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.

Jacob 5: 38-41

The Lord’s inspection of the vineyard was global. Even the “nethermost parts of the vineyard” were examined for fruit. (5: 38.) Despite the opportunities given to the vineyard, “the fruit of the natural branches” which belonged to the original root and should have been able to bear fruit “had become corrupt also.” (5: 39.) No matter where you looked, “the first and the second and also the last; …they had all become corrupt.” (Id.) The apostasy was now universal. It was not possible for the Lord to find fruit worth preserving anywhere in His vineyard. The ordinances were changed. The covenant was broken. (Isa. 24: 5.)

Apostasy is always marked by a change of ordinances and breaking of the covenant. Then everything can continue to mimic the truth, but there can be no fruit. The apostates can keep the vocabulary, claim to have the truth and worship the God of Israel, use the same scriptures as were written by those who were in and kept the covenant, and assume they are either in or headed toward Zion and that “all is well” even as they are covered in chains and bound for hell. (2 Ne. 28: 23-25.) Then the apostasy can rule from the rivers to the ends of the earth, but no-one is capable of telling them to be afraid. While in Satan’s power, they think themselves blessed.

The “fruit” to be “laid up against the season” is highly specific. It is God’s own family. Those who are bound to Him directly, in an unbroken covenant of adoption, where He recognizes them as His “sons and daughters” and has told them so in an unbreakable bond. (Mosiah 27: 25.) Those who receive Him receive this oath from Him. And through it, He covenants with them, in a bond which He cannot break, that they are His sons and His daughters and heirs to all the Father has. (D&C 84: 35-40.) It will not be an imitation, which does not create “fruit” but it will be Him and His covenant. For “all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord.” (D&C 88: 35.) He will come to and “comfort” those with this covenant. (John 14: 18.) This is not by proxy, or through an appearance “in the heart” through some feeling, but is an actual appearance leading to an actual bond that cannot be broken, and therefore comforts the sojourner in this lone and dreary world. (John 14: 23; D&C 130: 3.)

Because there were no longer any who remained in the vineyard with this covenant, or who were adopted into the Family of God, or who were suitable to be preserved through the burning of the vineyard, the entire vineyard, from the first to the last, “had all become corrupt.” (5: 39.) Even in the best spot in the vineyard, “the wild fruit of the last had overcome that part of the tree which brought forth good fruit, even that the branch had withered away and died.” (5: 40.) The Nephite fall was complete. Nothing remained. All was wild and unsuitable, entirely corrupt.

At this terrible state of man “the Lord of the vineyard wept.” (5: 41.) The Lord’s work and glory is to produce fruit from His vineyard. (Moses 1: 39.) The Lord of the vineyard is not able to withhold His tears at our dreadful plight. He is moved with compassion for us. (Heb. 4: 15, see also Matt. 14: 14.)

As the Lord looked at the complete failure of the entire vineyard, He reflected with sorrow: “What could I have done more for my vineyard?” (5: 41.) The Lord does not fault us. He examines Himself. He begins His inventory of what went wrong with His own actions, not ours. We who rebel against Him are not faulted by Him. But He wonders how He might have been the better Lord. It ought to cause us to weep to realize who He really is, and what He really thinks.

Jacob 5: 34-37

The servant observes that the original group of people have been preserved by the efforts of the Lord. There is still a “root” which “have not perished” (5: 34.) The bloodline remains. The covenant can be renewed with them. While it would require work, the potential for reviving the failed family remains possible.

Despite the potential, the Lord of the vineyard has a more practical objective in mind. There must be actual saved souls, part of the Family of God, for the work of preserving souls to matter. “The tree profiteth me nothing, and the roots thereof profit me nothing so long as it shall bring forth evil fruit.” (5: 35.)

They have been preserved to allow for the possibility for a return of covenant Israel. (5: 36.) However, it must result in an actual return, the living tree bringing forth good fruit, children of promise, raised in righteousness, schooled by parents who will raise them to keep the ways of God as His people, for the effort to have been worthwhile. (Id.)

The root, and all the various manner of fruit which sprang from it, have “overrun the roots thereof” and only “evil fruit” was left. (5: 37.) Not just evil fruit, but “much evil fruit” was the result of this long apostasy from the original. (Id.) The overwhelming production of this vile product has overtaken the “root” so that the entire tree appears to “perish” and “it will soon become ripened, that it may be cast into the fire, unless” the Lord does something to alter the course it was following. (Id.)

Christianity failed in its original purpose. No one was being saved when the Lord considered His vineyard. Left to its own, the result would be universal destruction at His coming. He would burn the vineyard and remove all the various Christian offshoots claiming to have originated in the New Testament stock.

This allegory shows the need to separate ourselves from Historic Christianity. If we are part of it, then we are nothing worthy of being preserved. Like them, we should be gathered into bundles and cast into the fire.

When the Lord declared that “they were all wrong” and “that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight” and “that those professors were all corrupt” (JS-H 1: 19) He was confirming the allegory of Zenos and the prophecy of Jacob. This was the condition of the vineyard.

We should view the ambition of being considered part of that “abomination” and “wrong” “corruption” as an unworthy ambition. We are NOT (or at least should not) be part of the Historic Christian tradition. It is riddled with “much evil fruit” and the people who profess their creeds are “all corrupt.” Not in the sense that their hearts are vile, but in the sense that they do not comprehend what it means to be part of the Family of God, much less even occupy that association with Him. They are orphans, unconnected with the “living vine.” (John 15: 4-6.) Unless they occupy a family relationship with God, they are not His and will be gathered and burned at His coming.

Jacob 5: 27-33

The servant agreed with the pruning done by the Lord, but wanted to take the remaining branches after the pruning and to “nourish it a little longer, that perhaps it may bring forth good fruit.” (5: 27.) The Lord then  visited with the remaining tree branches, established His covenant with them, and made it possible for them to reconnect with covenant Israel and the Family of God. (3 Ne. 11: 8-17.)

This ministry succeeded in establishing fruit-bearing in that and several succeeding generations. [I gave a talk on the Nephite years of fruit-bearing which someone recorded and still distributes. I am not involved with that, having only given consent to allow it to happen. The CD’s are sold for a modest amount, and the proceeds are used for supporting missionaries (I don’t even handle any of the money). It is the “Zion” CD (I don’t recall the actual title used) and I think you can get it from Confetti Bookstore in Spanish Fork. I won’t repeat that information again, but mention it because it is relevant to the subject of the Nephite people producing fruit for the Lord of the vineyard.]

In each of the places the Lord put the scattered branches, the Lord and His servants visited and labored. (5: 28.) This was a global post-resurrection ministry. He told the Nephites (3 Ne. 16: 1-3) and Jacob’s older brother, Nephi about it. (2 Ne. 29: 12-13). All of these places in the vineyard began to bear fruit.

Another “long time had passed away” in the vineyard. The end was drawing near, and so it was necessary to recheck the vineyard. The momentum of the Lord’s prior ministry needed to be checked again. When the natural tree root, with its grafted branches was checked, there was “all sorts of fruit” that “did cumber the tree.” (5: 30.) There were Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Campbellites, and an hundred other sorts of fruit on the tree root’s branches. But when the Lord “tasted the fruit” (5: 31) He found that “none of it was good.” (5: 32.)

There was nothing left of the Family of Israel in the original root and its associated branches: “they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: ‘they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.'” (JS-H 1: 19.)

The Lord’s reaction is telling. He immediately wondered “What shall we do unto the tree, that I may preserve again good fruit thereof unto my own self?” (5: 33.) The Lord is neither an optimist nor a pessimist. He is a pragmatic laborer. It is not about blame, only about taking the required next step to rehabilitate the cumbered and unprofitable tree. God’s ways are indeed higher. (Isa. 55: 9.)

An Interruption of Jacob

The Jacob 5 discussion will resume Monday. This is a current-events comment:

The City Creek multi-billion dollar project has excited a lot of criticism. The result has been dismay by many faithful Latter-day Saints. Their anxiety over the project has become the subject of many conversations on the Internet.

To grapple with this outpouring of criticism and in some cases disgust, the church has paid employees and volunteers who post on-line responses using personas, or anonymous identities to beat back those who express concern. Many of the multiple personas are put up by the same church employee.

The arguments advanced by those who are concerned about the investment in the City Creek shopping center most often cite scripture. Their observations are based on sincere belief, supported by positions taken from scripture study, and reflect honest concern. The defense is based on the concept of supporting the leadership, sustaining the church’s prophet, and uses comments taken from church talks, sermons, etc.

The gulf between these two positions is one of the great divisions in the church today. The numbers of those holding these two positions are not equal, however. The one is held by sincere, believing members of the church who honestly disagree with the use of these funds for this elaborate, costly project. The other is advanced for the most part by paid employees or volunteers who are doing so using multiple personas to justify the church’s conduct.

In the realm of political debate, the production of artificial arguments by personas has been termed “astroturf” because it is not real. The artificial “astroturf” is in contrast to the grassroots movement of people. When enough “astroturf” has been sent out by the political machines, the grassroots will often respond. What began as fiction, or hope, turns into actual public opinion. The political parties and big business employ these techniques all the time now.

Interestingly, there are those inside the church’s organized effort who do not believe the arguments they are advancing. Some of them have been persuaded the church’s position is in fact wrong. They continue to make the arguments. It is their job. But they do not believe in the position they advance.

It is a fascinating moment to watch. It will be equally interesting to see if conference visitors from around the United States and the world visit the City Creek project and return dismayed, or return home gratified to see this expensive investment by the church.

I’d like readers to note I’ve not taken a position in this post. It does not deal with anything other than the events unfolding and how the reactions are being advanced and defended. Nothing more.

Jacob 5: 19-26

After establishing good fruit in the original root, the Lord of the vineyard visited the scattered branches in “the nethermost part of the vineyard.” (5: 19-20; see also 3 Ne. 16: 1-3.) The Lord of the vineyard was satisfied that in each of the places where the natural branches were scattered, good fruit had returned. (5: 20, see also 2 Ne. 29: 12.)

Whether it was the “poorest spot in all the land of the vineyard” or another place “poorer than the first” it did not matter. The result was good fruit. (5: 20-21; 23.) The servant was dismayed at the locations to which the Lord had taken the scattered branches. In perplexity he inquired: “How comest thou hither to plant this tree, or this branch of the tree? For behold, it was the poorest spot…?” (5: 21.) The servant was surprised to know the Lord of the vineyard would go to visit these poor places. It seemed beneath the Lord to have ministered in such humble, far flung lands, among such woebegotten peoples. But the Lord has “descended below them all” (D&C 122: 7-8) and found no indignity in visiting with such humble people in diminished circumstances. It may well have been because of the difficulty of the circumstances that fruit was produced. (Alma 32: 12-13.)

As if to confirm that difficulties are a blessing to His vine, when they get to the “good spot of ground,” the transplanted branches have produced conflicting fruit. In this most chosen land of all, the brothers were divided, and fought in continual ethnic-cultural-religious warfare for generations between themselves. Part of these branches produced good fruit, but part was corrupt and wild. (5: 25.) Although this was the best spot in the vineyard, and although the Lord of the vineyard had “nourished this tree like unto the others” it was still half corrupt. (Id.) This tree required pruning.

The Lord decided to “Pluck off the branches that have not brought forth good fruit, and cast them into the fire.” (5: 26.) Accordingly, nature itself removed the branches: “And thus the face of the whole earth became deformed, because of the tempests, and the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the quaking of the earth. And behold, the rocks were rent in twain; they were broken up upon the face of the whole earth, insomuch that they were found in broken fragments, and in seams and in cracks, upon all the face of the land. And it came to pass that when the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the storm, and the tempest, and the quakings of the earth did cease—for behold, they did last for about the space of three hours; and it was said by some that the time was greater; nevertheless, all these great and terrible things were done in about the space of three hours—and then behold, there was darkness upon the face of the land.” (3 Ne. 8: 17-19.)

The pruning then, like the Lord of the vineyard’s pruning at any time, was targeted and specific. It is designed to remove only the branches worthy of destruction. The righteous do not need to fear. Those who reject the prophets sent to them, reject the prophets’ message, and give no heed to the prophets, need to fear. (3 Ne. 10: 12-14.) The message of Jacob comes full circle. He returns to his earlier theme, when he promised the righteous they would be spared. (See 2 Ne. 6: 18, and the prior post Nephi’s Brother Jacob, Part 7.) He is consistent.

Jacob 5: 14-18

When the Lord scattered Israel, He “hid” them “in the nethermost parts of the vineyard.” (5: 14.) The word “hid” suggests the deliberate concealment of the people, their true origin, their blood relation to Jacob, their destiny to become part of the covenant Family of Israel, and their loss from the record of history and even their own memory of the earlier connections. The Lord of the vineyard intended for this part of His plan to remain concealed. He knew what He was doing. He was acting on a plan designed to produce preservable fruit, but mankind would be oblivious to His methods. His ways are not always shared or understood by man. (Isa. 55: 8-9.)

The places are not numbered, but described as “nethermost.” Nor is the design identified other than “some in one and some in another, according to his will and pleasure.” This is an order which He keeps to Himself, but we are told it reflects His “will” and His “pleasure.”

The Lord left the vineyard to continue in the ordinary course “that a long time passed away.” (5: 15.) There is no haste involved. Men come and go across generations while the design of God unfolds. We are impatient and want to see God’s plan unfold completely within our lifetime here, but His work is ageless and spans generations. Rarely does He promise a single generation will witness promised events. (See, e.g., JS-M 1: 32-34.)

When a “long time” had passed away, the Lord no longer stood watch, but took His servant and “went down” to “labor in the vineyard.” (5: 15.) His presence and ministry among men took a more direct effort. He “went down into the vineyard to labor” for the souls of men. Behold the condescension of God, indeed!

The underlying “root” was able to give “nourishment” to the hybrid people living when the Lord came. The surviving prophetic warnings and limited practices supported this new Dispensation, making it a field white, already to harvest. (5: 17-18.)

There He found among those grafted into the natural root disciples willing to follow Him. Among them were those who were “good” and “like unto the natural fruit”– which would make them candidates to be adopted as sons and daughters of God, as the Family of Israel. The Lord rejoiced because He realized He could “lay up much fruit, which the tree thereof hath brought forth; and the fruit thereof I shall lay up against the season, unto mine own self.” (5: 18.)

The Lord’s personal ministry resulted in a great harvest of souls. There were many willing to accept His mission, respond to Him, and go through the process of changing into covenant Israel again. Sons and daughters of God returned to the earth by adoption into the Family of God. (See, e.g., Rom. 8: 16-17; Eph. 1: 5; 2: 19, 1 John 3: 2; among many others.)

Jacob 5: 10-13

The Lord caused his “servant” to perform all He determined to do for the vineyard. (5: 10.) The wild branches were grafted in and the covenant was suspended. The lines were broken. It would require a restoration of the covenant and adoption for the “natural fruit” to reappear. (5: 10.)

Labor was required from the Lord’s servant as well as the Lord Himself. The vineyard required “digging about” and “pruning” and “nourishing” in an attempt to preserve the “root” to which it would be possible to one day to return. (5: 11.) These words tell us how constant the care has been, while scattered and wild remnants have apparently lay fallow without any fruit. Though the people have fallen, the Lord labors on.

Even when the digging, pruning and nourishing have been finished, and while the results are unknown, the Lord of the vineyard directs His servants to “watch” carefully, and to provide yet further “nourishment” when the damaged tree requires it. (5: 12.) Throughout, it is all done by the Lord’s “words.” He is not absent. He is diligent; ever watchful. He owns the vineyard and everything that is located there. Because it is His, He wants the best for it.

As to the young branches He wants to preserve, so it may be possible at last to return to producing good fruit, He decided to move them “to the nethermost part of my vineyard.” (5: 13.) This allegory contradicts the idea of Jehovah as Lord of Israel alone. The Lord claims the entire vineyard, the world itself, as His. The notion of Jehovah being only a local Diety, as is thought by many scholars to be the prevalent idea at the time of Zenos’ prophecy, is destroyed by this assertion of ownership over the entire vineyard. Even “the nethermost part” of the world belongs to the Lord of the vineyard.

Even as He relocates His people throughout the vineyard, He continues to view the scattered branches as part of the same, single “tree” He hoped to preserve. He explains: “[I]t grieveth me that I should lose this tree and the fruit thereof.” (5: 13.) His intent is to continue to have covenant people, part of His Family, His own sons and daughters. Even though they are unable to continue in that relationship during the scattering, it is hoped ultimately it will allow Him to yet “lay up fruit thereof against the season.” (Id.)

This purposeful and attentive effort was reassuring to Jacob’s people. Though they were long separated from Jerusalem, and although the rising generation had never been there, this allegory assures them of God’s watchful eye. The covenant of Jehovah with Israel continued to be with the scattered branches though they had been transplanted across an ocean and were living in an island of the sea. (See 2 Ne. 10: 20.)

The history of the world is the history of Israel. The events are supervised by a Lord whose purpose is to lay up fruit against the season of the harvest. As we grow ever closer to the season of harvest, the plan will need to result in the appearance of natural fruit again. Otherwise, the entire vineyard will be gathered in bundles and burned.