“Lesson 13: The Allegory of the Olive Trees,” Book of Mormon: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual (1999), 56–60
“Lesson 13,” Book of Mormon: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, 56–60
To help class members better understand Zenos’s allegory of the olive trees and how it applies in our day.
Read, ponder, and pray about the following scriptures:
Prayerfully select the scripture passages, questions, and other lesson material that will best meet class members’ needs. Discuss how the selected scriptures apply to daily life. Encourage class members to share appropriate experiences that relate to the scriptural principles.
Discuss Jacob 5. Invite class members to read selected verses aloud. Explain that in this chapter Jacob quotes an allegory from Zenos, a Hebrew prophet mentioned several times in the Book of Mormon. An allegory is a literary device in which one object or event is used to describe or represent another. Zenos’s allegory uses olive trees to summarize Israel’s history and foretell its destiny.
What symbols did Zenos use in this allegory? What are the meanings of these symbols?
Allowing class members to contribute as much as possible, identify the main symbols from the allegory and their meanings. List these in a chart on the chalkboard. The completed chart will look something like this:
Master of the vineyard
Tame olive tree
The house of Israel, the Lord’s covenant people
Wild olive tree
Gentiles (people not born into the house of Israel)
Groups of people
Prophets and others called to serve
Lives or works of people
Leave this chart on the chalkboard throughout the lesson.
The allegory begins with the master of the vineyard finding that his tame olive tree is beginning to decay (Jacob 5:3–4). What does this decay represent? (Apostasy.) What did the master of the vineyard do when he found his tame olive tree decaying? (See Jacob 5:4–14. You may need to explain that grafting is a process in which part of a second plant is joined to a first plant in such a way that it becomes a permanent part of the first plant.) Why did the master ask the servant to graft in some wild branches? (See Jacob 5:11, 18.)
What does grafting represent in this allegory? (Bringing Gentiles into the house of Israel through baptism.) When was the gospel first taken to the Gentiles? (See Acts 10.)
What is represented by transplanting the tame branches into distant parts of the vineyard? (See 1 Nephi 10:12–13.) What specific groups might these tame branches represent? (See 1 Nephi 2:19–20; 22:3–4.) Why was Israel scattered? (See Amos 9:8–9.)
The master of the vineyard repeatedly worked with his servant to prune, dig about, and nourish his tree. What does this suggest about Jesus Christ’s involvement in the lives of His people?
When the master visited the vineyard for the second time, what did he discover about the wild branches that were grafted into the tame tree? (See Jacob 5:15–18.) What does the bearing of good fruit symbolize? How can new converts add life and strength to the Church?
What did the master find when he visited the natural (tame) branches he had planted in various places around the vineyard? (See Jacob 5:19–25. Point out that the branches planted in poor ground brought forth good fruit, while the branches planted in good ground yielded both good and wild fruit.) What application might these situations have for us today?
When the master visited the vineyard the third time, what had happened to all the fruit? (See Jacob 5:29–32, 37–42.) What do the many kinds of corrupt fruit symbolize? (Universal apostasy.) What caused the apostasy? (See Jacob 5:37, 40, 48.) What might the “loftiness” of the vineyard symbolize? How can our own loftiness, or pride, prevent us from bearing good fruit?
What does the master’s response to his corrupted vineyard tell us about the Lord’s feelings for His people? (See Jacob 5:41, 47.) How does knowing that the Lord loves you make a difference in your life?
You may want to point out other verses that illustrate the Lord’s love for us. Some suggestions are given below:
“I will prune it, and dig about it, and nourish it, that … it perish not” (Jacob 5:4).
“It grieveth me that I should lose this tree” (Jacob 5:7).
“What shall we do unto the tree, that I may preserve again good fruit thereof unto mine own self?” (Jacob 5:33).
“I may have joy again in the fruit of my vineyard” (Jacob 5:60).
What did the master decide to do to save his corrupted vineyard? (See Jacob 5:49–54, 58, 62–64. He decided to nourish and prune the vineyard once more and graft some of the transplanted branches back into the original tree.) What does this final nourishing, pruning, and grafting represent? (See 1 Nephi 10:14; 2 Nephi 29:14; D&C 33:3–6. The Restoration of the gospel and the gathering of scattered Israel.)
Who are the “other servants” mentioned in Jacob 5:61, 70? (See D&C 133:8.) Although these servants are few, what are the results of their efforts? (See Jacob 5:71–75.) How can we help in this final nourishing, pruning, and grafting in the Lord’s vineyard?
Read and discuss selected verses from Jacob 6.
What did Jacob prophesy after relating Zenos’s allegory? (See Jacob 6:1.) What time period did Jacob refer to in Jacob 6:2? (The latter days.) What does this tell us about the relevance of Zenos’s allegory to us?
Have a class member read Jacob 6:4–5 aloud. What do these verses teach about how the Savior will recover Israel in the last days?
What gospel principles did Jacob emphasize after testifying that the events in Zenos’s allegory would all come to pass? (See Jacob 6:3–13.) What are the responsibilities of those who “have been nourished by the good word of God”? (See Jacob 6:11–12; Moroni 6:3–4.) What are some specific ways we can fulfill these responsibilities? (Emphasize that every member of the Church can fulfill these responsibilities. For example, we can invite our nonmember friends to talk with the missionaries, we can serve diligently as home teachers and visiting teachers, and couples can serve full-time missions together.)
The following material supplements the suggested lesson outline. You may want to use one or more of these ideas as part of the lesson.