The fifth chapter of Jacob stands unique in scripture. Zenos, an ancient prophet, wrote an allegory that the prophet Jacob included in his book. It is the longest chapter in the Book of Mormon, with seventy-seven verses. Since Joseph Smith could not have been familiar with ancient olive-growing vocabulary and techniques, how could the metaphors and symbols about olive trees, vineyards, branches, and roots be accurate in the minutest detail?

Zenos used the word vineyard 90 times in Jacob 5, more than one time per verse. (Vineyard is found 206 times in scripture—45 times in the Old Testament, 24 times in the New Testament, and 11 times in the rest of the Book of Mormon, besides the 90 times in Jacob 5.) Although Zenos is not identified by name in the Bible, vocabulary similar to his is found in Romans 11:17–21, which seems to indicate that Zenos’s allegory was known in New Testament times.

Two modern scholars attest to the uniqueness of Zenos’s words: “The allegory of the olive tree in Jacob 5 shows a clear knowledge of olive cultivation far beyond what Joseph Smith, growing up in the American Northeast, could have possessed. But it is entirely consistent, in impressive detail, with what we learn from ancient manuals on olive cultivation” (Stephen D. Ricks and John W. Welch, eds., The Allegory of the Olive Tree: The Olive, the Bible, and Jacob 5, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1994).

Jacob 5 stands in a class by itself and can be read on many levels. But it is long and repetitious, and the history of Israel is not a particularly interesting subject, especially presented as an allegory. But after speedreading, skimming, or skipping Jacob 5 all of my life, I listened to all six and one-half pages, all seventy-seven stretched-out verses. As I listened, I repented. For the first time, I didn’t try to figure out how this chapter is an allegory. I didn’t think about the house of Israel, the Gentiles, or the tame and wild olive trees. Instead, I thought about me, a woman in the vineyard. Now, to me, Jacob 5 is about how much the Lord, the Master of the vineyard, loves me and what extreme energy and labor He is willing to exert to save me. Simply, it’s the story of my Savior’s efforts to rescue me.

As the allegory progresses, there are nine different times the Lord, with or without His servant, comes to see how I am doing in my environment (His vineyard). Several times He nearly gives up on me, but His servant says, “Spare [her] a little longer” (Jacob 5:50). So, they work with me again and again. They nourish me, they dig about me, they watch over me, they leave me alone for a while, they graft into me; they prune me, they pluck off my branches. (Now that’s painful!) Every time I come up short (I counted eight times), the Lord repeats a phrase such as, “It grieveth me that I should lose [her]” (Jacob 5:13). At one point the Lord weeps over me and rhetorically asks, “But what could I have done more?” (Jacob 5:47). Sometimes the Lord comes alone to try to help me. Other times He sends His servant. Sometimes He and His servant come together. Toward the end, He calls more servants to help.

The words of this chapter bring me comfort. From them I see the good times and bad times of life in a new light. The Lord is digging, pruning, nourishing, grafting, and occasionally dunging—all the while watching me, helping me develop, sculpting me into someone who produces good fruit, someone He will someday claim as His own.