Lesson 140: James 1

“Lesson 140: James 1,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2016)

“Lesson 140,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual

Lesson 140

James 1


James wrote an epistle to the scattered house of Israel, encouraging them to be patient in their afflictions and to seek wisdom from Heavenly Father. James also taught them to resist temptation, to be doers of the word, to serve others, and to stay spiritually clean.

Suggestions for Teaching

James 1:1–11

James encourages scattered Israel to be patient in their afflictions and to seek wisdom from God

Before class, write the following statement on the board: I wish I were wiser! As class begins, ask students to consider the statement on the board. Invite them to use their class notebooks or scripture study journals to write about topics or personal situations they seek wisdom for. You might suggest that they include gospel topics and pressing life questions in their lists. Ask a few students to share some of the topics or questions they wrote down. (Remind them not to share anything that is too private.)

Joseph Smith Seeks Wisdom From the Bible

Display the picture Joseph Smith Seeks Wisdom in the Bible (Gospel Art Book [2009], no. 89; see also

Explain that Joseph was reading in the Epistle of James when he discovered how to find answers to his questions. James was an Apostle of Jesus Christ and a bishop in Jerusalem. Christian tradition also holds that James was the son of Mary and Joseph and therefore a half brother to Jesus.

Invite a student to read James 1:1–4 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what James taught the house of Israel about their struggles and afflictions. Point out that the Joseph Smith Translation of verse 2 (in James 1:2, footnote a) changes the phrase “divers temptations” to “many afflictions.”

  • What did James teach the house of Israel about their struggles and afflictions?

  • Why is patience important to have during struggles and afflictions?

Invite a student to read James 1:5–6 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Joseph Smith discovered that helped him find answers to his questions.

  • What did James advise his readers to do to find answers to their questions?

  • What does it mean that God gives “liberally” and “upbraideth not”? (verse 5). (Liberally means freely and generously. Upbraideth means to rebuke or criticize.)

Invite a student to come to the board to write a principle we can learn from James 1:5–6. The student may use different words but should identify a principle similar to the following: God generously gives wisdom to those who ask of Him in faith.

  • What does it mean to “ask in faith, nothing wavering”? (verse 6).

Invite a student to explain how James 1:5–6 affected young Joseph Smith as he searched for answers (see Joseph Smith—History 1:12). Ask another student to summarize the result of Joseph Smith’s faithful prayer in the grove of trees near his home.

  • When has Heavenly Father generously answered your prayers after you prayed to Him in faith?

Testify that God generously gives wisdom to those who ask of Him in faith. Invite students to follow Joseph Smith’s example by applying this principle in their lives so they can receive the wisdom they need from Heavenly Father.

Summarize James 1:7–11 by explaining that James warned against being double-minded, or wavering in loyalty and commitment to the Lord. James also wrote that the rich should become humble because earthly riches are only temporary and will soon pass away.

Note: Consider inviting two students to teach the following two scripture blocks. It would be helpful to give this assignment to the student teachers a day or two before this lesson so they can prepare. You could invite each student teacher to teach the entire class. Or, you could divide the class in half, invite each student teacher to teach his or her scripture block to one half of the class, and then ask the student teachers (or the class) to rotate so they can teach the other half of the class.

Student Teacher 1—James 1:12–21

James teaches about temptation

Ask students:

  • What temptations do youth today face? (You may want to list students’ answers on the board.)

  • Why is it sometimes difficult to resist temptation?

Invite a student to read James 1:12 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the blessing promised to those who love the Lord and resist temptation. Point out that the Joseph Smith Translation of this verse (in James 1:12, footnote b) changes “endureth temptation” to “resisteth temptation.”

  • What blessing will come to those who love the Lord and resist temptation? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: We show our love for the Lord by resisting temptation, which is one of the requirements for receiving the crown of eternal life.)

Invite a student to read James 1:13–16 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for where temptation does and does not come from.

  • According to verse 13, who is not the source of our temptations?

Explain that the term lust in verse 14 refers to unholy desires we may have because of our fallen nature. Satan entices us to give in to these unholy desires.

Invite students to consider the temptations they struggle with.

  • How can we gain spiritual power to resist temptation?

  • In what ways is resisting temptation showing our love for the Lord?

Testify of the truthfulness of the principle students identified in James 1:12. Invite them to ponder what they will do to resist the temptations they struggle with.

Summarize James 1:17–21 by explaining that James taught that all good gifts come from God and that the Saints should give up “all filthiness” and receive the Lord’s words “with meekness” (verse 21).

Student Teacher 2—James 1:22–25

James invites his readers to be hearers and doers of the word

Invite a student to read aloud the following account by Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Cook, Quentin L.

“I recently met a fine teenage young man. His goals were to go on a mission, obtain an education, marry in the temple, and have a faithful happy family. … I felt he genuinely wanted to go on a mission and was avoiding serious transgressions that would prohibit a mission, but his day-to-day conduct was not preparing him for the physical, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual challenges he would face. He had not learned to work hard. He was not serious about school or seminary. He attended church, but he had not read the Book of Mormon. He was spending a large amount of time on video games and social media. He seemed to think that showing up for his mission would be sufficient” (“Choose Wisely,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 47).

  • If you had been in Elder Cook’s situation, what concerns might you have had with this young man’s lack of mission preparation?

Invite a student to read James 1:22 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what James taught that could help the young man described in Elder Cook’s account.

  • What did James teach that could help that young man?

Explain that, as recorded in James 1:23–24, James likened someone who is a hearer but not a doer to a man who sees himself in a mirror but then forgets what he looks like as he goes his way.

Invite a student to read James 1:25 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what happens to those who choose to act on the truths they hear.

  • What happens to those who are not only hearers but are also doers? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: As we hear and act on the word of God, He will bless us in our deeds.)

Invite students to assess themselves as hearers and doers of God’s word by pondering the following questions. You may want to read these questions aloud or write them on the board.

  1. How fully do I believe the truths I am learning in the scriptures, at home, at church, and at seminary?

  2. How often do I set spiritual goals to act on the truths I am learning? How often do I achieve them? How often do I forget them?

  3. What can I do better to be a doer of the word and not just a hearer?

Testify of the blessings that come as we act on what we learn.

James 1:26–27

James counsels the Saints to care for others

After the two students have taught their scripture blocks, ask several other students to summarize what they learned.

Invite a student to read James 1:26–27 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for James’s suggestions for how we can live our religion.

  • According to James, what are some ways in which we can live our religion, or show our devotion to God?

Explain that James used the idea of “visit[ing] the fatherless and widows” in need as one example of caring for others. To “keep [oneself] unspotted from the world” (verse 27) means to remain spiritually clean, even in a world where wickedness can be prominent.

  • What truth can we learn from verse 27? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following truth: We demonstrate pure religion when we care for others and keep ourselves spiritually clean. Write this truth on the board.)

  • In what ways might caring for others and keeping ourselves spiritually clean be important expressions of our devotion to God?

  • Whom do you know who is a good example of demonstrating “pure religion” in his or her daily life? What does this person do that inspires you?

Invite students to write on a piece of paper one or two deeds they will do during the next week to care for someone in need or to keep themselves “unspotted from the world.” Invite them to be doers of God’s words by applying this principle in their lives.

Book Icon
Scripture Mastery—James 1:5–6

Explain that memorizing James 1:5–6 will help students throughout their lives as they have questions about the gospel, as they seek the Lord’s help in making decisions, and as they teach the gospel to others.

Use one of the memorization activities in the appendix, or develop one of your own activities to help students memorize this passage. Remember to frequently review memorized scripture mastery passages with students to help them retain what they have learned. Consider planning moments in future lessons to review this scripture and to invite students to recite it.

Commentary and Background Information

James 1:5. “If any of you lack wisdom”

Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles described the unique significance of James 1:5 for Latter-day Saints:

“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. [1965–73], 3:246–47).

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles emphasized the importance of asking of God in our day:

“Today we live in a world in which people don’t ask of God—they seem to want to ask of Google. Even when it comes to questions of faith, there are many who trust the Internet to provide accurate, fair, and balanced answers to their questions more than they trust the ultimate source of truth, our Heavenly Father. …

“… Today the Internet is full of those lying in wait to deceive the uninformed and inexperienced.

“In our search for gospel truth, we not only need to find reliable sources but we also need to give the Lord equal time in our daily pursuits. We need to study the scriptures and the words of the Lord’s servants. We need to be living right before God—we need to be doing His will [see John 7:16–17]. And we can never overstate the importance of taking our spiritual concerns directly to God and trusting His inspiration and guidance” (“Women of Dedication, Faith, Determination, and Action” [address given at Brigham Young University Women’s Conference, May 1, 2015],

James 1:6. “Ask in faith”

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained what it means to ask in faith:

“The classic example of asking in faith is Joseph Smith and the First Vision. As young Joseph was seeking to know the truth about religion, he read [James 1:5–6]. …

“Please notice the requirement to ask in faith, which I understand to mean the necessity to not only express but to do, the dual obligation to both plead and to perform, the requirement to communicate and to act” (“Ask in Faith,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2008, 94).

James 1:14; 4:7–8. Resisting temptation

Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:

“When you have taken a determined stand for right, when you have established personal standards and made covenants to keep them, when temptations come and you act according to your standards, you will be reinforced and given strength beyond your own capacity if that is needed. Difficulty comes when you enter the battle of temptation without a fixed plan” (“Do What Is Right,” Ensign, June 1997, 53).

President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:

“If you can control your thoughts, you can overcome habits, even degrading personal habits. If you can learn to master them you will have a happy life. …

“Once you learn to clear the stage of your mind from unworthy thoughts, keep it busy with learning worthwhile things. Change your environment so that you have things about you that will inspire good and uplifting thoughts. Keep busy with things that are righteous” (“Inspiring Music—Worthy Thoughts,” Ensign, Jan. 1974, 28).