Once the decision is made to recover fruit from the vineyard, the Lord and His servants set to work, although there were only “few” sent. The laborers were told to work “with your might” because the “time which will soon come” will harvest only the suitable fruit. This will be “the last time” for such labor before that day of harvest. (5: 71.)
When the servants appeared within the vineyard to labor, they “did go and labor with their mights” because this is serious work, not to be idled away with distractions. 5: 72.) They will relentlessly seek to reclaim souls, preach repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. They have no time to set themselves up for a light, nor to practice priestcrafts. (2 Ne. 26: 9.) Getting gain, engaging in commerce, diverting attention from the Lord, becoming the object of adoration; all these things cannot distract the true servants. Their only labor, which involves all their might, is to provide sufficient for their needs and then seek only the welfare of Zion. Zion’s welfare, of course, consists primarily in qualifying people to be called to Zion. That is no small feat.
The laboring servants are not left comfortless. The Lord of the vineyard “labored also with them.” (5: 72.) They will not be confused about whether He is laboring alongside them. He will, of course, take up His abode with them. (John 14: 23.) The Lord of the vineyard cannot “labor also with them” if He does not return to assist the laborers directly. He will not be an absentee landlord. He will be with them.
This process is not immediate. It is not automatic, nor is the outcome guaranteed. It may be generations before the work results in any fruit. But, at length, “there began to be the natural fruit again in the vineyard.” (5: 73.) We will see this. There will yet be sons of God, daughters of God, and a people who are “natural” and within the adopted family of God. They are coming. But, as they return, the first appearance is so small a matter that the only thing which can be said of them is they “began” to return.
These beginnings will be marked by something “peculiar” indeed. (1 Peter 2: 9.) The idea of a “royal priesthood” is apt. It captures the idea of nobility, or royalty, or, in other words, a connection with the Family of God. And the co-extensive proposition is that it will necessarily involve “priesthood” also. This is because one cannot receive the Lord without also receiving priesthood. (See, e.g., D&C 84: 35.)
When the Lord bestows this royalty on the individual, it is through His own voice. (JST-Gen. 14: 29.) This happened in the days of Joseph Smith. (See, e.g., D&C 52, when Joseph reported the Melchizedek Priesthood first appeared in the church.) This continued to be the case through March 1835, because the revelation reported there was yet Melchizedek Priesthood in the church at that time. (D&C 107: 1.) By January 1841, the fullness of that authority was taken away. (D&C 124: 28.) The Lord offered to restore it again, as discussed in Passing the Heavenly Gift. I won’t repeat that again here.
What is clear from the allegory is that no matter what labor is required, the servants who are sent will labor with their mights to bring again some start to the return of “natural fruit.” They will gather those who are born to parents who have received the covenant, been sealed by the Lord, have a lively and warranted expectations of inheriting eternal life, and are acquainted with He whom they serve. (D&C 93: 1.)
When it begins, there will be no going back. The appearance of the “natural fruit” signals the beginning of pruning away the wild branches. As the one appears, the other begins to be destroyed, removed, plucked off and cast away. (5: 73.) The Lord is interested in preserving, producing and cultivating the branches producing natural fruit. For the rest, they will be destroyed because they cumber the ground and do not (indeed cannot) produce fruit. You cannot have Zion without qualified residents, and Zion must exist on the mountains before the Lord’s return. So the focal point of the Lord’s labors will shift from the initial cultivation, and grafting to those places where the natural fruit appears.