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Jacob Chapter 5

Of all the material Jacob could have adopted as his prophecy, his selection of Zenos’ allegory of the Olive Tree is telling. The account is a journey through various dispensations of the Gospel, tracking a bloodline of chosen people. To Jacob’s credit, he realized the work of salvation was devoted primarily to rescuing the descendants of a chosen line beginning with Abraham.

The allegory is a family story. The use of the Olive tree is a deliberate symbol of a family, and of the tree whose value was beyond question in the culture from which the allegory sprung. To understand the story, it is necessary to settle on meanings.

The tree is a family line belonging to the “house of Israel.” (Jacob 5: 3.) The work of the Lord of the vineyard and his fellow laborers is designed to cause the chosen family line to produce fruit worthy of preservation. The “fruit” is people, or more correctly, children raised in righteousness who comprehend and accept the Gospel and abide by its teachings. The name “Israel” is the new name given to Jacob. Jacob was renamed by the Lord because the Lord took him into His own family. Naming signifies Fatherhood over Jacob, and the name Israel signifies the Family of God.

Not every descendant of Jacob is also a descendant of Israel. Blood is one thing, adoption into the Family of God is another. The allegory should be read with the proper context. It is about preserving the Family of Israel, or in other words, the Family of God.

To correct and instruct the chosen family, it was necessary for the Lord of the vineyard, in a desperate attempt to cause the family to produce fruit worthy of preservation, to disburse the children, scatter them throughout the vineyard, graft wild branches into the roots and tame branches into wild roots. In one sense the failure of the chosen family is to the world’s great blessing. In the end, the world overcomes the chosen family and all those grafted into it, and in the final effort the work returns to the original roots and the original branches in a desperate final attempt to salvage something from the vineyard before it is burned.

Choosing this allegory as the great central theme of Jacob’s book shows his comprehension of sacred history and prophecy, and his knowledge of the future. Unlike Nephi, whose muse was Isaiah, the fully mature prophet Jacob turned to Zenos to act as “second witness” to his prophecy. We have in Jacob Chapter 5 the great explanation of how we got where we are today, and what will unfold before the Lord’s return to burn the vineyard. It is odd we spend so little time with the material. It is the central theme of all man’s history (from God’s point of view).

The family is scattered into several different parts of the vineyard:
First, the location of the original tree.
Second, an undisclosed number of “nethermost parts of the vineyard.” (Verse 14.)
Third, a “poorest spot.”  (Verse 21.)
Fourth, a “poorer spot than the first.” (Verse 23.)
Fifth, a “good spot.” (Verse 25.)
However, there is no attempt to quantify the number of spots because the allegory is intended to convey meaning apart from numbers. You can cross check the other prophecies from Nephi (2 Ne. 29: 3) and Christ (3 Ne. 17: 4) and find there is no definitive number given of how many separate groups are included in the “nethermost parts of the vineyard” where Israel was scattered.

What should leap out to you from this allegory is the nature of the Gospel and God’s work among mankind. It was and is related to preserving a single family line. The “God of Israel” is concerned with preserving the chosen line of heirs. The Gospel was and is a family matter, and the target of the Lord’s work is now and always has been the preservation of a specific group He intends to preserve.

This is an image we have trouble with in our current multiculturalism. We tend to view all mankind as the beneficiaries of God’s plans to save mankind. They are to some extent. After all, He provides the sun and rain to everyone regardless of their ethnicity. (Matt. 5: 45.) And every people are given according to His mercy some portion of truth calculated to benefit them. (Alma 29: 8.) However, Zenos and Jacob agree the Lord’s primary effort has been directed at preserving one family, and the world has been the incidental beneficiaries of this global effort to preserve them.

We will look at the history of this family as told through the allegory of the Olive tree.

Comments/Answers

Although “comments” are disabled, I still receive comments on those old threads. They just no longer go onto the blog.

In response to a question about the source of information regarding the church’s tithing investment system, I have confirmed that information from three sources in the church offices, therefore put it up because it was accurate. But I keep confidences, and sources are not disclosed unless they want to be disclosed.

Nephi’s Brother Jacob, Conclusion

There is a great deal more to Jacob than we have touched on here. This is only intended to lay the groundwork to appreciate the topic I’m turning to next. I want to discuss the meaning of Jacob’s Fifth Chapter. Before doing so however, I wanted to touch briefly on Jacob’s sound understanding and heavenly qualification to teach the truth. He was in command of the truth and knew what he was teaching.

In his initial sermon, he includes another explanation of how he knew his teachings were sound: “It must needs be expedient that Christ– for in the last night the angel spake unto me that this should be his name– should come among the Jews, among those who are the more wicked part of the world; and they shall crucify him– for thus it behooveth our God, and there is none other nation on earth that would crucify their God.” (2 Ne. 10: 3.) This scripture tells us:
-Jacob was ministered to by angels, and taught as he was taught from above.
-Jacob was given the Lord’s name centuries before His birth.
-Jacob foresaw the Lord’s crucifixion.
-Jacob knew this was necessary for God to perform.
-Only a religious people like the Jews would crucify their God.

The irony of a group of religious people, claiming to follow God, killing Christ is set out matter-of-factly by Jacob. Jacob knew it was the very religious who would resist the truth. It was the very religious who fight against God. They think they are following Him when they persecute the prophets. They believe they are doing God a favor when they urge worship of idols, and seek to kill the Son of God.

Despite man’s failure to repent and to worship the true God, Jacob foresaw the ultimate triumph of Zion. When it begins, Jacob promises, “he that fighteth against Zion shall perish, saith God.” (2 Ne. 10: 13.) To make the point even more clear he adds: “Wherefore, he that fighteth against Zion, both Jew and Gentile, both bond and free, both male and female, shall perish; for they are they who are the whore of all the earth; or they who are not for me are against me, saith our God.” (2 Ne. 10: 16.)

Once again Jacob carves the world into two: One small group whom God will protect and guide, and who will be brought into Zion; and then everyone else. The groups are disproportionate. There is no comparison between the diminutive Zion and the world. It is the world that will be destroyed. The small Zion will be protected and defended by God. Everything else will be gathered in bundles and burned.

With this introduction, we turn to Jacob Chapter Five.

Nephi’s Brother Jacob, Part 9

Jacob remarked about the great holiness of God: “O how great the holiness of our God!” (2 Ne. 9: 20.) He makes this exclamation after explaining the “mercy of our God, the Holy One of Israel!” Jacob is taken by the enormity of God’s mercy. It is proven beyond any dispute in that “he delivereth his saints from that awful monster the devil, and death, and hell, and that lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment.” (2 Ne. 9: 19.) Having seen what awaits the unrepentant, Jacob marvels at God’s great mercy. The Lord’s “saints” will be spared this torment.

In contrast, Jacob points out that there is nothing but woes awaiting the unrepentant. “But wo unto the rich, who are rich as to the things of the world. For because they are rich they despise the poor, and they persecute the meek, and their hearts are upon their treasures; wherefore, their treasure is their god. And behold their treasure shall perish with them also.” (2 Ne. 9: 30.) It is a marvel we can read these verses and have no concern for the multi-billion dollar church renovation project underway in downtown Salt Lake City. Upscale housing, retail and office space are being built to stimulate investment in the downtown economy. This is all under the supervision of the Presiding Bishop and First Presidency, using a for-profit corporation. Though Jacob seems to speak about individuals, it leaves us wondering if the same might be said of institutions as well.

Jacob said, “Yea, who unto those that worship idols, for the devil of all devils delighteth in them.” (2 Ne. 9: 38.) That is why we are never to allow any man or group of men to get between us and God. God alone is worthy of worship. If you put another man or institution between you and God, you are the delight of the devil of all devils, for he has made you his. You will suffer the wrath of God (D&C 76: 104-106), and not qualify for the mercy which Jacob taught proved God’s holiness.

Jacob anticipated there would be those who would reject, even become angry by what he taught. But he cautioned them: “Do not say that I have spoken hard things against you, for if ye do, ye will revile against the truth; for I have spoken the words of your Maker. I know that the words of truth are hard against all uncleanness; but the righteous fear them not, for they love the truth and are not shaken.” (2 Ne. 9: 40.) This is another proof we are reading the words of an actual prophet. They speak the truth. They cry repentance. They point to the Holy One of Israel. Prophets do not fear the anger which others will hold toward them. They know they speak what the Lord would have said.

Jacob observes “if ye were holy I would speak unto you of holiness; but as ye are not holy, and ye look upon me as a teacher, it must needs be expedient that I teach you the consequences of sin.” (2 Ne. 9: 48.) How marvelous it would be if Jacob had been freed up to speak only of holiness. What great things might this prophet-teacher have given us? How might he who stood in Christ’s presence have taught us if we were holy and not in need of repentance?

With almost every new revelation from heaven, mankind learns first and foremost that there is more work to be done to tear down false tradition and error in doctrine. Building Zion will never begin until the errors of teaching for commandments the doctrines of men has been subdued. Jacob is a reminder that great things must be preceded by repentance, and repentance must be preceded by an awakening to the awful situation in which we find ourselves.

Nephi’s Brother Jacob, Part 8

Jacob uses Isaiah Chapter 50 to establish the reality of a coming Messiah, in addition the centrality of Israel to the Lord’s plans. Israel is forever backsliding and wayward. Yet the decision to “divorce” Israel is the Lord’s and He refuses to do so. (2 Ne. 7: 1.) It was always in His mind to preserve a remnant of Israel as His “fruit” or the product of His mission and ministry. Jacob will return to this theme in his own book. We will look at that later. Here we are just becoming acquainted with Jacob as a teacher.

Even at the end of days, the Lord will continue to focus on redeeming Israel. The “rock” from which they were hewn was Abraham and Sarah, the father of the righteous and his beloved wife. (2 Ne. 8: 1-2.) The problem with Israel is the slumber that keeps them from awakening to their awful situation and repenting of their sins. Jacob sees the end of time, and Israel still slumbers and cannot establish Zion because of their deep sleep. They must awake, put on the strength of salvation or priesthood, shed their filth for beautiful garments, and cease association with the unclean and uncircumcised. (2 Ne. 8: 24.) Zion will not otherwise come to pass.

Zion will never emerge from those who slumber in the dust, whose necks are bound with iron. (2 Ne. 8: 25.)

Zion evades those who desire it because they are too ill-educated, thinking their scholarship has merit and the Holy Spirit does not. (2 Ne. 9: 29.) They are rich, and think it a good thing rather than a hindrance. (2 Ne. 9: 30.) They will not hear, and therefore are as good as deaf. This form of deafness prevents them from hearing the warning and so they will perish in their ignorance of the truth. (2 Ne. 9: 31.) They are also deliberately blind, refusing to see the truth when it is presented to them. (2 Ne. 9: 32.) They are uncircumcised, liars, whoring after other gods, and worshiping idols. (2 Ne. 9: 33-37.)

It is Jacob who testifies the “keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel” and “he employeth no servant there.” (2 Ne. 9: 41.) Jacob entered through that gate and met the Gatekeeper. He reminds us that He “cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.” (Id.)

Jacob then reminds us of his role – the prophet’s role: “Would I harrow up your souls if your minds were pure? Would I be plain unto you according to the plainness of the truth if you were free from sin?” (2 Ne. 47.) The prophet’s role is always to cry repentance. Priests may preside, and kings may rule, but the prophet’s voice is always crying repentance. Prophets have almost never presided over a congregation (other than occasionally a small inner-circle). They always speak from the sidelines crying for a return to God’s ways. Even when there were cities who repented in response to the message of repentance, the prophets who gathered them taught repentance and left it to the assembly to govern themselves. So it was with Enoch, and Melchizedek, and similarly Joseph attempted to teach repentance to his people. Enoch and Melchizedek were able to teach the people who wanted so desperately to repent (and did so) that they had angels and the Lord come dwell among them. Joseph sought to accomplish the same, but the Lord never dwelt among the Saints of this dispensation. Jacob bids his brethren and us to repent, hoping his teaching will eventually lead to a latter-day Zion. Apparently there will be a small group who will eventually repent and qualify for the Lord to come dwell among them. It remains a distant possibility, without any concrete progress underway as yet.

Nephi’s Brother Jacob, Part 7

The problem with war is it arouses the instinct for killing. As men adapt to war, they become predatory, seeking to destroy those they view as the enemy. They study and train to trade life for death.

Zion will not possess those skills. They won’t learn them and will not need them. Zion will be a place of peace, where those who are unwilling to take up arms against others will flee. (D&C 45: 66-69.) Though peaceful, the glory of the Lord will strike such fear among the wicked they will not dare come up against that place. (D&C 45: 70.) As unlikely as this seems, it is true.

When mankind has degenerated to the point of looking at one another as prey, the Lord will not allow His people to become prey to the terrible and the mighty. As Jacob (borrowing from Isaiah) explained, “For shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered? But thus saith the Lord: Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered; for the Mighty God shall deliver his covenant people. For thus saith the Lord: I will contend with them that contend with thee.” (2 Ne. 6: 16-17. ) The Lord intends to establish His covenant among those who take the Spirit as their guide, who reject the doctrines of men as truth, who do not trust in the arm of flesh, and who have not dwindled in unbelief.

Those who qualify, and who are in a covenant with Him, will see the destruction of those oppressors who threaten them. The armies and mobs who think they can overtake Zion will learn to their dismay that the Lord intends to protect them in such unmistakable acts they will be compelled to confess He is God and Zion is His people. As Jacob put it: “And I will feed them that oppress thee, with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood as with sweet wine; and all flesh shall know that I the Lord am thy Savior and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” (2 Ne. 6: 18.)

The Lord has two contradictory persona’s in scripture. He is the Lamb of God, and He is the Lion of Judah. Those two persona’s appear in widely separated passages of scripture. They merge together in one passage of scripture written by the Apostle John. It was John who shared Nephi’s vision and who was permitted to write of it. Nephi deferred to him. John uses both titles in succession when describing the Lord’s role in loosing the seven seals, calling the Lord both “the Lion of the Tribe of Judah” and “a Lamb as it had been slain.” (See Rev. 5: 5-6.) He is the Lion of Judah to those who seek to prey upon His covenant people. He is the Lamb of God to His own.

When you see the Lamb and the Lion lie down together, you may know the Day of Judgment is at hand. It will be both great and terrible to the righteous and wicked.

Jacob knew this. Jacob saw these things before they happened, so he could write his testimony as a warning to those who live in the last days. He was a prophet more for our day than for his own. Provided, of course, we have the eyes and faith to see it.

Jacob’s skill in expounding doctrine is not limited to his commentary. It includes the careful selections from Isaiah chosen to illustrate his points and clarify his views. Since he saw the Lord and was ministered to by Him, Jacob becomes adept in recognizing and expounding truth in a way which is trustworthy, and reflects his knowledge of the Lord’s great work to save the souls of men.

Nephi’s Brother Jacob, Part 6

Jacob makes a startling promise for those who live when the destruction begins preliminary to the cleansing of the world before the Lord returns. He says “none will he destroy that believe in him. And they that believe not in him shall be destroyed, both by fire, quakes, and by bloodsheds, and by pestilence, and by famine.” (2 Ne. 6: 14-15.)

This amazing promise is predicated on “believing in Him.” This requires us to understand what the word “believe” means in the parlance of the Book of Mormon. Those who believe in Him know and accept correct doctrine, or the truth about Him. Those who do not know and will not accept correct doctrine or the truth have dwindled in unbelief. They do not believe in Him. They may have religion, may belong to churches, may be active in all their observances, but they are not in possession of belief in Him. Instead they accept for doctrines the commandments of men, and their hearts are far from Him. They teach false and vain things. As a result they neither enter into the kingdom nor suffer those who are entering to go in. This includes those who, though they are humble followers of Christ, are nevertheless led that in many instances they do err in doctrine. (2 Ne. 28: 14.)

There will be many who are destroyed who will be quite surprised by it. They will complain that they have prophesied in Christ’s name, and in His name cast out devils, and done many wonderful works, but they do not know Christ, and therefore never did believe in Him. (See Matt. 7: 22-24.)

If you are one of those who believe in Him, and who will not dwindle in unbelief, will not accept the commandments of men as doctrine, but will take the Spirit for your guide, then Jacob promises that Christ will not destroy you. The rest He will destroy.

Fire will upset the order of things and make societal collapse inevitable. Men’s self-inflicted woes will not be the only sign of Divine disapproval. The earth will quake to signal God’s disapproval. Interruptions of social order and control will be followed by self-inflicted violence. Bloodshed will be widespread among the survivors. Disease and pestilence will be one of the results of the lack of social order. Air and water will be contaminated. Neglected hygiene will lead to the promised pestilence. As the downward spiral continues, food production and distribution will be inadequate to prevent widespread, global famine. It is as if Jacob could see the sequence of events and gave us the list of how it would unfold, step by step, as the unbelieving are wiped from the earth.

Survival during this bleak time depends on the qualification of “believing in Him.” Suddenly, if you think Jacob knew what he was talking about then our doctrines take on terrible significance. What we believe matters. Not just in the distant after-life, but for the preservation of our present lives. Jacob does make a powerful case for studying the Gospel a good deal more carefully than we can accomplish in a 40 minute class-discussion, with an approved “discussion leader,” using Correlated materials, rather than a teacher declaring and testifying of true doctrine.

I’m pretty sure Jacob would be a very marginalized Mormon, if he were among us today.

Nephi’s Brother Jacob, Part 5

Jacob has some relevant instruction for us. He reports: “And blessed are the Gentiles, they of whom the prophet has written; for behold, if it so be that they shall repent and fight not against Zion, and do not unite themselves to that great and abominable church, they shall be saved; for the Lord God will fulfil his covenants which he has made unto his children; and for this cause the prophet has written these things.” (2 Ne. 6: 12.) Some of the Gentiles will be preserved, as well. It will be those who:

1. Are among those of whom the prophet has written. Interesting condition. These are already the topic of revelation. That requires us to study the revelations to know something of the Gentiles “of whom the prophet has written.” That is no small topic in its own right.

2. Are repentant. Of course, that requires the recognition of the need for repentance. Most of the Gentiles are unaware of their need to do so. Some because they are not religious. Others because they are overly religious and fail to understand that their religion condemns them. It does not justify them.

3. Fight not against Zion. Here is “Zion” which will come into being at some point. Not today, but by and by. When it does, there will be Gentile opposition to it. Those who aren’t initially invited will find the idea of Zion without them offensive. Their response should be to repent (as in 2, above). Instead, because of their blindness and jealousy, they will “fight against Zion.”

4. Do not unite with the great and abominable church. This is not a single congregation. It is the world itself. The entire world is divided into two: One is the church of the Lamb of God. The other is everything else. (1 Ne. 14: 10.) This is a bigger problem than it may first appear. Inasmuch as there are endless ways to belong to the great and abominable church, but a single way to avoid the great and abominable church, the odds are Gentiles will not find Zion. Instead they will fight against her and join the worldly minions who are opposed to her.

Most of the Gentiles will not meet these four conditions. Consequently, they will be so reduced they will “lick up the dust of their feet” who are in Zion. (2 Ne. 6: 13.) For those few Gentiles who give heed to Jacob’s teaching, there is good news.

Despite all the Gentiles have done to disappoint the Lord, He will “set himself again the second time to recover them.” (2 Ne. 6: 14.) Jacob will elaborate on this future in his own book. Chapter 5 of his book contains an allegory describing all the Lord’s efforts to produce fruit suitable to be preserved against the harvest. Jacob was well qualified to know what he was teaching. His brief confirmation that the allegory is true is so modest, so plain, so direct that it speaks of the man’s confidence. It is unadorned by rhetoric. The starkness of it suggests Jacob is a man of few words because they aren’t necessary.

Jacob bears close study. Unlike the later writers (beginning with Mosiah), Jacob carved his book onto the small plates of Nephi himself.

Nephi’s Brother Jacob, Part 4

Jacob’s first recorded sermon identifies what concerns him. It is the “welfare of souls” (2 Ne. 6: 3) and “things which are, and which are to come” (2 Ne. 6: 4.) The definition of truth is knowledge of things which are, which were, and which are to come. (D&C 93: 24.) Jacob is interested in teaching truth. But the truth he wants to focus on is the present and future of his people.

He identifies Isaiah as speaking “concerning all the house of Israel” (2 Ne. 6: 5) and therefore they can be likened to the Nephites. Then he turns to the Gentiles and places them in the future role of “bringing thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders.” (2 Ne. 6: 6.) In the dismal future of Nephite destruction by the Gentiles, there is still a more distant day when Gentile efforts will become helpful, not destructive. When that happens, the Gentile fortunes are reversed, and they will “bow down to [the Nephite remnant] with their faces towards the earth, and lick up the dust of [Nephite] feet.” (2 Ne. 6: 7.) So the cataclysm which befalls the Nephites will also befall their Gentile vanquishers. They will be brought down to the dust as well.

Jacob also reports to his audience “the Lord has shown unto me that those who were at Jerusalem, from whence we came, have been slain and carried  away captive.” (2 Ne. 6: 8.) Jacob must have asked to be shown. He asked and was shown, and therefore he knew his family had left Jerusalem in time to avert death or captivity. Jacob was born after they left Jerusalem; but he knew about it, inquired to know, and was shown their destruction.

This reaffirms how the departure by Lehi and the destruction of Jerusalem was inter-related. The Lord uses ‘just-in-time’ scheduling of events more often than not. There is no need to flee until the moment when the destruction is about to begin. Nor is there a need to begin the rainfall before the ark is completed. Nor is there a need to send down fire to consume the offering until the altar is built, the sacrifice offered, the water poured on the offering, and the prayer completed. (1 Kings 18: 31-38.) Timing is always the Lord’s.

Jacob also leaves nothing to the imagination of his audience. He tells them the Messiah will come to Jerusalem, will be scourged there, and will be crucified by them. Jacob knows this “according to the words of the angel who spake it unto me.” (2 Ne. 6: 9.) From this we see Jacob’s pre-sermon preparation does not consist of gathering together thoughts and quotes from poets or philosophers. He consults with angels and dispenses information from heaven. Here is a source which is to be trusted. When speaking of Jerusalem’s destruction, it comes from the Lord’s showing him, and of the Messiah’s mission. It comes from the angel’s speaking to him.

We think it an odd thing to have a man speak with the Lord and be ministered to by angels. Yet in the example of Jacob, it is almost matter-of-fact. As if he wouldn’t dream of speaking about such things without consulting with heaven.

Nephi’s brother Jacob is among the great figures in all of sacred scripture. The critical differences between him and his teaching, and other men giving what they regard as inspirational thought, should not pass by unnoticed. I’m growing to respect this man Jacob.