Walk Straight & Stand Tall

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When I think of standing tall, I think of my husband who stands almost as tall as any normal human can at 5’21”.  I also think of a tall tree being rooted in the ground so that it’s branches can ascend up reaching high into the sky.  In my yoga practice, I liken myself unto a strong and healthy olive tree when doing tree pose, I’m much more able to hold the pose when I think of a string pulling me up from heaven all the while being firmly grounded on the earth with my sustaining leg firm and straight giving me the proper foundation necessary for strength and support.

Do you ever feel like you’re worthless and that no one really cares about you?  Does it seem like you’re alone in life and no one understands you?  I know I’ve felt this way and I believe there are many people who experience these feelings and more at one time or another in their lives.  Do you ever stop and consider where these thoughts come from?  Does it seem like an insurmountable task when leaders ask you to walk straight and stand tall when you’re feeling like your head is hanging down and your shoulders are slumped over?  Do you think they ask us to do hard things because they see more than we see?  How can we see ourselves standing tall and walking straight? 

There has always been evil in the world and if someone wanted to find it they had to make more of an effort to go get it but today, thanks to technology, there are many distractions in our world that beguile us from our strong foundation and straight leg and confuse our aspiring destination upward.  Most propaganda sand blasts us and our every turn is bombarded with ways to bind us to addiction, sexual promiscuity, disease and death and not to mention make us feel inadequate in all we do because there is always going to be someone more rich, more beautiful and more in-shape.

Why do our leaders and prophet’s invite us to walk straight & stand tall?  What is it they know about us concerning our divine nature and birthright as well as who has the power to make us into that perfect person we all so desire?  In our family scripture study, we most recently finished reading Jacob 5 commonly known as Zenos’s allegory of the olive tree.  In this prized treasury of golden nuggets, we can learn all the answers to the above propositions and queries.  Who is Zenos?  Any bible scholar would ask this question….and any Jewish scholar of his religion MAY know.  In the bible dictionary we learn about the lost books which I added to my blog for clarity and it reads:

Lost books

[The so-called lost books of the Bible are those documents that are mentioned in the Bible in such a way that it is evident they were considered authentic and valuable but that are not found in the Bible today. Sometimes called missing scripture, they consist of at least the following: book of the Wars of the Lord (Num. 21:14); book of Jasher (Josh. 10:13; 2 Sam. 1:18); book of the acts of Solomon (1 Kgs. 11:41); book of Samuel the seer (1 Chr. 29:29); book of Gad the seer (1 Chr. 29:29); book of Nathan the prophet (1 Chr. 29:29; 2 Chr. 9:29); prophecy of Ahijah (2 Chr. 9:29); visions of Iddo the seer (2 Chr. 9:29; 12:15; 13:22); book of Shemaiah (2 Chr. 12:15); book of Jehu (2 Chr. 20:34); sayings of the seers (2 Chr. 33:19); an epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, earlier than our present 1 Corinthians (1 Cor. 5:9); possibly an earlier epistle to the Ephesians (Eph. 3:3); an epistle to the Church at Laodicea (Col. 4:16); and some prophecies of Enoch, known to Jude (Jude 1:14). To these rather clear references to inspired writings other than our current Bible may be added another list that has allusions to writings that may or may not be contained within our present text but may perhaps be known by a different title; for example, the book of the covenant (Ex. 24:7), which may or may not be included in the current book of Exodus; the manner of the kingdom, written by Samuel (1 Sam. 10:25); the rest of the acts of Uzziah written by Isaiah (2 Chr. 26:22).

The foregoing items attest to the fact that our present Bible does not contain all of the word of the Lord that He gave to His people in former times and remind us that the Bible, in its present form, is rather incomplete.

Matthew’s reference to a prophecy that Jesus would be a Nazarene (2:23) is interesting when it is considered that our present Old Testament seems to have no statement as such. There is a possibility, however, that Matthew alluded to Isa. 11:1, which prophesies of the Messiah as a Branch from the root of Jesse, the father of David. The Hebrew word for branch in this case is netzer, the source word of Nazarene and Nazareth. Additional references to the Branch as the Savior and Messiah are found inJer. 23:5; 33:15; Zech. 3:8; 6:12; these use a synonymous Hebrew word for branch,tzemakh.

The Book of Mormon makes reference to writings of Old Testament times and connection that are not found in the Bible, the Book of Mormon, or in any other known source. These writings are of Zenock, Zenos, and Neum (1 Ne. 19:10; Alma 33:3–17). An extensive prophecy by Joseph in Egypt (which is not in the Bible) is also apparent from2 Ne. 3:4–22, and a prophecy of Jacob (not found in the Bible) is given in Alma 46:24–26. These writings were evidently contained on the plates of brass spoken of in the Book of Mormon (1 Ne. 5:10–13)].

It would appear very rare indeed to have the writings of Zenos and very LUCKY that four prophets from nearly a millenium apart were inspired to write, recall, abridge and translate them so we have them today.  The prophet Zenos had the revelation about the olive tree and it was put in the plates of brass (one of many recorded JEWISH scipture), the prophet Jacob recounted the story from the plates of brass and wrote about it in the small plates (included with the large plates), the prophet Mormon who abridged the large and small plates (and other plates like the Jaredite record) into what then Joseph Smith translated and is known today as the BOOK OF MORMON.  The following is a graph of the allegory of the olive tree.

Jacob 5 Allegory of Olive Tree by Daron D Fraley 10-24-2001

What is the allegory of the Olive Tree and why doesn’t the rest of the world have it except the Book of Mormon? Ralph E. Swiss describes the allegory as the following:  “As Zenos begins the story, he defines the primary figure: the tame olive tree, which he said represents the house of Israel. He then speaks of the tree growing old and beginning to decay. From the opening verses, the love and concern of the master of the garden are evident as he seeks ways to help the tree survive and bear good fruit. (Jacob 5:4.) The lord of the vineyard and his servants may refer to the Lord Jesus Christ and his disciples, the prophets; at least Jacob seems to refer to them as such when he explains the implications of the allegory. (See Jacob 6:2–4, 8.) Others, noting that the lord of the vineyard has a chief servant working in the vineyard, assign the role of lord of the vineyard to God the Father.

It is possible to recognize the good fruit of the tree as those people bringing forth good works, and the bad fruit as those bringing forth evil works. (See Jacob 6:7.) We can also imagine that the wild olive tree represents the Gentiles, just as the tame olive tree represents the house of Israel.

From the beginning of the story, a time line begins to unfold, and we naturally wonder which events in history might correspond with events in the allegory. Herein we need to be cautious. Matching events in Israel’s history is not as important as witnessing, by means of the story, the great love of the Lord for his vineyard and his carefully laid plan to gather in the good fruit. However, it is interesting to consider possible historical parallels.

The allegory seems to divide into seven scenes, each scene covering a period of time. Zenos also identifies five locations in the vineyard, which represents the world. (See Jacob 6:3.) Examining each scene in order can prove quite helpful in following the unfolding events.

Scene 1 (Jacob 5:4–6): The story opens at a time of growing decay, perhaps such a time as the period following the reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon when the glory of Israel was greatly lessened by growing wickedness and evil. In hopes of saving the tree, the master of the vineyard prunes the decayed limbs, digs about the trunk, and nourishes the soil to stimulate new growth. After caring for the tree, he waits many days to see the results of his labor.

The tree begins to put forth some new and tender branches. These branches seem to represent the righteous of the day. Even in the midst of Israel’s apostasy, such prophets as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Lehi came to lead the people, and some of the Israelites turned to the Lord. But even though the master is encouraged by the new growth, he notices that the main top begins to perish.

Scene 2 (Jacob 5:7–14): The master grieves for the tree and directs his servants to pluck off the decayed branches and cast them into the fire. Twice more, in verses 11 and 13 (Jacob 5:11, 13), the master expresses his grief at losing the tree and its fruit. Christ’s great love for his people is clear as he sorrows at their loss.

One era in Israel’s history that reflects such a condition occurred during the Assyrian and Babylonian conquests of Israel. After the death of King Solomon, the kingdom of Israel divided into two kingdoms. First, the mighty nation of Assyria destroyed the Northern Kingdom, carrying off many of the inhabitants of Israel. Then Babylon conquered the Southern Kingdom and burned Jerusalem, taking captive most of the people in the city. Only a few thousand returned to Jerusalem seventy years later. The kingdoms of Israel and Judah paid dearly for their disobedience—the dead limbs several times cast into the fire is an apt analogy.

Yet the master of the vineyard prepared for the future. In the allegory, he carries some of the young and tender branches to the nethermost parts of the vineyard and grafts them onto other trees. This could represent the Lord’s effort to preserve the blood of Israel should the main tree die: “If it so be that the root of this tree will perish, I may preserve the fruit thereof.” (Jacob 5:8.) Those carried off by Assyria to the north and those carried off to Babylon might be some of these branches. The Lehites and Mulekites, who were led from Israel to the New World about the same time, might be other branches.

The master also commands his servants to graft the branches from a wild olive tree onto the old tree, then dig about and nourish the tree. Since limbs gather sunlight and air for the tree, strong branches can strengthen a dying tree. Similarly, for example, Assyria brought non-Israelites into the Northern Kingdom, who adopted the religion of Israel. These people became known as the Samaritans.

Scene 3 (Jacob 5:15–28): After a long time has passed, the master returns to examine the fruit of the vineyard. This time, he finds that the tame olive tree has borne tame fruit despite the wild branches that grew from its trunk. The great strength of the roots has overpowered the wildness of the branches. 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.

At this time, the allegory reveals where in the vineyard the tender branches from scene 2 had been grafted. The first bundle of branches had been moved to an area that the servants called the poorest spot in all the vineyard, yet the branches had brought forth good fruit. The master identifies the second spot, saying that it was even poorer than the first, yet those branches had also borne good fruit. It seems that the Lord was able to bring forth righteous people in wicked lands, to the surprise of his servants.

There is little in the allegory to identify these poor spots of ground, but the scriptures do supply some possible candidates. Jonah, for example, was astonished at the repentance of the people of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria (see Jonah 3–4), which was generally considered a spiritual desert by the Israelites. Similarly, a faithful branch of Jews lived in Babylon while the Jews were captive there, and Babylon could be called worse than Nineveh. (See Ezra 1–5.) The master identifies a third spot, which had also been fruitful. The fourth spot was good ground, and the master had nourished the tree there a long time, but the branches had brought forth good and bad fruit, much like the Nephites and Lamanites in the promised land. Instead of destroying the bad branches, the master decides to nourish the tree a little longer.

Scene 4 (Jacob 5:29–49): When the master returns again, he finds the entire vineyard in decay. The trees have produced much fruit, but none of it is good. The tame olive tree has all sorts of fruit, and the bad branches of the fourth tree have overpowered the good branches until the good has withered away. This scene is much like the condition of the earth during the great apostasy. In many lands, including ancient America, the gospel was lost entirely; in others, Christianity had fragmented into a multitude of differing sects and doctrines.

Throughout the verses of this scene, we can sense the master’s anguish over the loss of his trees. After he views all the trees, he weeps, then repeatedly asks his servants, “What could I have done more for my vineyard?” (Jacob 5:41. See also Jacob 5:47, 49.) At one point, he says:

“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.” (5:47.)

Scene 5 (Jacob 5:50–74): The master’s decision to spare the vineyard a little longer shows even more clearly his desire for the salvation of the trees and their fruits. He knows the roots of the tame olive tree are still alive. So, to preserve the roots and again bring forth good fruit, he and his servant begin to restore the natural branches to their parent trees, destroying the worst of the branches to make room.

Like the gathering of Israel in modern times, all the branches of the tame olive tree are grafted back onto their parent tree. The master instructs his servant to trim back the bad branches as good fruit grows, “that the root and top may be equal in strength, until the good shall overcome the bad.” (Jacob 5:66.) The servant finds other servants to work with him, and though the laborers are few, they toil with their might to preserve the vineyard.

Scene 6 (Jacob 5:75–76): When the master finally reviews the vineyard, he finds “that his fruit was good, and that his vineyard was no more corrupt.” (Jacob 5:75.) He blesses his servants, and they look forward to laying up the fruit of the vineyard for a long time. Such a period of peace and bounteous harvest could correspond to the Millennium. Even so, the master warns his servants that this is the last time they will work in the vineyard, speaking of the season to come.

Scene 7 (Jacob 5:77): The master refers to the time when evil fruit will again come into the vineyard. He says that at that time, he will separate the good from the evil, like the final cleansing of the earth:

“The good will I preserve unto myself, and the bad will I cast away into its own place. And then cometh the season and the end; and my vineyard will I cause to be burned with fire.”

As Jacob concludes the recital of Zenos’s allegory, he stresses that the Lord will set his hand to recover his people, that the servants of the Lord will go forth with power to nourish and prune the vineyard until the end comes. Then how blessed will be those who have labored diligently in the vineyard, and how cursed will be those who are cast out! (See Jacob 6:2–3.)

Recalling the mercy of God, who “stretches forth his hands unto them all the day long” (Jacob 6:4), Jacob again exhorts his people not to reject the words of the prophets concerning Christ. In both Jacob and Zenos’s words is another testament that Jesus is the Christ, that he has great love for all of God’s children, and that he works tirelessly to preserve the righteous and to accomplish his purposes on the earth, which are to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life”.

Why was the allegory rejected by so many others?  The irony behind Wicked’s “No good deed goes un-punished” is a reality in the loss of the allegory of the olive tree for the rest of the house of Israel….but, it, too is a part of the scene that Ralph E. Swiss has just laid before you.

The allegory of the olive tree gives us reason to lift our heads high and be a great cheer because the gathering of Israel is now and we are of the house of Israel.  The gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored and lifts us heavenward; the grafting of the tame and wild olive branches has taken hold while the good fruit (the gospel) is firm and being harvested daily as missionaries around the world are laboring diligently to bring in new branches.   We are sustained by and thru the power of the priesthood as we are all of a divine birthright and we have the DNA of GOD THE FATHER.  Ordinances and covenants we make with God are the foundation our tree is planted upon and by our obedience we go forward in a straight course knowing we are human and prone to making a million mistakes.   The good news is despite our weaknesses, through the atonement of Jesus Christ we are grafted again into the house of Israel and he isn’t going to give up until EVERYONE has had a chance to accept or reject….and then the great cleansing will happen.

 These are great times to be sure if we allow ourselves to take root, be firm and grow upward towards heaven not by comparing ourselves to one another but by focusing on what is great that we can bring to the tree to nourish and strengthen it.  Once we see ourselves like our Savior and other’s see us, we can always walk straight & stand tall as we measure up to serve the Lord and assist him in his gardening work as he’s still got much, much more to do.

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