James 5 deals with issues such as:
1. How to handle wealth
2. Holding grudges
3. Keeping your word
4. When you are sick
Doctrine and Covenants 59 has this to say about how the Lord feels about the goods of the earth and wealth:
Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth; Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards; Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart; Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul. And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion. And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments (D&C 59:16-21, emphasis added).
We had a good discussion on the meaning of excess and extortion. There are so many illustrations of the proper (and improper) use of wealth in the lives of people today!
James is a very practical book – he deals with things that we all can relate with. Who hasn’t had to deal with forgiving someone who has offended us? His advice is simple, “Grudge not one against another…”
I find James’ advice on sickness to be insightful: “Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the Church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in he name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him” (James 5:14-15).
I like the following quote by Elder Bruce R. McConkie. It relates to this as well as teaches us how quick the Lord is to justify us, or forgive us from sin:
There are also numerous other sacred occasions when the saints may get in tune with and receive the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. The receipt of this heaven-sent boon always attests that the recipient has forsaken the world and is no longer encumbered by its wicked ways. One of these occasions may attend a proper anointing and blessing of the sick. “Is any sick among you?” James asks. “Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.” (James 5:14-16.) If the Spirit of the Lord rests upon one who is being blessed by the elders, in connection with this or any other ordinance, it automatically follows that the one blessed receives a remission of his sins; otherwise the Spirit would not be present. We do not want for occasions upon which sins may be remitted. Our problem is one of so living that we are worthy to have the companionship of the Spirit in our lives. 1
James also advises that we confess our faults to each other (James 5:16), then he uses Elijah as an illustration of an individual that, although he was a mighty prophet who commanded the elements (1 Kings 17), he was also a man and subject to the frailties of mortality (James 5:17-18). I like this. The youth need to know that the prophets of every dispensation were people like us- subject to temptation, they had their feelings hurt, etc.
The story of Heber J. Grant is a good illustration of this idea. Heber was called to the office of Apostle when he was not quite 26 years old. He had feelings of inadequacy in his calling, and often felt that there were others more qualified for the office. Spencer W. Kimball relates a comment by Heber J. Grant:
There are two spirits striving with us always, one telling us to continue our labor for good, and one telling us that with the faults and failings of our nature we are unworthy. I can truthfully say that from October, 1882, until February, 1883, that spirit followed me day and night telling me that I was unworthy to be an Apostle of the Church, and that I ought to resign. When I would testify of my knowledge that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, the Redeemer of mankind, it seemed as though a voice would say to me: “You lie! You lie! You have never seen Him.” 2
It was during one of these moments when he had the following experience:
As I was riding along to meet them on the other side I seemed to see, and I seemed to hear, what to me is one of the most real things in all my life, I seemed to see a Council in Heaven. I seemed to hear the words that were spoken. I listened to the discussion with a great deal of interest. The First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles had not been able to agree on two men to fill the vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve. There had been a vacancy of one for two years, a vacancy of two for one year, and the Conference had adjourned without the vacancies being filled. In this Council the Savior was present, my father was there, and the Prophet Joseph Smith was there. They discussed the question that a mistake had been made in not filling those two vacancies and that in all probability it would be another six months before the Quorum would be completed, and they discussed as to whom they wanted to occupy those positions, and decided that the way to remedy the mistake that had been made in not filling these vacancies was to send a revelation. It was given to me that the Prophet Joseph Smith and my father mentioned me and requested that I be called to that position. I sat there and wept for joy. It was given to me that I had done nothing to entitle me to that exalted position, except that I had lived a clean, sweet life. It was given to me that because of my father having practically sacrificed his life in what was known as the great Reformation, so to speak, of the people in early days, having been practically a martyr, that the Prophet Joseph and my father desired me to have that position, and it was because of their faithful labors that I was called, and not because of anything I had done of myself or any great thing that I had accomplished. It was also given to me that that was all these men, the Prophet and my father, could do for me; from that day it depended upon me and upon me alone as to whether I made a success of my life or a failure. 3
1. Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985], 239.
2. Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle, p. 36.
3. I Know That My Redeemer Lives: Latter-day Prophets Testify of the Savior, Deseret Book, 1990, p.112. See also Oscar McConkie, Angels and Us, p. 126. See also Conference Report, April, 1941.