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TitleJacob 5 in the Nineteenth Century
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication1994
AuthorsUnderwood, Grant
EditorRicks, Stephen D., and John W. Welch
Book TitleThe Allegory of the Olive Tree: The Olive, the Bible, and Jacob 5
PublisherFoundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies/Deseret Book
CityProvo, UT/Salt Lake City
KeywordsBotany; Horticulture; Jacob (Son of Lehi); Olive Tree; Zenos (Prophet)

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Jacob 5 in the Nineteenth Century

Grant Underwood

In the Church's first periodical, The Evening and the Morning Star, editor W. W. Phelps occasionally published excerpts from the Book of Mormon. On one occasion, he reprinted in its entirety what today is Jacob 5 and offered these words of introduction:

One of the greatest figures, one of the plainest parables, and sublimest prophecies, that we know of, is found in the book of Jacob in the book of Mormon. It is as simple as the accents of a child, and as sublime as the language of an angel. The words are from the mouth of an ancient prophet named Zenos, and would to God we had all his prophetic book, for he that caused Isaiah's lips to be touched with sacred fire, filled Zenos with the word of wisdom. Isaiah said [Isaiah 5:7], The vineyard of the Lord of hosts, is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant, and Zenos adorns it with the tame olive tree for the children of Israel, and grafts in the wild olive, for the Gentiles; and marvel not that the Lord is now sending his servants to prune this vineyard for the last time.1

Throughout the nineteenth century, those who mentioned Zenos's prophecy, or "parable" as they usually called it, did so with the same admiration reflected in Phelps's comments. Erastus Snow, for instance, called it a "notable parable," and Orson Pratt, who discussed it a number of times in conference talks, described it as "a very important and extensive parable."2 Such enthusiasm, however, needs to be placed in context. While the Book of Mormon was treasured in the early years, the surviving documentary record indicates that it simply was not quoted or discussed with anything near the frequency of the Bible.3 A search of numerous books, diaries, and periodicals from the nineteenth century reveals that even Zenos's parable, highly regarded as it was, drew comments numbering only in the dozens rather than the hundreds, as was the case with some biblical passages, and that many of the comments came from Orson Pratt. By almost a five-to-one margin, Pratt cited Jacob 5 more often than any other Latter-day Saint speaker or writer. This was probably due to the fact that his experience in the 1870s of versifying and footnoting the Book of Mormon afforded him an unusually in-depth appreciation of the volume's contents. Overall, nineteenth-century discussion of the parable can be divided into two broad categories—historical and homiletical.


The most obvious reading of Jacob 5 was as an account of God's dealings with Israel and the Gentiles. It offered a considerable elaboration of the Israel-Gentiles-Israel periodization of redemptive history found in the Bible. In particular, it bore detailed and dramatic testimony to the latter-day gathering of Israel. Jacob himself introduced the parable as the "unfold[ing]" of the "mystery" of how the Jews, "after having rejected the sure foundation, can ever build upon it, that it may become the head of their corner" (Jacob 4:15-18). Since the restoration of Israel figured prominently in early Mormon doctrine, it is not surprising that this parable should have caught the Saints' attention. To fully appreciate the Latter-day Saint position, one must see it set against a brief history of Christian interpretation of prophecy pertaining to Israel's latter-day glory.4

For a thousand years prior to the Reformation, the Augustinian formulation prevailed wherein the Christian church was seen allegorically as spiritual Israel and the fulfiller of all Old Testament prophecies. This interpretation obviated the need for any special work among historic Israel. During the Reformation, however, efforts to restore a literal hermeneutic to prophetic interpretation surfaced and occasionally gained center stage. Particularly among some of Calvin's followers, prophecies and statements dealing with Israel and Zion came to be understood at face value. Thus, the apostle Paul's promise that one day "all Israel shall be saved" (Romans 11:25-26) was taken literally to refer to scattered Jews. A leading historian of the matter has argued that when Calvinist theologians reinterpreted the phrase "all Israel" to mean the Jewish people rather than taking it to be a symbolic reference to the church, Christian Zionism was born.5 Combined with a renewed interest in the prophecies and prophetic numbers of Daniel and Revelation, such approaches led unprecedented numbers of people to expect a national conversion of the Jews before the Second Coming.6

At first, many held to the "calling" of the Jews but not to their physical return to Israel.7 The latter smacked too much of the old "carnal millennium" anathematized by early church Fathers.8However, voices began to be heard in its favor. One of the earliest was Sergeant Henry Finch, the London lawyer, who found himself jailed for several weeks because he described the future political supremacy of the restored Jewish kingdom a little too enthusiastically for the king's tastes.9 By the time Increase Mather delivered his famous sermon, "The Mystery of Israel's Salvation," the idea of a "temporal" restoration was commonplace among certain students of biblical prophecy.10

Latter-day Saints, however, aided by the Book of Mormon, saw the whole issue of Israel's restoration on a much broader scale. For them, more than just the Jews were involved. The ten tribes still had to return, and the American Indians, too, were considered a "remnant of Jacob." They could even include themselves among God's covenant people by stressing their own patriarchally pronounced pedigree. Zenos's parable provided a detailed and sweeping review of redemptive history that matched the Saints' expansive vision. Though by present standards, there was relatively little nineteenth-century discussion of, let alone full-fledged commentary on, Jacob 5, a framework for discerning early Mormon understandings can be gleaned from two important sources. The first was an "index," which really amounted to a table of contents, prepared by Brigham Young and Willard Richards for the 1841 European edition of the Book of Mormon.11 The second was the set of footnotes provided by Orson Pratt for the 1879 edition of the Book of Mormon.12 Preparing a table of contents, and especially a series of textual glosses or footnotes, is an obvious act of interpretation. Both by what these men chose to include or exclude, as well as by the very manner in which they worded their entries, a valuable window into early Mormon minds is provided.

Young and Richards made seven sequential entries for Jacob 5: "Tame olive tree," "nethermost part of the vineyard," "fruit laid up against the season," "wild fruit had overcome," "Lord of the vineyard wept," "branches overcome the roots," and "wild branches plucked off." As late as the 1906 edition of the Book of Mormon, these entries remained unchanged as part of that volume's table of contents, though one additional reference—"another branch"—had been inserted before "wild fruit had overcome." Why these particular phrases might have been considered significant and how they, along with other passages, might have been understood can be glimpsed by reviewing Pratt's interpretive glosses as well as relevant comments from other Saints.

The parable begins by detailing what happens when the Lord attempts to save the decaying "tame olive tree," Israel, by transferring some of its "young and tender branches" to the "nethermost parts of the vineyard," while at the same time grafting into the main stock branches from the "wild olive tree," the Gentiles. Few portions of Jacob 5 aroused more interpretive speculation than the identity and whereabouts of those "natural branches" that the Lord "hid" in "the nethermost parts of the vineyard" (Jacob 5:14). Orson Pratt's gloss on this verse identified them as the "Ten tribes in the North. Some of Judah and Joseph in America. Others upon isles."

Actually such ideas date back to the earliest years. A Times and Seasons article quoted several passages mentioning branches in the "nethermost parts" and remarked, "From the above, it is very evident that there did exist other branches of the house of Israel, that were under the special guidance of the Lord, and to whom he paid peculiar attention, and that in order that he might preserve a pure seed unto himself." What caught the author's attention in particular was Zenos's description "that these branches were hid [Jacob 5:14, in the vineyard, and consequently not generally known by the generality of mankind." Examples of such branches included the ten tribes who were, citing 2 Esdras, "taken to a 'land where never mankind dwelt, from whence they will return in the latter day,' " Lehi and his family who "came to this continent," "a remnant of the house of Israel, somewhere on the Islands of the sea," and even "a number of the house of Israel discovered in little Thibet in the interior of China, in a highly civilized state, a few years ago." Thus, the Times and Seasons concluded, "We have now found out several of the hiding places of the branches of the house of Israel . . . according to the account given in the Book of Mormon."13

Descriptions of one of the trees being planted in a "good spot" that was "choice above all others" were easy to interpret, especially when, as noted in verse 25, "part of the tree" brought forth "good fruit" and part "wild fruit." Pratt identified these in his footnotes as "Nephites" and "Lamanites" and the spot as "America." He also suggested the "Jaredites" as "that which cumbered" the good spot of ground and had to be "cut down" so that the Lehite colony could be planted (Jacob 5:44). A subsequent visit of the Lord and his servant disclosed that "the wild fruit . . . had overcome that part of the tree which brought forth good fruit, even that the branch had withered away and died" (Jacob 5:40). It did not require much imagination to see in this the destruction of the Nephites by the Lamanites.

In a piece for the Star entitled "The Ten Tribes," W. W. Phelps traced "Israel to Assyria, where he is figuratively declared by Hosea [Hosea 8:8-9] to be a wild ass alone by himself, and where he has remained in complete obscurity from the world, 2556 years." He then cited Jacob 5:19-22 and remarked, "Here we have a clue to the place where Israel is; for while standing upon the centre of the earth, it would be perfectly natural to call the north, south, east, and west, nethermost, or lowest; and as this branch was the first that the Lord had hid, it would evidently mean the ten tribes as they were the first carried away."14

Mention of "natural branches" being "hid" in the "nethermost part of the vineyard," which also happened to be the "poorest spot" seemed to coincide perfectly with contemporary notions about the lost ten tribes having been sequestered away to the frozen "north countries." Phelps elaborated on this theme several years later in a letter to Oliver Cowdery. He declared:

The parts of the globe that are known probably contain 700 millions of inhabitants, and those parts which are unknown may be supposed to contain more than four times as many more, making an estimated total of about three thousand, five hundred and eighty million souls; Let no man marvel at this statement, because there may be a continent at the north pole, of more than 1300 square miles, containing thousands of millions of Israelites, who, after a highway is cast up in the great deep, may come to Zion, singing songs of everlasting joy. . . . This idea is greatly strengthened by reading Zenos' account of the tame olive tree in the Book of Mormon. The branches planted in the nethermost parts of the earth, "brought forth much fruit," and no man that pretends to have pure religion, can find "much fruit" among the Gentiles, or heathen of this generation.15

This latter idea that the Gentiles had failed to bring forth "fruit" points to the Saints' understanding of what resulted from the ingrafting of the "wild branches." Zenos mentioned that initially they had begun "to bear fruit" (Jacob 5:17), which Pratt explained as "the Gentiles in the Apostles' day." When "a long time had passed away" (Jacob 5:29)—"eighteen hundred years" according to Pratt—the Lord and his servant returned to find that "all sorts of fruit did cumber the tree" (Jacob 5:30). These Pratt understood as the modern "sects of Christendom." Brigham Young and Willard Richards also drew attention to this phenomenon by citing a verse describing how the Gentile branches had "overcome the roots" (Jacob 5:48).

The Gentile apostasy was an important part of the Saints' periodization of redemptive history. Joseph Smith explained that sequence in a letter to the American Revivalist and Rochester Observer. After the Jews "had rejected Christ and his proposals, the heralds of salvation said to them, 'Lo, we turn unto the Gentiles; ' and the Gentiles received the covenant and were grafted in from whence the chosen family were broken off." However, invoking a Romans 11 phrase popular with the early Saints, he noted that "the Gentiles have not continued in the goodness of God [Romans 11:22] but have departed from the faith that was once delivered to the Saints."16 Orson Pratt elaborated: "The Gentiles, since they were grafted in, 1800 years ago, have fallen after the same example of unbelief that the ancient Jews did, and they have lost the power and authority which they once possessed; and for many centuries they have had no apostles, no prophets, no angels from heaven, no power of godliness made manifest among them, and nothing but the teachings and precepts of uninspired men."17 As Orson Hyde summed it up in his Prophetic Warning, "Nothing is more plain than that the Gentiles have not continued in the goodness of God; but have departed from the faith and purity of the gospel."18

With universal apostasy in evidence, the Lord of the vineyard declares, "Now all the trees of my vineyard are good for nothing save it be to be hewn down and cast into the fire" (Jacob 5:42). The servant persuades him to labor a while longer in the vineyard, but ultimately the final pruning to which Young and Richards drew attention takes place wherein "the wild branches began to be plucked off" (Jacob 5:73). In his letter to the American Revivalist, Joseph Smith asked, "Has not the pride, high-mindedness, and unbelief of the Gentiles provoked the holy one of Israel to withdraw his holy spirit from them and send forth his Judgments to scourge them for their wickedness; this is certainly the case." "Distruction [sic]," he wrote, "to the eye of the spiritual beholder seemes to be writen by the finger of an invisable hand in Large capitals upon almost evry thing we behold."19 Wilford Woodruff did not mince words when he described the plight of unbelieving Gentiles:

In vain, in vain, do ye strive O! ye gentiles for this thing. Ye are ownly fuel for the fire & tinder for the Breath of the Almighty. Ye have not continued in the goodness of God neither have ye sought to recover Israel. WO, WO, WO, unto you Rome for you are the mother of harlets & Wo unto all your daughters England & America not excepted. Your destruction is sure. Your condemnation lingereth not & your Damnation Slumbereth not. For you are all drunk with the Blood of Saints. You have spoiled Judah & Ephram you have trodden down. But he will rise again & fullfill the word of God on thee!!20

Individuals as well as nations were singled out for the pruning. In the midst of tension with the U.S. government in the 1850s, Brigham Young declared, "I have just as good a right to say that President [Zachary] Taylor is in hell, as to say that any other miserable sinner is there. Was he any more than flesh and blood? I have as good a right to canvass him in a religious point of view, as I have to canvass the peasant upon the dunghill. He has gone there, and so have many others; and the Lord Almighty is removing the bitter branches, as foretold in the Book of Mormon."21 It should be pointed out that the Saints did not categorically condemn all Gentiles. Pratt identified the "most bitter" branches destined to be plucked off as only "the more wicked portions of the Gentiles." According to Zenos, other branches, wild but not so bitter, were to be spared and grafted in elsewhere with the hope that the Lord "may yet have glory in the fruit of [his] vineyard" (Jacob 5:54). Still, the general corruption of the Gentile religious world was a necessary precursor to the final phase of the Lord's redemptive work. As Paul explained it in an oft-quoted verse, once the "the fulness of the Gentiles" was "come in," then "all Israel shall be saved" (Romans 11:25-26). The phrase "fulness of the Gentiles be come in" was often taken to mean the gathering of the full measure of the Gentile elect. For some, however, such as Sidney Rigdon, the apocalyptic perception of a world beyond repair overpowered any optimism about Gentile converts and led to an interpretation of the "fulness" of the Gentiles as the apostasy of the Gentiles. "When will the fulness of the Gentiles be come in?" asked Rigdon. "When they all shall have ceased to bring forth the fruits of the kingdom of heaven, of all parties, sects, and denominations, and not one of them standing in the situation in which God had placed them; . . . then is the time that the world may prepare themselves to see the God of heaven set his hand the second time to recover the remnant of his people."22

The apostasy was more than just evidence that truth and authority had been lost. It demonstrated that the stage was set for the Lord to perform his latter-day work of re-engrafting the natural branches. The prophetic chronology seemed clear—the Gentiles apostatize, the Israelites are gathered, and the Millennium is ushered in. Orson Pratt taught that

When the Gentile nations shall reject this Gospel, and count themselves unworthy of eternal life, as the Jews did before them, the Lord will say. "It is enough, come away from them, my servants, I will give you a new commission, you shall go to the scattered remnants of the house of Israel. I will gather them in from the four quarters of the earth, and bring them again into their own lands. They shall build Jerusalem on its own heap; they shall rear a Temple on the appointed place in Palestine, and they shall be grafted in again." Now that, in short, is the nature of this great latter-day preparatory work for the coming of the Son of Man.23

Not surprisingly, the Saints saw themselves at the center of this final labor. "The latter part of [Zenos's] extensive parable," declared Pratt "more particularly relates to the great work which we, as Latter-day Saints, are now performing in the earth."24 The "servant" and "other servants" (Jacob 5:70) called to perform the final pruning and grafting were none other than "Joseph Smith" and "those called through Joseph Smith."25 W. W. Phelps declared, "All men, acquainted with revelation and the spirit of God, have agreed that the 'servant' spoken of in that parable, was Joseph Smith."26 Parley Pratt remarked, "I have often been reminded by the faithful laborers in this Church . . . of the parable in the Book of Mormon that these latter-day laborers should be called to prune the vineyard of the Lord." In his mind, the prophetic parable was included in the Book of Mormon so "that we might see and understand how it was that the great work of the last days was to be fulfilled." He asked, "Is it not being fulfilled every whit? Have not the eleventh hour laborers been called? Are not their numbers few [Jacob 5:70]? And have they not labored with all their might, many of them [Jacob 5:71-72]? Verily I say unto you, yea."27

In the closing verses of Jacob 5, the servants are described as "diligent in laboring" in the vineyard and consequently are able to bring "again the natural fruit, that [the] vineyard is no more corrupted, and the bad is cast away" (Jacob 5:75). As a result, the Lord is able to "lay up unto [himself] of the fruit, for a long time" (Jacob 5:76). The "long time" Pratt understood as a reference to the Millennium. The very last verse carries history to the end by commenting on a future time in which "evil fruit shall again come into my vineyard," though ultimately the "good" will be preserved and the "bad" "cast away into its own place," and the vineyard "burned with fire." The interpretation offered by Pratt was that this referred to Satan's being loosed for a little season at the end of the Millennium followed by the ultimate transformation of the earth.


Some use of Jacob 5 in the nineteenth century seems to have been primarily homiletical in nature. In such instances, it was not the overall message of the restoration of Israel that was of concern but rather individual passages or phrases that seemed relevant to whatever point the speaker happened to be making. For instance, Heber C. Kimball found the exchange between the master of the vineyard and the servant in verses 21-22 meaningful to his message on following the brethren:

The Lord often takes a course to try the confidence of His people, for He planted a branch of the olive tree in the poorest spot in all the land of His vineyard, and He caused it to yield much fruit that was good. That was considered a marvellous work, and one of His servants said, "How camest thou hither to plant this tree, or this branch of the tree? for behold it was the poorest spot in all the land of thy vineyard. And the Lord of the vineyard said unto him, counsel me not, but go to and do all things as I command you." . . . Well, go to work and dig the Big Cottonwood canal on the same principle. Begin tomorrow morning, and do not cease until that canal is done, and I will warrant the water to come, and when it comes, that will increase your confidence.28

Zenos's descriptions of fruitless trees and corrupt branches also made easy transfer to life in Utah. Brigham Young declared:

Every individual, every family, and every portion of the community that desire to leave this kingdom, the quicker they go the better for us. The sooner such branches are severed, the healthier will be the tree; its roots and stock will become more powerful, and it will spread its branches to the nethermost parts of the earth. Dead branches tend to make the tree sickly, if they are permitted to remain. Let them be cut off, that the healthy branches may drink more strength and vigour from the roots of the tree, and the foliage of the whole tree be beautiful.29

Likening Church leaders to the roots and members to the branches, Kimball queried, "Why do we see dead limbs on a tree? Because they refuse to receive the nourishment which the root affords. Why do people become dead to their own interests and the interests of the kingdom of God? Because they refuse to obey the will of God through their leaders: the gate of communication is shut down between them and the source of their life and strength in the way of life and salvation."30

The Saints also read the parable as prophetic confirmation of their own destiny. Here they stressed their own heritage as Israel. Brigham Young reminded the Saints, "You understand who we are; we are of the House of Israel, of the royal seed, of the royal blood."31 With Johnston's army en route in 1857, Heber C. Kimball assured the Saints, "God will protect us and make a way for our escape, for this is the natural branch of the House of Israel, and it sprang from that root that was planted in the nethermost part of the garden." Pruning trials were to be expected but they would not overwhelm. "The Lord said, 'Cut away those bitter branches, but do not cut them away any faster than the vine grows.' Let us grow together and be one vine, but many branches, and we shall prosper from this time henceforth and for ever."32

The Saints recognized, of course, that as Wilford Woodruff put it, "We are all Gentiles in a national capacity."33 Because of this composite pedigree, Woodruff termed the Saints "a mixed cake among the Gentiles."34 Still, for converts to the Church, prior pedigree mattered little. Once the ordinances of salvation were received, Gentiles were grafted in and figuratively, if not literally, became Israelites. In the words of Heber Kimball, "Repentance, baptism, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost . . . are the grafting principles."35 "If any of the Gentiles will believe," explained Brigham Young, "we will lay our hands upon them that they may receive the Holy Ghost, and the Lord will make them of the house of Israel. They will be broken off from the wild olive tree, and be grafted into the good and tame olive tree, and will partake of its sap and fatness." All of this made perfectly good sense to a horticulturally aware society. "If you take a bud and inoculate it into another tree," continued Young, "it ceases to receive nourishment from its original stock; it must, however, receive nourishment . . . from the tree into which it has been introduced; it is supported by it, and becomes incorporated with it. It is so with the House of Israel and the Gentile nations; if the Gentiles are grafted into the good olive tree they will partake of its root and fatness."36

One particular phrase in the parable was repeatedly noticed as a source of hope to nineteenth-century Saints. Zenos indicated that when the servants went out for the last time to prune the vineyard, "the Lord of the vineyard labored also with them" (Jacob 5:72). "Here is a very definite and positive assurance that this work is His," declared Franklin D. Richards, and "that he is particularly to figure in it himself; that he has not entirely committed it, even to angels; as represented in the parable, so beautifully expressed in the Book of Mormon, where the husbandman calls upon his servants to come and help him to prune his vineyard for the last time; we are given to understand that so we are called to be helpers to the Lord our God, to prune his vineyard for the last time."37

Orson Pratt noted that "among all the servants that had laboured in previous dispensations, the parable does not condescend to say that the Lord laboured with them, although he no doubt did. But here it is expressly said that the labourers were few, and the Lord laboured with them." This, he felt, should give the latter-day servants of the Lord great hope. "Try to have this prophecy fulfilled upon your heads," Pratt told the Saints. "Keep the commandments of the Lord of the vineyard in all things, that his blessings may be upon you, that when you set to your hands with the pruning-knife, to prune and train up the branches of the trees of the vineyard, and dig around their roots, the power of the everlasting God may rest upon you and the vineyard where you labour . . . that you may have joy with him in the fruits of the vineyard when the work is finished."38 Even the very survival of Mormonism was tangible evidence to Parley Pratt that the Lord had labored with his latter-day servants. "What else," he asked, "but the power of these laborers and the powers of the Almighty God with them could have led these thousands and tens of thousands of Latter-day Saints over seas, deserts, through the mountains, overcoming every obstacle and then have sustained them in these Valleys?"39

The vision of laborers pruning the vineyard for the last time was felt to apply equally well to the institutional work of the Church. After providing a rough paraphrase of verses 72-75, Wilford Woodruff urged the Saints that with Zenos's prophecy "uppermost in our minds, we should look for the building up of the kingdom, and . . . try to do all the good we can, labouring to promote the cause and interest of Zion in every department thereof where we are all called to act."40 Franklin D. Richards was quite explicit: "Our Savior and the ancient Prophets Nephi, Jacob, Zenos, and others, spoke of the husbandman . . . employing laborers to go into the vineyard and prune it for the last time. I wish to remind you my brethren of the Priesthood, especially those who are called to occupy important leading positions in the Wards, the Stakes, and councils of Zion, that you are the men who were spoken of and written about in their parables."41

Zenos's description of keeping the "tops and the roots equal" (Jacob 5:66, 73) was another portion of the parable that drew homiletical attention. It served as a reminder of both the importance of unity and the need for balance between spiritual and temporal affairs. "When all things are in proper working order," declared Orson Pratt, "every part will fulfil that which is required of it in relation to its particular calling, and all these various quorums of priesthood will strive to stir up the people to a oneness in regard to spiritual things; thus we keep spiritual and temporal things running parallel to each other, connected more or less together." In the end, "the whole church becomes like unto one body, they become equal. 'And the root, and the top thereof is equal.' "42

Pratt later elaborated how oneness among the Saints would be achieved:

Now what has the Lord said in this parable of the vineyard? "And they did keep the root and the top thereof equal." In what respect were they made equal? The next part of that same sentence declares that they were made equal "according to the strength thereof." Now there is a great deal expressed in those few words. They were not made equal all at once, as the inhabitants of a celestial world are, without any improvements being introduced; but they were to keep the root and the top of the great tree equal, according to the strength thereof; that is according to the condition and circumstances in which the people are placed. Now I consider, that notwithstanding all our deviations from the perfect law that God has given . . . we are doing pretty well. . . .The day will come when this will be fulfilled to the very letter, in accordance with words which say, "they became like unto one body; and the fruit were equal." That is the destination of the Latter-day Saints in the future. The fruit is to be equal; the roots and the branches are all to be kept in their perfect order, and the whole tree kept in a thriving condition.43


As with any scripture, interpretation of Zenos's parable has ranged from the literal to the figurative. It was felt to give great insight into the history of Israel and how Israel would ultimately be restored to the Lord's favor. At the same time, it reinforced the voice of warning to the Gentiles so prominent in the early Mormon witness. That it was also "likened" unto the Church's daily life should hardly be surprising, since Nephi himself led out in such an approach to scripture. In the process, creative and challenging usages were made that broadened the parable's relevancy. If in the end the parable was not cited as often as favorite biblical passages, it was nonetheless cherished as "one of the plainest parables, and sublimest prophecies" in all scripture.


  1. The Evening and the Morning Star was known simply as the Star in the early years. The quotation is from Star 1 (September 1832): [26]. Originally, Jacob 4 and 5 were grouped together as Chapter III of Jacob.
  2. JD 23:299; 19:330.
  3. Grant Underwood, "Book of Mormon Usage in Early LDS Theology," Dialogue 17 (Fall 1984): 35-74. A statistical analysis done for the 1830s revealed that for every Book of Mormon citation, there were nineteen biblical quotes; ibid., 53. Later in the century, the Book of Mormon was used more frequently but still much less than the Bible.
  4. Information found in the following paragraphs relies on Peter Toon, ed., Puritans, the Millennium and the Future of Isreal (Cambridge: Clark, 1970); David S. Katz, Philo-Semitism and the Readmission of the Jews to England, 1603-1655 (Oxford:Clarendon, 1982); David S.Katz, Sabbath and Sectarianism in Seventeenth-Century England (Leiden: Brill,1988); Richard H. Popkin, "Jewish Messianism and Christian Millenarianism," in Perez Zagorin, ed., Culture and Politics from Puritanism to the Enlightment (Berkeley: University of California Presss, 1980), 79-83; Richard H. Popkin, ed., Millenarianism and Messianism in English Literature and Thought, 1650-1800 (Leiden: Brill, 1988); Richard H. Popkin, "Millenarianism in England, Holland, and America; Jewish-Christian Relations in Amsterdam, London and Newport, Phode Island,: in S. Hook, W.L. O'Neill, and R. O'Toole, eds., Philosophy, History and Social Action (Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1988), 349-71; and Richard H. Popkin, "The Lost Tribes, the Caraites and the English Millenarians," Journal of Jewish Studies 37 (Autumn 1986): 213-27.
  5. Mayr Verete in his 1981-82 Clark Lecture, "The Idea of the Restoration of Israel in English Thought," in Popkin, Millenarianisn and Messianism, 10-11. Mary Verete, "The Restoration of the Jews in English Protestant Thought," Middle Eastern Studies 8 (1972): 3-50; and Regina S. Sharif, Non-Jewish Zionism: Its Roots in Western History (London: Zed, 1983) offer excellent surveys of Christian Zionism. Helpful context is provided in E. Elizabeth Johnson, The Functions of Apocalyptic and Wisdom Traditions in Romans 9-11 (Atlanta: Scholars, 1989); and James W. Watts. "The Remnant Theme: A Survey of New Testament Research, 11921-1987, " Perspectives in Religious Studies 15 (Summer 1988): 109-29.
  6. Christopher Hill, "Till the Conversion of the Jews'," in Popkin, ed. Millenarianism and Messianism, 12-36, demonstrates how widespread in seventeenth-century England was the idea that the conversion and restoration of the Jews was the crucial antecedent to the millenium. See also Mel Scult, Millenial Expectations and Jewish Liberties: A Study of the Efforts to Convert Jews in Britian up to the Mid-Nineteenth Century (Leiden: Brill, 1978).
  7. In Reformed Protestant soteriology, conversion was not simply cognitive acceptance of theological propositions, it was a work of divine grace from start to finish. Therefore, contemporary writers spoke of the "calling" of the Jews when referring to their divinely engineered conversion.
  8. Jean Daniélou, The Theology of Jewish Christianity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964), 377-404; and Thomas D. Lea, "A Survey of the Doctrine of the Return of Christ in the Ante-Nicene Fathers," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 29 (June 1986): 163-77.
  9. (Henry Finch), The Calling of the Jewes (London, 1621). See Franz Kobler, "Sir Henry Finch 91558-1625) and the First English Advocates of the Restoration of the Jews to Palestine," Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England 16 (1952): 101-20.
  10. Increase Mather, The Mystery of Israel's Salvation, Explained and Applied: or, a Discourse Concerning the General Conversion of the Israelitish Nation. Wherein is shewed, 1. That the twelve tribes shall be saved. 2. When this is to be expected. 3. Why this must be. 4. What kind of salvation the Tribes of Israel shall partake of, Viz., A Glorious, Wonderful, Spiritual, Temporal Salvation (London, Allen, 1969).
  11. Hugh G. Stocks, "The Book of Mormon, 1830-1879: A Publishing History," M.A. thesis, University of California, Los Angeles, 1979, pp. 69-72. Stocks points out that "all subsequent LDS editions before 1920 include it virtually unchanged, but they correctly label it as a table of contents and place it in the front of the book" (p. 69).
  12. Pratt's notes quoted in this study can be examined simply by looking up the designated verse in the 1879 edition of the Book of Mormon and consulting the footnote.
  13. Times and Seasons 5 (February 1844): 425-26.
  14. W.W. Phelps, Star 1 (October 1832): [33].
  15. W. W. Phelps, Messenger and Advocate 2 (October 1835): 194.
  16. Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1984), 271-72. Jessee has chosen to retain the original spelling and syntax.
  17. JD 16:85.
  18. Orson Hyde, "Prophetic Warning," Messenger and Advocate 2 (July 1936): 344.
  19. Jessee, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 270-72.
  20. Scott G. Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff's Journal, 9 vols. (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1983), 1:469, 21 June 1840.
  21. JD 2:183-84.
  22. Messenger and Advocate 1 (November 1834): 18.
  23. JD 18:177.
  24. JD 19:330.
  25. Orson Pratt's notes for Jacob 5:70.
  26. Times and Seasons 5 (January 1845): 761.
  27. JD 3:309.
  28. JD 4:250.
  29. JD 8:66.
  30. JD 6:124.
  31. JD 2:269.
  32. JD 4:210.
  33. JD 23:79.
  34. JD 4:233.
  35. JD 6:123.
  36. JD 2:269.
  37. JD 23:106-7.
  38. JD 6:272.
  39. JD 3:310.
  40. JD 4:229.
  41. JD 24:118.
  42. JD 19:332.
  43. JD 21:147-48.



Scripture Reference

Jacob 5:1-77