The Parable of Zenos

Liken the parable of Zenos by considering yourself as the vineyard and the vine

Old Olive Tree

President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972) encouraged us to ponder the depth of Jacob 5: “The parable of Zenos, recorded by Jacob in chapter five of his book, is one of the greatest parables ever recorded” (Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., 5 vols. [1957–66], 4:141).

President Joseph Fielding Smith
President Joseph Fielding Smith

Jacob chapter 5, the longest in the Book of Mormon has become one of my favourites. My appreciation for these 77 verses has taken many years to develop. I often found myself lost in the grafting, the moving of vines, the digging and pruning until one day as I was reading for the umpteenth time the Spirit opened my eyes and I recognized I am the vineyard and the vine.

I am the vineyard

The Lord could say to me:

“Wherefore ye shall clear away the bad according as the good shall grow, that the root and the top may be equal in strength, until the good shall overcome the bad, and the bad be hewn down and cast into the fire, that they cumber not the ground of my vineyard; and thus will I sweep away the bad out of my vineyard” (Jacob 5:66, emphasis added).

Olive trees

The “bad” in this verse can be representative of my weaknesses becoming strengths (Ether 12:27), the putting off of the natural man and becoming a saint (Mosiah 3:19), or the prodigal remnants of my heart turning to God.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles presented the principal theme of Zenos’s allegory: “One student of the allegory says it should take its place beside the parable of the prodigal son, inasmuch as both stories ‘make the Lord’s mercy so movingly memorable’” (Christ and the New Covenant, [1997], 165–66).

As the father in the parable of the prodigal son waits for his son to return and runs to greet him, so the Lord of the vineyard implements new approaches again and again as he seeks for the vineyard to flourish and be fruitful.

Prodigal Son Returns

We are reminded that the love of God for His children is boundless. We have not been forgotten. His presence is near and can be felt when we disengage from the barrage of news and sit still.

I am the vine

I have learned that maintaining a vineyard is hard, constant work. Failing to do the work means the vineyard will soon be in disarray and return to pasture and quickly be unfit for vines to grow. The Lord watches over us as he did over the vines - constantly nourishing us, pruning us, caring for us, and protecting us.

Family service

I have recently stepped into the world of poetry and have found groups of people who exude kindness. Their desire is to treat others with kindness and to share words of positivity and encouragement. One group does random acts of kindness wherever they live. They leave notes of encouragement for neighbours and strangers. I see the Lord nourishing these groups of people, encouraging them to good works. God’s love pours over all His children like anointed oil. He fills their hearts and minds with inspired words and I find myself in awe.

The love of God for all His children is beautifully expressed in the following quote:

“Several years ago, I read a little booklet written by a Christian pastor who reported an exchange with an owner of a large vineyard in Northern California. The vineyard owner related his insights to this scriptural passage after years of working in the fields.

Tree limbs

“‘New branches have a natural tendency to trail down and grow along the ground,’ the vineyard owner explained, ‘but they don’t bear fruit down there. When branches grow along the ground, the leaves get coated in dust. When it rains, they get muddy and mildewed. The branch becomes sick and useless.’ To which the pastor asked, ‘What do you do? Cut it off and throw it away?’

“The vineyard owner quickly answered, ‘Oh, no! The branch is much too valuable for that. We go through the vineyard with a bucket of water looking for those branches. We lift them up and wash them off . . . . then we wrap them around the trellis or tie them up. Pretty soon they’re thriving’” (Bruce Wilkinson, Secrets of the Vine, [2001], pages 34–35).

Overcome poor soil

When you read verses 15-28 in Jacob 5, there are four places that were planted and nourished: poor ground, poorer ground, another planting, and then good ground. Poor soil should always yield poor fruit, however, in the parable, each type of ground yielded good fruit.

The miracle taught in the allegory is the grace defined as an enabling, empowering power that emanates from the Atonement of Jesus Christ. This grace strengthens each person who makes a covenant so it doesn’t matter where you began, we can all progress to the celestial kingdom. The power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ overcomes the poor soil, and the fruit is good.

President Nelson
President Russell M. Nelson

“Once you and I have made a covenant with God, our relationship with Him becomes much closer than before our covenant. Now we are bound together. Because of our covenant with God, He will never tire in His efforts to help us, and we will never exhaust His merciful patience with us. Each of us has a special place in God’s heart” (Russell M. Nelson, “The Everlasting Covenant,” Liahona, October 2022).

Jesus healing

Wonder from tragedy

God can not only make everything better - He will make everything better, but it will not be in ways our mortal minds might expect or in ways we might begin to comprehend. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8).

The Lord has an immense capacity for creating wonder from tragedy. I am reminded of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. It happened so quickly and changed everything. Doors were opened that had been shut tight.

Jesus Resurrected

As is commonly attributed to Robert Browning, “The best is yet to be.” As we place our trust in God we shall see sooner or later the best has come to be. “Our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, will perform some of His mightiest works between now and when He comes again” (Russell M. Nelson, “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for our Lives,” Ensign, May 2018).

I am filled with anticipation.