James 1-2: "Faith without Works Is Dead"

New Testament: Student Study guide, (2003), 154–155

What do you think of people who say they believe in Jesus Christ and the gospel but do not act like they do? James taught that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). As Saints, we must show our faith by living the gospel. As you read James 1–2, look for teachings that give encouragement and help you live the gospel.
girl visiting old woman

Understanding the Scriptures

James 1

Entire (v. 4)Complete 
Liberally (v. 5)Openly, freely 
Upbraideth (v. 5)Reproves, rebukes, scolds 
Double minded man (v. 8)Wavering, uncertain, doubting 
Endureth (v. 12)Resisteth (see JST, James 1:12) 
No variableness, neither shadow of turning (v. 17)No change 
Glass (v. 23)Mirror 
Bridleth (v. 26)Controls 

James 1:5—“If Any of You Lack Wisdom, Let Him Ask of God”

Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote, “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” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:246–47). It was after reading this scripture and feeling the truthfulness of it that Joseph Smith went to pray about which church to join. From that humble prayer came the beginning of the Restoration of the gospel.

James 1:25—What Is the “Perfect Law of Liberty”?

The “perfect law of liberty” is the fulness of the gospel. If we choose to live according to the principles of the gospel, we will be kept from the bondage of sin (see 2 Nephi 2:27; D&C 88:86).

James 2

Blaspheme (v. 7)Irreverently use 
Respect to persons (vv. 1, 9)Favor some people over others 
Convinced (v. 9)Convicted or punished 
Destitute (v. 15)In dire need 
Wrought (v. 22)Labored together 
Imputed (v. 23)Counted 

James 2:1—“Have Not the Faith of Our Lord”?

The Joseph Smith Translation corrects this phrase to read that “ye cannot” have the faith of Jesus Christ “and yet have respect to persons” (JST,  James 2:1).

James 2:14–22—A Helpful Joseph Smith Translation

The Prophet Joseph Smith made several changes to James 2 that are very helpful and important for you to study (see JST, James 2:14–21). Please make special note of them.

Studying the Scriptures

Do two of the following activities (A–C) as you study James 1–2.

Activity A Scripture Mastery iconScripture Mastery—James 1:5–6

Joseph Smith was only fourteen years old and confused about religion when he read from the book of James.

  1. 1.

    Read James 1:5–8 and write the words or phrases that encourage you to look for direction from God.

  2. 2.

    Read about Joseph Smith’s experience in Joseph Smith—History 1:10–13. Describe a situation in which you could receive help by exercising faith and asking God for wisdom.

young Joseph Smith reading the Bible

Activity B iconWrite a Talk for Sacrament Meeting

Imagine you have been asked to speak in a sacrament meeting. Using what you learn from James 1:12–16, 22–27, outline a five-minute talk about how young people can better live the gospel.

Activity C Scripture Mastery iconScripture Mastery—James 2:17–18

Some religions teach that faith is all that is needed in order to be saved and that good works are not necessary. James taught differently. Read the letter below and write a response using the information found in James 2:14–26.

Dear Friend,

I am afraid you are not Christian because you do not accept Jesus as your Savior. You believe that you need to do righteous works along with having faith to be accepted by God. You are deceived! Works are not necessary if you have faith and believe. The grace of Christ makes works nice, but unnecessary. Please turn from your errors, accept Christ, and do not rely on your works to save you. Only then can you have peace.

Your friend in another church.