There are important themes in Zenos’ allegory. Here are five of them:
1. The Lord of the vineyard controls overall history through His involvement and the involvement of His servants. However, they can only accomplish two things: 1) removing the bad, bitter fruit by cutting away branches and burning them. 2) encouraging the good, natural fruit by pruning, grafting, nourishing and laboring. Whether or not the natural fruit reappears is left to the tree itself. Mankind cannot be compelled to be good. As agents of their own, they are free to choose. No amount of ministering will force the natural fruit to appear. The Lord and His servants can only present the opportunity.
2. The tree and its branches are prone to repeatedly producing bitter fruit. Producing natural fruit does not come easily. From the beginning, the tree was prone to loftiness and pride. It required cutting away, scattering and destroying the main top in order to have a chance to cause the natural fruit to reappear. This is the tendency. As soon as people learn they are “called” they will presume they are “chosen,” even though these are two entirely different things. The Lord of the vineyard has learned by sad experience that it is the nature of almost all men that they begin to exercise unrighteous dominion over one another as soon as they have a little authority as they suppose. This is why He does not distribute, and cannot confer, the priesthood on mankind through generations of hand-me-down lines of authority. As soon as it is abused, it is lost. And when the Lord says “amen to the priesthood of that man” he is powerless to give it to another.
3. The Lord has occasionally come to the vineyard. On one occasion He labored directly within the vineyard, choosing to mingle with the scattered branches and to personally minister among them. This produced a period of production throughout the vineyard. However, it was short-lived. The vineyard lapsed into bitter fruit everywhere. There came a point where the entire vineyard produced nothing but bitter fruit, in every part of the Lord’s possession. When that time came, the Lord determined to labor a “last time” in the vineyard, and to bring a “few servants” to assist. Again this return would involve His personal appearance, but it took the form of periodic appearances with His servants, as in the First Vision and Section 76. When He appears He confers authority. Joseph and Sidney both “received of His fullness” when He ministered to them. (D&C 76: 20.) Indeed, no one can behold His glory and not receive of His fullness. (D&C 84: 22.) To receive His priesthood, He must redeem from the fall (Ether 3: 13) and thereby receive Him. (D&C 84: 35.) This is not an apperance in the heart, but is rather a personal appearance, The idea it is something merely in the heart is an old sectarian notion and is false. (D&C 130: 3.)
4. In the Lord’s last labor in the vineyard, the commencement of the work does not signal the end of His involvement. Once begun, He will continue to labor with the tree to encourage it to produce fruit. He will send servants who will labor with all their might to bring the fruit about. However, it will be the tree’s response and not the Lord’s nor His servants’ work that will bring again the natural fruit. This will take a long time before the roots are able to take hold again. The grafted branches will require pruning and additional work before they respond and return to respect and take nourishment from the natural roots. What was shocking and hard to bear with will need to be accepted in humility and gratitude before the natural fruit can appear once more.
5. When the natural fruit begins to appear, the Lord will begin to trim away the bad to make way for the good to prevail. Therefore, those who fight against the natural fruit will be cut down. Even those who entertain high positions will be struck down if they oppose the return of the Lord’s natural fruit. (See, e.g., D&C 85: 7.) The Lord of the vineyard controls which branches are allowed to survive with His tree, and not the tree itself. The inclination to produce the lofty and high minded remains the tendency of the tree. But those unwanted and unproductive branches will be cut away, burned, and not allowed to interfere with the natural fruit.