Jacob 5

Jacob 5: Allegory of the Olive Tree

Allegory of the Olive Tree (See also: Romans 11:17-24)

Jacob quotes Zenos about the allegory of the tame and wild Olive Tree. The Olive Tree in the Lord’s Vineyard is like Israel and the Gentiles, the scattering and gathering of Israel… the Gentiles will be grafted into the Olive Tree of Israel.

Symbol What it might represent
The Vineyard The World
Master of the Vineyard God
Servants The Lord’s Prophets
Tame Olive Tree The House of Israel; The Covenant People
Wild Olive Tree Gentiles
Branches Groups of People
Roots of the Tame Olive Tree The Covenants the Lord makes with us
The Fruit The Lives/Works of men
Digging/Pruning/Fertilizing The work of the Lord to help His children obey
Transplanting Branches Scattering groups of people throughout the world
Grafting The joining of one group to another
Decaying Branches People dying spiritually from sin and apostasy
Casting branches into the fire God’s Wrath and Judgment

What is ‘Grafting’?

To graft branches, healthy, living branches are cut from a tree or plant and inserted into another place. The branches in this allegory represent groups of people that the Lord takes from one place and plants them in another. In the scriptural sense, grafting means to “…come to the knowledge of the true Messiah…” (1 Nephi 10:14).

In this chapter (which is super long), we learn about the Lord’s Vineyard. The chapter can be likened to Missionary Work and Rise and Fall of God’s Authority on the Earth.

Missionary Work

                “And the Lord of the Vineyard caused that it should be digged about, and pruned, and nourished, saying unto his servant: It grieveth me that I should lose this tree; wherefore, that perhaps I might preserve the roots thereof that they perish not, that I might preserve them unto myself, I have done this thing. Wherefore, go thy way; watch the tree, and nourish it, according to my words. And these will I place in the nethermost parts of my vineyard, withersoever I will, it mattereth not unto thee; and I do it that I may preserve unto myself the natural branches of the tree; and also that I may lay fruit thereof against the season, unto myself; for it grieveth me that I should lose this tree and the fruit thereof.” (Jacob 5:11-13) God wants his servants to work hard, so that they will not lose one soul or “branch” of the Olive Tree.

                “Wherefore, go to, and call servants, that we may labor diligently with our might in the vineyard, that we may prepare the way, that I may bring forth again the natural fruit, which natural fruit is good and the most precious above all fruits. Wherefore, let us got to and labor with our might this last time, for behold the end draweth nigh, and this is for the last time that I shall prune my vineyard. Graft in the branches; begin at the last that they may be first, and that the first may be last…” (Jacob 5:61-63) This really shows the importance of Missionary work in the last days, God will prune his vineyard one last time before his second coming… and it is the responsibility of the members of the church and the full time missionaries to teach the truths that we know to the world… we must labor diligently and with all our might… this last time

Young and Tender Branches of the House of Israel

(Jacob 5:8, 13–14, 19–25)

The “young and tender branches” seem to be those people who responded to the “pruning and fertilizing” by God and His prophets. They were more teachable than the old established branches, or the groups of Israelites who had to be removed and destroyed.

President Joseph Fielding Smith taught: “In that parable the olive tree is the House of Israel… In its native land it began to die. So the Lord took branches like the Nephites, like the lost tribes, and like others that the Lord led off that we do not know anything about, to other parts of the earth. He planted them all over his vineyard, which is the world” (Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., 5 vols. [1957–66], 4:204).

Zenos’s allegory helps us understand that the scattering of branches of Israel all over the world was a blessing both to Israel and to the rest of Heavenly Father’s children, the Gentiles. Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explained: “In general, the Lord sends to earth in the lineage of Jacob [Israel] those spirits who in pre-existence developed an especial talent for spirituality and for recognizing truth. Those born in this lineage, having the blood of Israel in their veins and finding it easy to accept the gospel, are said to have believing blood” (Mormon Doctrine, 81).

As scattered Israel mixed with the Gentiles around them, the blood of Israel was spread even further. Elder James E. Faust, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, commented: “The scattering of Israel throughout the world sprinkled the blood that believes, so that many nations may now partake of the gospel plan” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1982, 127; or Ensign,Nov. 1982, 87–88).

When Did All the Trees Become Corrupt?

(Jacob 5:32–46)

The part of the allegory when all the trees bear evil fruit seems to represent the period of the Apostasy, prior to the restoration of the gospel. When the Lord spoke to Joseph Smith in the First Vision, He told Joseph that he should join none of the churches of that day because they were all “wrong” (Joseph Smith—History 1:19).In Jacob 5:48, we read; “…Is it not the loftiness [Pride] of thy vineyard – have not the branches thereof overcome the roots which are good? …behold they grew faster than the strength of the roots, taking strength unto themselves…” Essentially in this one verse we can see how easily churches after Christ was crucified began to pop up without any legitimate authority of power from God. However, they had some of the basic roots… but they began to lose their roots when they took strength upon themselves. The same people who claim that God won’t call another prophet, and that His word is complete the Bible.

1 Nephi 15

1 Nephi 15: Nephi and the Tree of Life

                After having seen these visions, Nephi returns to the tent of his father Lehi, where he finds his brothers arguing over what their father had seen in his visions. Nephi explains that Lehi had seen visions that “…were hard to be understood, save a man should inquire of the Lord…” (1 Nephi 15:4) Essentially Nephi is saying that those things Lehi spoke of were not easily understood without the inquiring of the Lord to have a deeper understanding. In other words, in order to understand the words of Lehi one must have the Spirit of the Lord.

Nephi was saddened because of the destruction he saw in his visions, nevertheless he desired to know why his own brothers were fighting against their father. They explain to Nephi; “…Behold, we cannot understand the words which our father hath spoken concerning the natural branches of the olive tree, and also concerning the Gentiles.” (1 Nephi 15:7) Nephi asks them if they had inquired of the Lord to know of its meanings, and they explained that they had NOT inquired of the Lord. Nephi asks his brothers; “Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.” (1 Nephi 15:11) Nephi knew that if you asked the Lord in FAITH, He would answer your prayers.

Regardless of the hardness of their hearts, Nephi explains the meaning behind the branches of the Olive Tree; “…now, the thing which our father meaneth concerning the grafting in of the natural branches through the fulness of the Gentiles, is, that in the latter days, when our seed shall have dwindled in unbelief, yea, for the space of many years, and many generations after the Messiah shall be manifested in body unto the children of men, then shall the fulness of the gospel of the Messiah come unto the Gentiles, and from the Gentiles unto the remnant of our seed— And at that day shall the remnant of our seed know that they are of the house of Israel, and that they are the covenant people of the Lord; and then shall they know and come to the knowledge of their forefathers, and also to the knowledge of the gospel of their Redeemer, which was ministered unto their fathers by him; wherefore, they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that they may know how to come unto him and be saved.” (1 Nephi 12-14) In other words, the seed of Nephi and his brothers will become the Gentiles in the Americas who will eventually come to the knowledge of their divine inheritance, that they shall be grafted into the Olive Tree in Israel. They will become the covenant people of the Lord!

Nephi explains to his brothers that the Jews will also be restored and shall no more be confounded or scattered among the land. Nephi’s brothers then ask for a meaning of the Tree of Life, which Lehi and now Nephi had seen.

The Tree of Life

 

“And they said unto me: What meaneth the rod of iron which our father saw, that led to the tree? And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.” (1 Nephi 15:24) Nephi urges them to give heed unto the words of the Lord that they might keep His commandments and shall overcome the adversary.

25 Wherefore, I, Nephi, did exhort them to give heed unto the word of the Lord; yea, I did exhort them with all the energies of my soul, and with all the faculty which I possessed, that they would give heed to the word of God and remember to keep his commandments always in all things.

“And they said unto me: What meaneth the river of water which our father saw? And I said unto them that the water which my father saw was filthiness; and so much was his mind swallowed up in other things that he beheld not the filthiness of the water.” (1 Nephi 15:27) Nephi explains that this river of water was an awful gulf, that separated the wicked from the tree of life… it was a representation of Hell.

Nephi explains to his brothers that this vision is meant to be both temporal and spiritual, for if someone were to die in their wickedness they would be judged of their works. No unclean thing can enter into the presence of the Lord. Therefore, those who die in filthiness will remain in filthiness and shall be given their just reward.