“Pure Religion”

Lesson 42 – James

Introduction

 

What does the word pure mean? You may answer that pure means real, genuine, complete, and perfect.  What does religion mean? You may define it as the service and worship of God, a system of beliefs and practices, and a commitment or devotion to a particular way of life.  Now, how would you define “pure religion”?  Turn to and read James 1:27.  This lesson discusses how we can apply James’s teachings to help us live a “pure religion” and be “undefiled before God.”

The writer of the book of James is generally thought to be the brother of Jesus Christ. After Jesus was resurrected, James served as an Apostle and was an important leader in the early Church (Acts 12:17; Acts 15:13-20).

 

We should endure affliction patiently.

 

James 1:2-3 James taught that we learn patience from facing trials of our faith. (See footnote 2a, which shows that in the Joseph Smith Translation, the phrase divers temptations is changed to many afflictions.)

James 1:4; Romans 5:3-5; Alma 36:3 We are blessed with increased patience, valuable experience, hope, the love of God, and being lifted up at the last day when we endure afflictions patiently.

Elder Orson F. Whitney wrote: “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God” (quoted in Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle [1972], 98).

James 5:10-11 James mentioned the prophets as good examples of patience in affliction. Think about how latter-day prophets have demonstrated this patience and set an example for us.

 

We should pray to God in faith.

 

James 1:5-6 James counseled those who “lack wisdom” to pray in faith with no doubts about God’s ability to give them answers and counsel.  As promised, Heavenly Father will give liberally if we ask in faith.  Ponder personal experiences you have had with receiving answers to prayer.

Joseph Smith—History 1:11-13 gives us insight into how the Prophet Joseph Smith was influenced by the counsel in James 1:5.  We learn the truth of James’ counsel from the Prophet’s experience.

Joseph Smith—History 1:14-20 Obviously, Joseph’s decision to follow the counsel in James 1:5 affected us as Pres. Kimball points out…

President Spencer W. Kimball said: “Because the fourteen-year-old boy went out in the woods to pray, having read in the scriptures, … because he did live the revelations from on high, we have The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We have all of the blessings that can make us the happiest people in the whole world, because a boy of fourteen went out into the woods to pray” (in Conference Report, Melbourne Australia Area Conference 1976, 23).

Asking of God in faith and receiving wisdom are not limited by age or other circumstances. Joseph Smith was 14 years old when he put James’s words to the test and received the First Vision. He was 17 years old when the angel Moroni visited him and revealed where the golden plates were being safeguarded.

James 1:6-7 James described those who pray without faith as being like changeable waves driven by capricious winds and tossed. Ponder what you can do to strengthen your faith.

James 4:8 James taught, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you”. Sincere prayers bring us closer to God as we humble ourselves and sincerely seek guidance.

 

We should control our tongues and be “slow to wrath.”

 

James 1:19 James taught that we should be “swift to hear, slow to speak”.  Have experiences in your life have confirmed the wisdom of this counsel? Ponder how you can become a better listener and a more thoughtful speaker.

James 1:19 James also taught we should be “slow to wrath”.  Consequences of speaking or acting in anger include false accusations, hard feelings, damaged relationships, and serious errors in judgments. Ponder the experiences in your life that have confirmed the wisdom of James’s counsel and think about how you can overcome or control feelings of anger.

James 1:26 James taught that we should bridle our tongues. The purpose of a horse’s bridle is to guide and control the horse. We can apply James’s counsel to “bridle” our tongues (See James 4:11) by avoiding gossiping, lies, quarreling, swearing, and angry words. Instead, we should use our tongues to speak kind words, to speak truth, to pray, and to make peace.

James 3:3-5 James compared the tongue to the bit on a horse’s bridle and the helm of a ship. The bit is the steel part of the bridle that is inserted into the horse’s mouth. We learn from these comparisons that the tongue can have a significant effect on our temporal and spiritual lives. Learning to control our words can help us control other aspects of our lives.

James 3:9-13 James taught in these verses that controlling our speech is important because we cannot be examples of Christlike behavior if we alternately bless God and curse men—such behavior is the pattern of hypocrites, not true saints.

James 3:16-18 Controlling our tongues helps lead to peace by avoiding or overcoming envy and strife and providing wisdom, mercy, and gentle counsel. Controlling our tongues is another important part of pure religion.

 

We should be doers of the word, showing our faith by our works.

 

James 1:22 James counseled us not to be just “hearers only.”

James 1:22-25; James 4:17 Being “hearers only” of the word results in deceiving yourself unless you add Christlike action to put what you heard into practice.  The result of being “doers of the word” includes being blessed in our deeds.

James 2:14-26 James taught about the relationship between faith and works. Faith is dead without works because, as James states, it profits no one to express faith that a need will be met and then do nothing to help resolve the problem through our personal effort. Good works strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ by helping us draw closer to the Spirit.

James 1:27 James emphasized that we should live a pure religion by visiting and helping people in need.

James 1:27; see D&C 59:9 Consider what you should do to stay “unspotted from the world”. As counseled in these verses, attending church and partaking of the sacrament each week helps us stay unspotted from the world.

 

Conclusion

 

James’s teachings are true. We can live our religion more purely by being patient in affliction, praying to God in faith, mastering ourselves, and doing good works.

 

Additional teachings in James

 

In the Joseph Smith Translation of James 1:12, the word endureth is changed to resisteth (see footnote 12b). There is a difference between enduring temptation and resisting temptation.

James 1:12; James 4:7 Promises to those who resist temptation include the “crown of life” and the promise that the devil will “flee from you”.

James 2:1-9 James taught us not to judge others by their earthly positions or material possessions by rather by their faith and works.

1 Samuel 16:7; D&C 38:24-27 We look beyond the outward appearance and into people’s hearts, as God does when we treat them as we ourselves would want to be treated.

James 3:16; James 4:1-6 James taught that the effects of envy and lust are strife, confusion, war, and loss of spirituality and godliness.

James 4:7-10 We overcome feelings of envy or lust through humbling ourselves before God.

James 5:14-15 James gave counsel about administering to the sick through the priesthood.