BOWbutton

This button is a resource to link those desiring baptism with those having authority to baptize. More information can be found here.

 

An Important Quote

That which can be destroyed by truth should be.
P.C. Hodgell

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.

Jacob 5: 7-9

As Israel decays, the Lord of the vineyard takes the dramatic step of cutting away the “main branches” or in other words the leading families, the recognized genealogical well-breds, or the families of rank and distinction. They were to be “burned” rather than further cultivated. (5: 7.) Their pride and arrogance disqualified them from preservation or further work. They were riddled with “decay” and unworthy of further effort. They were to be destroyed by fire. Fire is always a symbol of the Lord’s judgments designed to cleanse or purge. Killing the decayed and corrupt leading families was cleansing the tree of the decay that had taken hold in the lofty, inner-circles of the people of Israel.

Men may have respected, even admired the success and status of these “main branches” of the Israelites, but that was nothing to the Lord. All their great rank, position, support structure and apparent security were nothing once the Lord decreed they were to be burned. Invading conquerors would target these specific social leaders for removal as a precaution against further loyalty. These would have to be removed for the outside ruler from a foreign power to succeed. The very thing which made them secure was the reason they were targeted to be killed. In a natural political purge the “main branches” who seemed forever entrenched to rule were swept away. No more would they “cumber the ground of [His] vineyard.” (5: 9.)

To replace the notable families of distinction, the Lord determined to bring in “wild olive tree” branches, or those who have no distinction, or even family connections with the roots of Israel. (Id.) There would be new blood brought in by the conquerors with resultant intermarriages.

Unlike the main branches, there were “young and tender branches” which were not to be destroyed, but were instead to be transplanted. From Assyria or Babylon, these dislocated tribes would be spread into the nethermost part of the vineyard, or in the words of the Lord of the vineyard: “I will graft them whithersoever I will.” (5: 8.)

With the mixing of foreign blood in the remaining “root” of the tree, and grafting of the “young and tender branches” into “wild” trees throughout the vineyard, the Israelite bloodlines become fragmented, scattered and no longer purely either Jacobian (by blood) or Israelite (by adoption). It would not matter if you look to the main root, or to the many scattered branches, they were all mingled with the “wild” gentile stock to produce a hybrid people. The corruption of the family was too deeply entrenched. They would not be able to repent any longer because their arrogance and ignorance prevented them from seeing their true condition. They thought themselves so highly favored of God they could not fall. Therefore, it was altogether necessary for them to fall. Without such a traumatic message delivered to the entire family, they would continue to presume safety meant they were justified. Any sign of prosperity was interpreted to mean they were right with God.

The family of Jacob needed this trauma for the covenant with Israel to be preserved. They were dying and not noticing it. Though it was terrible to endure, the Lord of the vineyard had the ultimate best interests of the entire tree in mind. He did what was needed to restore health and vigor. The covenant had been broken anyway, and this would make possible a renewal of the covenant and restoration from scattered Jacob the Family of Israel.

Jacob 5: 3-6

Israel was and is the only family which will be saved. It is the “tame olive tree” that the Lord “took and nourished in his vineyard.” (5: 3.) Despite all the Lord’s efforts, however, the actual family tree “waxed old, and began to decay.” (Id.) It lost its vitality. It tired of the Lord. His desire and “nourishment” was not able to overcome the tree’s indifference to what He offered them. It began to decay.

The Lord was unwilling to abandon His tree even when there was no productivity in it. He intended to continue to create the Family of God, despite the failure by the family to respond to His invitation. He initially set about to “prune it” (that is, to cast away from the Family of God or Israel, those who failed to live worthily) and to “dig about it” and then to “nourish it.” In the initial work it is the Lord directly who does the work. He does not send a servant to perform the labor. (5: 4-5.)

“Pruning” involves cutting away. It destroys. The goal is ultimately to bring about vigor and life. But the initial work requires destroying to clear away and make the growth possible. The result is harsh and violent in the short run, but there is something important going on in the work of “pruning” away. The larger purpose is what the Lord has in mind. The short term sacrifices and difficulties are unavoidable and necessary. They must be endured.

“Digging about” the tree is also violent. It is threatening, and imposes upset and difficulties. The Lord’s benign intent is not understood when the pruning and digging are measured against short term standards. They must take a longer view.

The Lord’s purpose is to “perhaps” produce “young and tender branches.” (5: 5.) It is “perhaps” because the Lord grants the tree agency to respond, not compulsion to force compliance. The Lord can coax, but the tree must grow.

The older branches are not intended to be preserved. They bear nothing but bad fruit. The young and tender branches are the goal. These, however, will not yield fruit for some time. They must have an opportunity to develop.

This description of ancient Israel shows how the Lord’s work was always purposeful and designed to preserve the tree and continue to create sons and daughters of God. However, despite all He did, the “little, young and tender branches” were comparatively small in the scheme of things. As to the “main top thereof” it “began to perish.” (5: 6.)

The infrastructure, the hierarchy, the temple, the priestly class, the learned Rabbis and the schools of thought were rotting. They were nothing like what would be required to produce fruit. They were religious but heritical. They were devoted, but not His sons and daughters. The family line was broken. They needed to be adopted back again, because they lacked the power to remain connected.

This is an odd juxtaposition: The “main top” is corrupt. The “young tender branches” are nothing like the great growth overshadowing them. Yet the Lord sees in the young growth what He seeks. As to the “main top” there is nothing but “perishing” and decay.

Israel is so often in this predicament. They despise the truth, but respond warmly to flattery telling them they are righteous. (Hel. 13: 27-28.) When someone is sent by the Lord of the vineyard calling for repentance, Israel rejects him, says he is a sinner and a false prophet. (Hel. 13: 25-26.) Ultimately, however, for the bloodline of Jacob to rise up and become fruit worthy of preservation, there must be a change from blood connection to Jacob to an adoption into Israel. Then they become sons and daughters of God, and fruit worthy of preservation. (Mosiah 27: 25.)

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.