When people hear the word 'Mormonism' they often think first of Joseph Smith. That makes sense in a way, as Joseph Smith was the prophet that restored the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but we must remember how "Mormonism" started. As a teenager Joseph, not of any church, wanted to know which church he was supposed to be a part of. He found way to the answer through the words of the ancient apostle James:
"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."More times than not, after this scripture is read people tend to move on to how Joseph prayed to know the truth and then the other things that came about from the Lord through Joseph Smith. But, unlike most people, I'd like to stop here and focus on this scripture itself. There are two verses, so lets take one at a time.
"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."
In his mortal life Christ told us more than once to "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" (Matthew 7:7; Luke 11:9). The Lord does not want us to live in ignorance. When we are in need of wisdom or guidance or any other assistance he would that we ask God. James is plainly telling us here that we can pray to God for answers and will receive them. Some have said something similar to: "This was written two-thousand years ago and does not apply anymore." To reply to this I go to the words of Paul in his epistle to the Hebrews. Paul writes:
"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."
If Christ could do it in the past, he can do it in the present. If he can do it in the present, he will be able to do it in the future. That is what Paul is trying to teach here. And so, applying this to James' scripture we know that God can answer any prayer, liberally and without upbraiding (reproach), just as he has done in the past, and just as he will in the future.
"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."
To gain the needed wisdom mentioned in the previous verse we need to ask with faith that we will receive our answer. But how does a person receive the faith necessary to do this? This is a common question, and a good one. I will answer this, in part, using words from the Book of Mormon. Alma and Amulek, two prophets of the Book of Mormon, tried to teach this very same thing. Here is a portion of their words:
"Now, as I said concerning faith - that it was not a perfect knowledge - even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge. But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words."No one is expected to have perfect faith to begin with. As Alma spoke, "even if ye can no more than desire to believe" then work with that. He goes on to compare faith to a seed, something that Christ has done in the New Testament. Faith is very similar to a seed. Begin with a desire and work with that. As you gain a testimony from that desire, as small as it may be, you then have something bigger to work with. And as the seed of faith grows your ability to work with faith grows, until you can do what James has written: "ask in faith, nothing wavering."
Summing it all up, we can see that God will answer our prayers and give us the needed guidance and wisdom, so long as we ask in faith.