Themes from Jacob 5; Part 2

Here are five more themes:

6. The work of the last labor will not be abandoned. The Lord did not establish the restoration of the Gospel only to abandon it. Though it will take some time before it produces natural fruit, the Lord intends to stay with the grafts, labor with them, and trim away as necessary. Joseph Smith suggested the church needed to stay together, and the Lord’s hand would continue to watch over the church. As they have left, the splinter groups have all fallen into neglect, and ultimately abandonment. Whether it was Sidney Rigdon, the William Marks/Emma Smith “reorganization”, the William McLellin departure, or the various “fundamentalist” movements, the temporary prosperity or success has ultimately ended in collapse and failure. The Lord intends to work within the church until the natural fruit reappears. Though the church may not be synonymous with the “Gospel,” it is the means by which the Lord preserves the Gospel. To see the Lord’s hand, all you need to do is be near to the laboring full-time missionaries. The Lord does bear testimony to the investigators that the Book of Mormon is true, and Joseph Smith was His prophet, and the revelations are trustworthy, and the sincere soul should receive baptism at the hands of the elders of the church. I received this testimony when I investigated, and have received also the blessings associated with fellowship among others who accept and believe in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, the restoration scriptures, and all the associated practices we have inherited. Though we have departed somewhat from the roots that came from Joseph’s ministry, at this moment, for the first time, the church has begun publishing The Joseph Smith Papers. We are the chosen generation who can see the records for ourselves. The ability to take nourishment from the roots has become more of an opportunity for us living today than any of the prior saints, from Joseph’s day till ours. Thanks be to the church for opening this valuable library that has remained unavailable to the common church member for these last three or four generations. It is as if the Lord has finally moved, despite all we have done to forget our beginnings, to make important change possible and return to His foundation by giving us the original records.

7. The natural fruit involves more than just the regrafting. The establishment of the church was the necessary first step, but the prophecies do not mention The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the target church. The revelations speak of another name for the Lord’s church. (See D&C 76: 54; 78: 21; 88: 5; 107: 19; Hebrews 12: 23; among many others.) The temporal church is essential to produce another group within it. They are not going to reappear as a group disconnected from the temporal church, but instead from within it. The Gospel net will gather all manner of fish, but the angels will gather the good and cast away the bad. (Matt. 13: 47-49.) Being gathered into the net is not the sign of being good and worthy of gathering by the angels. It is only the first step. There is another step beyond that which requires the virgins to have oil in their lamps in order to be with the Bridegroom.

8. The history of the tree is told from the most ancient of our preserved history until the distant end of a millennium of peace. There is no other history that will take off in a different direction. The tree is fully accounted for in the allegory. You needn’t look for another, separated, surprising or unaccounted for sequence of events or long interruption of the Lord’s labors. He is working NOW and it is currently underway. The story is complete. Although the reappearance of the natural fruit is not immediate, it is going to reappear. When it does it will be in the young, tender growth. The high minded and lofty which are barren and tend to grow in their own self-interests, but do not seek the welfare of Zion itself will be trimmed away. The Lord’s hand will be most apparent inside the church, not outside of it. But likely in a young, tender place where nourishment from the roots has taken hold. Watch, therefore, and you will not be mistaken when it begins. This is, after all, the Lord’s work, and it is marvelous in the eyes of those who can see it. (Mormon 9: 16.)

9. Although there are many different groups of people, the Lord’s work has always focused on the House of Jacob and the potential for it to return to covenant status as the House of Israel. This is the “natural fruit” that the Lord seeks to have return to His vineyard. Although having some religious connection to God is desirable, the “harvest” is looking for this particular kind of “natural fruit” to preserve against the season. This kind of fruit requires the very same thing Joseph was so excited about in his last few talks in Nauvoo. The Elijah Talk followed on the history retold in Passing the Heavenly Gift, and goes to the heart of this need to reconnect with “the fathers in heaven,” or the original Patriarchial Fathers who were chosen by God as His. It requires us to track back, reconnect to the roots of the restoration, and return to belief in doctrines long neglected if we want to participate in the Lord’s work. The Lord invites all to know Him, to come to Him and to form this connection with Him. However, if you are waiting for the process to be unfolded in a weekly Gospel Doctrine class, you will first need a new manual. Nothing of these topics remains in our formal curriculum, though the information is still available if you will search for it.

10. The Lord has actually considered burning the entire vineyard before, and fully intends to burn all but the natural fruit in the future. The risk of the entire earth being cursed at His coming is not just an idle notion designed to make us luke-warm in our church affiliation. It is intended to cause us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. (Philip. 2: 12; Mormon 9: 27.) When we think our simple affiliation with our church is enough, we are deceived and show disrespect to the requirements of the Lord’s plan. The best scriptural passage to put the problem into context is Mormon’s description:

“. . . Do ye suppose that ye shall dwell with him under a consciousness of your guilt? Do ye suppose that ye could be happy to dwell with that holy Being, when your souls are racked with a consciousness of guilt that ye have ever abused his laws? Behold, I say unto you that ye would be more miserable to dwell with a holy and just God, under a consciousness of your filthiness before him, than ye would to dwell with the damned souls in hell. For behold, when ye shall be brought to see your nakedness before God, and also the glory of God, and the holiness of Jesus Christ, it will kindle a flame of unquenchable fire upon you.” (Mormon 9: 3-5.)

That day will come; now, if you prepare for it, but it will come. If that day “burns you up,” then you were not natural fruit. (Mal 4: 1.) Therefore, it makes sense to do what is needed now, repent, call on His name, and live by every word which He imparts so you may see His face and “know that [He is.]” (D&C 93: 1.)

Themes from Jacob 5

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.

Jacob 5: 76-77

Zenos wrote at the time of a united Kingdom, before the days of Isaiah, and in another dispensation than John. However, when it comes to the prophetic destiny of the vineyard, Zenos and John tell the same story, using different images to tell the tale.

The allegory has a “long time” in which the vineyard produces natural fruit. (5: 76.) This peaceful and productive era is Paradisiacal. (See Articles of Faith, 10.) The vineyard will allow the Lord to “lay up the fruit of [His] vineyard” because there will be an end to this era of the vineyard. (5: 76.) There will come a time for final accounting. The vineyard will need to be re-created, and a new one brought in its place. But before that day the vineyard will produce “for a long time, according to that which I have spoken.” (Id.) During that time Satan is bound and children grow up without sin.

The story of the end of this creation culminates in the last, great day, when Satan is loosed again for a season: “But when the time cometh that evil fruit shall again come into my vineyard” will happen after the period of Paradise. In the allegory, it is when “evil fruit” returns. In John’s vision it is when “the thousand years are expired.” (Rev. 20: 7.) John describes how “Satan shall be loosed out of his prison” at that time. (Id.) When he is, he “shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth.” (Rev. 20: 8.)

Despite all the Lord of the vineyard has done for His trees, the accuser will still find fault. The things of God will again be challenged, criticized, debated, accused and maligned. The Lord’s motives will be questioned, and His means will be derided. Why so little natural fruit? What right is there to discard the bitter fruit? Is not the worth of each soul great enough the Lord of the vineyard should have done more? Why should so much of the fruit have been gathered and burned? How can the Lord have the best interests of the vineyard in mind when there were so many who have not been gathered as natural fruit? What of those who came into the vineyard and were produced through wild branches, how can it be fair to leave them for the burning when they were given an unfair challenge? Their plight is not of their own making, and the Lord of the vineyard is unfair!

You see it is one thing to claim you believe in and follow the Lord when in your mistaken arrogance you assume His plan requires nothing from you and will exalt you to the sides of the north. (See Isa. 14: 12-13.) But it is another thing when you realize “the summer shall be past, and the harvest ended, and your souls not saved.” (D&C 45: 2.) Then will they lament: “O that I had repented, and had not killed the prophets, and stoned them, and cast them out. Yea, in that day ye shall say: O that we had remembered the Lord our God.” (Hel. 13: 33; see also 3 Ne. 8: 24.) When all men stand before God and realize He did expect obedience, sacrifice, consecration, chastity and a godly walk of all who are saved, then many who profess to follow Him when it was to their vanity and pride will find they cannot profess to follow Him when it is to their shame and condemnation. They will, with the accuser, join in denouncing the Lord. They will also compass the camp of the saints and make war against them and their Lord.

The Lord of the vineyard has done all He could, and respected the agency of men. The arguments at the end of the Millennial Day will prevail. John reports that the number of those who align with the accuser will be so much greater than the camp of the saints, that they will “compass the camp of the saints about” because their numbers so vastly exceed the mere “camp” of the righteous they will be able to entirely surround them. (Rev. 20: 9.)

These rebellious branches are “burned with fire” (5: 77) or, as John describes it, “fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.” (Rev. 20: 9.)

This then leads back to the major themes of the allegory. It was included by Jacob for us so that when these things come to pass we are not left surprised or wondering why we were not warned by the Lord.

Jacob 5: 74-75

When the final work in the vineyard begins, and the natural fruit reappears, the process of casting the bad branches producing bitter fruit accelerates. The bad is cleared away to make room for the good. (5: 74.) The remaining gentiles will be swept away and their cities will be inhabited again. This time they will be swept away by the natural fruit, to whom the land belongs. (3 Ne. 22: 3.)

Though there are two gatherings in the last days, when the natural fruit returns it will be to both. Servants will  minister to both. They will all be gathered in, and Israel will gather together in Zion and the long dispersed of Judah will also be given their land in peace. (Isa. 11: 12.) The Lord will hasten His work when the natural fruit reappears. (D&C 88: 73.) Some will say it is like before and everything continues from day to day uninterrupted and the Lord delays His coming. (Luke 12: 45.) Some will think the Lord will allow everything to be destroyed and still not return. (D&C 45: 26.)

Then will be the time when “they became like unto one body” though gathered in both Zion and Jerusalem. (5: 74.) Zion will have her kings (D&C 133: 32) and Judah will have her prophets. (See Rev. 11: 3; D&C 77: 15; Isa. 51: 19-20; Zech. 4: 11-14.)

It begins with the regrafting. Joseph Smith began that process. The purpose was to establish a relationship where it is possible for natural fruit to return. It would take generations before the natural fruit would reappear.

In the work to reestablish the natural fruit, the Lord of the vineyard would send both servants, like Joseph Smith, and He would work alongside them. In other words He would appear to them. (See JS-H 1: 17-19; D&C 84: 35D&C 93: 1.) The Lord will be present for the work of producing natural fruit in the last days. He will appear to them, and both He and the Father will take up their abode with them. (John 14: 23.) These will be those who are the natural branches, capable of producing the fruit for the final harvest. (John 15: 4-5.) This is the culmination of the final chapter in the vineyard. His work and glory is to bring this about. He knows the end from the beginning. His work has always pointed to this great, final labor.

Those who will be gathered will not need to tell one another to “know ye the Lord” for those who remain will all know Him, from the least to the greatest. (Jer. 31: 34; D&C 84: 98.) These are those who have been redeemed from the fall, for they have been back into His presence. (Ether 3: 13.) These are those who receive a testimony from Christ that they are saved. (D&C 76: 51.) Those who claim to follow prophets, but have not received the testimony of Christ that they have part with Him will be burned at His coming and appointed their place in sorrow and suffering. (D&C 76: 98-106.)

There will be no lukewarm saints allowed to stand in that day. If they have received and followed the truth, they will be saved. If they have not, they will be gathered in bundles and burned. The result will be an era of peace in which the entire vineyard, as if one body, produces again natural fruit. (5: 75.) There will be joy at that day. The Lord and His servants will rejoice, and the Lord will give praise to those servants who labored with Him. (Id.) When He could take credit, instead He shares it. And He promises to those servants: “behold ye shall have joy with me because of the fruit of my vineyard.”

Jacob 5: 71-73

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.

Jacob 5: 66-70

In order to develop and grow the tree, the Lord requires there to be good fruit growing before cutting away the bad. (5: 66.) The pruning and trimming away the bad will accelerate as good continues to grow. The good growth cannot be threatened by the bad, because the Lord will cut off, cut down, and discard the bad as the good develops.

Ultimately, the purpose is to have the good overwhelm the bad. When that happens, the bad will be cut down, thrown in the fire, and burned. (Id.) They will not be allowed to overcome the good, or “cumber the ground” of the Lord’s vineyard. (Id.)

It does not matter if the bad occupy positions of authority, or have been “called of God” into the lofty positions of the tree. They will be struck down when they attempt to overcome the good growth. (D&C 85: 7.) The intention of the Lord, and His prophetic promise is that His house will be set in order. (Id.) This, however, is still future.

The natural branches are to return to the natural tree (5: 67) to produce the natural fruit again. (5: 68.) That is the original doctrine, the covenant of adoption to God’s family, the return of covenant Israel. Children suitable for Zion are the Lord’s agenda. It hasn’t changed. He will bring it to pass, and we cannot claim any credit when it comes, for it is the Lord alone who will “bring again Zion.” (See, e.g., 3 Ne. 16: 18; Mosiah 12: 22, 15: 29; D&C 84: 99; Isa. 52: 8.) This is His work, after all. We get to participate in it, but the work is His.

Those who falsely claim to be the Lord’s will be “cast away” from the tree, because they can never bring again the natural fruit. (5: 69.) This great last work, which will unfold over generations and result in a restored tree, will be the last time He will work in His vineyard. (Id.)

The Lord sent His servant to labor. There were to be others. But the numbers of the servants who would be sent were disproportionately small. The servant went, and there were “other servants; and they were few.” (5: 70.)

We do not get to chooose who the Lord sends. He does. When He sends a servant we have the rare and infrequent opportunity to be invited back to the roots of the restoration again. There is no point in insisting that we are doing things right, and that we have no need to repent and return. We must respond, repent, regain whatever was offered, reconnect with the fathers, or risk being utterly wasted at His coming.

I think the proposition is self-evident that this will always be in or near the church. The numbers may not be large in comparison to the world, but the work of the Lord has never created a great harvest. The last days vineyard is either filled with bad branches requiring trimming and burning, or in the Lord’s parable, always mingled with tares needing gathering and burning. (See Matt. 13: 30; D&C 86: 7.) The field is always to be burned. (D&C 86: 7.)

Remember, however, that any fruit produced is infinite, eternal, and will produce forever in His House. (See D&C 132: 20.) Even if there were only one couple saved, from that single source there would be worlds without end, and seed like the sand of the sea or as the stars in heaven for their number. (See Gen. 22: 17.) Therefore, from this vantage point, you cannot look upon the harvest as meager. From the vantage point of the Lord in His vineyard it is infinite and eternal. Even if the harvest produced but one, how great would be the joy in heaven over that one. (See D&C 18: 15.) And if there were one, how much greater would it be if there were as great a number as seven? (D&C 18: 16.) Remember the first Zion was made of seven patriarchs and their families. (D&C 107: 53.)

The labor to produce fruit is great. The amount of humility and meekness required to repent and return is almost beyond the tolerance of mankind. Even those who learn a little think they know much more than they do. We tend to gather together, speak reassuring words to one another, and stop up our repentance by the mutual praise we lavish on each other. We interfere with our own repentance.

I’ve often reflected on our presumption that we can apply the words of scripture that were originally given when Joseph Smith was the church’s presiding officer to all later times and individuals. Joseph, of course, stood in the presence of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Therefore, the revelations to him – about him – have their veracity derived from that standing. Can we now apply statements to him, or about him to every situation we’ve encountered since then? Do we have the right to do that without some further revelation giving us that right? Is God’s promise about His protection of the church from error, given while Joseph was living, still applicable when we have lost the man who communed with Jehovah? Are we to expect all successors to also act as if they too hold the keys to the mysteries and sealed truths (D&C 28: 7) even when some have told us they have never received any audience with angels or the Lord? Are we allowed to presume the Lord invariably “sends another” when we vote to fill Joseph’s former office? (Id.) Our traditions gives us an answer that we heard again in last General Conference through President Eyring’s Priesthood Session talk. (Families Under Covenant) That talk was reassuring indeed. I hope it is altogether correct. I hope it answers this question.  

Jacob 5: 64-65

When the regrafting begins there is still more work to be done. In addition to the initiation of the regrafting, there is also the need to “dig” about the tree. (5: 64.) There will be disturbance. The tree and the grafts will also need to be “pruned” because fruit will not come unless some considerable growth is cast away. (Id.) The Lord is interested in His “fruit” and not in the tree, mind you. Worshiping the tree, celebrating the tree and idolizing the tree are distractions. The result has always been focused on the “fruit” alone. But, of course, you cannot produce fruit if you lack a tree. Elder Hallstrom’s talk was correct. There is a difference between the Gospel and the church, but you do not produce, protect or preserve the Gospel without the church. It is the church that preserves and publishes the Book of Mormon (the very text we are now considering). It is the church where we assemble together to edify and instruct one another. It is in the church we offer service, receive ordinances, fellowship, offer our tithes and offerings, bear testimony and discharge our obligations to God and one another. The tree is essential. But the tree can exist for a long time without producing fruit. And the Lord of the vineyard will destroy the tree if it fails to produce fruit, because it is then “good for nothing.” (Jacob 5: 42.)

The Lord also provides “dung” or nourishment for the tree. Soil gets tired and its nutrients depleted, and therefore He must introduce more vitality to the environment of the tree to stimulate growth and vigor. This is designed to provoke the right kind of effort by the tree.

The Lord and His servants watch over the “grafts” to see whether they “shall grow, and bring forth the natural fruit.” (5: 64.) This is a careful, deliberate work.

Though it may take some time, eventually the great initial effort to restore the tree should result in some signs of life in the grafts. “And as they begin to grow ye shall clear away the branches which bring forth bitter fruit.” (5: 65.) There will be trauma to the tree and to the grafts. Much of what remains after the initial restoration will still bring about “bitter fruit.”

Paul wrote a letter about the difference between fruit coming from above, and the bitterness of the flesh:


“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Gal. 5: 16-23.)

It is a matter of survival that we avoid the bitterness of these sins, and produce the kinds of things that will make us suitable for adoption as God’s sons and daughters. At a minimum, this will require us to possess love, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness and, in a word, to become godlike.

The patient work of the last days will not result in the Lord “clearing away the bad thereof all at once.” (5: 65.) There will be bad, bitter fruit in the restoration. Generations will need to be removed from the vineyard before it will be possible for the natural fruit to return. If it were all corrected at once “the roots thereof should be too strong for the graft, and the graft thereof shall perish.” (Id.) The doctrine Joseph was attempting to restore was confusing and offensive to many in the church. It seems a difficult thing even today, with generations entrenched in the traditions in which they were raised. The doctrinal roots of Mormonism are overwhelming, and even now tend to choke the grafts who find our beginnings riddled with difficult, challenging and offensive teachings. We have not humbly, meekly, faithfully or joyfully reexaminied what was originally offered us. My last book attempts to discuss that origin and how it has fared in our history. The reaction to that retelling of our history has been hatred, wrath, strife, and anger.

The allegory suggests we have a good deal of work to do if we want to produce fruit. That work will necessarily require us to not only endure the roots of our faith, but to accept the nourishment which flows from it.

Jacob 5: 60-63

The Lord of the vineyard wants to “have joy again in the fruit of my vineyard.” (5: 60.) This is an interesting connection by the Lord of “joy” in His “fruit” or joy in His posterity; for the redeemed are the children of God and He dwells in them. (1 John 4: 4.) The purpose of having children is to have “joy” with them. In this instance, the Lord of the vineyard is describing not only His “work and glory” (Moses 1: 39) but also what pleases Him most. He explains that producing such fruit worthy of preserving would be so “that I may rejoice exceedingly that I have preserved” these souls. (5: 60.) It is a compelling thought: A Lord who would “rejoice exceedingly” at our success!

The effort required to accomplish this is not inconsequential. There will be many “servants” called to labor in the vineyard. It will require some to descend without disclosing their true identities and to “labor diligently with our might in the vineyard” to bring about the potential for fruit. (5: 61.) Servants sent into the Telestial condition to labor in the vineyard with their might is a careful description, I think. Perhaps it is worth careful thought to consider how such servants might come among us to do the labor needed to rescue us from the coming harvest.

The effort is to “prepare the way” for the vineyard to be able to “bring forth again the natural fruit” of the original, natural tree. The effort is the return of covenant, adopted Israel sealed to the fathers and able to endure the return of the Lord. Such a people are not only “good” but also “the most precious above all other fruit.” (Id.) This is because such people are not merely mortal, but also immortal, even infinite because they have no end. (D&C 132: 20.) It is through such rare “most precious above all other fruit” that the universe itself expands. The infinite itself grows.

The Lord, however, acknowledges that both He and His servants must “labor with our might this last time” to salvage some few. (5:62.) What an image comes to mind when you consider the Lord of the vineyard laboring with “His might” to bring again some natural fruit in His vineyard. How great an undertaking! How foolish it is for the saints to believe ourselves chosen. How foolish to think that our careless church activities will save us. How arrogant a proposition it is for the saints to point with pride at our institutions and think it reflects credit upon us. It is, in a word, fruitless.

Because the living must be redeemed for the dead to be saved, the labor begins with the last and goes to the first. The work begins with the living, who are last in the vineyard. (5: 63.) They must be grafted back to the fathers who are in heaven. (See, e.g., D&C 132: 29, 37.) God’s children living today must be sealed to those who now sit upon thrones in the heavens. Then the deceased ancestors may be sealed to the living so the whole earth is not smitten with a curse at the return of the Lord.

Joseph’s instruction about adoption to the “fathers in heaven” was short lived. As I pointed out in Passing the Heavenly Gift, many of the surviving church leaders who were taught this by Joseph didn’t believe it when he said it. Brigham Young said he never understood it. The allegory of Zenos makes it apparent that there must be a connection, and that connection must produce natural fruit. The thing that will be saved will be the “fruit” and not the roots, trees and branches. There must be children born into the covenant, raised in righteousness who will live an order that can bring to pass the Savior’s great petition in prayer. The Lord’s prayer instructed us how to pray and what to pray for: “Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6: 9-10.) Zion will return.

How can fruit be harvested and laid up against the day if we cannot endure His presence at His return?

Jacob 5: 57-59

The restoration begins with an amalgamation of old and new. The only things removed are the bare essentials that are required to begin the transplanting or grafting. “Pluck not the wild branches from the trees, save it be those which are most bitter; and in them ye shall graft according to that which I have said.” (5: 57.) The restoration was not a wholesale affair at the start. There was and were a lot of wild, unredeemed and unredeemable participants in the work underway. There is a great deal of “loftiness” and “bitter fruit” left to be trimmed away.

As becomes apparent from the incidents in Nauvoo, Joseph Smith’s death was as much a result of internal conspiracies to get him into the hands of the Illinois civil authorities as it was the result of outside fear and hatred. He could have left on June 22nd and never returned. When he lamented “if my life is of no value to my friends, it is of no value to me” he clarified the reason for his return. The accusation that he was a false shepherd because he was “fleeing” when “the flock was in danger” was enough to bring him back, surrender to arrest and incarceration, and ultimately be killed. It wasn’t the mob that made the accusations which brought it about. It was the saints, his inner circle, his trusted friends.

So when we reflect on how the restoration was interrupted in its beginning states by the death of Joseph, we cannot lay the blame entirely on the mob that ultimately killed him. It began inside the church itself. If we are partly to blame, as I believe the record shows, then killing Joseph was not just an act of violence against the church, but also an act of treachery from within the church. Such things generally provoke a reaction from heaven which requires a third and fourth generation to pass away before the Lord of the vineyard begins anew to cultivate, water, dig and dung His tree again. That would make it about now when the Lord’s work would resume.

The work required to begin the restoration was not to produce fruit. It was to make it possible for fruit again to return to the vineyard. To that end, the work to “trim up the branches” and then to “pluck from the trees those branches which are ripened, that must perish” will be an ongoing process once the work begins. (5: 58.) There will be trauma. There will be casting away. There will be those who are “plucked” or removed. The patience required will endure for generations, as the Lord rids the tree of the many wild, unfruitful and unworthy growth found in the undisciplined, wild tree.

The Lord’s committment and understanding allows Him to foresee the possiblity it will yet result in worthy fruit. He does this “that, perhaps, the roots thereof may take strength because of their goodness; and because of the change of the branches, that the good may overcome the evil.” (5: 59.) It is still a “perhaps” proposition. The tree has its own independence. It will need to respond.

Joseph Smith was attempting to explain some of this process when he taught: “The Holy Ghost has no other effect than pure intelligence. It is more powerful in expanding the mind, enlightening the understanding, and storing the intellect with present knowledge, of a man who is of the literal seed of Abraham, than one that is a Gentile, though it may not have half as much visible effect upon the body; for as the Holy Ghost falls upon one of the literal seed of Abraham, it is calm and serene; and his whole soul and body are only exercised by the pure spirit of intelligence; while the effect of the Holy Ghost upon a Gentile, is to purge out the old blood, and make him actually of the seed of Abraham. That man that has none of the blood of Abraham (naturally) must have a new creation by the Holy Ghost. In such a case, there may be more of a powerful effect upon the body, and visible to the eye, than upon an Israelite, while the Israelite at first might be far before the Gentile in pure intelligence.” (TPJS, p. 149-150.) There is so much Joseph spoke about we no longer understand, but in the case of restoring the potential for “fruit” to return, the blood of Jacob matters. Even there, each individual is free to respond to the Lord. 

There may be “goodness” left in the individual from his birthright, but even the literal seed of Abraham must do the works of Abraham before they are able to produce fruit.

Jacob 5: 53-56

The Lord is quite realistic about salvaging something from the vineyard. He does not state He can produce fruit again, only that “perhaps, I may preserve unto myself the roots thereof.” (5: 53.) The vineyard must respond. He respects our agency. He can encourage, invite and entice us, but we are always free to choose. (Moroni 7: 13.) It is that freedom to choose that results in the vineyard being condemned. They could have responded to the Lord’s invitation, but decided not to. (D&C 101: 78.)

So this final dispensation is not a guaranteed success. Notwithstanding the optimism of many of our revelations, the Lord of the vineyard knows success (fruit reappearing) will only “perhaps” occur.

The bloodlines are still here. Though they are separated, mixed and disbursed throughout the nethermost parts of the vineyard, they are “yet still alive.” (5: 54.) The Lord has determined, and is now taking the steps, to graft back together the branches to the root in hopes of producing “fruit” again. (Id.) Notice it is not the restoration of the link, the regrafting of the branches, or the successful return of the Lord’s husbandry to the vineyard that matters. Despite all the coaxing and work, and even the regrafting of branch to root, the purpose is not fulfillled until there is “fruit” produced. The organizational structure of the reassembled tree is nothing. It is the “fruit” and the “fruit” alone which is the object of the effort. A Divine reconnection of branch and root is not and never has been the object of the Lord of the vineyard. Bragging about how you are part of a “restored branch” distracts you from the fact you are still unworthy to be laid up against the season. Lacking fruit, you are only worthy to be gathered in bundles and burned.

This restoration of branch to root does not bear and was never expected to bear any fruit at first. It was the preliminary step, intended to lead to a time when the restored branch takes its opportunity seriously and repents, finally returning to Him. “[T]hat when they shall be sufficiently strong perhaps they may bring forth good fruit unto me.” (5: 54.) It was always expected to take time. Generations, in fact, before there would be “fruit” in the vineyard.” No matter how millennial the first generation of the saints expected their faith to prove, no matter what prophecies and patriarchial blessings the first generation of latter-day saints shared with one another, and no matter what promises Joseph Smith obtained – everything was contingent on producing “fruit” which the Lord of the vineyard could lay up against the season. I’ve written the last book about the obvious conclusions we ought to reach regarding the beginning of the restoration. It is my effort to explain where we are and how we got here. It is also intended to help us now produce “fruit” in the vineyard.

The Lord began the process. (5: 55-56.) He and His servants took the wild branches and regrafted them. The potential covenant was restored. He returned again the pattern of covenant-making, the ordinances which testify to us of Christ’s Atonement, the ritual return through the veil to the Lord’s presence, and the ideas of a priesthood which is inseparably connected with heaven. He gave us the warning that when we undertake to assert the right to compel others to follow the priesthood, then we forfeit it. No power and no influence can or does exist by “virtue” or by reason of the priesthood. It exists because someone has humbled themselves, repented, come into the presence of Christ, and thereby been redeemed from the fall. (See, e.g., Ether 3: 13; D&C 84: 35.)

The Lord of the vineyard and His servants did the work. The graft was begun. Now it remains to see if it will bear fruit.

The Lord knows the end from the beginning. (Abr. 2: 8.) Everything He revealed to Zenos about the past has happened. We ought to respect that enough to allow the prophecy to inform our present and future.

Jacob 5: 52

We reach our day. In it the Lord of the vineyard has a highly specific intention. He will take the various scattered branches, the far-flung and long lost descendants of Jacob who are in “the nethermost parts of [His] vineyard” and will “graft them into the tree from whence they came.” (5: 52.) This is the work Joseph Smith identified as the most critical work of the restoration of the Gospel. This is the only thing that will prevent the earth from being “utterly wasted” at the Lord’s coming. (D&C 2: 3; JS-H 1: 39.)

The manner of this gathering involves connecting the “children” who are disassociated with the House of Israel – and have altogether lost their status in that family back through an adoption by God into His House. In other words, to make them members of the Family of God again. The “fathers” to whom they are to connect are not their ancestors. Their ancestors will require vicarious work to be saved. Connecting to them in their fallen, disconnected condition will not save “the children.”

Joseph taught the way this connection is to be accomplished. I would refer you again to the Elijah Talk which is available for download here. I won’t repeat it again. You can read it for yourself.

This leads to several side issues, including: Who are the gentiles and how do they fit into the plan of regrafting? Who are the remnant, and how do they fit into the regrafting? Who are the Jews and how do they fit into the latter-day scheme? What about the latter-day saint practice of identifying a Tribe of Israel in the patriarchial blessings and the effect that has on regrafting?

These questions require a specific reference point from which to answer. The Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants provide answers. In the vocabulary of both, the “gentiles” are the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the unconverted European residents of “this land.” You should be able to see that for yourself just by reading the material. As a quick example, Nephi explains who the “gentiles” are in 1 Ne. 13: 14. Moroni explains who they are in the Title Page of the Book of Mormon written by him. Joseph Smith identifies the church as “gentiles” by identity. (D&C 109: 60.) We, the latter-day saints to whom the Book of Mormon was given, and who are among the very few readers of the text, are the “gentiles” of prophecy. Notwithstanding that status, there are many among the “gentiles” who have blood of Jacob in them. They are potentially candidates for restoration to the House of Israel. They are the intended targets of the restoration, but their restoration will not be completed until they are adopted back to the line of “the fathers” who are able to save them from the coming harvest.

The “remnant” are those who are descended from Lehi. They are still identifiable (to the Lord) as Nephites,  Jacobites, Josephites, Lamanites, Lemuelites, and so forth. (D&C 3: 16-20.) They are known to Him, and are still here, but are without knowledge to save themselves. For that, they also must come to the knowledge of the truth and be restored. (D&C 3: 20; 3 Ne. 5: 23, among many other places.)

The Jews are those from Jacob who have retained their original identification with Jacob, but who are also lost as members of the House of Israel, or members of the Family of God. Remember, the vineyard is utterly corrupt no matter which group the Lord considers. (Jacob 5: 39.) The status alone will not restore good fruit to the vine. There must be a direct connection, through “the fathers” by adoption into the Family of God, restoring them to “the living vine.” (John 15: 4-5.)

The identification of a Tribe of Israel in the latter-day saint patriarchial blessings does not restore the covenant, nor does it connect you to the “living vine,” nor does it alter the status of being “gentile” by identification. There is another group who are not identified as “gentile,” nor as “Jew,” nor as the “remnant” who are considered “heathen.” These people are “remembered” by the Lord. (2 Ne. 26: 33.) Their inheritance is to come forth in the “first resurrection” where “it shall be tolerble for them.” (D&C 45: 54.) But these other people are not the target of the regrafting. The intended audience and the covenant people to be restored are the “scattered branches” who are unable to bear fruit because they have lost their identification with the original “root” or the “fathers in heaven” as Joseph explained it. (See Elijah Paper.)

The Lord of the vineyard has a plan. It is His. He knows all of us and cares more about each of us than we can even understand. However, His ways are His and are reckoned from the vantage point of the one who owns the vineyard, and who has every intention of providing the highest and most exalted outcome for His vineyard. We would be much better off if we took counsel from Him instead of resisting and rejecting it. As Jacob, whose book we are now considering, put it: “Wherefore, brethren, seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand. For behold, ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy, over all his works.” (Jacob 4: 10.)

Easter

Tomorrow is Easter, April 8th. The Lord rose from the borrowed tomb while it was dark on that morning approximately two millennia ago.

The assortment of thoughts that run through my mind wanders from past to present to the future. He  dominates the landscape no matter where the thoughts run on this approaching Easter:

What are these wounds on your hands and feet?

“Those I suffered in the house of my friends.”

How is it possible?

“By the power given unto me from the Father I have overcome all things.”

Did not our hearts burn within us?

He is dressed in red, coming in judgment, to reward those who waited on Him and to punish and remove the wicked.

The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. The Lion of Judah. The Son of David. The Scepter of Judah. The Slain. The Risen. The Redeemer.

So we might understand who He is and have faith in Him, He declared in meekness: “I am greater than them all,” and “I am more intelligent than them all.”  And again, I am the light and the life of the world. I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning.”

“What I call ‘clean’ call thou not ‘unclean.'”

“Therefore I command you to repent– repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore– how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not. For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all that they might not suffer if they would repent; but if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit– and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink– Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.”

Why is it “preparations” Lord?

“It is given unto you to choose. I can prepare, but you must choose to repent. I call upon all men to repent and come unto Me.”

Seeing, they do not understand, hearing, they do not listen. They have lost the desire for knowledge and they have fallen away. Isaiah said we would change the ordinances, break the covenant, but Christ tells us to pray continually: Thy will be done, thy kingdom come…

To rescue a broken and fallen people, we have His light and the life He gave for us. Look unto Him and live. We have hope in Christ Jesus.

The Glorious One. The Father of the saved. The Firstborn. The Son of God. Jehovah.

Jacob 5: 48-51

The vineyard fails continually because of “the loftiness of the vineyard.” (5: 48.) That is, the pride and arrogance of Israel itself is the cause of continual failure. They run faster then they are able, reaching what they cannot attain, claiming to have what they do not have, and relying on their conceit rather than the Lord. As a result, the branches overcome the roots. They grew faster than could be accommodated, and took strength to themselves, which always defeats fruit production. (Id.)
The Lord’s exasperation with this complete failure results in the announcement that He was going to return to the vineyard, “hew down the trees” and then “cast them into the fire” so they no longer cumbered the land. (5: 49.) It was time to return and destroy everything. Or, to use a phrase from Malachi, to “smite the whole earth with a curse.” (Mal. 4: 6.) We see in this that the Lord does actually consider smiting the entire earth. The allegory reveals it. It is indeed possible for the Lord to consider that as an option.
The only way to prevent it is for the “vineyard” to again bring forth fruit worth laying up against the season of the harvest. It failed. There was a universal apostasy. The Lord announced it was His intention to destroy all the people of the earth. (5: 49.) But it was the “servant” who pleaded for the Lord to “spare it a little longer.” (Id.) In Zenos’ allegory, the Lord is the one wanting to destroy the vineyard. When He was in His mortal ministry, the Lord reversed these roles. He had the angels wanting to destroy, and the Lord being patient. (See, Matt. 13: 28-30.) In both, the judgment is postponed until something worthy of preserving can be brought into the harvest. The Lord agrees to spare the vineyard despite the universal failure to bring about “fruit” because it “grieveth” Him to see such a loss, so great a waste. (5: 51.)
Now all of this is about history. It has already happened. Zenos wrote in the unified kingdom, before the division into the Northern Kingdom, or Kingdom of Israel, and the Southern Kingdom, or Kingdom of Judah. He wrote before Isaiah, and before Jeremiah. His prophecy became a benchmark from which other, later prophets would draw in fashioning their own prophecies.
Using these allegorical themes and images (tree, branches, transplanting, grafting, laboring, gathering, burning, trimming, pruning, etc.), we can see what happened historically with the scattering of Israel. Now, however, we have reached a point in the allegory where the events are either current or future. They are underway. This part of the allegory relates to us. It is meant to warn us about the time we live.
We think we’ve gotten the benefit of the Lord’s hand in the effort now underway. However, there is nothing going on at this time in the vineyard that should make us think we can relax. There is more pruning, gathering and yet more labor, before we yield fruit.
As we continue from this point forward, we must pay more attention. It is a blueprint for how the Lord is dealing with us. We should take every opportunity to consider how the prophecy may be intended to warn us against our own “loftiness” and ultimate failure.

Jacob 5: 48-51

The vineyard fails continually because of “the loftiness of the vineyard.” (5: 48.) That is, the pride and arrogance of Israel itself is the cause of continual failure. They run faster then they are able, reaching what they cannot attain, claiming to have what they do not have, and relying on their conceit rather than the Lord. As a result, the branches overcome the roots. They grew faster than could be accommodated, and took strength to themselves, which always defeats fruit production. (Id.)
The Lord’s exasperation with this complete failure results in the announcement that He was going to return to the vineyard, “hew down the trees” and then “cast them into the fire” so they no longer cumbered the land. (5: 49.) It was time to return and destroy everything. Or, to use a phrase from Malachi, to “smite the whole earth with a curse.” (Mal. 4: 6.) We see in this that the Lord does actually consider smiting the entire earth. The allegory reveals it. It is indeed possible for the Lord to consider that as an option.
The only way to prevent it is for the “vineyard” to again bring forth fruit worth laying up against the season of the harvest. It failed. There was a universal apostasy. The Lord announced it was His intention to destroy all the people of the earth. (5: 49.) But it was the “servant” who pleaded for the Lord to “spare it a little longer.” (Id.) In Zenos’ allegory, the Lord is the one wanting to destroy the vineyard. When He was in His mortal ministry, the Lord reversed these roles. He had the angels wanting to destroy, and the Lord being patient. (See, Matt. 13: 28-30.) In both, the judgment is postponed until something worthy of preserving can be brought into the harvest. The Lord agrees to spare the vineyard despite the universal failure to bring about “fruit” because it “grieveth” Him to see such a loss, so great a waste. (5: 51.)
Now all of this is about history. It has already happened. Zenos wrote in the unified kingdom, before the division into the Northern Kingdom, or Kingdom of Israel, and the Southern Kingdom, or Kingdom of Judah. He wrote before Isaiah, and before Jeremiah. His prophecy became a benchmark from which other, later prophets would draw in fashioning their own prophecies.
Using these allegorical themes and images (tree, branches, transplanting, grafting, laboring, gathering, burning, trimming, pruning, etc.), we can see what happened historically with the scattering of Israel. Now, however, we have reached a point in the allegory where the events are either current or future. They are underway. This part of the allegory relates to us. It is meant to warn us about the time we live.
We think we’ve gotten the benefit of the Lord’s hand in the effort now underway. However, there is nothing going on at this time in the vineyard that should make us think we can relax. There is more pruning, gathering and yet more labor, before we yield fruit.
As we continue from this point forward, we must pay more attention. It is a blueprint for how the Lord is dealing with us. We should take every opportunity to consider how the prophecy may be intended to warn us against our own “loftiness” and ultimate failure.

Jacob 5: 42-47

There was no fruit being produced anywhere in the vineyard. The Lord recognized that. The separated branches that He had visited were able to produce covenant sons and daughters of God, only to fail to keep the covenant alive. “[N]ow all the trees of [the] vineyard are good for nothing save it be to be hewn down and cast into the fire.” (5: 42.) That does not mean they aren’t going to be preserved. They will, but they will suffer the wrath of God. Then they will come forth at the end of the season, and be placed in a position of Telestial Glory to dwell in the same condition as this fallen world. (D&C 76: 81-85.) From the Lord’s perspective, that is undesireable. It is failure. It is tragic. This is the native condition this vineyard repeatedly lapses into, even with the Lord and His servant’s continuing care. What more could He do, indeed! How often would He have gathered us, but we refuse. (3 Ne. 10: 5.)

Even when the Lord bestows peculiar advantages on the branches of His vineyard, the results are not dissimilar to what goes on elsewhere. Highly favored and greatly blessed people seem as indifferent to their salvation as those who inherit challenges and difficulties. (5: 43.) The Lord “cut down that which cumbered this spot of ground, that I might plant this tree in the stead thereof.” (5: 44; see also, Ether 13: 1.) He provided the best spot in the vineyard by destroying the people inhabiting it. Then, as we shall see, He destroys the branches brought there once they also fail to produce suitable fruit.

The good spot was cleansed of the bad branches, yet the bad still overcame the good. (5: 45.) The Nephite civilization was, in the end, entirely overcome and destroyed because it failed to produce any more sons and daughters of God.

As the Lord surveyed the entire vineyard, He saw nothing but universal failure. There was no fruit able to be preserved against the coming season of judgment. The whole earth was worthy of destruction, because there were none whose hearts were sealed to the fathers in heaven, members of the Family of God, who could endure His presence at His return. In other words, there was no righteous branch living on the earth. All manner of fruit claimed to be good. All kinds of pretenders were claiming they were of God. They clammored “lo here!” and “lo, there!” and claimed they could deliver souls from hell. Yet no one was able to bring the living into contact with God, which was required in order for them to receive the “testimony of Jesus” promising them eternal life. (D&C 76: 51-55.) The Lord needed to begin over again. The vineyard was void of fruit-bearing trees. Despite this, the Lord reflected “it grieveth me that I should lose them.” (5: 46.) The Lord takes the salvation of mankind seriously. It is His work. And when they fail, He grieves.

The Lord lists all He does to try to provoke His “tree” to bear fruit. He does not “slacken his hand” nor does he fail to “nourish” it. (5: 47.) He “digged,” and He “pruned,” and He “dunged” the tree. These efforts include sending the Light of Christ, the Holy Ghost, scriptures, prophets, angels, visions, dreams and signs in the heavens above and the earth beneath. He has done this continually for His vineyard. But these many gifts from God, and the great work He has done have failed to produce fruit. At last He poses the question to His servant: “Who is it that has corrupted my vineyard?” (Id.) A worthy question, indeed. The answer is surprising, because it does not require a devil to be involved.