Sunday School lessons for Gospel Doctrine Class

Sunday, March 22, 2020

The Lord Labors with Us








Scripture links are hyperlinked to Scriptures at ChurchofJesusChrist.org
Resource quotes have been highlighted in blue and are noted at the end of the blog


In our gospel study journey we frequently find that we are studying allegories, though I don't imagine we know we are reading such a thing.  But, as we continue our study we find them more and more as Christ and His prophets in the words of the Bible, taught in different was to teach the people of the time to understand the gospel principles, the same holds true for the Book of Mormon, so, what is an allegory?

Google says an allegory is: a simple story, poem, or image whose interpretation can be used to reveal a hidden meaning. The usual lessons in allegories include moral or political ones and require a deeper analysis and interpretation of the piece of work.  

An allegory however is not the same as a parable, which we see most often in the scriptures.  What is a parable?  A parable is defined as a simple story that is used to illustrate spiritual or moral lessons. The most common application of the style is the way Jesus told stories in the Gospels with hidden spiritual lessons.

So what is the difference between that two and how can it help us in our gospel study?  An allegory is a literary device used as a metaphor and uses a place, character, or event to send a broader message or moral lesson about a real-world issue or occurrence. A parable, conversely, is defined as a brief and direct to the point story, verse, or prose used to illustrate a single or more instructive principle or lesson.

What does this have to do with our gospel study this week? We are studying Jacob 5-7   in the Book of Mormon, which starts as an allegory from Jacob teaching gospel principles.  It is important to understand the comparison so that we properly understand the message.

History, Background, Chapter Summaries:  

Jacob 5 contains the allegory of the tame and wild olive trees, which was originally given by a prophet named Zenos. Jacob used this allegory to teach that the Lord is always working to bring salvation to His covenant people, even when they turn away from Him. The allegory shows that the Lord scattered portions of the house of Israel, His covenant people, throughout the earth and that He will gather His people in the latter days. The allegory has specific and personal application to us today as members of the house of Israel and servants of the Lord. 

Zenos was a Hebrew prophet whose writings appeared on the brass plates but who is not mentioned in the Old Testament. He lived sometime after the prophet Abraham and before the prophet Isaiah Helaman 8:19–20. We know he testified concerning the death and redemption of the Son of God 1 Nephi 19:10; Alma 8:19. Zenos is most particularly known because of his famous allegory of the olive tree. From this allegory it is clear that he was a prophet and a seer.

In Jacob 6, Jacob emphasized the Lord’s mercy and justice while encouraging his people, and us to repent.

 Jacob 7 teaches that Jacob relied on the Lord and on his unshakable testimony to overcome the false ideas and arguments of Sherem, an anti-Christ. When Sherem demanded a sign that would prove Jacob’s words, he was smitten by God. Jacob concluded his record and entrusted the small plates to his son Enos.

Part 1: Jacob 5 The Lord invites His servants to labor with Him in His vineyard. 

Jacob 5 contains one of the greatest allegories in all scripture. What is being compared?  The house of Israel to a tame olive tree.  However, because the allegory of the olive trees is long and complex, it can be helpful to create an overview.  
diagram of the allegory of the olive treeJacob prophesied that the Jews would reject Jesus Christ  Jacob 4:15. He also prophesied that Jesus Christ would continue to labor for the salvation of His people even after they had rejected Him. To teach this truth, Jacob quoted an allegory given by a prophet named Zenos Jacob 5:1.  As you study Jacob 5, consider how the Lord is always reaching out to you even when you have sinned.

Because you have made covenants with the Lord through baptism, you are a member of the house of Israel. You are part of the story told in Jacob 5

What did Zenos use in his allegory to represent the house of Israel?  Jacob 5:3


What began to happen to the tame olive tree? Notice that footnote d in Jacob 5:3 indicates that the decay of the tree represents apostasy. Apostasy occurs when individuals or groups of people turn away from the Lord and His gospel.

The following chart lists symbols that help us understand the meaning of Zenos’s allegory. Also listed are the verses where these symbols first appear. To help in your study you could mark these symbols in your scriptures. You may also want to write the meaning of some of the symbols in the margins of your scriptures.
Jacob 5: The Allegory of the Tame and Wild Olive Trees
Symbol
Meaning
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).
What did the Master of the vineyard do first to save the tame olive tree? Jacob 5:4–6
Look at the chart above, and notice who the Master of the vineyard is and what His actions of pruning, digging, and nourishing represent.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained what the allegory is intended to be about:  “This allegory as recounted by Jacob is from the outset intended to be about Christ [the Master of the vineyard]. …“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” (Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon [1997], 165).
While Jacob 5 appears to be about olive trees, the allegory is actully about people who have turned away from the Lord in sin and the Lord’s efforts to help them return to Him. This chapter teaches that the Lord loves us and labors diligently for our salvation. As you continue to study the allegory, notice the Lord’s feelings for Israel, the tame olive tree, and His tireless efforts to save it. 

Read Jacob 5:7, and ponder the phrase “It grieveth me that I should lose this tree.” 
7 And it came to pass that the master of the vineyard saw it, and he said unto his servant: It grieveth me that I should lose this tree; wherefore, go and pluck the branches from a wild olive tree, and bring them hither unto me; and we will pluck off those main branches which are beginning to wither away, and we will cast them into the fire that they may be burned.

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.

What did the Lord of the vineyard do next to save the tame olive tree? Jacob 5:7–11.  
7 And it came to pass that the master of the vineyard saw it, and he said unto his servant: It grieveth me that I should lose this tree; wherefore, go and pluck the branches from a wild olive tree, and bring them hither unto me; and we will pluck off those main branches which are beginning to wither away, and we will cast them into the fire that they may be burned.

8 And behold, saith the Lord of the vineyard, I take away many of these young and tender branches, and I will graft them whithersoever I will; and it mattereth not that if it so be that the root of this tree will perish, I may preserve the fruit thereof unto myself; wherefore, I will take these young and tender branches, and I will graft them whithersoever I will.

9 Take thou the branches of the wild olive tree, and graft them in, in the stead thereof; and these which I have plucked off I will cast into the fire and burn them, that they may not cumber the ground of my vineyard.

10 And it came to pass that the servant of the Lord of the vineyard did according to the word of the Lord of the vineyard, and grafted in the branches of the wild olive tree.

11 And the Lord of the vineyard caused that it should be digged about, and pruned, and nourished, saying unto his servant: 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, I have done this thing.

The Lord takes people who are not of the house of Israel and grafts them into Israel, making them part of His covenant people. To save the house of Israel, He plucks off the most wicked branches (people) and destroys them.

What did the Lord do with the young and tender branches from the tame olive tree mentioned in verse 6?  Jacob 5:13–14

13 And these will I place in the nethermost part of my vineyard, whithersoever I will, it mattereth not unto thee; and I do it that I may preserve unto myself the natural branches of the tree; and also, that I may lay up fruit thereof against the season, unto myself; for it grieveth me that I should lose this tree and the fruit thereof.
14 And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard went his way, and hid the natural branches of the tame olive tree in the nethermost parts of the vineyard, some in one and some in another, according to his will and pleasure.

President Joseph Fielding Smith explained that the Lord’s servants “took some of the branches and grafted them in to all the wild olive trees. Who were the wild olive trees? The Gentiles. And so the Lord sent his servants to all parts of his vineyard, which is the world, and planted these branches of the tree. …
“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. No doubt he sent some of these branches into Japan, into Korea, into China. No question about it, because he sent them to all parts of the world” (Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., 5 vols. [1957–66], 4:204–5).
President Smith also taught that “the interpretation of this parable … is a story of the scattering of Israel and the mixing of the blood of Israel with the wild olive trees, or Gentile peoples, in all parts of the world. Therefore we find in China, Japan, India, and in all other countries that are inhabited by the Gentiles that the blood of Israel was scattered, or ‘grafted,’ among them” (Answers to Gospel Questions, 4:40–41)

To emphasize the Lord’s concern for the trees of His vineyard and His continual efforts to save them, what phrases did Zenos repeat throughout his allegory? Jacob 5:20, 23–25, 28, 31

How does the Lord of the vineyard feel about His vineyard?  Jacob 5: 41, 47

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland commented on how this question helps us understand the true nature of God and His unceasing efforts on behalf of His children:

“After digging and dunging, watering and weeding, trimming, pruning, transplanting, and grafting, the great Lord of the vineyard throws down his spade and his pruning shears and weeps, crying out to any who would listen, ‘What could I have done more for my vineyard?’

“What an indelible image of God’s engagement in our lives! What anguish in a parent when His children do not choose Him nor ‘the gospel of God’ [Romans 1:1] He sent!” ( Conference Report, Oct. 2003, 74; or Ensign, Nov. 2003, 72).

In spite of the efforts of the Lord and His servant to help the vineyard produce good fruit, eventually all the fruit of the vineyard became corrupt  Jacob 5:39

39 And it came to pass that they went down into the nethermost parts of the vineyard. And it came to pass that they beheld that the fruit of the natural branches had become corrupt also; yea, the first and the second and also the last; and they had all become corrupt.

What does it mean if all the fruit in all of the vineyard is corrupt? Jacob 5:42 footnote 42a. Complete apostasy.

42 Behold, I knew that all the fruit of the vineyard, save it were these, had become corrupted. And now these which have once brought forth good fruit have also become corrupted; and now all the trees of my vineyard are good for nothing save it be to be hewn down and cast into the fire.

What was one of the main causes of this complete apostasy? Verse 48 footnote 48a 
Haughtiness, or pride

48 And it came to pass that the servant said unto his master: Is it not the loftiness of thy vineyard—have not the branches thereof overcome the roots which are good? And because the branches have overcome the roots thereof, behold they grew faster than the strength of the roots, taking strength unto themselves. Behold, I say, is not this the cause that the trees of thy vineyard have become corrupted?

Because the trees were producing bad fruit despite all He had done, the Lord of the vineyard considered cutting down all of the trees Jacob 5:49

49 And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard said unto the servant: Let us go to and hew down the trees of the vineyard and cast them into the fire, that they shall not cumber the ground of my vineyard, for I have done all. What could I have done more for my vineyard?

President Spencer W. Kimball explained why the development of a deep spiritual root system must precede branches and fruit:

“I believe we find a great lesson in this regard in the parable of the vineyard found in the fifth chapter of Jacob in the Book of Mormon. …

“‘… The branches have overcome the roots thereof, behold they grew faster than the strength of the roots, taking strength unto themselves. Behold, I say, is not this the cause that the trees of thy vineyard have become corrupted?’ (Jacob 5:47–48; italics added).

“It seems that some [Latter-day Saints] among us have this same problem; they want bountiful harvests—both spiritual and temporal—without developing the root system that will yield them. There are far too few who are willing to pay the price, in discipline and work, to cultivate hardy roots. Such cultivation should begin in our youth. Little did I know as a boy that daily chores in the garden, feeding the cattle, carrying the water, chopping the wood, mending fences, and all the labor of a small farm was an important part of sending down roots, before being called on to send out branches. I’m so grateful that my parents understood the relationship between roots and branches. Let us each cultivate deep roots, so that we may secure the desired fruits of our welfare labors”
(Conference Report, Oct. 1978, 113; or Ensign, Nov. 1978, 74–75).

Why did the Lord decide to spare the vineyard a little longer?  Jacob 5: 50–51

50 But, behold, the servant said unto the Lord of the vineyard: Spare it a little longer.
51 And the Lord said: Yea, I will spare it a little longer, for it grieveth me that I should lose the trees of my vineyard.


What does the grafting in this verse signify?  Jacob 5: 52 footnote 52a The gathering of Israel; 
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  Jacob 5:52–77

52 Wherefore, let us take of the branches of these which I have planted in the nethermost parts of my vineyard, and let us graft them into the tree from whence they came; and let us pluck from the tree those branches whose fruit is most bitter, and graft in the natural branches of the tree in the stead thereof.

 President Joseph Fielding Smith taught that the gathering of Israel described in Jacob 5 is occurring now: “In this day of gathering the Lord is fulfilling his purposes and is calling back into the fold of the True Shepherd, the children of Abraham” (Answers to Gospel Questions, 4:41).

Application for us:  The words of the “Lord of the vineyard” can provide comfort for parents of wayward children. For example:

What does Jacob 5:41, 46–47 suggest about how our Father in Heaven feels about His children who go astray? 

41 And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard wept, and said unto the servant: What could I have done more for my vineyard?46 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; and these I had hoped to preserve, to have laid up fruit thereof against the season, unto mine own self. But, behold, they have become like unto the wild olive tree, and they are of no worth but to be hewn down and cast into the fire; and it grieveth me that I should lose them.
47 But what could I have done more in my vineyard? Have I slackened mine hand, that I have not nourished it? Nay, I have nourished it, and I have digged about it, and I have pruned it, and I have dunged it; and I have stretched forth mine hand almost all the day long, and the end draweth nigh. And it grieveth me that I should hew down all the trees of my vineyard, and cast them into the fire that they should be burned. Who is it that has corrupted my vineyard?

How does He try to save them? Jacob 5:61–75
61 Wherefore, go to, and call servants, that we may labor diligently with our might in the vineyard, that we may prepare the way, that I may bring forth again the natural fruit, which natural fruit is good and the most precious above all other fruit.
62 Wherefore, let us go to and labor with our might this last time, for behold the end draweth nigh, and this is for the last time that I shall prune my vineyard.
63 Graft in the branches; begin at the last that they may be first, and that the first may be last, and dig about the trees, both old and young, the first and the last; and the last and the first, that all may be nourished once again for the last time.
64 Wherefore, dig about them, and prune them, and dung them once more, for the last time, for the end draweth nigh. And if it be so that these last grafts shall grow, and bring forth the natural fruit, then shall ye prepare the way for them, that they may grow.
65 And as they begin to grow ye shall clear away the branches which bring forth bitter fruit, according to the strength of the good and the size thereof; and ye shall not clear away the bad thereof all at once, lest the roots thereof should be too strong for the graft, and the graft thereof shall perish, and I lose the trees of my vineyard.
66 For it grieveth me that I should lose the trees of my vineyard; wherefore ye shall clear away the bad according as the good shall grow, that the root and the top may be equal in strength, until the good shall overcome the bad, and the bad be hewn down and cast into the fire, that they cumber not the ground of my vineyard; and thus will I sweep away the bad out of my vineyard.
67 And the branches of the natural tree will I graft in again into the natural tree;
68 And the branches of the natural tree will I graft into the natural branches of the tree; and thus will I bring them together again, that they shall bring forth the natural fruit, and they shall be one.
69 And the bad shall be cast away, yea, even out of all the land of my vineyard; for behold, only this once will I prune my vineyard.
70 And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard sent his servant; and the servant went and did as the Lord had commanded him, and brought other servants; and they were few.
71 And the Lord of the vineyard said unto them: Go to, and labor in the vineyard, with your might. For behold, this is the last time that I shall nourish my vineyard; for the end is nigh at hand, and the season speedily cometh; and if ye labor with your might with me ye shall have joy in the fruit which I shall lay up unto myself against the time which will soon come.
72 And it came to pass that the servants did go and labor with their mights; and the Lord of the vineyard labored also with them; and they did obey the commandments of the Lord of the vineyard in all things.
73 And there began to be the natural fruit again in the vineyard; and the natural branches began to grow and thrive exceedingly; and the wild branches began to be plucked off and to be cast away; and they did keep the root and the top thereof equal, according to the strength thereof.
74 And thus they labored, with all diligence, according to the commandments of the Lord of the vineyard, even until the bad had been cast away out of the vineyard, and the Lord had preserved unto himself that the trees had become again the natural fruit; and they became like unto one body; and the fruits were equal; and the Lord of the vineyard had preserved unto himself the natural fruit, which was most precious unto him from the beginning.
75 And it came to pass that when the Lord of the vineyard saw that his fruit was good, and that his vineyard was no more corrupt, he called up his servants, and said unto them: Behold, for this last time have we nourished my vineyard; and thou beholdest that I have done according to my will; and I have preserved the natural fruit, that it is good, even like as it was in the beginning. And blessed art thou; for because ye have been diligent in laboring with me in my vineyard, and have kept my commandments, and have brought unto me again the natural fruit, that my vineyard is no more corrupted, and the bad is cast away, behold ye shall have joy with me because of the fruit of my vineyard.


Jacob 5:61–75 teaches that the Lord works alongside His servants.  The Lord is working with His servants to move forward His work.  

Application for our day:  While serving as a member of the Seventy, Elder Dean L. Larsen declared that each of us is part of this final effort to prepare the world for the coming of Jesus Christ: 

“[Now] is the period during which the Lord and his servants will make the final great effort to take the message of truth to all the peoples of the earth and to reclaim the descendants of ancient Israel who have lost their true identity.  “The prophet Zenos, whom Jacob quotes in the Book of Mormon, compares this effort to the work of the laborers who prune and nurture a vineyard and gather its fruit for the last time. Zenos likens the Savior to the master of the vineyard, who says to those who are his helpers, ‘Wherefore, let us go to and labor with our might this last time, for behold the end draweth nigh, and this is the last time that I shall prune my vineyard’ (Jacob 5:62).  “You have come to the earth when the foundation has been laid for this great work. The gospel has been restored for the last time. The Church has been established in almost every part of the world. The stage is set for the final dramatic scenes to be enacted. You will be the principal players. You are among the last laborers in the vineyard. This is the yoke that is set upon your necks. This is the service for which you are chosen” (Conference Report, Apr. 1983, 47; or Ensign, May 1983, 33).

What you have learned from Jacob 5 about the Lord’s love for you? 

“… At least fifteen times the Lord of the vineyard expresses a desire to bring the vineyard and its harvest to his ‘own self,’ and he laments no less than eight times, ‘It grieveth me that I should lose this tree.’ One student of the allegory says it should take its place beside the parable of the prodigal son, inasmuch as both stories ‘make the Lord’s mercy so movingly memorable.’

“Clearly this at-one-ment is hard, demanding, and, at times, deeply painful work, as the work of redemption always is. There is digging and dunging. There is watering and nourishing and pruning. And there is always the endless approaches to grafting—all to one saving end, that the trees of the vineyard would ‘thrive exceedingly’ and become ‘one body; … the fruits [being] equal,’ with the Lord of the vineyard having ‘preserved unto himself the … fruit.’ From all the distant places of sin and alienation in which the children of the Father find themselves, it has always been the work of Christ (and his disciples) in every dispensation to gather them, heal them, and unite them with their Master”
(Christ and the New Covenant [1997], 165–66)

Part 2: Jacob 6:3–13 The Lord remembers His people in love and mercy

The allegory of the olive tree is a way to show the Lord’s concern for Israel. With all the allegory’s detail, its important to clearly see that the Lord will not let Israel go and that His hand is stretched out still, pleading for Israel to repent. The Lord will work and toil and exercise infinite patience in its behalf. As the Lord gathers His children the last time, in His great wisdom, all the nations of the earth are blessed.  

1 And now, behold, my brethren, as I said unto you that I would prophesy, behold, this is my prophecy—that the things which this prophet Zenos spake, concerning the house of Israel, in the which he likened them unto a tame olive tree, must surely come to pass.
2 And the day that he shall set his hand again the second time to recover his people, is the day, yea, even the last time, that the servants of the Lord shall go forth in his power, to nourish and prune his vineyard; and after that the end soon cometh.
3 And how blessed are they who have labored diligently in his vineyard; and how cursed are they who shall be cast out into their own place! And the world shall be burned with fire.
4 And how merciful is our God unto us, for he remembereth the house of Israel, both roots and branches; and he stretches forth his hands unto them all the day long; and they are a stiffnecked and a gainsaying people; but as many as will not harden their hearts shall be saved in the kingdom of God.
5 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I beseech of you in words of soberness that ye would repent, and come with full purpose of heart, and cleave unto God as he cleaveth unto you. And while his arm of mercy is extended towards you in the light of the day, harden not your hearts.
6 Yea, today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts; for why will ye die?
7 For behold, after ye have been nourished by the good word of God all the day long, will ye bring forth evil fruit, that ye must be hewn down and cast into the fire?
8 Behold, will ye reject these words? Will ye reject the words of the prophets; and will ye reject all the words which have been spoken concerning Christ, after so many have spoken concerning him; and deny the good word of Christ, and the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, and quench the Holy Spirit, and make a mock of the great plan of redemption, which hath been laid for you?
9 Know ye not that if ye will do these things, that the power of the redemption and the resurrection, which is in Christ, will bring you to stand with shame and awful guilt before the bar of God?
10 And according to the power of justice, for justice cannot be denied, ye must go away into that lake of fire and brimstone, whose flames are unquenchable, and whose smoke ascendeth up forever and ever, which lake of fire and brimstone is endless torment.
11 O then, my beloved brethren, repent ye, and enter in at the strait gate, and continue in the way which is narrow, until ye shall obtain eternal life.
12 O be wise; what can I say more?
13 Finally, I bid you farewell, until I shall meet you before the pleasing bar of God, which bar striketh the wicked with awful dread and fear. Amen.

Jacob concluded his message in Jacob 6:7–13 by testifying that we are wise to prepare now for judgment by repenting and receiving the Lord’s mercy.  Notice that Jacob encouraged us to “cleave unto God as he cleaveth unto you.” 

To cleave means to cling or hold on to, to adhere to something firmly, closely, and unwaveringly.

What did you learn from the allegory of the olive trees that illustrates how God cleaves or holds on to you?

What can you do to cleave more firmly unto Him as He cleaves unto you?

Part 3:  Jacob 7:1–23  We can stand strong when others challenge our faith

Jacob 7 introduces the first anti-Christ in the Book of Mormon.  Sherem, like others who followed, used “much power of speech” and flattering words to teach that “there should be no Christ” 

1 And now it came to pass after some years had passed away, there came a man among the people of Nephi, whose name was Sherem.
2 And it came to pass that he began to preach among the people, and to declare unto them that there should be no Christ. And he preached many things which were flattering unto the people; and this he did that he might overthrow the doctrine of Christ.
3 And he labored diligently that he might lead away the hearts of the people, insomuch that he did lead away many hearts; and he knowing that I, Jacob, had faith in Christ who should come, he sought much opportunity that he might come unto me.
4 And he was learned, that he had a perfect knowledge of the language of the people; wherefore, he could use much flattery, and much power of speech, according to the power of the devil.
5 And he had hope to shake me from the faith, notwithstanding the many revelations and the many things which I had seen concerning these things; for I truly had seen angels, and they had ministered unto me. And also, I had heard the voice of the Lord speaking unto me in very word, from time to time; wherefore, I could not be shaken.
6 And it came to pass that he came unto me, and on this wise did he speak unto me, saying: Brother Jacob, I have sought much opportunity that I might speak unto you; for I have heard and also know that thou goest about much, preaching that which ye call the gospel, or the doctrine of Christ.
7 And ye have led away much of this people that they pervert the right way of God, and keep not the law of Moses which is the right way; and convert the law of Moses into the worship of a being which ye say shall come many hundred years hence. And now behold, I, Sherem, declare unto you that this is blasphemy; for no man knoweth of such things; for he cannot tell of things to come. And after this manner did Sherem contend against me.
8 But behold, the Lord God poured in his Spirit into my soul, insomuch that I did confound him in all his words.
9 And I said unto him: Deniest thou the Christ who shall come? And he said: If there should be a Christ, I would not deny him; but I know that there is no Christ, neither has been, nor ever will be.
10 And I said unto him: Believest thou the scriptures? And he said, Yea.
11 And I said unto him: Then ye do not understand them; for they truly testify of Christ. Behold, I say unto you that none of the prophets have written, nor prophesied, save they have spoken concerning this Christ.
12 And this is not all—it has been made manifest unto me, for I have heard and seen; and it also has been made manifest unto me by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, I know if there should be no atonement made all mankind must be lost.
13 And it came to pass that he said unto me: Show me a sign by this power of the Holy Ghost, in the which ye know so much.
14 And I said unto him: What am I that I should tempt God to show unto thee a sign in the thing which thou knowest to be true? Yet thou wilt deny it, because thou art of the devil. Nevertheless, not my will be done; but if God shall smite thee, let that be a sign unto thee that he has power, both in heaven and in earth; and also, that Christ shall come. And thy will, O Lord, be done, and not mine.
15 And it came to pass that when I, Jacob, had spoken these words, the power of the Lord came upon him, insomuch that he fell to the earth. And it came to pass that he was nourished for the space of many days.
16 And it came to pass that he said unto the people: Gather together on the morrow, for I shall die; wherefore, I desire to speak unto the people before I shall die.
17 And it came to pass that on the morrow the multitude were gathered together; and he spake plainly unto them and denied the things which he had taught them, and confessed the Christ, and the power of the Holy Ghost, and the ministering of angels.
18 And he spake plainly unto them, that he had been deceived by the power of the devil. And he spake of hell, and of eternity, and of eternal punishment.
19 And he said: I fear lest I have committed the unpardonable sin, for I have lied unto God; for I denied the Christ, and said that I believed the scriptures; and they truly testify of him. And because I have thus lied unto God I greatly fear lest my case shall be awful; but I confess unto God.
20 And it came to pass that when he had said these words he could say no more, and he gave up the ghost.
21 And when the multitude had witnessed that he spake these things as he was about to give up the ghost, they were astonished exceedingly; insomuch that the power of God came down upon them, and they were overcome that they fell to the earth.
22 Now, this thing was pleasing unto me, Jacob, for I had requested it of my Father who was in heaven; for he had heard my cry and answered my prayer.
23 And it came to pass that peace and the love of God was restored again among the people; and they searched the scriptures, and hearkened no more to the words of this wicked man.


Most of us have experienced opposition to our faith such as Jacob faced when he met with Sherem.

How can we prepare to face such opposition, even if it comes from friends or family members?  A serious study, not just a read of the book of Mormon can prepare and save us.  President Ezra Taft Benson taught that one of the major purposes of the Book of Mormon is to help us discern between truth and error, revealing the motives of individuals like Sherem: “The Book of Mormon exposes the enemies of Christ. It confounds false doctrines and … fortifies the humble followers of Christ against the evil designs, strategies, and doctrines of the devil in our day. The type of apostates in the Book of Mormon are similar to the type we have today. God, with his infinite foreknowledge, so molded the Book of Mormon that we might see the error and know how to combat false educational, political, religious, and philosophical concepts of our time” (Conference Report, Apr. 1975, 94–95; or Ensign, May 1975, 64).

Jacob relied on his testimony and the Lord to overcome the false ideas and arguments of Sherem, to thwart Sherem’s efforts, Jacob drew strength from past experiences that had increased his faith in Jesus Christ. He also relied on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, his knowledge of the scriptures and the words of the prophets, and his testimony of Jesus Christ. When Sherem demanded a sign that would prove Jacob’s words were true, he was smitten by God. Jacob concluded his record by describing how the Nephites trusted in the Lord as they fortified themselves against the Lamanites. Before Jacob died, he entrusted the small plates to his son Enos.

Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “One of mortality’s great tests comes when our beliefs are questioned or criticized. In such moments, we may want to respond aggressively. … But these are important opportunities to step back, pray, and follow the Savior’s example. Remember that Jesus Himself was despised and rejected by the world. … When we respond to our accusers as the Savior did, we not only become more Christlike, we invite others to feel His love and follow Him as well” (“Christian Courage: The Price of Discipleship,” Ensign Nov. 2008, 72).
What words and phrases indicate (1) what Sherem was trying to do and (2) how he sought to accomplish his goals?   Jacob 7:1–5


According to Jacob 7:3, what effect did Sherem have on the people? 


Notice in Jacob 7:4 that Sherem “was learned” and had “much power of speech.”   why it is sometimes difficult to defend your faith against a person like Sherem?
Remember that not all people who question or criticize our faith necessarily have the same motives as Sherem. While some people, like Sherem, deliberately seek to destroy faith, others may question our faith because they are curious, or perhaps they have been misinformed concerning our beliefs.

How would or do you respond to a person like Sherem?

In Jacob’s response, we learn that as we rely on the Lord we can overcome challenges to our faith.  

For a better understanding in the chart below, read the verse or verses from Jacob 7:5–14 in the first column and match that reference to the statement in the second column that best describes how Jacob relied on the Lord in that reference.

  1. He testified of the scriptures and words of prophets.
  2. He left the outcome in God’s hands.
  3. He relied on guidance and strength from the Holy Ghost.
  4. He remembered past experiences that had strengthened his faith.
  5. He shared the testimony he had received through the Holy Ghost.
How can you strengthen your testimony so that it will not be shaken when what you believe is questioned or criticized?  We cannot be shaken in our faith if our testimonies are based on revelation and true spiritual experiences. Ponder the strength of your testimony of Jesus Christ and what you can do to strengthen it.


Notice in Jacob 7:5 that because of Jacob’s previous spiritual experiences his faith became unshakable. What are some experiences that have strengthened your faith? 

How can remembering or recording these experiences help you when someone questions or criticizes your faith?

In Jacob 7:8, Jacob stated that “the Lord God poured in his Spirit into my soul.” What do you need to do to be able to have the Spirit poured into your soul? 

How has the Holy Ghost helped you as you have dealt with questions or criticisms about your faith?

How can a daily habit of studying the scriptures and the words of latter-day prophets help you in circumstances when others question or criticize your faith? Jacob 7:10–11

When have you shared your testimony with someone who has questioned or criticized your faith? Jacob 7:12 What was the result?

Rather than seeking to prove the truthfulness of his testimony when Sherem sought for a sign, Jacob left the outcome in the Lord’s hands Jacob 7:14. 

How can it help you to know that you don’t need to prove the truthfulness of your testimony to those who challenge your faith?

Elder Robert D. Hales taught: “When we do not retaliate—when we turn the other cheek and resist feelings of anger—we … stand with the Savior. We show forth His love, which is the only power that can subdue the adversary and answer our accusers without accusing them in return. That is not weakness. That is Christian courage.  “Through the years we learn that challenges to our faith are not new, and they aren’t likely to disappear soon. But true disciples of Christ see opportunity in the midst of opposition. …“… Fortunately, the Lord knows the hearts of our accusers and how we can most effectively respond to them. As true disciples seek guidance from the Spirit, they receive inspiration tailored to each encounter. And in every encounter, true disciples respond in ways that invite the Spirit of the Lord” (“Christian Courage: The Price of Discipleship,” 72–73).

What do you think it means to “see opportunity in the midst of opposition”?   Good can result as we respond to those who challenge our faith in ways that invite the Spirit of the Lord. 

What good resulted from Jacob’s encounter with Sherem? Jacob 7:15–23
 
What evidence do you see in Jacob 7:21–22 that Jacob desired his experience with Sherem to help others?
According to Jacob 7:23, how did Jacob’s encounter with Sherem ultimately affect the multitude?  One principle we learn from Jacob’s encounter with Sherem is that as we respond to questions or criticisms of our faith in ways that invite the Spirit, we can help others turn to the Lord.  
How can knowing this principle allow you to help others turn to the Lord?

How might you seek to apply this principle?

Part 4: Jacob 7:24–25 We can trust in God
These verses reinforce Jacob’s message about the importance of relying on the Lord as we face challenges.

24 And it came to pass that many means were devised to reclaim and restore the Lamanites to the knowledge of the truth; but it all was vain, for they delighted in wars and bloodshed, and they had an eternal hatred against us, their brethren. And they sought by the power of their arms to destroy us continually.
25 Wherefore, the people of Nephi did fortify against them with their arms, and with all their might, trusting in the God and rock of their salvation; wherefore, they became as yet, conquerors of their enemies.

The Nephites lived under constant threat of attack from the Lamanites. Though we may not face the daily threat of physical warfare, what spiritual dangers do we face? 

What do we learn from the Nephites’ response to their situation, described in Jacob 7:24–25?

Conclusion
The more we know about olive trees, the better we can understand why Zenos was inspired to use this particular tree to symbolize Israel. The olive tree is a living thing that can produce much fruit. It requires constant nourishment to survive.  The olive branch is traditionally a symbol of peace.  The tree must be carefully pruned to be fruitful and productive.  For a wild olive tree to become tame and productive, its main stem must be cut back completely, and a branch from a tame olive tree must be grafted into the stem of the wild one.  An olive tree may produce fruit for centuries. Some trees now growing in Israel have been producing abundantly for over 400 years.  As a tree grows old and begins to die, its roots send up new shoots, which, if grafted and pruned, will mature to full-grown olive trees. Thus, the root of the tree may go on producing new trees and fruit for thousands of years.

President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “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, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., 5 vols. [1957–66], 4:142)  We should participate in this great gathering. Because we have been nourished by the Lord, we are obligated to help others receive this nourishment.

In addition, we are also taught, as in the case with Jacob and Sherem,: “There is not anything in this world of as great importance to us as obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us search these scriptures. Let us know what the Lord has revealed. Let us put our lives in harmony with his truth. Then we will not be deceived”(President Joseph Fielding Smith Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 1:301)

Resouces:  
Book of Mormon Student Manual
Seminary Student Manual
Doctrines of Salvation, Answers to Gospel Questions
Ensign
Conference Reports 
Christian Courage the Price of Dicipleship
Christ and the New Covenant



The Fall of Adam and Eve

  Scriptures are hyperlinked to Scriptures at ChurchofJesusChrist.org Resource quotes have been highlighted in blue and are noted at the end...