stay one minute with your books."
On another day, in Bloomfield, New York, Samuel left a Book of Mormon with
John P. Green, a circuit preacher. Green was not interested, but said he
would sell the book to anyone that was. When Samuel returned to Bloomfield,
no one had purchased the book, but Mrs. Green had read it and believed
it. Samuel was inspired to leave it with her. Later Greene read it and
Mrs. Green loaned this book to her brother who read it. Her brother
was Brigham Young.
On this same trip a book was sold to Greene's brother-in-law, Phineas Young,
a Methodist preacher. Also, a brother to Brigham Young. He read the
book twice and "felt a conviction that the book was true."
John Young, father to Brigham and Phineas, read the book and believed it.
John's sister, Fanny Murray, mother-in-law of Heber C. Kimball, borrowed
the book and believed that it was revelation from God.
It is probable that Heber C. Kimball borrowed and read one of Samuel's
Book of Mormons.
Samuel returned from his brief mission without any apparent success. Little did he know at that time what seeds were planted and how many lives
would be touched over the generations.
Heber C. Kimball presided over the opening of the British mission in 1837
resulting in the baptism of hundreds of new Saints and opening the door
to further missionary work.
In 1839, Brigham Young led the Twelve, including Heber C. Kimball, went on a
second mission to England resulting in the baptisms of thousands of Saints.
How many Saints have been touched by the gospel because of the efforts
of Samuel Smith? We do not know what impact our efforts will have
President Gordon B. Hinckley tells this story:
"You don't know how much good you can do; you
can't foresee the results of the effort you put in. Years ago, President
Charles A. Callis, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, but who previously
was president of the Southern States Mission for twenty-five years, told
me this story. He said that he had a missionary in the southern states
who came in to get his release at the conclusion of his mission. His mission
president said to him, 'Have you had a good mission?'
"He said, 'No.'
"'How is that?'
"'Well, I haven't
had any results from my work. I have wasted my time and my father's money.
It's been a waste of time.'
said, 'Haven't you baptized anyone?'
"He said, 'I baptized
only one person during the two years that I have been here. That was a
twelve-year-old boy up in the back hollows of Tennessee.'
"He went home with
a sense of failure. Brother Callis said, 'I decided to follow that boy
who had been baptized. I wanted to know what became of him. The next time
I went up into that area I looked him up. He had put on shoes (he'd never
worn shoes before), he'd put on a shirt (he'd never had a shirt before),
he was the clerk of the little branch Sunday School.'
said, 'I followed him through the years. He became the Sunday School Superintendent,
and he eventually became the branch president. He married. He moved off
the little tenant farm on which he and his parents before him had lived
and got a piece of ground of his own and made it fruitful. He became the
district president. He sold that piece of ground in Tennessee and moved
to Idaho and bought a farm along the Snake River and prospered there. His
children grew. They went on missions. They came home. They had children
of their own who went on missions.'
continued, 'I've just spent a week up in Idaho looking up every member
of that family that I could find and talking to them about their missionary
service. I discovered that, as the result of the baptism of that one little
boy in the back hollows of Tennessee by a missionary who thought he had
failed, more than 1,100 people have come into the Church.'
can foretell the consequences of your work, my beloved brethren and sisters,
when you serve as missionaries." (Teachings of Gordon
B. Hinckley, pp360-361)
Is the field still "white" and ready to harvest?
We sometimes think that the great missionary work was done in the early
days of the Church. We read the stories of the Twelve going to England
and marvel that they were able to baptize so many converts. In Herefordshire,
Wilford Woodruff was instrumental in the baptism of hundreds of converts. President Joseph Fielding Smith relates this story: "Losing
no time, on the morning of the 5th, Brother Woodruff stated he would like
to begin his labors by preaching to the people. There was a large
hall in the mansion of Mr. Benbow, which was available for that purpose,
and the people were invited to come and hear the new message, from the
new world across the sea. The people of the neighborhood deserted
their ministers and came to hear this strange preacher, who, in the course
of a short time, baptized over six hundred persons in that place. At the meeting held on March 8, a constable, sent through complaint of
the parish rector, came to arrest him for 'preaching to the people.' Elder Woodruff said he had a license to preach as well as the rector, and
if the constable would take a chair and sit beside him until the close
of the meeting he would be at his service. He then launched forth
on a discourse treating the first principles of the Gospel, and at the
close of the meeting opened the door for baptism, and several came forward
to be baptized; among the number were four preachers and the constable,
who said, 'Mr. Woodruff, I would like to be baptized.' The constable
went to the rector and told him that if he wanted Mr. Woodruff arrested,
he must go himself and serve the writ, for he had heard him preach the
only true Gospel sermon he had ever heard. The rector then sent two
clerks of the Church of England as spies, and they were both baptized."
(Essentials In Church History, pp233-234)
When we read stories like this, we are tempted to think that the great
days of missionary work are past. We cannot allow ourselves to entertain
such thoughts. Yes, those early missionaries laid a great foundation,
but the missionary work is moving forward as never before. In 2015,
there were 257,402 convert baptisms. The total membership of the
Church did not reach that number until just before 1900, some 70 years after the Church
was organized. Almost one million members are being baptized every
three years. It took the Church until 1947 to reach the first million,
almost 150 years. And now that number is being duplicated every three
to four years. We live in the great day of missionary work. The gospel is being spread as never before in the history of the world. More importantly, these are not just numbers, but individual people whose
lives have been touched and changed because someone shared the gospel.
It is essential that the missionary work moves forward. This is not
a challenge or a competition, but it is the work of eternal salvation (D&C
"Behold, they have been sent to preach my gospel
among the congregations of the wicked; wherefore, I give unto them a commandment,
thus: Thou shalt not idle away thy time, neither shalt thou bury thy talent
that it may not be known" (D&C 60:13).
"Behold, I say unto you that it is my will that
you should go forth and not tarry, neither be idle but labor with your
might—Lifting up your voices as with the sound of a trump, proclaiming
the truth according to the revelations and commandments which I have given
you" (D&C 75:3).
HOW MIGHT THESE WARNINGS APPLY TO US? WHY DO SOME OF US DELAY SHARING THE
Elder Henry B. Eyring: "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?’" (Ensign,
Nov 1998, p33).
It is easy to sit back and let the full time missionaries do the work. As Elder Eyring indicates, we have a responsibility to share the great
gospel message with our friends and neighbors. This is the work of
eternity. Why are we so often willing to keep this great gospel to
ourselves? How do we get ourselves motivated to share the great gospel
President George Albert Smith: "It is not necessary
for you to be called to go into the mission field in order to proclaim
the truth. Begin on the man who lives next door by inspiring confidence
in him , by inspiring love in him for you because of your righteousness,
and your missionary work has already begun." (Conference Report,
"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"
O Ye That Embark In The Service Of God
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?
"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" (D&C
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE ATTRIBUTES THE LORD DESIRES IN THOSE WHO SERVE HIM?
"This is a way of saying that a person must be
totally committed to the work and have no reservation. This commitment
involves the emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and physical energy of
the person. Other ways of saying the same thing are 'with an eye single
to the glory God' (D&C 4:5) and 'not man can serve two masters' (Matthew
6:24)." (D&C Student Manual, p12)
We cannot be fully successful in any endeavor in life unless we fully commit
ourselves to it. How can we be fully successful at a career, if we
are daydreaming at work about the next fishing trip or golf match? Why should service in behalf of the Lord be any different?
Several years ago
I thought it would be an interesting challenge to run a marathon (26.2
miles). I picked a marathon about nine months off and determined
to prepare myself to run it. That was a major undertaking since I
had not been an active runner up to that point. Over the next several
months I became immersed in preparation for the race. My daily run
was only part of the preparation. I did stretching exercises. I made sure I had the proper shoes and clothing. I was concerned
about diet. I read books on running. I subscribed to a running
magazine. I kept a running journal and mentally evaluated each run
and how I was doing in my overall preparation. Most Saturdays I went
out and did a road race with other runners. I had a good friend at
work and we talked about running almost every day. Did I finish the
marathon the following March? Absolutely. I had put much of
my "heart, might, mind, and strength" into the effort.
Are we doing this with our service to the Lord,
particularly missionary service? Are we daily doing those
things that prepare us for the big race (sharing the gospel)? Are
we studying the scriptures? Are we counseling with the Lord? Are we thinking about sharing the gospel and are we discussing it with
our families? Are we friendly with our neighbors and other associates?
Consider the following account of the Prophet's father: "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." (The Family of Joseph Smith, p68)
HOW CAN WE DEMONSTRATE THE SAME COMMITMENT TO SHARING THE GOSPEL AS JOSEPH
Read the following verses:
Desire to serve.
Faith and hope.
Charity and love.
An eye single to the glory of God
Obedience to the commandments.
We could have a lengthy discussion on each of these attributes and how
important they are to successfully serving the Lord. Anyone who has
served a mission can go through this list and describe how important each
attribute is to being a good missionary. We could start with the
first attribute, desire to serve. If one does not have the desire,
he or she will not have sufficient motivation to do the work. Without
the desire, one will not invest all his or her "heart, might, mind, and strength." Each attribute is just as important.
- I am not much of a handyman, but occasionally I take on the task of repairs
around the house or even a home improvement project. A few years
ago I remodeled one of our bathrooms. I tore up the linoleum and
the plywood flooring and replaced it with new plywood and a ceramic tile
floor. We replaced the sink and put in a new cabinet. I installed
new lighting. I replaced all the hardware in the toilet. And
I finished it off with a new paint job. One can imagine that
there were a lot of different tools involved in this project. Every time
I needed a different tool I would wander off to my workbench to find it
or I would go off to the home improvement store to purchase it. I
spent a lot of time chasing down tools when I could have been working on
the project. The other day I was shopping and saw a tool box on wheels,
kind of like luggage on wheels. I thought, what a great
idea. If I had all my tools organized in such a manner, I would save
a lot of steps and be far more efficient.
- The attributes above are the tools we need to do the missionary work. Each attribute is as necessary as were each of the tools in my bathroom
project. Paintbrushes, wrenches, tile cutters, tape measures, screwdrivers,
wire cutters, and more were essential to completing my project. Faith,
diligence, knowledge, obedience, and the rest are essential to properly
doing the Lord's home improvement project, bringing his children home. How much more efficient we can be if we have all our tools (attributes)
together in our tool box. As we prepare to do missionary work, and
as we prepare our children to serve, we want to develop these attributes
so that we and are children are fully prepared when we go out to do the
Say Nothing But Repentance Unto This Generation
WHAT SHOULD THE LORD'S SERVANTS TEACH?
"And your whole labor shall be in Zion, with all
your soul, from henceforth; yea, you shall ever open your mouth in my cause,
not fearing what man can do, for I am with you" (D&C 30:11).
"Say nothing but repentance unto this generation"
"And now, behold, I say unto you, that the thing which will be of the most
worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto this people, that you
may bring souls unto me" (D&C 15:6).
Baptism and the Holy Ghost.
"Yea, open your mouths and they shall be filled,
saying: Repent, repent, and prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his
paths straight; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand; Yea, repent and be
baptized, every one of you, for a remission of your sins; yea, be baptized
even by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost"
"Lift up your heart and rejoice, for the hour
of your mission is come; and your tongue shall be loosed, and you shall
declare glad tidings of great joy unto this generation. You shall
declare the things which have been revealed to my servant, Joseph Smith,
Jun." (D&C 31:3-4).
The fulness of the gospel.
"And again, the elders, priests and teachers of
this church shall teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible
and the Book of Mormon, in the which is the fulness of the gospel"
The words of the prophets.
"And let them journey from thence preaching the
word by the way, saying none other things than that which the prophets
and apostles have written, and that which is taught them by the Comforter
through the prayer of faith" (D&C 52:9).
As we review this counsel from the Lord, we find that those who preach
the gospel are to preach the gospel basics. As a young missionary
I learned how important it was to preach these principles and not deviate. Those who learn to accept these basic principles will eventually enter
the waters of baptism. Those who pursue grand philosophies, or debate,
or discuss the history of religion are led away from the basic message
of the Lord which is the foundation upon which testimonies are germinated
The Lord promises great blessings to those who labor in His service.
WHY IS IT THAT WE ARE OFTEN HESITANT IN SHARING THE GOSPEL?
HOW CAN WE OVERCOME THIS HESITANCY?
"Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to
obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire,
you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing
of men" (D&C 11:21).
"And it shall come to pass, that if you shall
ask the Father in my name, in faith believing, you shall receive the Holy
Ghost, which giveth utterance, that you may stand as a witness of the things
of which you shall both hear and see, and also that you may declare repentance
unto this generation" (D&C 14:8).
Consider this counsel from Elder M. Russell Ballard: "Perhaps
more importantly, however, we should seek at all times to purify ourselves
and to lead such worthy lives that the Light of Christ emanates from us
in all that we say and do. Our day-to-day lives should stand as immutable
witness of our faith in Christ." (Conference Report, Apr 2000)
"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" (D&C 4:4).
"Behold, the field is white already to harvest;
therefore, whoso desireth to reap let him thrust in his sickle with his
might, and reap while the day lasts, that he may treasure up for his soul
everlasting salvation in the kingdom of God" (D&C 11:3).
"And if it so be that you should labor all your
days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul
unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought
unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you
should bring many souls unto me!" (D&C 18:15-16).
Great are the blessings of serving the Lord in sharing his gospel message. Almost every missionary comes home and describes his or her service as the
greatest time of their life. It is an awesome honor to represent
the Lord. As we go out and share this great message, we are blessed. As we consider missionary work, I am reminded of an old Hindu proverb,
"Help thy brother's boat across--and lo! thine own has reached the shore."
Isn't this what the Lord has promised?
|Perhaps today there are loving words
Which Jesus would have me speak;
There may be now in the paths of sin
Some wand'rer whom I should seek.
O Savior, if thou wilt be my guide,
Tho dark and rugged the way,
My voice shall echo the message sweet:
I'll say what you want me to say.
For additional information on this topic see
Gospel Doctrine Notebook
Record your thoughts on the teachings from this lesson. What can you do to
be a better missionary?
Resources Used In This Lesson
A Companion To Your Study of the New Testament by Daniel H. Ludlow.
A Comprehensive History of the Church by B.H. Roberts (CHC).
Answers To Your Questions About the Doctrine & Covenants by Richard O. Cowen.
Church History & Modern Revelation by Joseph Fielding Smith.
Conference Reports (CR).
Essentials In Church History by Joseph Fielding Smith.
Joseph Smith and the Restoration by Ivan J. Barrett.
Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley.
The Family of Joseph Smith by E. Cecil McGavin.
Gospel Doctrine Class
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Changes last made on:
17 January 2017