Lesson 46

Jacob 5:1–51

“Lesson 46: Jacob 5:1–51,” Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Manual (2017)


Introduction

In teaching his people, Jacob quoted the allegory of the tame and wild olive trees, which was originally given by a prophet named Zenos and was included in the brass plates. Jacob used this allegory to teach that the Lord would seek to bring salvation to all people—even to those among His covenant people who had turned away from Him. Because of the length of Jacob 5, it is divided into two lessons.

Suggestions for Teaching

Jacob 5:1–14

Jacob quotes Zenos, who likened the house of Israel to a tame olive tree

Consider beginning this lesson by reading the following scenario:

A young woman transgresses a commandment. She experiences guilt, feels terrible about herself, and questions if the Lord still loves her.

Invite students to ponder the following question without answering aloud:

  • Have you ever wondered about the Lord’s willingness to love and care for us when we sin and turn away from Him?

Explain that Jacob prophesied that the Jews would reject Jesus Christ (see Jacob 4:15). In order to teach how the Jews would someday build upon Jesus Christ again as their foundation, Jacob quoted an allegory given by a prophet named Zenos. An allegory uses symbolic characters, objects, and actions to teach truths. As students study the allegory in Jacob 5 today, invite them to search for important lessons about Jesus Christ’s willingness to help those who have turned away from Him.

Invite a student to read Jacob 5:1–2 aloud, and ask the class to look for who Zenos was speaking to.

  • Who was Zenos speaking to? (The house of Israel.)

You may need to explain that when the Old Testament prophet Jacob made covenants with the Lord, the Lord changed his name to Israel. The phrase “house of Israel” refers to Jacob’s descendants and to all people who have been baptized and have made covenants with the Lord.

Invite a student to read Jacob 5:3 aloud. Ask the class to look for what Zenos used in his allegory to represent the house of Israel. Invite students to report what they find.

Explain that olive trees were extremely valuable in ancient Israel, where Zenos lived. Olives were used for food, and olive oil was used for cooking and medicine and as fuel for lamps. Olive trees required much care and labor to help them produce good fruit. Point out that in this allegory, the tame olive tree is located in a vineyard, which represents the world.

  • According to Jacob 5:3, what began to happen to the tame olive tree?

  • What does the decay of the tree symbolize? (Encourage students to use verse 3, footnote d, to answer this question.)

  • What is apostasy? (Turning away from the Lord and His gospel.)

Invite students to read Jacob 5:4–6 silently, looking for the main figure in this allegory. Ask students to report what they find.

  • Whom do you think the master of the vineyard represents? (Jesus Christ.)

  • What do you think his actions of pruning, digging, and nourishing might represent? (The Lord’s efforts to help the house of Israel receive the blessings of salvation.)

Write Jacob 5:7, 11, 13, 32 on the board. Invite students to read these verses silently, looking for the phrase repeated in each verse that shows how the master felt about the decay of his olive tree. (You may want to invite students to consider marking this phrase each time it occurs.) After sufficient time, ask:

  • How did the master of the vineyard feel about the decay of his olive tree?

  • What do these verses teach us about how the Lord feels about us, even if we turn away from Him? (Help students identify the following truth: The Lord loves us and continues to care for us even if we turn away from Him. Invite students to consider writing this truth next to verse 7.)

  • How could this truth help people who have sinned and wonder whether God still loves them?

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency:

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

“God loves you this very day and always.

“He is not waiting to love you until you have overcome your weaknesses and bad habits. He loves you today with a full understanding of your struggles. … He knows of your sufferings. He knows of your remorse for the times you have fallen short or failed. And still He loves you” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Living the Gospel Joyful,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 123).

  • What are some examples, from the scriptures or from your life, that illustrate that the Lord continues to love and care for people even after they have turned away from Him?

handout iconDisplay the following chart. Explain that it lists possible meanings of symbols in Zenos’s allegory. (You may want to make copies of the chart as a handout.)

handout, Jacob 5

Jacob 5: Allegory of the Tame and Wild Olive Trees

Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Manual—Lesson 46

Symbol

Possible Meaning

Tame olive tree

The house of Israel, God’s covenant people

The vineyard

The world

Decay

Sin and apostasy

Lord and master of the vineyard

Jesus Christ

Pruning, digging, and nourishing

The Lord’s efforts to help people receive the blessings of salvation

Servant of the master of the vineyard

The Lord’s prophets

Branches

Groups of people

Wild olive tree

Gentiles—those who have not made covenants with the Lord. Later in the allegory, natural (or tame) olive trees become wild, representing portions of the house of Israel that fall into apostasy.

Grafting and planting branches

The scattering and gathering of the Lord’s covenant people. In addition, the grafting of wild branches into the tame olive tree represents the conversion of those who become part of the Lord’s covenant people.

Burning branches

God’s judgments on the wicked

Fruit

The lives or works of people. Natural (or tame) fruit represents righteous works. Wild fruit represents unrighteous works.

Roots

Individuals with whom the Lord covenanted anciently, such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (see Jacob 6:4). Roots may also represent the covenants the Lord makes with those who follow Him.

Remind students that as recorded in Jacob 5:7, the master of the vineyard commanded that the main decaying branches of the olive tree be removed and that branches from a wild olive tree be brought to him. Ask a student to read Jacob 5:9–10 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the master of the vineyard did next to save the tame olive tree.

  • What did the master of the vineyard do next to save the tame olive tree? (You may need to explain that to graft is to insert a branch from one tree into a different tree.)

graft

Invite students to use the chart to answer the following questions:

  • What might be symbolized by the Lord’s command to graft wild olive branches into the tame olive tree? (The grafting in these verses represents the Lord’s efforts to help Gentiles become part of His covenant people through baptism and conversion.)

  • What might be represented by the burning of the withered branches (see verse 9)? (The burning of some branches represents the Lord’s judgments upon the most wicked members of the house of Israel.)

Remind students that Jacob 5:6 states that the tame olive tree had begun to produce young and tender branches. Ask a student to read Jacob 5:8, 13–14 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the master did with these branches.

  • What did the master of the vineyard do with the young and tender branches?

Lehi and His People Arrive in the Promised Land

Display the image Lehi and His People Arrive in the Promised Land (Gospel Art Book [2009], no. 71; see also LDS.org).

Jacob 5:15–40

The master of the vineyard and his servant labor to help the vineyard produce good fruit

Summarize Jacob 5:15–28 by explaining that a long time after the master of the vineyard grafted the young and tender branches, he and his servant, who represents the prophets, went to see the olive trees now scattered throughout the vineyard. They saw that all the branches that had been grafted brought forth good fruit.

  • What might the good or tame fruit throughout most of the vineyard represent? (A period of righteousness. This may specifically represent the time of Christ and His Apostles.)

Summarize Jacob 5:29–40 by explaining that all the fruit throughout the vineyard later became corrupt. Ask students to search Jacob 5:32, 39 for phrases that indicate this corruption of the vineyard. Invite them to consider marking the phrases they find.

  • What do you think this corruption throughout the vineyard might represent? (The Great Apostasy, during which the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ was lost from the earth. Invite students to consider writing “The Great Apostasy” next to one of the phrases they found in Jacob 5:32 or Jacob 5:39.)

Jacob 5:41–51

The master sorrows over his vineyard

Invite a student to read Jacob 5:41 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what this verse teaches us about Jesus Christ’s feelings upon seeing his vineyard corrupted.

  • What does the Lord’s weeping in this allegory teach us about His feelings for us?

  • What do you think it means when the Lord asks, “What could I have done more for my vineyard?” (The Lord had done everything that could be done to save His people.)

Invite a student to read Jacob 5:47–48 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what had corrupted the vineyard.

  • What had corrupted the vineyard? (Point out that the phrase “loftiness of [the] vineyard” in Jacob 5:48 refers to pride [see verse 48, footnote a].)

  • What principle can we learn from verse 48 about how pride can affect us? (Help students identify a truth such as the following: Pride can prevent us from fulfilling our potential as the Lord’s covenant people.)

  • How could pride prevent us from growing the way the Lord wants us to?

Invite a student to read Jacob 5:49–51 aloud. Ask students to follow along, looking for what the Lord decided to do with his vineyard.

Testify that the Lord loves us and continues to care for us even if we turn away from Him. Invite students to remember this truth, especially when they feel discouraged because of their mistakes and sins. Explain that the next lesson will include a discussion of the master’s final efforts to save his vineyard.

Commentary and Background Information

Jacob 5. The Lord of the vineyard

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles identified some of the major themes of Jacob 5:

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

“This allegory as recounted by Jacob is from the outset intended to be about Christ. …

“Even as the Lord of the vineyard and his workers strive to bolster, prune, purify, and otherwise make productive their trees in what amounts to a one-chapter historical sketch of the scattering and gathering of Israel, the deeper meaning of the Atonement undergirds and overarches their labors” (Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon [1997], 165).

Jacob 5:1. Who was Zenos?

Zenos was a Hebrew prophet whose writings appeared on the brass plates but who is not mentioned in the Old Testament. He lived after the prophet Abraham and before the prophet Isaiah (see Helaman 8:19–20). He prophesied and testified of Jesus Christ (see 1 Nephi 19:10–12; Helaman 8:19). Zenos is best known for his allegory of the olive trees. If students want to read more of Zenos’s prophecies, they can refer to the index in the Book of Mormon or triple combination.