Scheduled for study Nov. 18-24, 2019. Doing is the watchcry this week. What are we doing to control our tongue? Are we showing everyone equal love and honor or are we honoring some above others? Do we recognize that faith requires work in order for it to produce the desired result? All these and more are in this week’s lessons.

Day 1

James 1:2-4; 5:7-11 – Patient endurance leads to perfection.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. How are you prompted to live these truths?

One of the basic problems humans have with the virtue of patience is our failure to see that patience is one of the guiding, and most necessary, attributes of godliness. Think about God and the time table He uses. Is there anything that needs to be done today, that is pressing, or urgent? He knows the end from the beginning, so He has eternity to prepare for anything that needs doing. He can begin doing what has to be done with the little things then can afford to wait until things mature or develop into a state of readiness.

Unlike us, God is not caught by surprise by anything. We, on the other hand, feel a sense of urgency about almost everything. That is part and parcel of the human condition. We only have so much time to get things done. We can’t afford to wait for centuries for someone to come around and change their disposition. When we plant our yard do we plant seeds or fully grown trees?

Patience goes against our carnal natures. Patience is a godly attribute, but one on which the gods draw from moment to moment. When a planet is made there isn’t a mighty whoosh! and there is a planet. Planets are not just a single rock made out of a single type of stone. There are layers that have to be built, laws that have to be obeyed and used. What we call time is immaterial for someone building a planet, for they have no limit on the time they need to do the job right the first time. There is no need for shortcuts in the eternities.

This means that the patience we learn here is mainly about our ability to let things be as they are, without judgment and a sense of urgency to bend someone else’s will to our own. Learning patience in our relationships is a major aspect of our growth in spiritual things. By learning to be patient with others, we also learn to be patient with the Lord’s timetable. He doesn’t operate on the same timetable we do. In learning to be patient with God, we come to appreciate how patient He is with us, and how necessary it is for us to become even more patient with those around us.

James 1:4 says,

But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

In scriptural parlance, the word perfect refers to being whole or complete. We are incomplete and unfinished beings, seeking to become so. In order for us to finish our work of becoming perfect or complete/whole before the Lord, we are going to need to learn to be patient in all things. That includes becoming patient with ourselves. We must learn to give ourselves time to grow into understanding of a difficult principle, knowing our understanding and acceptance will come because we are exercising faith in God that He will help us learn to have greater faith than we have currently. Learning to have patience will help the Lord in His efforts to finish His work in our own lives.

Day 2

James 1:3-8, 21-25; 2:14-26; 4:17 – Faith requires action.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. How are you prompted to live these truths?

I learned something today. I have always thought of belief and faith as having two different definitions. But today I looked up both words. Belief was used to describe faith, and faith was used to describe belief. Both words were defined as a trust in something that is unsubstantiated, or without proof. That is how the dictionary defines these words, but that is not necessarily how we define them in the Church.

Belief can be an acceptance of anything, whether factual, real, or fantasy. Belief is also a choice. No one can force you to believe anything, whether or not it is true. How many people have been tricked into believing dishonest sales pitches or the promises of politicians? When we are told what we want to hear, it can be difficult to withhold our belief, because we want that thing to be true.

Faith requires a couple of things, as taught in the scriptures. First of all, we must be willing to choose to believe the thing we are going to accept as truth. Secondly, that thing must be based on reality, on truth. If what we choose to live by is not based on truth or at least a true principle then we may as well be putting our trust in the power of fairy tales.

Faith requires more than just trust. Joseph Smith referred to faith as a principle of power. Why? Because when we combine our trust in a principle or truth with action (living in accordance to our belief in that truth) things happen in our life. As we live according to what we have accepted as truth, even before we have been given proof of its truthfulness, our lives change for the better.

Faith has an element of hope attached to it. When a farmer plants a seed, it must be watered and tended until it sprouts and grows into a mature plant and bears fruit. Until we see the seedling emerge from the soil we are hoping it will grow at all. After we have seen it break through the ground we no longer need to hope for that, because we now have proof that the seed was good. That hope is now replaced with a hope that with continued care the seedling will produce the fruit we hoped for in the beginning of this whole process. But in every stage of this waiting game, action is required on the part of the person who is seeking the end result of their hope, the fruit.

Faith produces things. Belief can sit idle and requires no commitment. But faith, in order to make anything happen requires us to act. Faith and hope work hand in hand, based on a correct principle or an eternal truth, to teach us any number of spiritual lessons that cannot be learned any other way.

James very clearly makes the point that faith cannot produce anything, and is therefore dead, if there are no works or actions to go along with it. Think about how this truth affects all parts of the gospel. How can we say we have faith in Christ if we are not living his teachings? We can believe in Christ and still not do anything about that belief. But if we have faith in Christ that means we are putting his teachings to the test. Faith is a principle of power, for faith always causes change in something. It is the action and hope we use to prove what we have chosen to believe in that causes faith to have such power to change our lives for the better.

Day 3

James 1:26; 3:1-18 – The words I speak have the power to hurt or bless others.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. How are you prompted to live these truths?

I strongly suggest you read and study the verses for today’s lesson before you read what follows.

James preaches quite the sermon on the power – mostly the negative power – of the tongue. I would like to address for a moment what the tongue represents.

Our language, be it English, Mandarin, or Swahili, is the expression of our culture, our desires, our thoughts. Each language has been developed by those who speak it to say things in ways they are comfortable expressing themselves. It is through our language we teach our up and coming generation our values and mores. This makes the words we use and how we choose to express ourselves a very valuable and potent tool for shaping the minds of others.

When a parent uses their language to berate their partner or their children, their language causes shame, humiliation, and uncertainty in themselves. When a parent uses their language to uplift and teach others, their home is filled with love, encouragement, confidence, and power for good. All this, either good or evil, based on the words we choose to use.

I like James’ comparison of our words being like a fountain. Does a fountain spew forth both sweet and bitter water? No, it is either one or the other. Neither should we be uttering both good and evil from the same source. This is a gentle call for one and all to learn to curb our hasty words that cause hurt to others. James would have us learn to be consistent with our language, always uplifting and encouraging others, and never saying anything that will cause hurt.

Unfortunately, controlling our words is much like learning to control our thoughts. Our tongue, like our speedy thoughts, can let something slip out before we have had a chance to really consider how it might affect another person. We need to slow down and think about how we choose our words. Our words have power to influence the attitudes, feelings, and behaviors of other people. If we are not careful about what we say and how we say it, we may produce harm where we hoped to produce healing. This is a lifelong pursuit, for even when we think carefully about what we say, there are times when someone else will hear it and apply different motives to our words and be offended or hurt. We cannot control that, but we can control our attempts to be consistent in our use of kindness and goodness in all we speak.

Day 4

James 2:1-9 – As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I should love all people, regardless of their circumstances.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. How are you prompted to live these truths?

James 2:1 in the KJV says,

My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christthe Lord of glory, with respect of persons.

Here is the JST version of that same verse.

My brethren, ye cannot have the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, and yet have respect to persons.

When James talks about having “respect to persons” he is referring to how we choose to honor individuals. If I am a respecter of persons then I honor those I like, am impressed with, who I wish to impress myself. I treat them better than those whose opinions I don’t care about.

If I am not a respecter of persons (like God is) then I treat everyone the same. Hopefully, that means I treat everyone well. The wealthy, the important, the powerful, all get the same treatment as the social dross, the poor, the dirty, the diseased, the unclean, the outcast. This is very difficult to do.

The Lord has told us how He is able to avoid being a respecter of persons, it is because he doesn’t look on their outward appearance, but on their heart. By looking on their heart, their intentions, their desires, God sees those who are clean for what they are, and those who are unclean for what they are. Since He loves them equally (as they are all His children) He is able to be just as patient and gentle with the one as with the other.

If you had a child who loved to play in the mud, who hated bath time, and struggled with the notion of changing clothes every day, and you have another child who was prim and proper, bathing regularly, and always dressed neatly, would you still love them equally? Would you be afraid to touch your snot-nosed child who played in the dirt? Would you give preference in your love to the child who was so easy to care for? Unfortunately, sometimes we do show these preferences, but I hope not. We should never be afraid to love wholeheartedly our messy child as we love our neat and clean child.

This is what happens in the real world. We see one person who wanders in off the bowery, smelling of urine and liquor, and we almost instinctively draw back. What they have done to themselves makes them seem repulsive to one degree or another. Yet that person, for all their unpleasant outward presentation, may be a pure of heart child of God who has lost their way. While next to you, all dressed to the nines, and smelling of expensive cologne may be someone who is hiding a blackened heart full of bitterness and rebellion.

The point is that we cannot see what is on the inside. All we can see is what we can see. So we must learn to treat each person with the same standard of kindness and care. If we are fortunate, the Lord will eventually show us more of their real value as one of His children. But even when we begin to see their real value, what we discover is that we all, no matter the outward presentation of ourselves, have the same value to God.

Day 5

James 3 – Big things come from little things

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. How are you prompted to live these truths?

Here is James 3:5

Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! [underline added]

Now here is James 3:5 with the Greek word used in the place of the English word “matter.”

Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a forest a little fire kindleth! [underline added]

This beautiful illustration demonstrates the power of something very small to cause tremendous devastation. It only takes one match to set ablaze an entire forest. How many of our family “blow ups” happened because of an ill-timed verbal jab or snarky comment? How many friendships have been put into jeopardy because of one poorly chosen comment that caused hurt, doubt, disappointment, or despair?

Our words have power, even when we feel powerless. Words come with attached emotions, whether real or perceived. There is often as much power in the perceived comment as in the intended comment. And what is perceived (on the receiving end of the conversation) is often very different from what we intended when we offered the comment. This is a good reason for learning communication skills that will enable us to talk through unintended slights or hurts and remain as friends and loved ones.

Scripture Study and Home Evening

Improving Personal Study – Act on what you learn

The point in today’s lesson is short and simple. Remember the discussion earlier in the week on the difference between belief and faith? Personal growth in the gospel cannot happen without action, the exercising of our faith or belief in a true principle. It is not enough to simply believe in the scriptures or the words of the prophets. We must follow that belief with action.

It is acting on our belief that allows the Holy Ghost to change our heart, reveal more truth, and reacquaint us with previously learned truths. I feel safe in stating that nothing good in the gospel of Christ comes from inaction. Even when we sit and ponder, we may be physically quiet and still, but our mind and heart are deeply involved in searching for meaning and understanding. Everything about the gospel has to do with changing and becoming better versions of what we currently are.

So how can you tell if you are making progress in this life toward your desired goal of exaltation? Ask yourself how much you are doing. Could you do more each day? The exercise of our faith requires service to others, study of the word of God, and performance of Church callings and responsibilities. And that is all in addition to the personal relationships we are cultivating and our personal efforts to cleanse our inner vessel. So if you find yourself doing a lot of observing, but not a lot of doing then some change is needed. There is good reason why the prophets refer to this life as a race, as wearing our their lives in the service of God. Becoming a celestial person is all about doing and becoming. Knowing is just not enough.

Here is a PDF of this week’s study material.
Print it out for greater convenience in your studies.

New Testament 47