James 1:1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ
James, the Lord's brother, is considered the author of the Epistle of James. The other James, the brother of John, had been killed by Herod as early as 44 AD (see Acts 12:1). James' prominent position in the early church can be determined from the important role he played in the council described in Acts 15, wherein he presides in a meeting which determines the extent to which converted Gentiles are to live the proscriptions of the Mosaic law. Described as an apostle (Gal. 1:19), it would seem that this James took the place of the son of Zebedee in the First Presidency of the early church (Gal 2:9). He also had general authority over the church in Jerusalem and was known as the first bishop of Jerusalem.
Religious tradition has preserved some precious details about his life and death:
"Ancient tradition, preserved for us by Eusebius, a Christian historian who lived about A.D. 300, states that James became bishop of the church at Jerusalem and was called James the Just, respected by Jews and Christians as being the most just man alive. It is said that he prayed so often and so long for the people that his knees became as hard as camel knees." (Gerald N. Lund, Jesus Christ, Key to the Plan of Salvation [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991], 50.)
"Eusebius quotes Hegesippus, a second-century Jewish Christian, who told the following details concerning James's death: Jewish leaders waited for retribution against James, the brother of the Lord. Deeply respected in the Jewish community for his godly and prayerful life, the Apostle was called 'James the just.' But he lost civil protection when the Roman governor died. Jewish leaders then forced James to stand on a temple wall at Passover and demanded that he deny Jesus before the massed pilgrims. Instead, James bore a powerful testimony of Christ and was thrown to the ground and stoned. He died while praying that his persecutors would be forgiven." (Richard Lloyd Anderson, "The First Presidency of the Early Church: Their Lives and Epistles," Ensign, Aug. 1988, 18)
James 1:2 count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations
N. Eldon Tanner
"Someone asked me the other day why we have all these temptations, and why the Lord has given us the desires such as appetites and passions, and why we have to be tempted and tested.
"One reason is to help us develop and grow through the schooling we receive in the experiences we encounter in mortal life. Brigham Young said: 'I am happy ... for the privilege of having temptations.' (Journal of Discourses, vol. 3, p. 195.) Temptations are necessary for our advancement and our development. 'When temptations come to you, be humble and prayerful, and determined that you will overcome, and you will receive a deliverance and continue faithful, having the promise of receiving blessings.' (JD, vol. 16, p. 164.)
"All of these temptations-these appetites and passions-are for our good and enjoyment if we will but let wisdom's voice control. Temptations come to all, but long before we are faced with them, we and our children must have determined what our course will be. It is too late if we wait until the moment of temptation before making our decision. If we have been taught and determined always to choose the right and resist evil, we will have the strength to overcome." ("Where Art Thou," Ensign, Dec. 1971, 34)
James 1:3 the trying of your faith worketh patience
Neal A. Maxwell
"James stressed the importance of patience when our faith is being tried, because those grueling experiences 'worketh patience'; he said, in what was almost a sigh of the soul, 'let patience have her perfect work.' (James 1:3-4.)
"To Joseph Smith, the Lord described patience as having a special finishing or concluding role, for 'these things remain to be overcome through patience, that such may receive an exceeding and eternal weight of glory.' (D&C 63:66.) A patient disciple will not be surprised or undone when the Church is misrepresented.
"Peter, being toughminded as well as tender, made the test of our patience even more precise and demanding when he said, 'For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.' (1 Peter 2:20.) The dues of discipleship are high indeed, and how much we can take so often determines how much we can then give!" (Notwithstanding My Weakness [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981], 62-63.)
James 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God
Bruce R. McConkie
"This single verse of scripture has had a greater impact and a more far reaching effect upon mankind than any other single sentence ever recorded by any prophet in any age. It might well be said that the crowning act of the ministry of James was not his martyrdom for the testimony of Jesus, but his recitation, as guided by the Holy Ghost, of these simple words which led to the opening of the heavens in modern times.
"And it might well be added that every investigator of revealed truth stands, at some time in the course of his search, in the place where Joseph Smith stood. He must turn to the Almighty and gain wisdom from God by revelation if he is to gain a place on that strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 3: 247.)
Ezra Taft Benson
"Take time to meditate. Meditation on a passage of scripture-James 1:5-led a young boy into a grove of trees to commune with his Heavenly Father. That is what opened the heavens in this dispensation." ("Seek the Spirit of the Lord," Ensign, Apr. 1988, 2)
James E. Faust
"Joseph Smith has given us not only the message of the divine Restoration but also the practical how-to steps to obtain personal and divine communication... The answer and the instruction were complete and full. Is not this the instruction, the how-to we need to obtain divine answers to the confusion and to the vexatious problems in our lives?
"May I suggest four steps:
"First, when possible, study the scriptures daily, with an emphasis upon the Book of Mormon and the modern scriptures.
"Second, pray daily.
"Third, listen for the divine answer.
"Fourth, be obedient to it." ("He Restoreth My Soul," Ensign, Oct. 1997, 4)
James 1:6 Let him ask in faith, nothing doubting
Gordon B. Hinckley
"It was faith, the simple faith of a fourteen-year-old boy, that took him into the woods that spring morning. It was faith that took him to his knees in pleading for understanding. The marvelous fruit of that faith was a vision glorious and beautiful, of which this great work is but the extended shadow.
"It was by faith that he kept himself worthy of the remarkable manifestations which followed in bringing to the earth the keys, the authority, the power to reestablish the Church of Jesus Christ in these latter days." ("God Grant Us Faith," Ensign, Nov. 1983, 52)
James 1:8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways
Joseph B. Wirthlin
"Indecision can immobilize or paralyze us, hindering our preparation in mortality. We can become like the people of Nineveh whom the Lord described to Jonah as 'persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand.' The Apostle James observed that 'a double minded man is unstable in all his ways.'
"An old Swiss saying describes such indecision in these words:
With one foot in,
with one foot out,
You can't be in,
you can't be out-
Not warm, not cold,
not square, not round,
More poor than poor
and always bound.
For such a man
will never know
where to begin
or where to go.
"We cannot be double minded in our relationships with husband or wife, parents or children. Are we going to savor the enjoyment of our children after they are a little older and we are not so busy? What about the valued friendships that fade because of the thoughtful, lengthy letters we plan to write but never finish and send? Are we faithful in going to our temples regularly? Consider the books we are going to read, the impulses to kindness we are going to act upon, and the good causes we are going to espouse. Are we always packing our bags with the things we value most in life but never leave on the trip? Does tomorrow never come? Let us resolve to begin to live today-not tomorrow, but today-this hour while we yet have time." ("The Time to Prepare," Ensign, May 1998, 16)
Sterling W. Sill
"James pointed out that 'a double minded man is unstable in all his ways' (James 1:8). There are also some triple-minded and quadruple-minded individuals-people who have not tuned out enough of their distractions. The secret of success is to limit the scope, narrow the vision, and concentrate the effort with a finer focus on a single objective." ("The Strait Gate," Ensign, July 1980, 6)
"Let the mind be concentrated, and it possesses almighty power. It is the agent of the Almighty clothed with mortal tabernacles, and we must learn to discipline it, and bring it to bear on one point" (Journal of Discourses, 7:153).
James 1:9-10 the rich...is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away
"The Kingdom of God is all that is real worth. All else is not worth possessing, either here or hereafter. Without it, all else would be like a dry tree prepared for the burning-it is all consumed and the ashes are driven to the four winds.
"To me it is the Kingdom of God or nothing upon the earth. Without it I would not give a farthing for the wealth, glory, prestige and power of all the world combined; for like the dew upon the grass, it passeth away and is forgotten, and like the flower of the grass it withereth, and is not. Death levels the most powerful monarch with the poorest starving mendicant; and both must stand before the judgment seat of Christ to answer for the deeds done in the body." (Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 444.)
James 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation
We may refer to this verse as the beatitude of James. We should not be surprised at his use of this teaching technique since he certainly witnessed his half-brother Jesus use it frequently. The reward for enduring temptation is 'the crown of life'-a blessing which is particularly instructive. Crowns are symbolic of royal authority by which a king or queen must wisely rule his or her own subjects and dominate threatening armies. So it is with each of us. Only those who have learned to wisely rule our own passions, carefully keeping them in subjection while at the same time successfully repelling the armed forces of the adversary truly deserve royal authority in God's kingdom.
James 1:13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God
Spencer W. Kimball
"'God made me that way,' some say, as they rationalize and excuse themselves for their perversions. 'I can't help it,' they add. This is blasphemy. Is man not made in the image of God, and does he think God to be 'that way'? Man is responsible for his own sins. It is possible that he may rationalize and excuse himself until the groove is so deep that he cannot get out without great difficulty, but he can resist, he can change. Temptations come to all people. The difference between the reprobate and the worthy person is generally that one yielded and the other resisted. It is true that one's background may make the decision and accomplishment easier or more difficult, but if one is mentally alert, he can still control his future. That is the gospel message-personal responsibility." (President Kimball Speaks Out [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981], 12.)
James 1:14 man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed
"As James describes man being influenced by his own lusts, he chooses two words that are vivid and descriptive of how Satan works upon men. The first word, translated as drawn out, was used in hunting and was the word which described what the hunter did when he lured wild game out of the safety of the thick brush into an area set with snares. And the word entice came from fishing and meant 'to bait, or to catch with bait.' How apt is the description, for the lusts of the flesh are designed to lure us out from the true safety of protective righteousness to become the victim of the evil hunter or fisherman." (Institute Manual, The Life and Teachings of Jesus & his Apostles, 2nd ed., p. 408)
James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above
A close friend recently confided, "I used to take pride in those few areas in which my personal abilities were exceptional. Then as I began to understand the scriptures, I realized that even those gifts-those things that make me special-are ultimately gifts from the Lord. Actually, it's kind of depressing!" While this realization may have burst a small bubble of pride, I think she was beginning to realize what King Benjamin meant when he said, 'therefore, of what have ye to boast?' (Mosiah 2:24)
But understanding where our gifts come from ultimately helps us develop them more perfectly. Such an understanding turns us to the great source of all great gifts for the development of our talents. As the scriptures declare, 'there is nothing which is good save it comes from the Lord' (Omni 1:25), and 'all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil...behold, that which is of God enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.' (Moroni 7:13)
James 1:19 let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath
"Our rules for time alone with the children come from James 1:19: 'Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath' (emphasis added). Being swift to hear and slow to fix is even better. The older the child, the more he or she needs someone to listen and understand. Our children need our parental concern and counsel, but they also need our friendship. True friends don't jump in and fix our problems. They listen and help us understand so we can fix them ourselves. There is something exquisite about being completely heard and understood. It's a gift we can freely offer all year long." (Tracy Hogan Barrand, "Tinsel or Gold?" Ensign, Dec. 1995, 16-17)
Russell M. Nelson
"Parents and teachers, learn to listen, then listen to learn from children. A wise father once said, 'I do a greater amount of good when I listen to my children than when I talk to them.'... The time to listen is when someone needs to be heard. Children are naturally eager to share their experiences, which range from triumphs of delight to trials of distress. Are we as eager to listen? If they try to express their anguish, is it possible for us to listen openly to a shocking experience without going into a state of shock ourselves? Can we listen without interrupting and without making snap judgments that slam shut the door of dialogue? It can remain open with the soothing reassurance that we believe in them and understand their feelings." ("Listen to Learn," Ensign, May 1991, 22)
Neal A. Maxwell
"Some of us men talk too much. This is risky for several reasons, one of which Brigham Young identified, saying 'You cannot hide the heart, when the mouth is open.' (Journal of Discourses, 6:74)" ("I Will Arise and Go to My Father," Ensign, Sept. 1993, 66)
James 1:22 be ye doers of the word and not hearers only
Bruce R. McConkie
"We must be doers of the word and not hearers only. It is more than lip service; it is not simply confessing with the mouth the divine Sonship of the Savior. It is obedience and conformity and personal righteousness. 'Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.' (Matt. 7:21.)" (Roy W. Doxey, comp., Latter-day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978], 4: 213.)
Howard W. Hunter
"The gospel is the way of life. It is practical, plain, and simple. It is a gospel of action, even to the tiny day-to-day actions that make up the art of living.
"Elder Adam S. Bennion used to say, ''Important as knowing is, there is a more important field, and that is the field of doing. Life is always bigger than learning. It is a wonderful thing to know, but it is better to do.' This, of course, is the meaning of the biblical injunction, 'Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only' (James 1:22), which is another gospel imperative.
"This gospel imperative expresses the very nature of Church education... Nels L. Nelson expressed this gospel imperative in one of his books defining the Mormon concept of education: 'The only kind of education which squares with the ideals of Mormonism is that which trains a man to do. If it be asked, to do what, the answer is, to do the things that need to be done. . . . True education is therefore training a man to do his part in the social world. . . .
"'Knowledge is only half of intelligence. To stop here is to be falsely educated. If, however, the truth perceived becomes a dynamic fact in a man's character; if it is incorporated into his mental attitude, and reacts immediately upon his life; if, in short, it ceases to be something in a man, and becomes the man himself, changing the very . . . [character] of his soul, then knowledge has passed over into power-or character-or wisdom-or, to adopt the term used by Joseph Smith, has passed over into intelligence; and it is such a process alone that represents true education.' (Scientific Aspects of Mormonism [New York and London: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1904], 151-52.)" (That We Might Have Joy [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1994], 134.)
Robert E. Wells
"Some tend to think that just because a few ordinances have been performed, or just because they have repented, they can relax and think they 'have it made.' This life is not one of arrival; rather it is a journey, where we are continually being given the opportunity to prove ourselves worthy of the rewards promised to those whose efforts have been characterized with steadfastness, hope, faith, and love throughout life to the very last moment of this existence." (The Mount and the Master [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991], 204.)
James 1:23-24 he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass
Howard W. Hunter
"The value of participating in church services, according to James, is realized when the word heard becomes the word in action. If anyone considers himself to be a devout worshiper without carrying over into his daily living the truths he has heard, his worship is as useless as a glance in a mirror, which is straightway forgotten." (Conference Report, October 1967, First Day-Morning Meeting 12.)
William H. Bennett
"One of the great challenges we face in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today is that we have too many priesthood holders who are at rest. Because they are, oftentimes their wives and children are not as active in the Church as they could be and should be. I challenge all of you who are in this category to awaken, arise, and advance, so that the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ can be experienced in your personal lives and in the lives of your loved ones. Do not be content to just go through life and put in your time. Resolve that you will make the most of your life, live the gospel, keep the commandments, and set the proper example before your loved ones and before all with whom you come in contact. Do not shortchange yourselves and others by being too easy with yourselves. There is just too much at stake to take this matter lightly." ("Inertia," Ensign, May 1974, 34-35)
David O. McKay
"Our religion is not a cloak to wear on Sunday and be hung in the closet for the rest of the week." (Conference Report, April 1962, Afternoon Meeting 125.)
James 1:25 the perfect law of liberty
ElRay L. Christiansen
"The gospel of Jesus Christ is the perfect law of liberty, according to the apostle James. (See James 1:25.) God is its author. He set forth the conditions. He is its fountainhead. The gospel is a great system of laws, which laws are simply eternal principles by which our Father in heaven desires to save mankind, his sons and his daughters, not only to save them, but also to share with them all that the Father has-associations with those we love, honor, power, glory, dominions, even exaltation.
"But while he gives us commandments, he also gives us the freedom and the liberty to reject them if we choose... We have the divine right and also the individual responsibility to determine whether we will accept or whether we will reject the laws and principles and commandments of God. But my, how grateful we ought to be that these laws are given us and are plainly understood, given us to direct us, that we may not lose our way in this world of misunderstanding and by following the vain philosophies of the world. How thankful we ought to be for such truths as these." ("The Laws of God Are Blessings," Ensign, May 1975, 24)
Marion G. Romney
"How blessed are Latter-day Saints to be assured by the revealed word of God that there will be no capriciousness in the world to come; that the rule of law is irrevocable; that every soul will be rewarded according to the law he has obeyed; that all divine law is as immutable as the law of gravity; that it is the same yesterday, today, and forever; that judgment will be mercifully administered, but that it will be administered pursuant to law, and that it will not rob justice. Not only are Latter-day Saints blessed by having this knowledge concerning 'the rule of law'; they are twice blessed by having both a knowledge and an understanding of the laws by which they are to be judged.
"In light of our knowledge of 'the perfect law of liberty' (James 1:25), how shortsighted, how foolish, how tragic it would be if we were to fail to obey that law." ("The Rule of Law," Ensign, Feb. 1973, 2)
James 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows
For examples of pure religion from the lives of latter-day saints, see page on "Pure Religion."
Joseph F. Smith
"Then what is religion? James declares: 'Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this: To visit the fatherless and widows in their afflictions, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.' This may be interpreted as meaning that a person who is religious is thoughtful to the unfortunate, and has an inner spirit that prompts to deeds of kindness and to the leading of a blameless life; who is just, truthful; who does not, as Paul says, think more highly of himself than he ought to think; who is affectionate, patient in tribulation, diligent, cheerful, fervent in spirit, hospitable, merciful; and who abhors evil and cleaves to that which is good. The possession of such a spirit and feeling is a true sign that a person is naturally religious.
The Church's outward ordinances and requirements are but necessary-yet they are necessary-aids to the inner spiritual life. The Church itself, the organization, meetings, ordinances, requirements, are only helps, but very necessary helps, to the practice of true religion." (Gospel Doctrine: Selections from the Sermons and Writings of Joseph F. Smith, compiled by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939], 121.)
"The members of the Relief Society have most surely exemplified in their lives pure and undefiled religion; for they have ministered to those in affliction, they have thrown their arms of love around the fatherless and the widows, and they have kept themselves unspotted from the world. I can testify that there are no purer and more God-fearing women in the world than are to be found within the ranks of the Relief Society." (Thomas S. Monson, "The Mighty Strength of the Relief Society," Ensign, Nov. 1997, 94)
Thomas S. Monson
"The word widow appears to have had a most significant meaning to our Lord. He cautioned His disciples to beware the example of the scribes, who feigned righteousness by their long apparel and their lengthy prayers, but who devoured the houses of widows. (See Mark 12:38, 40.)
"To the Nephites came the direct warning, 'I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against ... those that oppress the ... widow.' (3 Ne. 24:5.)
"To the Prophet Joseph Smith He directed, 'The storehouse shall be kept by the consecrations of the church; and widows and orphans shall be provided for, as also the poor.' (D&C 83:6.)
"Such teachings were not new then. They are not new now. Consistently the Master has taught, by example, His concern for the widow. To the grieving widow at Nain, bereft of her only son, He came personally and to the dead son restored the breath of life-and to the astonished widow her son. To the widow at Zarephath, who with her son faced imminent starvation, He sent the prophet Elijah with the power to teach faith as well as provide food.
"We may say to ourselves, 'But that was long ago and ever so far away.' I respond: 'Is there a city called Zarephath near your home? Is there a town known as Nain?' We may know our cities as Columbus or Coalville, Detroit or Denver. Whatever the name, there lives within each city the widow deprived of her companion and often her child. The need is the same. The affliction is real." ("The Long Line of the Lonely," Ensign, May 1981, 47)
Spencer W. Kimball
"I do not worry about members of the Church being unresponsive when they learn of the needy as much as I worry about our being unaware of such needs. Moroni warned the affluent of all ages about becoming comfortable and loving the things of this world 'more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted' (Morm. 8:37). Moroni also noted how 'the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted' can sometimes pass before such people who 'notice them not' (Morm. 8:39). Please, priesthood brethren, do not get so busy trying to manage Church programs that you forget these basic duties in what the apostle James described as 'pure religion and undefiled' (James 1:27)." ("The Uttermost Parts of the Earth," Ensign, July 1979, 2)