CLICK HERE to read Jacob 5.
This chapter is a long parable chapter, with the story being about a vineyard. The house of Israel is compared to a tame olive tree nourished in the vineyard. “It grew, and waxed old, and began to decay” (verse 3). So the master of the vineyard sees this, and instructs the workers to prune it and nourish it “that perhaps it may shoot forth young and tender branches” (verse 4).
The workers did, and the tree began to respond: the top of the tree continued to decay, but new branches grow.
The master of the vineyard saw this and said, “It grieveth me that I should lose this tree; wherefore, go and pluck the branches from a wild olive tree, and bring them to me… we will pluck off those main branches which are beginning to wither away…” (verse 7).
The wild olive tree is, of course, the Gentiles or non-covenant people.
The decaying branches withering away from the tame tree (the covenant people) are those that had the whole truth at some point, but have fallen away. Whether personal or generational apostasy, the Lord prunes those branches off.
So the master of the vineyard takes branches from the wild tree (outside of the covenant) and grafts them into the tame tree (the covenant people), just like the Gospel was given first to the Jews and then also to the Gentiles.
This grafting saves the branches of the wild tree (outside of the covenant now converted to the covenant), but still the Lord wants to save the tame tree as well. “It grieveth me that I should lose this tree; wherefore, that perhaps I might preserve the roots thereof that they perish not, that I might preserve them unto myself” (verse 11).
So then the master of the vineyard says to the workers, “Come, let us go down…” (verse 15), and they go back to the vineyard to check on the progress of all the trees.
“And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard looked and beheld the tree in which the wild olive branches had been grafted; and it had sprung forth and begun to bear fruit. And he beheld that it was good; and the fruit thereof was like unto the natural fruit” (verse 17).
Those who had been born “wild”, outside of the covenant, but who are converted to the covenant, if they receive the nourishing the Lord provides, they do become “good” fruit.
He beheld that it was good.
This fruit being observed and noted that “it was good” is critical and important in such a tiny phrase.
In the Pearl of Great Price, when we are given the story of creation, we see an interesting thing. In the book of Moses, when each creation period is completed, he says “it was good” – until human beings are created, and that “was very good”. But in the Book of Abraham, when each creation period is completed, he says “it was obedient” – until human beings are created, and that is “very obedient”.
And so we see that as people are truly converted to the covenant, they are good.
Which means to say, when people are truly converted to the covenant, they are obedient.
Which means to say, when people are truly converted to the covenant, they are very obedient.
So the Lord shows, in verse 18, how the grafting in of the wild branches (Gentiles) saved the tree (Jews), but how the wild branches (Gentiles) could not have produced good fruit without the tame tree (Jews).
We need each other.
And together, we bring forth “much fruit” (verse 20).
But then the next verses are some of my favorites, in the whole entire Book of Mormon.
The worker points out that the tree – which did turn out so well, once it got branches grafted in – was planted in a poor spot of ground. The statement implies the question of how could it bear good fruit if it was planted in a poor spot of ground?
“And the Lord of the vineyard said… I knew this was a poor spot of ground;… I nourished it this long time, and thou beholdest that it hath brought forth much fruit” (verse 22).
There are so many times that I have been planted in a poor spot of ground, most often from my own consequences. But as my heart turns to the Lord, He does nourish me “this long time”, and I am grafted in (to the covenant), and there is good fruit (evidence of the Spirit working, evidence of the atonement applied, evidence of the Gathering promises fulfilled, evidence of true conversion).
With different trees of different dispensations, we learn in the last tree, part of the process is again pruning the tree and separating what is good fruit and what has withered away (verse 26).
But still, even now, He nourishes us (verses 27 and 28).
“And it came to pass that a long time had passed away, and the Lord of the vineyard said… Come, let us go down..” (verse 29). The talk in these verses is harvest talk, with the Lord ready to gather what is His, ready to gather who is His.
In 2007, Elder Holland said (“Place of Truth”, Church News, Feb. 17, 2007):
“Something is going to be asked of this dispensation that’s never been asked before. Those of this dispensation must be ready to present the Church of the Lamb, to the Lamb, and when that happens, we must be looking and acting like His Church.”
He has nourished us this long time, so we have no reason not to be prepared for the harvest.
And each of us are numbered, and will be counted and “tasted” (verse 31) to see if we are good “fruit”.
And the trees that were wild, with tame branches grafted in did not make it. “It brought forth much fruit, and there is none of it which is good. And behold, there are all kinds of bad fruit; and it profiteth me nothing” (verse 32). The Lord teaches that this has happened “because the wild branches have grown and overrun the roots… (and so it has) brought forth much evil fruit” (verse 37).
The Lord and the worker see all these corrupted trees that brought forth evil fruit, no good to anyone, and not productive in bringing worth to Him for His vineyard.
And what is worth to Him?
D&C 18:10 reminds us that it is souls that are great worth to God.
So He grieves these fruit, these souls, when they are withered away or corrupted.
“What could I have done more?” (verse 41).
Even these planted “in a good spot of ground”, those born within the covenant, those growing up within the church, “even that which was choice unto me above all other parts of the land of my vineyard” (verse 43).
What more could He have done for us, than what He has done?
“And now, behold, notwithstanding all the care which we have taken of my vineyard, the trees thereof have become corrupted, that they bring forth no good fruit… they are of no worth… it grieveth me that I should lose them” (verse 46).
And He does grieve.
“What could I have done more…? Have I slackened my hand, that I have not nourished it? Nay, I have nourished it, and I have digged about it, and I have pruned it…” (verse 47).
He nourishes us through Scriptures, through prayer, and through the Temple, all by the power of His Spirit.
He “digs about” us by separating us from the world around us. This is His protection. This is his setting us apart, which is His making us holy.
He prunes us through afflictions and challenges that help us get rid of what is not of God and what keeps us from being His people. He prunes us to refine us and deepen us and grow us.
So again, the Lord asks, “What could I have done more for my vineyard”, and the worker (prophet) pleads for it (us) to be spared a little longer (verse 50).
And so He does, hoping to nourish the trees back to the healthy, hoping they will grow (verse 51).
“And this will I do that the tree may not perish, that, perhaps, I may preserve unto myself the roots thereof for mine own purpose” (verse 53).
So the Lord takes the branches of the tree and grafts them into the “mother tree”, which for us is the restoration of the Lord’s church (verse 56).
And again, He nourishes.
“And this I do 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” (verse 59).
And this restoration does bring Him joy… “and, perhaps, that I may rejoice exceedingly that I have preserved the roots and the branches of the first fruit” (verse 60).
And so again, the workers are called.
These are our missionaries and apostles and prophets of this dispensation, since the restoration (verse 61).
“Wherefore, let us go to and labor with our might this last time, for behold the end draweth night, and this is for the last time that I shall prune my vineyard” (verse 62).
But prune and nourish and graft He does, once more, “that they shall bring forth the natural fruit, and they shall be one” (verse 68).
There it is: at-one-ment.
And so the workers go and do what they have been commanded.
“And thus they labored, with all diligence, according to the commandments of the Lord… that they became like unto one body; and the fruits were equal… most precious to Him from the beginning” (verse 74).
That’s us, most precious to Him from the beginning.