Jacob chapter 5 is known as the Allegory of the Olive Tree. Here’s a summary of the allegory:
- The Lord of the vineyard, who represents Jesus Christ
- A servant
- A tame olive tree, representing Israel
- Three other olive trees in distant parts of the vineyard:
- Tree 1 is in a “poor spot of ground.”
- Tree 2 is in an even worse location.
- Tree 3 is in a good spot.
Scene 1 (v. 3-14)
The Lord of the vineyard is distressed because a tame olive tree has begun to decay. He attempts to revive it. Some new branches begin to grow, but the branches at the top are dying. He shares a plan with his servant: burn the dead branches, and move all of the living branches to three trees in distant parts of the vineyard, and graft in some branches from a nearby wild olive tree.
Scene 2 (v. 15-28)
Some time later, the Lord of the vineyard and his servant return. They find that the tame olive tree is producing good fruit even though its branches are all wild. Trees 1 and 2 (with branches from the tame tree) are also producing good fruit, which surprises the servant, because both are growing in poor ground. Tree 3 is producing some good fruit and some bad fruit. The Lord of the vineyard wants to burn the bad branches right away, but the servant convinces him to give them a little more time.
Scene 3 (v. 29-69)
The Lord of the vineyard and the servant return later and find bad news on all fronts: the tame olive tree and all three of the other trees are now producing only bad fruit. The Lord mourns the outcome and prepares to destroy the trees, but the servant persuades him to give the trees a little more time.
The Lord of the vineyard outlines an aggressive new plan: the original branches from the tame tree will be returned to it, and the wild branches currently in the tame tree will be moved to the three distant trees. However, this change will happen gradually in order to avoid excessive trauma to the root systems.
Scene 4 (v. 70-77)
The servant recruits helpers, and together they execute the new plan, working side by side with the Lord of the vineyard. Eventually, He observes that all of the trees are producing good fruit. He congratulates the workers and tells them that he will harvest the good fruit for a long time. When the vineyard begins to produce bad fruit again, He will burn the vineyard.
Jacob 5 is the longest chapter in the Book of Mormon, and the very length of the chapter is a part of its message: the Lord loves us and will continue to be patient with us for a long, long time as we learn to produce good fruit. Eight times in the chapter, the Lord of the vineyard says some version of, “It grieveth me that I should lose this tree.”
Today, I will remember that Heavenly Father is kind and long-suffering. He may be disappointed when we fail to live up to our potential, but He has not given up on us. As one of His disciples, I will strive to follow His example and not give up on other people, even if they appear to be not producing much “good fruit” yet. I’ll be patient and I’ll stand ready to support them in their efforts to improve and progress.