The Allegory of the Olive Trees
Lesson 13 - Jacob 5-7


Picture an olive tree in your mind. Think of as many things about an olive tree as you can think of in one minute. Some things that may have been in your thoughts include:
     May live to be very old
     Olive branch a symbol of peace
     Requires nourishment
     Bears fruit
     Many branches
     Gnarled trunk
This lesson discusses how the olive tree was used as a symbol to describe the Lordís dealings with the house of Israel.

Jacob quoted Zenosís allegory of the olive trees.

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. Zenosís allegory uses olive trees to summarize Israelís history and foretell its destiny.
Let's review the symbols Zenos used in this allegory and the meanings of these symbols:

Symbol Meaning
Vineyard The world
Master of the vineyard Jesus Christ
Tame olive tree The house of Israel, the Lord's covenant people
Wild olive tree Gentiles (people not born into the house of Israel)
Branches Groups of people
Servants Prophets and others called to serve
Fruit Lives or works of people

Jacob 5:3-4 The allegory begins with the master of the vineyard finding that his tame olive tree is beginning to decay. This decay represents Apostasy.
Jacob 5:4-14 When the master of the vineyard found his tame olive tree decaying, he pruned, cultivated, and nourished it. When that failed to save the tree from its decaying "main top", he decided to graft in portions of a wild olive tree.
Jacob 5:11, 18 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. The master asked the servant to graft in some wild branches to save the tree and allow it to correct its decay.
Grafting in this allegory represents bringing Gentiles into the house of Israel through baptism. Acts 10 records when the gospel was first taken to the Gentiles by the apostles after the departure of the Resurrected Christ.
1 Nephi 10:12-13 The scattering of the House of Israel is represented by transplanting the tame branches into distant parts of the vineyard.
1 Nephi 2:19-20; 1 Nephi 22:3-4 Specific groups these tame branches represent include Lehi and Ishmael's families along with others who would be led away from Jerusalem.
Amos 9:8-9 Israel was scattered to be sifted among other nations.
The master of the vineyard repeatedly worked with his servant to prune, dig about, and nourish his tree. This suggests much about Jesus Christís involvement in the lives of His people...that he is actively and very personally involved in trying to bring about their salvation.
Jacob 5:15-18 When the master visited the vineyard for the second time, he discovered that the wild branches that were grafted into the tame tree had taken hold and strengthened the tree so that it was now bearing tame fruit in abundance. The bearing of good fruit symbolizes the accomplishment of good works. From this illustration we see that new converts add life and strength to the Church.
Jacob 5:19-25 The master found when he visited the natural (tame) branches he had planted in various places around the vineyard that the branches planted in poor ground brought forth good fruit, while the branches planted in good ground yielded both good and wild fruit. Ponder what application these situations might have for us today.
Jacob 5:29-32, 37-42 When the master visited the vineyard the third time, he found that all the fruit from the natural tree that had had wild branches grafted in had turned bad and become corrupted. The many kinds of corrupt fruit symbolizes universal apostasy.
Jacob 5:37, 40, 48 The apostasy was caused by "loftiness" of the branches overcoming the roots. The "loftiness" of the vineyard symbolized pride. Think about how our own loftiness, or pride, might prevent us from bearing good fruit--doing the good works the Lord requires of us and bringing others to the gospel.
Jacob 5:41, 47 The masterís response to his corrupted vineyard--his weeping and obvious grief--tells us about the Lordís feelings for His people. Ponder how knowing that the Lord loves you makes a difference in your life.
Other verses that illustrate the Lordís love for us include:
     a. "I will prune it, and dig about it, and nourish it, perish not" (Jacob 5:4).
     b. "It grieveth me that I should lose this tree" (Jacob 5:7).
     c. "What shall we do unto the tree, that I may preserve again good fruit thereof unto mine own self?" (Jacob 5:33).
     d. "I may have joy again in the fruit of my vineyard" (Jacob 5:60).
Jacob 5:49-54, 58, 62-64 To save his corrupted vineyard, the master decided to nourish and prune the vineyard once more and graft some of the transplanted branches back into the original tree.
1 Nephi 10:14; 2 Nephi 29:14; D&C 33:3-6 This final nourishing, pruning, and grafting represents the Restoration of the gospel and the gathering of scattered Israel.
D&C 133:8 The "other servants" mentioned in Jacob 5:61, Jacob 5:70 are the elders (missionaries) of the Church.
Jacob 5:71-75 Although these servants are few, the results of their efforts were great. The vineyard was saved as the bad was cast out and the natural fruit was restored as a balance was achieved between the roots and the branches.
We can help in this final nourishing, pruning, and grafting in the Lordís vineyard as we proclaim the gospel to all those within our circle of influence and as we support the missionaries in the worldwide mission fields.

Jacob exhorted his listeners to repent and follow Christ.

Jacob 6:1 After relating Zenos's allegory, Jacob prophesied that the allegory would come to pass.
Jacob 6:2 The time period Jacob referred to in this verse is the latter days. Obviously, this tells us that Zenosís allegory is quite relevant to us.
Jacob 6:4-5 These verses teach that the Savior will recover Israel in the last days by extending an invitation to all who will accept the gospel and bear good fruit (do good works).
Jacob 6:3-13 Gospel principles Jacob emphasized after testifying that the events in Zenosís allegory would all come to pass include God's mercy, the reward for faithful service, the humility required to accept the gospel, the necessity of repentance and whole-hearted acceptance of the gospel, the need to listen to the promptings and teachings of God and his messengers, the requirement to endure to the end, and the counsel to be wise.
Jacob 6:11-12; Moroni 6:3-4 Responsibilities of those who "have been nourished by the good word of God" include being obedient, walking in the strait and narrow way, enduring to the end, and being wise. Specific ways in which we can fulfill these responsibilities include inviting our nonmember friends to talk with the missionaries, serving diligently as home teachers and visiting teachers, and couples serving full-time missions together.


President Joseph Fielding Smith said, "Today Latter-day Saints are going to all parts of the world as servants in the vineyard to gather this fruit and lay it in store for the time of the coming of the Master" (Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., 5 vols. [1957-66], 4:142). We should participate in this great gathering. Because we have been nourished by the Lord, we are obligated to help others receive this nourishment.

Additional Teachings

Sheremís false teachings
The account of Sherem is found in Jacob 7:1-23.
Jacob 7:1-7 Sherem led many people away from the truth by flattery and appeals to their pride. Some people today use similar methods to lead others away from Christ as they flatter their followers.
Jacob 7:8-22 Jacob was able to confound Sherem through the power of God being manifesteed in him.
Jacob 7:23; Romans 16:17-18; Ephesians 4:11-15 give us insight into how we can protect ourselves from the deceptions of anti-Christs.
President Joseph Fielding Smith said: "There is not anything in this world of as great importance to us as obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us search these scriptures. Let us know what the Lord has revealed. Let us put our lives in harmony with his truth. Then we will not be deceived" (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954-56], 1:301).