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‘Come, Follow Me’ for Nov. 13-19: What have Church leaders and scholars said about the Epistle of James?

This week’s study guide includes James 1:5, the scripture that helped usher in the Restoration

“Joseph Smith’s First Vision” (stained glass, 7 by 5 feet) in the Palmyra Temple, Palmyra, New York.

“Joseph Smith’s First Vision” (stained glass, 7 by 5 feet) in the Palmyra New York Temple. “Come, Follow Me” for Nov. 13-19 includes James 1:5, the scripture that helped usher in the Restoration.

Photo by Willie Holdman

‘Come, Follow Me’ for Nov. 13-19: What have Church leaders and scholars said about the Epistle of James?

This week’s study guide includes James 1:5, the scripture that helped usher in the Restoration

“Joseph Smith’s First Vision” (stained glass, 7 by 5 feet) in the Palmyra Temple, Palmyra, New York.

“Joseph Smith’s First Vision” (stained glass, 7 by 5 feet) in the Palmyra New York Temple. “Come, Follow Me” for Nov. 13-19 includes James 1:5, the scripture that helped usher in the Restoration.

Photo by Willie Holdman

This week’s “Come, Follow Me” study guide covers the Epistle of James, which includes James 1:5 — the scripture that helped usher in the Restoration.

Church News recently searched the archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to learn what leaders and scholars have said about these chapters.

James, the brother of Jesus

“Which James wrote the epistle of that name? It begins with a confident ‘James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad’ (James 1:1).

“Only a general authority would address spiritual Israel, giving commands and counsel to the whole Church, and only a well-known James would write without need of further identification. Two candidates fit these conditions: the brother of John and the brother of the Savior. As mentioned earlier, after the brother of John was killed by Herod in A.D. 44, the only James mentioned in the New Testament is the brother of Jesus. …

“A letter ‘to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad’ would hardly seem appropriate before the death of James, the brother of John (A.D. 44). Then, the Church was only beginning to spread to areas around Israel; but soon afterward the great missionary expansion created the need of Christian literature to instruct new converts.

“The letter would thus have been written between that time and the death of the Lord’s brother in A.D. 62. [The Palestinian bishop] Eusebius quotes Hegesippus, a second-century Jewish Christian, who told the following details concerning James’ 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. ...

“James was probably the oldest brother after Jesus (see Matthew 13:55), and had full opportunity to hear the private and public message of the Lord. James repeats many of Jesus’ teachings but stresses the Sermon on the Mount, paraphrasing four of the nine beatitudes in wording similar to that of Matthew’s record. …

“Belief is blended into action in Jesus’ great sermon and in James’ letter. Both demand high moral standards, and both tell what it means to pray fervently and have full faith.”

— Richard Lloyd Anderson, f​​ormer Brigham Young University professor of ancient scripture, in the August 1988 Ensign article “The First Presidency of the Early Church: Their Lives and Epistles”

Kim Wilson owns an actual page from a 1611 Bible that contains James 1:5 which figures prominently in the Joseph Smith story. Photo taken on January 20, 2011.

This page from a 1611 Bible contains the scripture James 1:5. “Come, Follow Me” for Nov. 13-19 includes this scripture, which helped usher in the Restoration.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

James 1:5 and Joseph Smith

“I thank my Father in Heaven for the testimony I have of the reality of the First Vision. I have stood among the trees where Joseph knelt as a boy, and heard the whisperings of the Spirit that it happened as he said it happened. I have read the words of critics, who from 1820 until now have tried to destroy the validity of that account. They have made much of the fact that there were several versions and that the account as we now have it was not written until 1838. So what? I find security for my faith in the simplicity of his narrative, in its lack of argument, in its straightforward reasonableness and in the fact that he sealed his testimony with his life’s blood. Could there have been a stronger endorsement?

“Is it strange that James, writing anciently, would invite all who lacked wisdom to ask of God in faith? (See James 1:5.) Is it strange that such prayer would receive an answer? I thank the Lord for the faith to believe that the answer to that prayer came with a glorious manifestation of the Eternal Father and His Beloved Son, to part the curtain after centuries of darkness and open a new and promised and final dispensation of the gospel. Did it happen? I have no doubt of it. Was it not time, as a great age of enlightenment began to dawn upon the world, that these, the Father and the Son, should reveal Themselves to show their form and power and living reality, and thus declare, once and for all, the true nature of Deity?”

— President Gordon B. Hinckley, October 1993 general conference, “My Testimony”

“Joseph Smith wanted to find the peace of salvation also, but he was confused as to which church was right. Even as a boy he knew that in such diversity of ideas and ordinances, not all could be the truth. He read the verse in James which says, ‘If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him’ (James 1:5). The words stirred him as much as the voice of the Lord stirred Samuel. ...

“There are times in the history of this earth when the moment for great events has arrived. Prescribed, ordered and arranged by the power of God, they cannot be stayed. For example, when the time came for the children of Israel to leave Egypt, no one could stop them, and those who tried failed to their sorrow. When the meridian of time came, the promises made by the prophets were fulfilled and miraculous events took place. The angels came, and suddenly Mary was told that she was to be the mother of the Son of God, and Elisabeth was told of her own part in this great and sublime event. This first public revelation came by an angel to a few simple shepherds. They only heard the heavenly chorus sing praise to God.

“And so it was in 1820. The time had come. These were the last days. The prophets had declared it. And so Joseph was impelled to walk across his father’s newly cleared field, dodging the raw stumps en route, and climb over the worn fence, and enter the forest. Climbing a hill, he found a spot where he felt he could not be disturbed and began to pour out his soul to the Lord.

“In a great burst of heavenly light, all of the errors concerning the nature of God for nearly 1,800 years were dispersed. There stood God, the Father of us all, glorious beyond description, and by His side the glorified resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. Joseph saw that each was a personage — that men are truly formed in the image and likeness of God. The Eternal Father spoke: ‘This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!’ (Joseph Smith-History 1:17). Joseph heard.”

— Elder S. Dilworth Young, then of the First Council of the Seventy, October 1974 general conference, “For Thy Servant Heareth”

James, the brother of Jesus, holds a scroll in this late-thirteenth-century gilded portrait by an Italian artist named the Master of Saint Francis.

James, the brother of Jesus, holds a scroll in this late-thirteenth-century gilded portrait by an Italian artist remembered only as the Master of Saint Francis. Displayed at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

National Gallery of Art

James 1

“I will conclude by describing another subtle form of deception — the idea that it is enough to hear and believe without acting on that belief. Many prophets have taught against that deception. The apostle James wrote, ‘Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves’ (James 1:22). …

“It is not enough to know that God lives, that Jesus Christ is our Savior and that the gospel is true. We must take the high road by acting upon that knowledge. … It is not enough to have a calling. We must fulfill our responsibilities. The things taught in this conference are not just to fill our minds. They are to motivate and guide our actions.”

— Then-Elder Dallin H. Oaks, now first counselor in the First Presidency, October 2004 general conference, “Be Not Deceived”

“Now we come to the third instance in the New Testament of the use of the word ‘religion.’ It is in the Epistle of James, written ‘to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad’ (James 1:1), probably meaning to all Israel, in which he said: ‘If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain’ (James 1:26). James seems to be using the term ‘religion’ in the manner used by Paul, as being ritualistic or ceremonial — that if a man is ritualistic in this manner, yet fails to be guarded in what he says, his rituals are in vain.

“James then very pointedly defines what he refers to as ‘pure religion.’ ... ‘Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world’ (James 1:27). ...

“In short, James tells us that true religion is a devotion to God, demonstrated by love and compassion for fellowmen, coupled with unworldliness. Such a statement seems too simple to be sufficient, but in its simplicity it speaks an important truth. Restated, it may be said that true religion consists not only in refraining from evil (that is, remaining unspotted), but in deliberately and purposefully doing acts of kindness and service to others.”

— Then-Elder Howard W. Hunter, later 14th President of the Church, October 1978 general conference, “True Religion”

“The apostle James emphasized the importance of constantly choosing right over wrong. To those who attempt an allegiance to both right and wrong, he declared: ‘A double minded man is unstable in all his ways’ (James 1:8).

“Man is the sum result of what he thinks and does. Habit is the instrument that molds his character and makes of him essentially what he is. Habit can become a monster to tarnish and destroy, yet proper behavioral traits can bring lasting joy and achievement. To say no at the right time and then stand by it is the first element of success.”

— Elder Alvin R. Dyer, an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve, October 1971 general conference, “The Nobility of Man in Choosing Good Over Evil”

A man flips through a Bible on a table.

A man flips through a Bible. “Come, Follow Me” for Nov. 13-19 includes James 1:5, the scripture that helped usher in the Restoration.

The Church of Jesus of Latter-day Saints

James 2

“Honesty, truth, virtue and kindness are hallmarks of true Christianity. If we lack them, we can hardly say that we follow Christ.

“Was it not James who said: ‘Shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works’? And did he not say, with such crystal clarity that no one need misunderstand, ‘Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone’? (See James 2:14-18.)

“We agree with him and add that professions of piety, without the works of piety, are sheer hypocrisy and are dead — even ‘as the body without the spirit is dead’ (James 2:26).”

— Elder Mark E. Petersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, April 1982 general conference, “‘We Believe in Being Honest’”

“The subject of the talk I have prepared is ‘The Royal Law.’ Defining it, the apostle James said, ‘If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well’ (James 2:8). We must have this law in mind in all that we do in our welfare work. We must love our neighbors as ourselves. The Savior put this law second only to the love of God when He said:

“‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

“‘And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’ (Matthew 22:37, 39).”

— President Marion G. Romney, second counselor in the First Presidency, April 1978 general conference, “The Royal Law of Love”

James 3

“As James 3:3 states, ‘Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.’

“We must be sensitive to our spiritual bits. Even with the slightest tug from the Master, we must be willing to completely alter our course. To succeed in life, we must teach our spirit and body to work together in obedience to God’s commandments. If we heed the gentle promptings of the Holy Ghost, it can unite our spirits and bodies in a purpose that will guide us back to our eternal home to live with our Eternal Father in Heaven.”

— Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, April 2014 general conference, “Obedience Through Our Faithfulness”

“In his general epistle, James detailed many of the things necessary to becoming holy. Among these, he included the control of language and conversation. Indeed, he said that ‘if any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body’ (James 3:2). In a seagoing analogy, he noted that as a small helm can drive a great ship, so the tongue might also set our course and fate (see James 3:4). Improperly employed, the tongue ‘defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature’ (James 3:6). How, he asks, can the same mouth issue forth blessings and curses? (See James 3:10.) …

“When we speak and act, we should ask whether our words and expressions are calculated to invite the powers of heaven into our lives and to invite all to come unto Christ.”

— Elder Robert S. Wood, then a General Authority Seventy, October 1999 general conference, “The Tongue of Angels”

A man studies the scriptures at a table.

A man studies the scriptures at a table. “Come, Follow Me” for Nov. 13-19 includes James 1:5, the scripture that helped usher in the Restoration.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

James 4

“Because of His atoning experience in mortality, our Savior is able to comfort, heal, and strengthen all men and women everywhere, but I believe He does so only for those who seek Him and ask for His help. The apostle James taught, ‘Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up’ (James 4:10). We qualify for that blessing when we believe in Him and pray for His help.”

— Then-Elder Oaks, October 2015 general conference, “Strengthened by the Atonement of Jesus Christ”

“We need not become paralyzed with fear of Satan’s power. He can have no power over us unless we permit it. He is really a coward, and if we stand firm, he will retreat. The apostle James counseled: ‘Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you’ (James 4:7). He cannot know our thoughts unless we speak them. And Nephi states that ‘he hath no power over the hearts’ of people who are righteous (1 Nephi 22:26).”

— Then-Elder James E. Faust, later second counselor in the First Presidency, October 1987 general conference, “‘The Great Imitator’”

“As members of the Church, we are engaged in a mighty conflict. We are at war. We have enlisted in the cause of Christ to fight against Lucifer and all that is lustful and carnal and evil in the world. We have sworn to fight alongside our friends and against our enemies, and we must not be confused in distinguishing friends from foes. As another of our ancient fellow apostles wrote: ‘Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God’ (James 4:4). …

“We are either for the Church or we are against it. We either take its part or we take the consequences. We cannot survive spiritually with one foot in the Church and the other in the world. We must make the choice. It is either the Church or the world. There is no middle ground. And the Lord loves a courageous man who fights openly and boldly in His army.”

— Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, October 1974 general conference, “Be Valiant in the Fight of Faith”

James 5

“‘Behold, we count them happy which endure’ (James 5:11).

“There is nothing that we are enduring that Jesus does not understand, and He waits for us to go to our Heavenly Father in prayer. I testify that if we will be obedient and if we are diligent, our prayers will be answered, our problems will diminish, our fears will dissipate, light will come upon us, the darkness of despair will be dispersed and we will be close to the Lord and feel of His love and of the comfort of the Holy Ghost.”

— Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, April 1998 general conference, “‘Behold, We Count Them Happy Which Endure’”

“Declared James of old: ‘Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

“‘And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him’ (James 5:14-15).

“That power to heal the sick is still among us. It is the power of the priesthood of God. It is the authority held by the elders of this Church.

“We welcome and praise and utilize the marvelous procedures of modern medicine which have done so much to alleviate human suffering and lengthen human life. All of us are indebted to the dedicated men and women of science and medicine who have conquered so much of disease, who have mitigated pain, who have stayed the hand of death. I cannot say enough of gratitude for them.

“Yet they are the first to admit the limitations of their knowledge and the imperfection of their skills in dealing with many matters of life and death. The mighty Creator of the heavens and the earth and all that in them are has given to His servants a divine power that sometimes transcends all the powers and knowledge of men. I venture to say that there is scarcely a faithful elder within the sound of my voice who could not recount instances in which this healing power has been made manifest in behalf of the sick. It is the healing power of Christ.”

— President Gordon B. Hinckley, October 1988 general conference, “The Healing Power of Christ”

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