Sunday, November 24, 2019

Come Follow Me - 1 & 2 Peter

Come Follow Me - 1 & 2 Peter

First Peter

Scholars are mixed as to whether Peter actually wrote 1 Peter or not.  Evidence for Petrine authorship is primarily that many early Christian writers stated that Peter wrote the epistle.  There are external issues that cause some scholars to doubt its authenticity.  One primary issue is that the Greek letter is eloquent in its writing and based on the Septuagint Old Testament (LXX). Peter may have known some Greek, but would not have been as powerful in writing Greek as in Hebrew.  And it is possibly more likely he would have used a Hebrew Old Testament and personally translated it into Greek.  That the letter speaks favorably on various Pauline concepts suggests it may have been written by one of Paul’s followers.  Finally, the book is written to Gentile areas in Asia, and mentions severe trials brought on by the government.  Nero was the Caesar who executed both Paul and Peter ca 63-67 AD, but mostly focused his Christian attacks in and around Rome.  Meanwhile, Nero’s successor Domitian did seek to destroy Christians throughout the Roman Empire.

The argument for it being actually written by Peter suggests that Peter wrote it immediately after the death of Paul, with the effect of trying to keep the Church in Asia united under the direction of the apostles.

Peter notes that the epistle is written from “Babylon.”  There are three possible locations for this: Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Rome.  Most scholars believe that Peter was referring to Rome, as there are no early traditions of Peter being in Mesopotamia or in Egypt.  It is generally agreed that Peter died in Rome ca 67AD, and if he did write the epistle, it would have to have been just prior to his own death during Nero’s reign, when the Roman saints were being persecuted.  That the churches addressed were on the fringes of Paul’s influence (Paul’s followers brought the gospel to the locations) makes sense, as the Church was well established in Ephesus and other locations Paul had personally preached.

Key Teachings

Peter gives two main concepts in the epistle.  

    Faith and Sanctification

1  Pet 1-2:10 teach us regarding the key concepts behind having real faith, even through trials brought on by others   In this instance, the trials brought on by Nero and the death of Paul would have weighed heavily on the entire Church.  And it is possible that trials were being inflicted upon the newly formed churches in Asia, as they were meeting challenges by pagan worshipers in the same areas.

“ 5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
“6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
“7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1)

Faith and hope cause us to anticipate the glories and rewards of the next life.  Even during our difficult trials in mortality, we can focus and even rejoice on such hope.  We learn that such trials can refine us, even as gold is refined by very intense heat.  As gold is heated, the impurities separate from the gold, and remain as slag or waste, after the purified gold has been tried by fire.

Peter speaks to the members who through their faith have been justified (made guiltless) through the blood of Christ, and now must learn to be sanctified (become holy) through the Spirit and the atonement of Christ (1 Pet 1:2).  The aspect of becoming holy through sanctification includes bearing the trials that occur, as well as learning obedience to the commands God gives us.  We are not saved by keeping the commandments.  We are, however, able to become more holy as we are sanctified, which requires us to strive ever more in the faith of Christ, and that includes learning obedience.

Peter taught that Christ was foreordained, ordained before the world was made, to accomplish his great work.  His example becomes our example to follow in faith.


How the Faithful Behave

The second part of 1 Peter (2:11-5:14) is a Midrash, or spiritual explanation of how we should apply Isaiah 53 into our own lives.  In that chapter, Isaiah foresaw the “Suffering Servant” Jesus Christ, who would take upon him the pains and sins of the world, and as a lamb going to the slaughter, would not cry out.

“21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
“22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
“23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:
“24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
“25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” (1 Pet 2).

While through basic faith and repentance we are justified or made sinless in Christ, we have yet to be sanctified or made holy through Christ and the Holy Spirit to a greater reward in heaven.  If we seek to receive the reward given to Jesus and to sit down on his throne with him (Revelation 3:21), we must follow the path and example he gave us in mortality.  As we follow in Jesus’ footsteps, we become more holy, more like He is.  Following commandments alone cannot save nor exalt us.  But when we become holy through sanctification, we BECOME like Christ. It is in the Becoming that the Holy Spirit can then abide within us, purifying us, and making us more and more perfect in Christ.

We are not expected to sit passively through our trials.  Instead, God expects us to actively be doing good works (3:13-4:6).  As adeptly notes: “It is one thing to suffer for simply being a Christian; it is quite another for suffering for living like a Christian before a watching world.”


Preaching to the Spirits in Prison

Peter speaks on an interesting concept regarding the deceased Christ’s efforts in the three days his body lay in the tomb.

“ 18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
“19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
“20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water” (1 Pet 3).

“ 6 For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit” (1 Pet 4).

Here, Peter is talking about Jesus’ descending into hell, or the “harrowing of hell.”  According to the early Christian writing, the “Gospel of Nicodemus” Part II (the descent into hell), the dead were in a spirit prison, unable to escape Death.  When Jesus died, Satan came to Death and boasted about his victory over Jesus.  Death lamented, stating he did not have the power to hold such a powerful being.  Jesus soon came and broke down the doors of death, allowing the righteous from Adam on down to resurrect and enter into heaven.

This prison or hell we speak of is a portion of what is known as the Spirit World.  This is the place where the spirits of the dead await the resurrection.  One part of the Spirit World is known as Paradise, and the other as Spirit Prison or hell.  The requirement to escape hell is to be justified in Christ, or to have faith in Christ and fully repent of one’s sins.   As Peter discusses sanctification or becoming holy, our reward in heaven then is determined by our good works, and who we truly become (Christ-like or something less).  

In his three days in the Spirit World, Christ organized the righteous to preach the gospel to the wicked and those who had not yet received a chance to hear the Good News.  In 1918, President Joseph F. Smith saw in vision the Spirit World and how Christ organized the work.  He explained first seeing Paradise and the righteous awaiting the coming of Christ to save them:

“18 While this vast multitude waited and conversed, rejoicing in the hour of their deliverance from the chains of death, the Son of God appeared, declaring liberty to the captives who had been faithful;
19 And there he preached to them the everlasting gospel, the doctrine of the resurrection and the redemption of mankind from the fall, and from individual sins on conditions of repentance.
20 But unto the wicked he did not go, and among the ungodly and the unrepentant who had defiled themselves while in the flesh, his voice was not raised;
21 Neither did the rebellious who rejected the testimonies and the warnings of the ancient prophets behold his presence, nor look upon his face.
22 Where these were, darkness reigned, but among the righteous there was peace;...
30 But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead.
31 And the chosen messengers went forth to declare the acceptable day of the Lord and proclaim liberty to the captives who were bound, even unto all who would repent of their sins and receive the gospel.
32 Thus was the gospel preached to those who had died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets.
33 These were taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands,
34 And all other principles of the gospel that were necessary for them to know in order to qualify themselves that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit”  (D&C 138).

In this way, we see that the Almighty God has prepared a way for all mankind to hear the gospel message, believe and repent, and be saved from eternal damnation and hell.  The Jews and Gentiles that lived prior to Christ in most of the world,  the person who lived behind the atheist Iron Curtain of the 20th century, and the millions who today dwell under Islam and other non-Christian faiths; will finally have a chance to have the gospel preached to them.

This is significant.  Some Christians believe that anyone who does not accept Christ in this life will be cast into hell, regardless of the reason.  Now we know that Christ gives all mankind a chance to know Him and accept Him.  And why would he do that?

“ 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3).

Second Peter

Many scholars believe that Peter did not write 2 Peter.  It is dated anywhere from 60-160 AD for its writing, depending on just which scholar is asked.  Since Peter discusses Paul’s writings, 2 Peter could not have been written prior to 60 AD.  Even early Christian leaders, such as Origen, had some doubts as to the authenticity of 2 Peter.  Many scholars believe that it was written after the destruction of Jerusalem, for Peter states that Israel now consists of the followers of Jesus, and not the Jews, who after the Roman destruction were scattered to the winds.  According to 2 Peter, the apostle was anticipating his death: “Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me” (2 Pet 1:14), and so it could not have been written much before that concluding event.  Tradition has it that the Romans chose to crucify Peter, but he asked to be crucified upside down, because he did not feel himself worthy of imitating the Lord in his own death on the cross.

Peter also makes reference to the epistle of Jude, which could not have been written any earlier than 66 AD, one year before Peter’s death, and therefore probably not giving Peter time to read it and discuss it in his own epistle.  That Peter discusses Jude’s epistle, which includes writings from Enoch which St Jerome rejected in compiling the books of the Bible, caused that it cast a questionable light on 2 Peter’s authenticity.

2 Peter is also tied closely to another ancient pseudepigraphic writing entitled the Apocalypse of Peter, which details a major revelation given to Peter.


Partakers of the Divine Nature
2 Peter 1:4-8

Peter begins by speaking of how we become sanctified, or made holy.  We can become “partakers of the divine nature” which literally means we can become as Christ is.  In doing so, Peter makes a list of principles of those things that can make us Christ-like, grace by grace:

“ 5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ”

In some Christian traditions, God is made of pure Spirit or substance that is unlike any other creation.  Some believe that nothing impure can ever become quite like God’s nature or substance.  Yet, here we are told we can partake of that divine nature, and exactly how to do it through being sanctified.  To add “godliness” means one must be god-like!  Peter shows us a path from one level of grace and goodness to the next, until we are perfected through charity/love.

In going from grace to grace, receiving grace for grace (D&C 93), we become perfected until we can receive our “calling and election made sure” (2 Pet 1:10).  It is at this point that we have achieved a level of grace and godliness through sanctification that we are promised exaltation.


More Sure Word of Prophecy
2 Peter 1:19-21

“19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:
20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

Peter is establishing a very important concept among those who struggle with the writings and scriptures floating around the Christian communities in his day.  There is a better way to understand prophecy than by “private interpretation.”  That method is to listen to living apostles and prophets explain the scriptures and interpret them according to the will and inspiration of God.  Perhaps this is one of the most important concepts that separates traditional Christianity from restorationist Christianity one finds in Mormonism.

There are thousands of Christian churches today because individuals have read the Bible and disagreed one with another regarding concepts and teachings therein.  Some believe baptism is necessary, others do not.  Some believe in immersion in water, while others think sprinkling or not baptism is fine.  Some believe salvation comes only through pure grace, while others believe that works is also a necessary component.  Some believe in free will, while others teach predestination.  The American Baptist church was torn in half over the issue of slavery in 1845. Today, many churches are divided over abortion and issues of sexuality..  

With modern prophets and apostles, modern witnesses of the resurrected Christ, even as Peter was an ancient witness of the resurrected Christ, we have inspired men who can give us a God-approved interpretation of scripture.

Peter states later in chapter 3:

“15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.”

That Paul’s writings have long been a point of major disagreement in the Christian Church is well noted even in Peter’s day.  For those who seek a personal interpretation of the scriptures, without guidance of modern prophets to clarify the will and mind of God is to risk wresting the scriptures onto our own destruction.

Peter even notes that some scoff at the scripture because they do not heed the prophets or apostles:

“ 2 That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour:
3 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,
4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2 Pet 3).

Peter noted that there would be scoffers in the “last days” prior to the Second Coming.  Sadly, his prophecy has come true in the modern age.  Today, we have many Christians and their pastors who do not believe in the Second Coming of Christ.  For example, retired Episcopalian Bishop John Spong wrote and spoke for years on his version of Christianity, questioning the divinity of Christ, the virgin birth, insisted miracles do not happen, nor is there a physical resurrection, etc.  

Yet, we have living prophets and apostles in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who proclaim the divinity of Christ today.  They are called as “special witnesses of Jesus Christ.”  In his day, the Prophet Joseph Smith proclaimed,

“ 19 And while we meditated upon these things, the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings and they were opened, and the glory of the Lord shone round about.
20 And we beheld the glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father, and received of his fulness;
21 And saw the holy angels, and them who are sanctified before his throne, worshiping God, and the Lamb, who worship him forever and ever.
22 And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
23 For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—
24 That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:19-24).

The living prophets and apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ have also born their modern witness of the Lord in the “Living Christ, a Proclamation.”



First Peter - wikipedia:

First Peter -

Gospel of Nicodemus:

Second Peter - wikipedia:

Second Peter - Early Christian Writings:

Second Peter -

Peter’s Death:

The Living Christ, a Proclamation from the living prophets and apostles:

The Apocalypse of Peter:

Friday, November 15, 2019

Come Follow Me - James

Come Follow Me - James


Many people mistakenly believe that one of the two apostles named James wrote this epistle.  Instead, most scholars agree  it is James the Just, the brother of Jesus, and the first bishop of Jerusalem who is believed to have written the letter of James.  He was prominent in the early Christian Church and mentioned by Jesus (Mat 13:55; Acts 21:15-25; 1Cor 15:7; Gal 1:19, 2:9). Scholars differ over whether James, the brother of Jesus, actually wrote this epistle or not.  There are four theories regarding the epistle: 1 - that James wrote it before the Pauline epistles, 2 - that James wrote it after the Pauline epistles, 3 - that it was written by James, but then reworked later by another person, and 4 - that it was entirely written by someone else.  Other scholars, in noting that a simple Jewish man could not have had such an extensive writing knowledge of Greek, argue that James may have used a scribe to assist him.

Martin Luther denied the sacredness or apostolic authority of the epistle of James, calling it an “epistle of straw” because he felt it argued against his interpretation of Paul’s teaching on salvation by grace without any works.

While James’ epistle is probably written to the Jewish Christians, it  clearly is a statement that moves beyond the Jewish Christian discussions of circumcision, temple attendance, and animal sacrifice, and to a new way to understand religion and the Christian’s personal responsibility to God, the Church, and mankind.

Key Themes

Rather than a normal letter format, the Epistle of James is more likely a series of wisdom sayings, belonging to the same form of wisdom literature as Proverbs, Sirach, and the Wisdom of Solomon.  James tends to discuss a topic, stray from it, then later return to it.  Still, there seems to be a few key themes involved.

Three main themes are: 

  • True Religion (1:1-27) 
  • True Faith (2:1-3:12) 
  • True Wisdom (3:13-5:20)

Minor themes include:
  • Living a Faithful Life - not only having faith, but living the faith one has.
  • Dealing with Trials.
  • Abiding the Law of Love.
  • Speaking with wisdom.
  • The Proper use of Wealth.

If any of you lack wisdom...
James 1:5-6

Isn’t it interesting that the epistle loathed by Martin Luther and that inspired continual disagreements between Catholic and Evangelical Christians is the one that would lead a young farm boy into the greatest theological discovery of the 19th century?

That the fourteen year old boy, Joseph Smith, confused by the various arguments among the factions of his day, was moved upon by James’ words to ask God for wisdom and the answer to the question: which , if any, of all the sects is correct?

As Joseph discovered, the answer cannot come from an appeal to the Bible. Regardless of claims by many Christians, the Bible has answers, but interpretations of those answers are so complex that two different people can read the same passages in the Bible and come up with very different answers.  That Martin Luther loathed James’ epistle shows a severe difference in understanding the same gospel of Christ.  Either James and Paul agree or they do not agree on faith and works (to be dealt with below).  If they do agree, then Luther should not have loathed James. If they do not agree, then there is no real way to appeal to the Bible for a method to bring the two back together.

So, how do we get to the truth, or close to it, if an appeal to the Bible leads us to as many interpretations as there are Bible readers?  Only an appeal to the Source of all truth can help us approach nearer to the intent of the original author of the scriptures: God.

In such an act, this young man who essentially was a “blank page” (as Bible scholar Johannes Munck noted of many of the Old Testament prophets), got more than he bargained for when he took up James’ promise that God will give liberally.  God and Jesus appeared to Joseph Smith and prepared him, as they had prepared ancient prophets, for the holy calling of prophet.

Although most of us do not have huge visions of God and Jesus, we can be guided by the Spirit of the Lord into a better understanding of truth, of a better interpretation of the Bible, and a witness of the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Savior.  But we must “ask in faith, nothing wavering.”  We must have a true and real intent as a condition to receiving an answer from God.  For the doubter, the answer will be nothing. They will get the answer they expect.  But for the person who keeps and open mind, and believes God can reveal his will to him, will approach closer to God’s truth.

Personal revelation is necessary in a living Church.  That personal revelation requires us to have faith and to have an openness to the things God will teach us. Otherwise, God will leave us alone, with the things we think we already know.

Pure Religion
James 1:27, 2:1-13

“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.”

Here, James is teaching the Jewish Christians that there is a new way in which we serve God.  Animal sacrifices and the many rules for being clean and undefiled do not show our worthiness, but how we treat the poor and needy.  

Many Christians fail miserably on this very short list given by James.  So many are focused on the world and their personal lives that they forget to care for the poor and needy.  So important is this concept that Isaiah and other prophets condemned Israel more for this than for any other evil.

It may be that James had ancient prophets in mind in giving such a teaching.  To be “unspotted from the world” gives us a new definition of being clean.  While anciently, Jews would perform cleansing rituals to be clean, today we have our own requirements to remain without blemish.  In Psalms 24, the Lord asks,

“ Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place?
He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully” (Psalms 24:3-4).

This ties us into the temple ceremony of purity and holiness.  The ancient temple was the place to give one’s alms and offerings. It was also the place where one sought cleansing by sacrificing animals and washing in pure water.  The priests were washed and anointed in order to purify themselves prior to service in the temple.  Pure religion makes us holy and unspotted, so that we may stand in holy places, even in the presence of God in his holy place, the temple.

Faith without works is dead...
James 2:14-26

“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?....Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only....For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

Herein lies the problem Martin Luther has with James.  

For Christians, Justification means that through the blood of Christ and our faith/repentance in the atonement, we are made guiltless.  Once we are guiltless, we are freed from death and hell.  For LDS Christians, justification is what brings us out of Spirit Prison hell and into Paradise. We no longer are on the chopping block for Outer Darkness as a son of perdition.

The problem is that James insists that with faith must come works, otherwise we cannot be justified.  How can that be reconciled with Paul?

First, there is a difference in audiences.  Paul’s audience usually were Gentiles, and often Gentiles that were not yet Christian.  Paul’s explanation of justification in Romans was to explain to potential converts how they were to escape death and hell - through faith and grace alone, Christ’s blood would save them.

Here, James is speaking to those already members of the faith.  He is taking them to the next level of justification, what we would call sanctification.  Already saved from death and hell, we still need to develop a level of faith befitting the level of reward we seek from God.  Traditional Christians generally believe that there are a variety of rewards in heaven. Latter-day Saints also believe this, and separate them into levels of heaven (cf 2 Cor 12:1-4).

Sanctification was dealt with in my discussion of Romans, and I’ll refer you to that blog post. The gist of it is that we must move from “grace to grace” receiving “grace for grace” until we obtain a fullness of grace (or stop on a level of grace we feel is sufficient for ourselves - see D&C 93).  As we develop faith, which is developed through obedience, we become more holy and are more infused with the Holy Spirit, being sanctified to ever higher levels of holiness until we become holy even as Christ is holy.

For James, it is necessary for us as believers to demonstrate our faith through abiding works.  Remember, Paul stated that without charity, all other things are dead (1 Cor 13).  For James, without serving others with loving works, our faith is dead as well.

Had Martin Luther understood the Bible by asking greater wisdom of God in prayer, perhaps he would have thought better of James.

James was teaching that True Faith requires an outward example of the inner conversion. We are not saved by works. However, a simple belief cannot save nor exalt us. Faith must move within us, filling us with the Holy Ghost, and change us (Mosiah 4:1-4; 5:1-4) until we no longer "desire to do evil, but do good continually."

True Wisdom

James teaches us those things that bring wisdom. Wisdom is more than knowledge, but it is the implementation of faith through the things we know or have revealed to us.

In discussing the bridling of the tongue, we see that James and Alma agree. "Bridle all your passions that ye may be filled with love" (Alma 38:12) was Alma's counsel to his son, Shiblon.

We live in a world full of passion. Passion that is out of control. Without controlling it with wisdom, we find ourselves in a world of excess passion and feelings. Hatred, anger, sexual impulses, gender issues, and even some types of depression and anxiety can be hyped up by a world that focuses on feelings. 

James explained in chapter three that there are two kinds of wisdom: the worldly type and the true wisdom that comes from heaven.  Of the two, he first wrote of the world's wisdom:

15 Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for[f] those who make peace. (James 3 NRSV)

In chapter 4, James discussed why people are miserable.

 Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet[a] something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:1-3 NRSV)

 When Laman and Lemuel told Nephi that they had not inquired of the Lord, because he did not answer them (1 Ne 15:8-11), we can find the reasons here in James' epistle. God gives us what we desire IF it is in our best heavenly interest. Too many people today are lost in seeking material gain and power. Conflicts arise, which is contrary to the unity expected in the Doctrine of Christ (3 Nephi 11).

James also warned about judging others. Wisdom has it that only God can judge fairly, because we do not know the background and experiences of the other person. We tend to place others into groups, us versus them, and then dehumanize our opponents, which then seemingly justifies our harsh judgment and treatment of others. So it happened with the Jews under Nazi Germany, and it happens today between political and other groups.  Why are so many schools shot up by students? Because the shooter often has been dehumanized, rather than embraced in friendship. If Americans think all Muslims are terrorists, then we are dehumanizing them to the extent that they are endless enemies.

 In chapter 5, James warns the rich to use their wealth to bless others and to give an honest wage to the laborer. This is akin to the warnings Isaiah and other ancient prophets gave to the wicked rich, who sought greater wealth, often by stealing from the poor.

Meanwhile, James encouraged the poor to patiently wait for their deliverance by Christ in the Second Coming. Patience is an important part of wisdom, and key to our enduring to the end. Along with patience, the apostle encouraged us to pray and ask for blessings of healing and strength.

As we teach this lesson to our families and others, let's encourage them all to diligently seek True Religion, True Faith and True Wisdom.



Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision:

Epistle of James - early christian writings:

Epistle of James - wikipedia:

Epistle of James - Catholic Encyclopedia New Advent:

Epistle of James - Theopedia:

My discussion of Paul’s calling and prophets as a  “blank page” from Johannes Munck’s book: