I read and pondered the Epistle of James for my “Come, Follow Me” studies this week and found numerous principles and doctrines. A principle that is near and dear to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is found in James 1:5-6:
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
These verses were instrumental in the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ. I do not know why Joseph Smith turned to James for his scripture study. Maybe he heard a sermon on prayer and heard the reference. Maybe he happened upon these verses in his regular scripture study. It really does not matter why Joseph read James 1:5-6. The only thing that matters is that he acted upon the knowledge that he gained. He learned that the heavens are not sealed and that God reveals answers to anyone who sincerely seeks. Joseph was surprised to learn that he, a 14-year-old farm boy, could approach God and receive an answer. This fact is as important to us today as it was for Joseph.
I do not know how long Joseph pondered these verses. I only know that he went to a grove of trees to a place previously determined and knelt in prayer. He wanted to know which of all the churches he should join and was expecting a simple answer to his question. He was as surprised as you or I would be when Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him. Heavenly Father introduced His Son Jesus Christ and commanded Joseph, “Hear ye Him.”
Once Joseph had recovered from his shock, he asked his question about which church to join. He was told to join none of them because they were all wrong. He was also told that he would become an instrument in God’s hands in restoring His true church to earth. Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained why James 2:5-6 has unique significance to 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 those 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, 3:246-47).
It is not enough to simply ask God for an answer. James emphasizes that we must “ask in faith” (James 1:6) without wavering. Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained what it means to ask in faith.
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.
… Note the questions that guided Joseph’s thinking and supplicating….
“My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join” (Joseph Smith-History 1:10, 18).
Joseph’s questions focused not just on what he needed to know but also on what was to be done! His prayer was not simply, “Which church is right?” His question was, “Which church should I join?” Joseph went to the grove to ask in faith, and he was determined to act.
True faith is focused in and on the Lord Jesus Christ and always leads to righteous action….
… We press forward and persevere in the consecrated work of prayer, after we say “amen,” by acting upon the things we have expressed to Heavenly Father.
Asking in faith requires honesty, effort, commitment, and persistence” (“Ask in Faith,” Ensign, May 2008, 94-95).
Testimonies of James and Joseph Smith run together. Both testify that God will answer prayers if we sincerely seek an answer and are willing to follow His directions. I add my witness to that of James, Joseph, and millions of other people. I know that Heavenly Father lives and loves us. He is a loving parent who desires to help His children just we desire to help our children. I know that He answers prayers because He has answered many prayers for me. I know that He desires to help and bless us and that He sent His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to make it possible for us to return to His presence. I know that He will not force something upon us but will freely give when we ask. What are you waiting for? Your Heavenly Father is waiting to hear from you!