“Unit 10: Day 1, Jacob 5–6,” Book of Mormon Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2012), 92–95
“Unit 10: Day 1,” Book of Mormon Study Guide, 92–95
Jacob 5 contains the allegory of the tame and wild olive trees, which was originally given by a prophet named Zenos. Jacob used this allegory to teach that the Lord is always working to bring salvation to His covenant people, even when they turn away from Him. The allegory shows that the Lord scattered portions of the house of Israel—His covenant people—throughout the earth and that He will gather His people in the latter days. The allegory has specific and personal application to us today as members of the house of Israel and servants of the Lord. In Jacob 6, Jacob emphasized the Lord’s mercy and justice while encouraging his people—and us—to repent.
Do you know of a friend or loved one who has questioned God’s love for him or her, particularly during a time of trial when the person may have turned away from Him? Consider the following examples:
A young priesthood holder develops a sinful habit. He believes that others can be forgiven, but he doubts the Lord will accept his repentance.
A young woman transgresses a commandment. She experiences guilt, feels terrible about herself, and questions if the Lord still loves her.
Jacob prophesied that the Jews would reject Jesus Christ (see Jacob 4:15). He also prophesied that Jesus Christ would continue to labor for the salvation of His people even after they had rejected Him. To illustrate this truth, Jacob quoted an allegory given by a prophet named Zenos (see Jacob 5:1). An allegory, like a parable, is a story that uses symbolic characters, objects, and actions to teach truths. As you study Jacob 5, consider how the Lord is always reaching out to you even when you have sinned.
Read Jacob 5:2, and mark in your scriptures whom Zenos directed this teaching to.
Because you have made covenants with the Lord through baptism, you are a member of the house of Israel. You are part of the story told in Jacob 5. Read Jacob 5:3, and mark what Zenos used in his allegory to represent the house of Israel. Also mark what began to happen to the tame olive tree.
Notice that footnote d in Jacob 5:3 indicates that the decay of the tree represents apostasy. Apostasy occurs when individuals or groups of people turn away from the Lord and His gospel.
The following chart lists symbols that help us understand the meaning of Zenos’s allegory. Also listed are the verses where these symbols first appear. Mark these symbols in your scriptures. You may also want to write the meaning of some of the symbols in the margins of your scriptures.
Jacob 5: The Allegory of the Tame and Wild Olive Trees
Tame olive tree (verse 3)
The house of Israel, God’s covenant people
The vineyard (verse 3)
Decay (verse 3)
Sin and apostasy
Master of the vineyard (verse 4)
Pruning, digging, and nourishing (verse 4)
The Lord’s efforts to help us be righteous and produce good works
Branches (verse 6)
Groups of people
Wild olive tree (verse 7)
Gentiles—those who have not made covenants with the Lord. Later in the allegory, natural olive trees, representing portions of the house of Israel in apostasy, are also described as “wild.”
Plucking and grafting branches (verses 7–8)
The scattering and gathering of the Lord’s covenant people. In addition, the grafting of wild olive branches into the tame olive tree represents the conversion of Gentiles who become part of the Lord’s covenant people through baptism.
Burning branches (verse 7)
God’s judgments upon the wicked
Fruit (verse 8)
The lives or works of people
Roots of the tame olive tree (verse 11)
The covenants the Lord makes with those who follow Him. Roots may also represent individuals with whom the Lord covenanted anciently, such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (see Jacob 6:4).
Read Jacob 5:4–6, and mark what the Master of the vineyard did first to save the tame olive tree. Look at the chart above, and notice who the Master of the vineyard is and what His actions of pruning, digging, and nourishing represent.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained what the allegory is intended to be about. As you read his explanation, underline what he teaches is the deeper meaning of this allegory.
“This allegory as recounted by Jacob is from the outset intended to be about Christ [the Master of the vineyard]. …
“Even as the Lord of the vineyard and his workers strive to bolster, prune, purify, and otherwise make productive their trees in what amounts to a one-chapter historical sketch of the scattering and gathering of Israel, the deeper meaning of the Atonement undergirds and overarches their labors” (Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon , 165).
While Jacob 5 appears to be about olive trees, this allegory is about people who have turned away from the Lord in sin and the Lord’s efforts to help them return to Him. This chapter teaches that the Lord loves us and labors diligently for our salvation. As you continue to study the allegory, look for evidence of this truth by paying close attention to the Lord’s feelings for Israel—the tame olive tree—and His tireless efforts to save it. For example, read Jacob 5:7, and ponder the phrase “It grieveth me that I should lose this tree.” What emotions do you think the Lord expressed here, and why?
Read the phrase again, and this time insert your name in place of “this tree”: “It grieveth me that I should lose [your name].” By inserting your name throughout Jacob 5 in places that are meaningful and appropriate, you will be able to relate the allegory to yourself and learn more about the Lord’s concern for you.
Read Jacob 5:7–11, and look for what the Lord of the vineyard did next to save the tame olive tree.
- Using the meaning of the symbols on the chart, write an explanation in your scripture study journal of what the Lord of the vineyard and His servant do in Jacob 5:7–11 to try and save Heavenly Father’s children.
The Lord takes people who are not of the house of Israel and grafts them into Israel, making them part of His covenant people. To save the house of Israel, He plucks off the most wicked branches (people) and destroys them.
Read Jacob 5:13–14, and look for what the Lord did with the young and tender branches from the tame olive tree mentioned in verse 6. You may want to write in your margin that nethermost means lowest or least visible.
- Using the meanings of the symbols on the chart, explain in your scripture study journal how the family of Lehi could be compared to a young and tender branch that was hid in the nethermost part of the vineyard.
President Joseph Fielding Smith explained that the Lord’s servants “took some of the branches and grafted them in to all the wild olive trees. Who were the wild olive trees? The Gentiles. And so the Lord sent his servants to all parts of his vineyard, which is the world, and planted these branches of the tree. …
“Now 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. No doubt he sent some of these branches into Japan, into Korea, into China. No question about it, because he sent them to all parts of the world” (Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., 5 vols. [1957–66], 4:204–5).
President Smith also taught that “the interpretation of this parable … is a story of the scattering of Israel and the mixing of the blood of Israel with the wild olive trees, or Gentile peoples, in all parts of the world. Therefore we find in China, Japan, India, and in all other countries that are inhabited by the Gentiles that the blood of Israel was scattered, or ‘grafted,’ among them” (Answers to Gospel Questions, 4:40–41).
Many of the verses in Jacob 5 describe different time periods and events about various parts of the house of Israel being scattered throughout the world and the Savior’s work to gather them. The chapter ends with the Millennium and the earth’s final cleansing.
To emphasize the Lord’s concern for the trees of His vineyard and His continual efforts to save them, Zenos repeated a few important phrases throughout his allegory. Read Jacob 5:20, 23–25, 28, 31, and mark each time the Lord mentioned His efforts to nourish the trees of His vineyard.
In spite of the efforts of the Lord and His servant to help the vineyard produce good fruit, eventually all the fruit of the vineyard became corrupt (see Jacob 5:39). Read Jacob 5:41–42, 46–47, and mark phrases in your scriptures that show the Lord’s love, concern, or sorrow for His vineyard.
Because the trees were producing bad fruit despite all He had done, the Lord of the vineyard considered cutting down all of the trees (see Jacob 5:49). Read Jacob 5:50–51. The rest of Jacob 5 represents the Lord’s and His servants’ efforts to save those who live in the last days. He gathers his people and nourishes them one last time (see Jacob 5:52–77).
President Joseph Fielding Smith taught that the gathering of Israel described in Jacob 5 is occurring now: “In this day of gathering the Lord is fulfilling his purposes and is calling back into the fold of the True Shepherd, the children of Abraham” (Answers to Gospel Questions, 4:41).
- Write in your scripture study journal what you have learned from Jacob 5 about the Lord’s love for you. Record an example of how you have seen His love manifested in your life or in the life of someone you know.
Jacob 6 contains Jacob’s summary of important truths from the allegory of the olive trees. Read Jacob 6:4–6, and look for what Jacob emphasized about God’s character. What word would you use to summarize what Jacob wanted us to learn about God?
Jacob concluded his message in Jacob 6:7–13 by testifying that we are wise to prepare now for judgment by repenting and receiving the Lord’s mercy.
- Review Jacob 6:5. Notice that Jacob encouraged us to “cleave unto God as he cleaveth unto you.” To cleave means to cling or hold on to. Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
What did you learn from the allegory of the olive trees that illustrates how God cleaves or holds on to you?
What can you do to cleave more firmly unto Him as He cleaves unto you?
- Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Jacob 5–6 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: