Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Diagnosing Problems with the Corrupted Trees in Jacob 5

In Zeno’s allegory of the olive trees that Jacob quotes, there comes a point when the Lord of the vineyard finds all the trees are corrupted and giving bad fruit. It is interesting to see his and his servant’s diagnosis of the problem.

First the servant tries to find the silver lining in the cloud:

And the servant said unto his master: Behold, because thou didst graft in the branches of the wild olive tree they have nourished the roots, that they are alive and they have not perished; wherefore thou beholdest that they are yet good. (Jacob 5:34)

The servant observes the roots are still good, but notice—it is a bit backward to think that the branches are nourishing the roots. It is supposed to be the other way around.

In verse 37, the Lord of the vineyard has a different take on it:

But behold, the wild branches have grown and have overrun the roots thereof; and because that the wild branches have overcome the roots thereof it hath brought forth much evil fruit; and because that it hath brought forth so much evil fruit thou beholdest that it beginneth to perish; and it will soon become ripened, that it may be cast into the fire, except we should do something for it to preserve it.

The Lord of the vineyard says the branches have overrun the roots and overcome them. (So the branches may have thought they were nourishing the roots, but they were overrunning them instead.)

Then the servant gets a brainwave in verse 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?

Loftiness of the vineyard is a great way of describing pride. Also, I notice it says when the branches overcame the roots, they grew faster than the roots and took strength to themselves. This is what happens in individuals too. When a person with no authority gets a notion they can nourish the rest of the church, they are actually overrunning it. But they think the overrun means they are stronger and better than everyone else (taking strength to themselves) and corruption follows.

I think there’s a hint of what to look out for in ourselves. If we think we are growing faster or are spiritually stronger than others around us, we may have a problem with pride. (I had this issue some years ago. It makes me shudder to think about it. I am so grateful for the Lord's mercy that He brought me to recognize my error. Because of that experience, my blogging is more to benefit me than for anyone else because the writing I do helps me learn. If anyone else benefits, that is icing on the cake.)

If we have the problem of loftiness and pride, it might be good to open our ears and see what nourishment we are missing while we think we have the answer to everything. It might be good to just focus on the basic principles and practices of the gospel for a long while to make sure we are doing all we can.

There are a few more warnings I notice in this chapter that are part of the diagnoses of the corrupted trees.

In verse 40:

And the wild fruit of the last had overcome that part of the tree which brought forth good fruit, even that the branch had withered away and died.

We might easily apply this to the Nephite civilization and point to how the Lamanites eventually overcame the righteous Nephites. However, it is true in individual life as well. If we have both good fruit and bad fruit in our lives, the bad tends to take over. It’s invasive, so we need to remove the bad branches, otherwise the good branches will wither away.

In verse 46:

…the trees thereof have become corrupted, that they bring forth no good fruit…But, behold, they have become like unto the wild olive tree…

Without good fruit, the good olive tree is just like the wild olive tree. We can’t be like other people who don’t have the gospel. We have to be different. With good fruit.