Allegory of the Olive Tree

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Jacob 5-6

Allegory of the Olive Tree

As Jacob taught his people, he quoted an allegory given by a prophet named Zenos (see Jacob 5:1). An allegory, like a parable, is a story that uses symbolic characters, and familiar objects and actions to teach truths. This allegory is about people who have turned away from the Lord in sin and the Lord’s efforts to help them return to Him. As you study Jacob 5, consider how the Lord is always reaching out to you even when you have sinned.

Jacob 5 is a long chapter—the longest in the Book of Mormon. Perhaps it would help to divide it into the following sections, which describe periods of the world’s history:

Verses 3-14 The scattering of Israel before the time of Christ

To save the house of Israel, He plucks off the most wicked branches (people) and destroys them.“Now in that parable the olive tree is the House of Israel. … In its native land it began to die. So the Lord took branches like the Nephites, like the lost tribes, and like others that the Lord led off that we do not know anything about, to other parts of the earth. He planted them all over his vineyard, which is the world.

Verses 15–28. The ministry of Christ and the Apostles

Verses 29–49. The Great Apostasy

Verses 50–76. The gathering of Israel in the latter days

Verses 76–77. The Millennium and end of the world

The chapter ends with the Millennium and the earth’s final cleansing. The rest of Jacob 5 represents the Lord’s and His servants’ efforts to save those who live in the last days. He gathers his people and nourishes them one last time ( Book of Mormon Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students “Unit 10”)

  • Pruning removes dead branches and bad fruit from a tree. The master cut off the dead branches and cast them into the fire (see Jacob 5:9). How does God help us “prune” our lives of sins and weaknesses?
  • Digging includes clearing away obstacles, such as weeds, from around a tree. Digging ensures nothing will hinder the tree’s ability to grow. What obstacles keep us from growing spiritually?
  • Nourishing keeps a tree healthy by providing minerals and other nutrients. Like trees, our spirits need nourishment. How can we nourish our spirits? Ensign March 2020 “What Can We Learn from the Allegory of the Olive Tree?”

The video below is great to help children understand this story. The only problem with this video is that it calls the wild branches bad. The wild branches are the Gentiles who have not made covenants with the Lord. The children should know that all can repent and join with God’s covenant people and and produce good works, but all those who do not change from their wicked ways will have God’s judgements come upon them–represented by the fire.

For additional insights about the allegory, see the diagram and charts below.

SymbolMeaning
Tame olive tree (verse 3)The house of Israel, God’s covenant people
The vineyard (verse 3)The world
Decay (verse 3)Sin and apostasy
Master of the vineyard (verse 4)Jesus Christ
Pruning, digging, and nourishing (verse 4)The Lord’s efforts to help us be righteous and produce good works
Branches (verse 6)Groups of people
Wild olive tree (verse 7)Gentiles—those who have not made covenants with the Lord. Later in the allegory, natural olive trees, representing portions of the house of Israel in apostasy, are also described as “wild.”
Plucking and grafting branches (verses 7–8)The scattering and gathering of the Lord’s covenant people. In addition, the grafting of wild olive branches into the tame olive tree represents the conversion of Gentiles who become part of the Lord’s covenant people through baptism.
Burning branches (verse 7)God’s judgments upon the wicked
Fruit (verse 8)The lives or works of people
Roots of the tame olive tree (verse 11)The covenants the Lord makes with those who follow Him. Roots may also represent individuals with whom the Lord covenanted anciently, such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (see Jacob 6:4).

Ponder the phrase “It grieveth me that I should lose this tree.” What emotions do you think the Lord expressed here, and why?

Read the phrase again, and this time insert your name in place of “this tree”: “It grieveth me that I should lose [your name].” By inserting your name throughout Jacob 5 in places that are meaningful and appropriate, you will be able to relate the allegory to yourself and learn more about the Lord’s concern for you. You may also insert the word I or me in suitable places in the scriptures.

Jacob 5:61-75

God invites me to help Him gather His children.

“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. 

Watch this video from the church media library: The Olive Tree

The story of the Lord and his vineyard in Jacob 5 is an allegorical telling of the scattering and gathering of Israel. We are living in the time of the final gathering. What can we do to help gather Israel in preparation for the Savior’s Second Coming?

Fruit Fun

  • Sing “Dare to Do Right” (Children’s Songbook, 158).
  • The prophet Jacob taught about missionary work by telling a story about trees. He compared sharing the gospel to helping trees grow good fruit (see Jacob 5).
  • Cut out paper fruit in different colors. Have everyone write one way they can share the gospel. You could even make a tasty fruit treat for dessert (see Treat Time)! Friend March 2020 “My Family Night Fun{“

Read Jacob 5:61 together and help your little ones say, “I can teach people about Jesus.” Then color nametags and dress up like missionaries! Practice talking about the scriptures and Jesus. You could sing a missionary song together, like “I Want to Be a Missionary Now” (Children’s Songbook, 168). Friend March 2020 “Come Follow Me for Little Ones”

The allegory of the olive tree teaches us that we have a duty to help gather Israel, both among the living and beyond the veil.

  1. Open the Family Tree app on your phone (or go to FamilySearch.org).
  2. Select “Temple.” If you don’t already have a name prepared for the temple, select “Ordinances Ready.”
  3. Choose the ordinance you’d like to perform, and the names of any ancestors who need that ordinance will appear.
  4. Create a bar code to print the names at the temple or print them at home.
  5. Set a date in the near future to go to the temple and do the ordinances.

Discussion: How does it make you feel to know you are assisting the Lord in gathering His people? Ensign March 2020 “Family Study Fun”

Come, Follow Me—For Primary: Book of Mormon 2020: Jacob 5-7 Missionaries help God’s children like laborers who care for trees in a vineyard. Help the missionaries find their way through the maze. How do missionaries help God’s children?

See also the following files from Teachingldschildren.com: Missionary Lesson Ideas, Missionary Stories, and Missionary Games & Activities

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