Jacob recorded Zenos’s allegory of the olive trees, illustrating the Lord’s constant effort to save the house of Israel (see Jacob 5). As you teach this allegory, you can emphasize that the Lord “stretches forth his hands … all the day long” for our salvation (Jacob 6:4).
At the conclusion of his record, Jacob tells of his encounter with Sherem, an anti-Christ. As your students see how Jacob withstood Sherem’s attacks and exposed Sherem’s fraud, they can learn to discern truth from error and fortify themselves against false ideas.
To teach Jacob 5 effectively, you should be familiar with the following scripture blocks that describe the actions of the Lord in four visits to His vineyard: verses 3–14, 15–28, 29–49, and 50–77. Carefully select the verses you will discuss. As you prepare, do your best to anticipate questions students may have. For help, refer to the chart and commentary on pages 122–23 in the student manual. Remember that allegories, like parables, can have multiple meanings. Consequently, students may see meanings in addition to those you present in the lesson.
Explain that in this lesson, students will examine and discuss the prophet Zenos’s allegory of the olive trees. Invite students to read Jacob 4:12–18 silently.
According to these verses, why did Jacob share this allegory with the people? What mystery did Jacob say he would unfold?
As you teach Jacob 5, help students see God’s unceasing efforts to redeem His children. Share the statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on page 122 in the student manual.
According to Elder Holland, what is the meaning of the allegory?
What does Elder Holland help us understand about the work of redemption from the allegory’s many references to digging, dunging, nourishing, pruning, and grafting?
Invite students to scan Jacob 5:3–9 and identify symbols in the allegory. To help them understand the meanings of the symbols, refer them to the chart on page 123 in the student manual. You may want to use the chart as a handout or overhead that the students can refer to throughout the lesson.
Divide students into four groups. Explain that each group will study verses that describe actions the Lord took while visiting His vineyard. Ask students to identify the Lord’s efforts to save His vineyard and to look for gospel principles they learn from these efforts. Write the following on the board, leaving room for students to write their answers:
After the groups have had time to examine their assigned verses, ask one person from each group to write the group’s findings on the board.
Time permitting, you might continue the discussion with one or both of the following questions:
The master of the vineyard repeatedly worked with his servant to prune, dig about, and nourish his tree. What does this suggest about Jesus Christ’s involvement in the lives of His people?
You might point out other verses that illustrate the Lord’s love for us, such as the following:
“I will prune it, and dig about it, and nourish it, that … it perish not” (Jacob 5:4).
“It grieveth me that I should lose this tree” (Jacob 5:7).
“What shall we do unto the tree, that I may preserve again good fruit thereof unto mine own self?” (Jacob 5:33).
“I may have joy again in the fruit of my vineyard” (Jacob 5:60).
In comparison to the world’s population, the missionary force is small (see verse 70).
We are engaged in the Lord’s work, and He will labor with us (see verse 71).
Workers in the Lord’s kingdom are successful only as they learn to obey the commandments of the Lord in all things (see verse 72).
As missionaries go forward, they find many valiant people throughout the world (see verse 73).
Invite a student to read Jacob 6:4–8.
After teaching Zenos’s allegory, what gospel principles did Jacob emphasize?
How can knowing that the Lord is stretching “forth his hands … all the day long” (Jacob 6:4) for you deepen your appreciation for Him?
As an alternative to the preceding teaching idea, you might show the video presentation “The Olive Tree Allegory” (run time: 14:33), segment 7 on Book of Mormon DVD Presentations. As you preview this presentation, refer to the teacher outline in the Book of Mormon Video Guide (item number 34810; also available at www.ldsces.org).
Have students read Jacob 5:75 and 6:1–3 silently. Suggest that they consider the blessings that can come to the Lord’s servants.
What do these verses teach about the servants who assist in the Lord’s vineyard?
Who are the Lord’s servants today? How do they “nourish” and “graft”?
Read the following statement by President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972), the 10th President of the Church:
“[Zenos’s] remarkable parable portrays how [the] branches of the olive tree (Israelites) were carried to all parts of the earth (the Lord’s vineyard) and grafted into the wild olive trees (the Gentile nations). Thus they are fulfilling the promise that the Lord had made.
“Today Latter-day Saints are going to all parts of the world as servants in the vineyard to gather this fruit and lay it in store for the time of the coming of the Master” (Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols. [1957–66], 4:142).
In what ways can we serve the Lord in this final gathering?
Before class, write the following on the board or prepare it as a handout for each student.
Invite students to search Jacob 7:1–14 for answers to the questions. When they have had time to study the passage, ask them how they would answer the questions.
Invite students to turn to the statement by President Ezra Taft Benson on page 127 in the student manual. Ask a student to read it. This statement is also available on the companion DVD A.
Why do you think we need to recognize “the evil designs, strategies, and doctrines of the devil in our day”?
Invite students to turn to President Ezra Taft Benson’s statement about avoiding being deceived on page 128 in the student manual. Ask a student to read it. As the student reads about the three guides that President Benson encouraged us to follow, you may want to list the guides on the board:
In what ways did Jacob rely on the Holy Ghost during his encounter with Sherem?
According to Jacob 7:10–11, how did Jacob use the scriptures with Sherem?
How will searching the scriptures help us not be deceived?
What can we do to protect ourselves from false teachings in our day?
Bear your testimony of the Lord’s love and watchcare over His children. Emphasize that as we depend on Him, His servants, the scriptures, and the Holy Ghost, we can stay close to Him and avoid being deceived.