In addition to his being one of Nephi’s younger brothers, we know the following about Jacob:
He was born to Sariah and Lehi during the eight years they traveled in the wilderness.
He would have been younger than 10 years old when he arrived in the promised land.
He became the Nephite record keeper after Nephi (see Jacob 1:1–2). He may have been about 50 years old at that time.
He was a righteous father (see Enos 1:1).
Jacob was one of the most powerful doctrinal teachers in the Book of Mormon. Some of the things we can learn in the book of Jacob are:
The importance of fulfilling our callings (see Jacob 1)
The dangers of pride, riches, and immorality (see Jacob 2–3)
How to gain unshakable faith (see Jacob 4)
The scattering and gathering of Israel (see Jacob 5)
How to deal with apostates and what can happen to sign seekers (see Jacob 7)
When we love someone, we are concerned about that person’s welfare. The prophet Jacob described the love he felt for his people as “anxiety.” He had a prophetic understanding of the plan of salvation and knew the consequences that would come upon them if they continued in their sins. Note how the Lord blessed Jacob because of his “faith and great anxiety” (see Jacob 1:5–6).
Jacob 1:1—The Small Plates
Jacob wrote his sacred record on the small plates of Nephi. (For an explanation of the various plates that became the Book of Mormon see “The Main Sources for the Book of Mormon,” p. 12.)
Jacob 1:7–8—“The Provocation . . . in the Wilderness”
After the Lord, by many great miracles, brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, they angered Him by their disobedience. As a result, that generation was not allowed to enter the promised land.
Jacob 1:17–19—“We Did Magnify Our Office”
President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, explained why we need to magnify our callings and how we do so:
“President John Taylor cautioned us, ‘If you do not magnify your callings, God will hold you responsible for those whom you might have saved had you done your duty.’ . . .
“How does one magnify a calling? Simply by performing the service that pertains to it” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1996, 61; or Ensign, May 1996, 43).
Do activities A and B as you study Jacob 1.
In this first chapter, Jacob gave us a preview of what he would write about in Jacob 2–3. Find answers to the following questions in Jacob 1:
What “wicked practices” (v. 15) were the Nephites getting involved in?
How do those sins compare to wicked practices in the world today?
Suppose you are a leader in your priesthood quorum or Young Women class and you were asked to give counsel to a member of your group who was not fulfilling his or her calling. Use what Jacob taught in Jacob 1:17–2:3 and write a letter to this person to help him or her understand the importance of doing our duty in our callings (see also the “Understanding the Scriptures” section for Jacob 1:17–19).
Jacob began his ministry teaching his people to avoid three sins: the love of riches, pride, and unchastity. Whenever the Nephites descended into wickedness, one or more of these sins were always involved. As you view the world, are these sins often present today? What sins today typically cause people and nations to descend into wickedness?
Jacob 2:13—“The Costliness of Your Apparel”
There are many people today who judge other people’s worth by how they look and dress. “The phrase ‘costly apparel’ occurs more than a dozen times in the Book of Mormon. Almost always it is descriptive of a people who have been prospered by the Lord, have become caught up with themselves and their acquisitions, and thereafter have begun to place greater stress upon the glitter of their outward appearance than the cleanliness of their inner vessel” (McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 2:14).
Jacob 2:23–30—Unauthorized Plural Marriage Is an Abomination to God
To understand Jacob’s comments here it is helpful to notice that only David and Solomon were condemned for taking many wives and concubines. Abraham, Jacob, and Moses, who also had wives and concubines, were not. In modern revelation the Lord explained that David and Solomon sinned when they took wives that God had not given them (see D&C 132:34–39). Jacob also indicated that one reason the Lord has authorized plural marriage at times is to raise up seed unto Him, but if He does not command it, plural marriage is forbidden (see Jacob 2:30).
Jacob 3:11—What Is the “Second Death”?
All of Heavenly Father’s children will stand before the Lord for judgment. Those who are unrepentant and unworthy to receive any degree of glory, those who die as to things pertaining to righteousness, will be cut off from the presence of God. This is called the “second death” (see Alma 12:15–18; Helaman 14:14–19).
Do any two of the following activities (A–C) as you study Jacob 2–3.
Compare Jacob 2:5; Alma 12:3; and Doctrine and Covenants 6:16 and, in your notebook, describe a power God has that no one else has unless it is granted by Him.
How might knowing that God has this power affect a person’s prayers?
Review Jacob’s counsel to his people about the dangers of pride and riches in Jacob 2:12–21. Write four paragraphs describing how your family, your school, your community, and your country would be different if everyone followed Jacob’s counsel, especially that in verses 17–19.
Review what Jacob taught about marriage and chastity in Jacob 2:23–35; 3:10–12. Summarize what Jacob taught us about wives, mothers, and daughters.
What do you know about the Atonement of Jesus Christ? How does His sacrifice affect you? Do you understand how urgently or desperately you need the Savior? Jacob prophesied that the Jews among whom Jesus would live would not understand Him or His mission. They would reject Him and His gospel (see Jacob 4:15) and, as a result, they would be smitten and scattered as the Ten Tribes were before them.
Jacob 4:11—“The First-Fruits of Christ”
Everyone who has ever lived on earth will be resurrected, but those who are “reconciled unto [God] through the atonement of Christ” are the “first-fruits of Christ.” They are those who come forth in the first resurrection and inherit the celestial kingdom (see Bible Dictionary, “resurrection,” p. 761).
Jacob 4:14–17—Jesus Christ Is the “Only Sure Foundation”
“Looking beyond the mark” (Jacob 4:14) means that the Jews were looking for something other than Jesus Christ to save them. Jacob prophesied that the Jews would reject the Messiah, the “stone upon which they might build and have safe foundation” (v. 15). He then referred to scriptures that say He would still become their “only sure foundation” (v. 16; see Psalm 118:22; Matthew 21:42). If we do not build on Jesus Christ, we will not receive the promised eternal joy with Him. Jacob 5–6 explains how the Jews, and all of the house of Israel, will yet be built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ.
Do activity A or B as you study Jacob 4.
Jacob described how he gained unshakable faith and the power to move mountains.
Review Jacob 4:6–7 and look for the words search, revelations, prophecy, witnesses, hope, and grace.
Using those words, describe how Jacob said we can have such powerful faith.
Jacob wrote of God’s greatness and why we should listen to Him. Search Jacob 4:8–13 for answers to the following questions:
How can we learn about God?
By what power was the earth created?
Why should we listen to God’s counsel?
What blessing is given to those who are reconciled to God through the Atonement? (See also the “Understanding the Scriptures” section for Jacob 4:11.)
What is truth? Who knows all truth?
Using what you learned from the previous questions, what would you say to someone who did not think learning about God would be helpful?
An allegory is a story that uses symbols to explain important truths. The allegory of the olive tree in Jacob 5 teaches us about the Lord’s purposes in the scattering and gathering of the house of Israel. In chapter 6, the prophet Jacob summarized the major points of the allegory. At the end of Jacob 4, Jacob asked how the Jews could ever build on the “sure foundation” of Jesus Christ after they rejected Him (see Jacob 4:17). Look for the answer to that question in Jacob 5–6.
Jacob 5:1—Who Was the Prophet Zenos?
Zenos, along with Zenock and Neum, were prophets during Old Testament times whose writings are not found in the Bible but were found on the plates of brass (see 1 Nephi 19:10; “Studying the Scriptures” section for 1 Nephi 19:10, p. 30).
Jacob 5—Understanding Zenos’s Allegory
Every item in an allegory is not necessarily meant as a symbol for something else, but certain major symbols must be understood in order to understand the allegory. The following symbols are important in understanding the allegory of the olive tree:
Jacob 5:8–10—What Does It Mean to “Graft” Branches?
To graft branches, healthy, living branches are cut from a tree or plant and inserted into another place (see accompanying illustration). The branches in this allegory represent groups of people that the Lord takes from one place and plants them in another. In the scriptural sense, grafting means to “come to the knowledge of the true Messiah” (1 Nephi 10:14).
Jacob 5:8, 13–14, 19–25—The “Young and Tender” Branches of the House of Israel
The “young and tender branches” seem to be those people who responded to the “pruning and fertilizing” by God and His prophets. They were more teachable than the old established branches, or the groups of Israelites who had to be removed and destroyed.
President Joseph Fielding Smith taught: “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” (Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., 5 vols. [1957–66], 4:204).
Zenos’s allegory helps us understand that the scattering of branches of Israel all over the world was a blessing both to Israel and to the rest of Heavenly Father’s children, the Gentiles. Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explained: “In general, the Lord sends to earth in the lineage of Jacob [Israel] those spirits who in pre-existence developed an especial talent for spirituality and for recognizing truth. Those born in this lineage, having the blood of Israel in their veins and finding it easy to accept the gospel, are said to have believing blood” (Mormon Doctrine, 81).
As scattered Israel mixed with the Gentiles around them, the blood of Israel was spread even further. Elder James E. Faust, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, commented: “The scattering of Israel throughout the world sprinkled the blood that believes, so that many nations may now partake of the gospel plan” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1982, 127; or Ensign, Nov. 1982, 87–88).
Jacob 5:32–46—When Did All the Trees Become Corrupt?
The part of the allegory when all the trees bear evil fruit seems to represent the period of the Apostasy, prior to the restoration of the gospel. When the Lord spoke to Joseph Smith in the First Vision, He told Joseph that he should join none of the churches of that day because they were all “wrong” (Joseph Smith—History 1:19).
Do activities A and B as you study Jacob 5–6.
After you have studied the olive tree allegory in Jacob 5, write in your notebook whether the following statements are true or false and list the verses where you found the answers. (Use the chart on page 65 of this manual for additional help.)
The tame olive tree represents the house of Israel and the decaying branches represent wicked people.
The master of the vineyard pruned and nourished the tree to make it bear good fruit.
The young and tender natural branches rebelled and were transplanted or scattered as punishment.
The natural branch, planted in good soil, that grew good fruit and bad fruit could represent the Nephites and Lamanites.
There is a time when all the trees bear only evil fruit. Then the Lord proceeded to restore the gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith.
The branches of the trees that were scattered were later grafted back into their original tree.
There is never a time when all the trees bear only good fruit.
In your notebook, answer any three of the following questions:
In what part of the allegory do you think we are living today? Why?
Why do you think Jacob was willing to record this long allegory on the plates?
What does the scattering and gathering of Israel mean to you?
What do you learn from this allegory about Heavenly Father’s concern for all of His children?
What are some things the Lord has done in your life to “prune” and “nourish” you?
Jacob 6 is a summary of Jacob 5. What verses in Jacob 6:5–13 do you think best summarize what the allegory of the olive tree means to you? Explain why you chose those verses.
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Have you ever discussed the gospel with a well-educated and eloquent person who not only did not believe but was critical of your beliefs? It can be intimidating and even a little frightening. In Jacob 7, Jacob tells of such an experience. Notice why Jacob “could not be shaken” from his beliefs (Jacob 7:5).
Jacob 7:13–20—The Dangers of Sign Seeking
“Show me a sign,” said Sherem (Jacob 7:13), but a sign was not really what he wanted. Satan had convinced Sherem that it was not possible to know something that could not be seen. Jacob knew that even though we cannot see the Holy Ghost, His power is undeniable. Believers in Jesus Christ are promised signs, not to create faith but because of their faith. Those who seek signs without faith will be condemned by the evidence they seek (see D&C 63:9–11).
Do activities A and B as you study Jacob 7.
To better understand what Sherem taught and why he was able to deceive so many people, copy sentences 1–9 into your notebook and fill in the missing parts with information from Jacob 7:1–9. Then answer questions 10 and 11.
Sherem taught that there should be no ___________________________________.
He labored _______________________________________________________.
He was __________________________________________________________.
He had a perfect ___________________________________________________.
He used much _____________________ and power of _____________________.
The source of his power was the _______________________________________.
He taught that people should not look for the coming of Christ but should keep instead the law of ______________________________.
He said that Jacob could not know about the coming of Christ because he could not tell of ___________________________________.
Sherem said there is no Christ, there never was, and never ___________________________________________________________.
Sherem’s last two statements contradict each other. Explain why statements 8 and 9 cannot both be true.
What does this tell you about how the devil works?
Review Jacob 7:5, 8, 10–12, 21–22 and write a paragraph in your notebook describing at least three reasons why Jacob “could not be shaken” by Sherem’s learning and power of speech.
Enos was Jacob’s son (see Jacob 7:27) and, therefore, Lehi’s grandson. Enos closed his record by indicating that he was getting old and that 179 years had passed since Lehi left Jerusalem. That would place the date of his writing at about 420 B.C.
For a few, such as Paul, Enos, and Alma the Younger, the realization of the seriousness of sin and the glorious nature of God’s promises to the righteous seem to have come at once. Change for the better (conversion) may not always be so sudden. Concerning the process of repentance, President Ezra Taft Benson said:
“We must be careful, as we seek to become more and more godlike, that we do not become discouraged and lose hope. Becoming Christlike is a lifetime pursuit and very often involves growth and change that is slow, almost imperceptible. The scriptures record remarkable accounts of men whose lives changed dramatically, in an instant, as it were: Alma the Younger, Paul on the road to Damascus, Enos praying far into the night, King Lamoni. Such astonishing examples of the power to change even those steeped in sin give confidence that the Atonement can reach even those deepest in despair.
“But we must be cautious as we discuss these remarkable examples. Though they are real and powerful, they are the exception more than the rule. For every Paul, for every Enos, and for every King Lamoni, there are hundreds and thousands of people who find the process of repentance much more subtle, much more imperceptible. Day by day they move closer to the Lord, little realizing they are building a godlike life” (“A Mighty Change of Heart,” Ensign, Oct. 1989, 5).
As you study the book of Enos, note the roots of his experience—what led Enos to his knees, crying unto the Lord “in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul” (Enos 1:4). Notice also the fruits that came—both to himself and to others—as he sought and gained a remission of his sins.
Do activity A or B as you study Enos 1.
Search Enos 1:1–10 and list in your notebook the words that describe what Enos was thinking, what he was feeling, and how he prayed. How was Enos’s prayer different from many prayers?
Explain how we can make our own prayers more effective by following Enos’s example.
Enos’s first concern was naturally and appropriately for his own salvation (see Enos 1:1–8). After he received forgiveness for his own sins, his circle of concern expanded.
Draw the accompanying diagram in your notebook and label who Enos prayed for second (see vv. 9–10) and third (see vv. 11–17).
How were Enos’s prayers similar to how Lehi felt in 1 Nephi 8:10–18? What do Enos and Lehi teach us about those who are truly converted and have been born again?
Jarom was the son of Enos, the grandson of Jacob, and the great-grandson of Lehi (see Jarom 1:1). His book covers a time period of about 60 years, from 420–361 B.C. (see Enos 1:25; Jarom 1:13).
One of the joys of membership in the true Church is seeing how the Lord’s prophecies and promises are fulfilled in our personal lives. More than once the Lord promised Nephi and his people that if they would keep the commandments of God they would prosper in the land and be delivered from their enemies (see 1 Nephi 1:20; 2:20–24). Jarom wrote his book to testify that the Lord keeps His promises. Watch for what the Nephites in Jarom’s day had to do to overcome their enemies.
Do activity A as you study Jarom 1.
Jarom wrote, “And thus being prepared to meet the Lamanites, they did not prosper against us” (Jarom 1:9).
Search verses 4–8 and list in your notebook at least three ways the Nephites prepared for their enemies.
From your list, choose one you could do to help you overcome the temptations and influence of Satan and explain how doing that could prevent him from prospering against you.
Omni was the son of Jarom, the grandson of Enos, and the great-grandson of Jacob.
The book of Omni contains the writings of five different Nephite record keepers and covers the time period from 361 B.C. to about 130 B.C. (see Jarom 1:13; Mosiah 1:10). The book of Omni is also the last book translated from the small plates of Nephi (see “The Main Sources for the Book of Mormon,” p. 12).
The book of Omni contains only 30 verses. It was written by five different writers and covers about 200 years. While the writings of these men are brief, they help us learn what happened between the time of the record keeper Omni and the reign of King Benjamin. Of particular interest is what happened in the days of King Mosiah I, the father of King Benjamin, when the righteous Nephites were again directed to flee to another part of the land.
Omni 1:12–30—Who Was Who in the Book of Omni?
Do any three of the following activities (A–E) as you study Omni 1.
The book of Omni contains the writings of five different men: Omni, Amaron, Chemish, Abinadom, and Amaleki.
Write the name of each man in your notebook and, after each name, list the verses that each one wrote.
What similar events did Omni, Amaron, Abinadom, and Amaleki write about? What might that teach us about the approximately 200 years covered by this book?
Read Omni 1:12–13, and then read 1 Nephi 2:1–4 and 2 Nephi 5:5–8.
What do these accounts have in common?
How are they all examples of what Nephi taught in 1 Nephi 1:20?
What lesson can you learn from these accounts that would apply to your life?
Lehi’s family and the people of Zarahemla (sometimes called the Mulekites) both fled from Jerusalem, but at different times. One important difference between them was that Lehi’s family took the scriptures with them and the people of Zarahemla did not. Review Omni 1:14–17 and explain what effect that difference had on the people of Zarahemla and how that shows the truth of what the Lord said to Nephi in 1 Nephi 4:12–17.
In your notebook, draw a diagram like the one shown below, labeling the five different groups that are mentioned in the book of Omni. Include a description of each group and important dates (for help, see the “Understanding the Scriptures” section for Omni 1:12–30; “Book of Mormon Chronology Chart,” p. 204). You may want to label these groups in the margin of your scriptures in the book of Omni.
Amaleki finished his record with a summary of the life of King Benjamin, the son of King Mosiah I. As you read Omni 1:23–30, answer the following questions in your notebook:
How successful was King Benjamin as a warrior king?
Why did Amaleki give the Nephite records to King Benjamin?
How do we know that Amaleki was a righteous man?
What happened to the first group that left Zarahemla and wanted to return to the land of Nephi?
The short book called the Words of Mormon was written by the prophet and record keeper Mormon about A.D. 385, more than 500 years after the last writer wrote in the book of Omni. It is Mormon’s explanation for his including the small plates of Nephi with his abridgment of the large plates of Nephi. You will learn more about the prophet Mormon later when you study his writings.
Mormon, like Nephi (see 1 Nephi 9:5; 19:3), did not know why two sets of records covering the same time period were necessary. Mormon included the complete small plates of Nephi with his abridgment of the large plates of Nephi because the Lord inspired him to do so. Look for why Mormon felt the small plates were so important. (See “The Main Sources for the Book of Mormon,” p. 12, for more information.)
Words of Mormon 1:5–7—What Was the Wise Purpose for Including the Small Plates of Nephi?
The Lord had commanded Nephi to keep two sets of records: a historical record on the large plates and, for a “special purpose,” a religious record on the small plates (see 1 Nephi 9). Even though Mormon had made an abridgment from the large plates of Nephi that covered the time period from Lehi to King Benjamin, he was inspired to add the small plates of Nephi, which covered that same time period, “for a wise purpose” (Words of Mormon 1:7). He added them without making any changes in them. For an explanation of what that wise purpose was, see the “Understanding the Scriptures” section for 1 Nephi 9:3–6 (p. 20).
Do two of the following activities (A–C) as you study Words of Mormon 1.
It is sometimes difficult to know which plates Mormon was referring to when he wrote of the various records he was working with. Write the following phrases in your notebook. Then, as you read Words of Mormon 1:1–9, match one of the four definitions to each phrase. You may want to write the definition in the margin of your scriptures next to each phrase.
“The record which I have been making” (v. 1)
“These records” (v. 2)
“The plates of Nephi” (v. 3)
“The records which had been delivered into my hands” (v. 3)
“I found these plates” (v. 3)
“These plates pleasing me” (v. 4)
“I chose these things” (v. 5)
“My record” (v. 5)
“Plates of Nephi” (v. 5)
“I shall take these plates” (v. 6)
“To finish out my record” (v. 9)
1. The Book of Mormon
2. Nephi’s historical record (the large plates)
3. Nephi’s religious record (the small plates)
4. The collection of records Mormon used for his abridgment
In your notebook, draw a book cover for the small plates of Nephi that shows what is in the book. Design it so people will be enticed to read it. Read Words of Mormon 1:3–6 for ideas that you may want to include on your book cover.
Because the book of Mosiah begins when King Benjamin was old, Mormon wanted us to know about his great accomplishments. After reading Words of Mormon 1:12–18, make a time line of the events in King Benjamin’s life. Then write one sentence that summarizes his life.