Read it HERE.
Summary: Jacob quotes Zenos relative to the allegory of the tame and wild olive trees—They are a likeness of Israel and the gentiles—The scattering and gathering of Israel are prefigured—Allusions are made to the Nephites and Lamanites and all the house of Israel—Gentiles shall be grafted into Israel—Eventually the vineyard shall be burned. Between 544 and 421 B.C.
This is that LONG allegory of the olive tree chapter. At first read/impression it can seem long and dreary, boring and confusing; but if you read with real intent and with a better understanding of the bigger metaphor and meaning, it gets very interesting. There are a lot of familiar lines in it from the Pearl of Great Price and from some of our most important church doctrine. I realized some great missionary messages, family messages, warnings, blessings, insights into the Godhead, a greater understanding of the Abrahamic Covenant, and the preparations before the Second Coming of the Savior. This is a beautiful chapter and of Jacob's most important contributions in the Book of Mormon.
Ralph E. Swiss, director of physical facilities and real estate in the Church Educational System wrote a great explanatory and insightful article, The Tame and Wild Olive Trees--An Allegory of Our Savior's Love. In this article Swiss points out,
"Most of Christianity has yet to learn of Zenos’s allegory of the olive trees. Indeed, if it hadn’t been for the combined efforts of four prophets, separated by thousands of years, the allegory might have been lost entirely. The prophet Zenos wrote it in Israel, Nephi’s younger brother Jacob retold it to the Nephites, Mormon preserved it for latter-day readers, and Joseph Smith translated it into English" (Swiss, 1988, p.50).
Swiss continues to explain the symbolism and the use of 7 scenes (historic periods of time), and 5 locations in the vineyard (places in the world):
Tame olive tree = House of Israel
Wild olive tree = Gentiles
Lord of the vineyard = Jesus Christ (or God the Father in some interpretations)
Lord of the vineyard's servants = Christ's disciples, the prophets
Good fruit = those people bringing forth good works
Bad fruit = those people bringing forth evil works
Grafting in = baptism
Scene 1 = Time of growing decay, or "...the period following the reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon when the glory of Israel was greatly lessened by growing wickedness and evil" (Swiss, 1988, p. 50).
Scene 2 = The master grieves for the tree and has His servants pluck of the decayed branches to be burned in the fire, or "...the Assyrian and Babylonian conquests of Israel" (Swiss, 1988, p. 50). At this point I think the Savior's love for his people is manifest when he has some of the branches carried off to other parts of the vineyard to be grafted in and preserved (the beginning of the great explorations across the sea.)
Scene 3 = After a long time, the Master returns to inspect the vineyard only to find the tame olive tree has borne tame fruit despite the wild branches that were grafted in from its trunk. "Perhaps this corresponds to the tremendous growth of the Church during and after the Savior’s mortal ministry. A great many among the Gentiles, including numerous Samaritans, were converted and lived the gospel as though they had been born of Israel" (Swiss, 1988, p. 50).
Scene 4 = Master returns, finds entire vineyard in decay, none of the fruit is good, or the time period of the Great Apostasy. I love how the Master asks, What could I have done more for my vineyard? Showing his great love and concern for all people.
Scene 5 = Master's decides to spare the vineyard a little longer, "...he and his servant begin to restore the natural branches to their parent trees, destroying the worst of the branches to make room" (Swiss, 1988, p. 50).
Scene 6 = Master finally reviews the vineyard he finds the fruit good and no more corrupt. "Such a period of peace and bounteous harvest could correspond to the Millennium" (Swiss, 1988, p. 50).
Scene 7 = Master refers to time when evil will come into the vineyard again.... and he will separate the good from the evil, "...like the final cleansing of the earth" (Swiss, 1988, p. 50).
Just as Swiss discovered as he researched the allegory, it is "...not so much a story about trees, branches, grafting, and fruit as a wonderful witness of the messiahship of Christ and his love for mankind" (Swiss, 1998, p. 50).
So, what did you learn? What stood out to you? Don't all these insights make you want to go back and read it again to gleam some more. I'm so grateful for Zenos, Jacob, Mormon, and Joseph Smith for their efforts in writing and preserving and translating this allegory as beautiful way of teaching about our history, the need for our current righteousness, and for what's to come.