You, Me, and the Olive Tree (Jacob 5-7)

Monday, March 16, 2020

This episode we get to spend time talking about the prophet Jacob, whose experiences really resonated with us, and his beautiful allegory of the olive tree vineyard. We explore the different roles played in this story, what it teaches us about the nature of God, and what it means to be a good servant in the Lord's vineyard. This episode is 100% full of love and we are thrilled to share it with you today.

Resources mentioned in this episode:
  • "Over-intellectualization can obscure the patterns of story. It assists us greatly if we understand stories as if we are inside them, rather than as though they are outside of us." Clarissa Pinkola Estes
  • The Book of Mormon for the Least of These by Salleh & Hemming. Read more about it here.
  • A Thoughtful Faith Podcast, Listening for God with Prof. Nancy Ross
Scriptures mentioned in this episode:
  • Jacob 5:25-31
  • Jacob 5:31-34
  • Jacob 5:39-41
  • Jacob 5:41-50
  • Jacob 7:26
  • Jacob 7:27
Music used in this episode:

Poddington Bear "Sunset Stroll Into The Wood"
Chris Zabriskie "Everybody's Got Problems That Aren't Mine"

Transcribed by Maddie Daetwyler of @lightenprint

C: Hi, I'm Channing.

E: And I’m Elise.

C: And this is The Faithful Feminists podcast. We've saved you seat on the soft chairs. So join us today for a conversation about Jacob chapters 5 through 7 for the dates March 16th through the 22nd. We're so glad you're here.

E: Today we are finishing off the book of Jacob, and we get to spend some time talking about the allegory of the olive tree and the importance of myth and story. And then we'll share some of our final thoughts about Jacob. 

C: Though you might be familiar with the story or the allegory of the olive tree, we thought it would be worth defining an allegory just in case you need a refresher. So an allegory is a story, a poem, or a picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one. And so this allegory of the olive tree, in case you haven't read Jacob 5 in a little while, is really just a story about a vineyard and lots of plants, and the Lord of the vineyard and his servant spend their time taking care of plants. And sometimes the plants do great and they produce a lot of fruit, and sometimes the plants do not great and it's just terrible for everyone. And so that’s just a really quick overview of the story.

E: So we wanted to start by thinking, what's the importance or significance of telling stories and myths, and then sharing them? And really what Channing and I were thinking is that human beings are storytelling beings. This is the way we make sense of the world. It's the way we try and establish relationships with other people. It's the way we sort through our own experiences, but we're always already crafting a story because we're interpreting our experiences as we move throughout the world. I think the traditional way that the allegory of the olive tree or the story of the olive tree gets understood is that it's this whole historical account or historical prediction of what's going to happen for the House of Israel and the Gentiles. And this story can get really difficult to follow because you can be like, well, where is this branch going? And what branch and what people does this branch represent? And what's going on here? And if you read other outside articles, it'll talk about how there's seven stages, and this is the millennium -- and it really kind of spins it into this big historical reading. But for Channing and I, we talked about how this reading is the least significant to us because we can't find ourselves in the story. 

C: Right, so we talked about how sometimes when we're interpreting an allegory or interpreting a story, our own efforts to interpret sometimes get in the way or take us away from the goodness that's already offered. Almost like we're trying too hard to make something out of it, or to make the texts do some kind of gymnastics when it's already so beautiful as is. And so one of the practices that if you've listened for a while you're probably familiar with us doing, we really like to just kind of put aside those traditional interpretations to see what else the story can surprise us with if we just let it. And I found this really beautiful quote from Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I've talked about her before, she wrote the book Women Who Run with the Wolves, and it's all about interpreting myth and story. So she is the storytelling expert, but this is what she says. “Over intellectual can obscure the patterns of story. It assists us greatly if we understand stories as though we are inside them, rather than as though they are outside of us.” And so when it comes to this story of the olive tree, Elise and I feel that it's become somehow less meaningful when it's focused on the House of Israel, because what happens when you're reading a story and you make it about someone else or something else, it kind of puts this distance or separation between the reader and the story and what that does is kind of, the distance itself kind of absolves us of any kind of responsibility that the story asks us to have or any kind of relationship that the story wants to bring us into. So it's really a safe reading of the text to put some distance between the reader and the actual story, but a different practice that we can do is instead of trying to make this story about a big grand thing, we can instead read ourselves into the text and allow it to speak to us as if it was personally applicable. So we kind of just wanted to practice this and walk through the story and talk about the different players and the different roles that are kind of illustrated in this story. Just to do that practice of reading ourselves into it.

E: So there are really four people or players or pieces that show up in this story. And the first is the Lord of the vineyard. And this is someone who we would assume owns this vineyard and it's his responsibility to take care of it. And we can understand the Lord of the vineyard as the Lord or as God. And so we see this Lord. He's an active participant in caring for his vineyard. He is relentless. He experiences grief. He's weak, he's vulnerable, but he's also receptive to outside information from other people that are helping him in the vineyard. But he's really active. He's always working and laboring in this vineyard with these trees. And that's just a quick overview of what we see the Lord of the vineyard doing. But in our second point, midway through the episode, we're going to spend a ton of time really diving into the Lord's experience in the vineyard and what this teaches us about the nature of God. 

C: The next player that we see in this story is the servant. The servant is united with the Lord to carry out the work of caretaking. And he's right there alongside the Lord, every step of the way they're in communication. And you can really see from the story that the servant is a full participant. He doesn't just show up and say, yes, master, and does everything that the Lord asks him to do. He is there, he’s offering advice. He's offering encouragement, while at the same time offering his physical labor and assistance. And so I just think that this whole relationship between the Lord of the vineyard and the servant is -- I was struck by the equality of it. Even though the Lord is obviously a little more elevated or in the position of leadership, you don't get this sense of the Lord “lording over” him. It's a very equitable and partnership kind of feel to it. So I just love that. I think it's amazing. 

E: And I think the way that we can understand ourselves as a servant is to remember that we are working in partnership with the Lord and that the Lord is receptive to our worries and to our concerns and to our excitements about the things that are going on in our life. The next element is the tree, or the trees of this vineyard. If we understand ourselves as the trees, I think it helps us to remember that there is always someone taking care of us. There is always someone who is trying to do what is best for us, who sees us in relationship with all of the other trees, who wants to bring us together with other branches or other people or other plots of ground that will benefit us, that will help us grow and bear amazing, productive, joyful fruit. Also, if we understand ourselves as the tree, we can understand that there are different plots of ground that we're placed in. Some are more rich and nourishing and perhaps at other parts of our life, we feel like we are in the worst plot of soil. And so really it's our choice to accept the efforts of the caretaker and the people that are grafted into our life. And it reminds us that we're not alone in the vineyard. That God and Jesus Christ are caring for us, are laboring for our goodness.

C: And then finally the last players that we have at the very end of the story, when the Lord and the servant are going through and giving their last best effort to these trees, they call in a bunch of reinforcements, or just helpers. I don't even remember what they're called in the text. It really doesn't matter. We call them other peeps, but just looking at these players or these other helpers in the vineyard and just imagining ourselves into those roles, when we hear the call to say, “Okay, here's the plan, here's what we're going to do. And we need your help.” Do we respond to those calls for help? And secondly, what's our attitude towards it? When we hear this call, do we give it our best effort? Or do we kind of just say, “Oh yeah, okay. I'll show up and participate a little bit, but I'm here in name only.” And so in the story, you can see that everyone who shows up is there giving their best work and really trying to get these trees to produce good fruit and to be healthy and lively. And I am, you know, as I think about it, I think maybe it's because they love the Lord of the vineyard and what he wants is what they want to. But yeah, some of those questions, like “Do we respond to the calls for help? Do we give it our best effort when we're there?” I think are really powerful questions that we can ask and kind of reflect on our own experiences.

E: This reminds me of a time when I was in Young Women's we had a combined activity where we were going to the temple to help pick off all of the citrus from the citrus trees on the temple grounds. And after reading this story, I saw myself as this other group of people that were being called in to help “labor in the vineyard” or “labor on the temple grounds” and all I remember doing is, I just wanted to hang out with my friends. And  I didn't want to help pick the fruit. And so I was just kind of staying behind and trying to find corners where no one would ask me for help or hold me accountable. And so it just a silly example, but it reminds me of sometimes the negative ways we can respond when people are saying,”Hey, no, we need backup. We need reinforcements. Can you, and will you show up for us?” And in this example, I said, “Yeah, I'll be there.” But not in my mind or my heart. 

C: Right. Well, and contrast that with, remember that one time when we went to an Eagle Scout project together and we were like cleaning up this desert reserve and picking up all the trash while you're there. And that one, I felt like we did show up. 

E: Yeah, that's a great example where we were both way more involved, way more receptive to the call. And so these two stories also paired with the allegory of the olive tree reminds us to think to stop and think about who needs our help. And when they call, how do we respond?

C: And I think that's a really good transition into the second point. We wanted to spend some time talking about work and labor, which seems pretty applicable for a story about a grove of trees, right? So when we were sitting down to talk about what we wanted to review in this episode, Elise was so excited and over the moon about this story. She's like, “I just love this story. It's so beautiful. And I want to talk about it, but every time I sit down to write something in the outline, I just draw a huge blank.” And then there was me thinking, “Yeah, I mean, this story is great and all, but I’m kind of just apathetic towards it. I don't even know what we're going to talk about.” And I was just kind of waiting for Elise to give me some inspiration. It took us a little while of just kind of talking through the possible themes or ideas that we could cover in this episode. But as we talked about what stuck out to us, what we loved about this story, some of the pieces started to really shine through. An hour later we realized, Oh my gosh, we do actually have something to talk about from the story. And we held the pieces in our hands, really looked at them, and they gave us a gift. And so sometimes you can come to stories and you can read them over and over and over again, like I did, and they still give you nothing. LI'm just like, Oh, cool story, bro, it's fine, whatever. But sometimes you really have to work with the text and dig a little bit for it to give you anything of value.

E: Yeah, just like Channing said, scriptures take work and having a relationship with God takes work and we have to labor and study and be diligent in the ways that we try and nourish this relationship. And this is the same type of work and labor that we see both the Lord of the vineyard and the servant doing in this allegory. And a lot of the points that we're going to talk about are inspired by the Book of Mormon for the Least of These texts by Fatimah Salleh and Margaret Olsen Hemming. And one of the ways that they started to interpret the chapter 5, the allegory of the olive tree, was to say that, look, perhaps this is a story about social justice. Perhaps this is a way that we can understand God as the Lord of the vineyard and us as the servant. Participating in this continual endless movement or work or labor towards a more loving world, towards a world that is filled with both justice and mercy. But in this way, the work is hard and you don't always get the results that you want. There are times when the entire vineyard is producing great fruit, and then there were also times when the Lord and the servant have spent countless amounts of hours laboring and changing and digging and nourishing and pruning and dunging and all of these active verbs, and still the trees aren't producing good fruit, or the trees are dying. And this is really where the struggle comes in. This is the struggle of showing up and doing the work because it's always a risk. You don't know what the outcome will be, and yet you are still called to labor and care for the vineyard and to labor and care for the people around you. 

C: Before I moved to Utah, I had these really beautiful, full potted cactus that I had received from a friend before she moved to Canada. And there was all these different kinds and I'm really into the weird cactus, the weirder the better. And so there was some weird ones in there. But then when I was moving to Utah, I thought I can't take these with me. They were pretty big at this point. And I didn't want to transplant them where they might not survive. So I said, Elise, will you become these plants’ mom? She was like, “Of course I will! I love your cactus.” So I took them over and I told her how you take care of them, told her about each one, because over the few years that I had had these cactus, I really started to kind of form a relationship with them and just like a kind of love, a little bit. And I was very attuned to their needs. I knew exactly when they needed to be watered, I had it in the back of my mind when they needed to like be potted in new soil, and all this stuff. So I pass it all on to Elise, basically  wrote down a user's manual for her, and said best of luck -- let me know if you have any questions. And a few weeks later after we had moved Elise called me and she's like, ”Channing, there's a problem with one of the cactus and I can't figure it out.” And so we talked through it over the phone, I gave her my best ideas, and she did exactly what she was supposed to do, and still the cactus died. So it's one of those cases where sometimes you can do everything right, you can do exactly like what the textbook says you should do for dying cactus. You can try all of the things, and for whatever reason, it doesn't work out. And I think that that idea's really perfectly demonstrated in this story, that the Lord of the vineyard, who is God, can do everything right, and still it will fail. I mean, I think that's a pretty universal experience for anyone who's had a garden or even a house plant. 

E: Yeah, and this leads us really nicely into chapter 5, verses 25 through 31. And this is a place where God is both the caretaker and the laborer, before the servant ever even shows up. And so there's a lot of application we can do with that by thinking that God is aware of us and mindful of us and caring for us before we're even aware of it, for all of eternity. But anyways, in these verses the Lord and the servant have been caring for a tree. And they come and take a look at it and half of the tree is producing good fruit and the other half is not producing good fruit. And in verse 26, you hear the Lord in his frustration, just say, “Okay, pluck off the branches because they haven't brought forth good fruit, and then just cast them into the fire.” And there were moments when I was caring for Channing’s cactus that I was like, what the heck? I've literally given it a good spot of ground. I water it. It's getting sunshine. I'm nourishing the dirt. I'm aerating the dirt, and it's still dying, so fine, we're just going to pluck it off and I'll cast it into this metaphorical fire. And I'm so grateful for Channing, just like we're so grateful for the servant in verse 27, that comes in and says, “Wait, let us prune it and dig it and nourish it a little longer because maybe there's still a chance that it can bring forth good fruit, and let's see how it lasts over the season.” And this is where we see the servant as an active participator, as a full partner with the Lord. And here the Lord doesn't say, “No, no, this is my vineyard. Don't tell me what to do.” The Lord is receptive to the request of the servant or to the advice that's given from the servant. And so they do, they agree to care for it a little bit longer. And as we scroll down into verses 30 and 31, they come back to the vineyard and they see that these trees are producing fruit, and they take such time trying every piece of fruit on the tree because they want it to be good. And none of it is good. Right? Absolutely none of it is good. And this is, I think, when we start to see the God who grieves and the God who weeps. At the end of verse 32 it says, “and behold, there are all kinds of bad fruit and it profiteth mean nothing, not withstanding all of our labor. And now it grieveth me that I should lose this tree.” And so we see the Lord feeling overwhelmed and overcome with sadness because the Lord, and the servant to, have spent so much time caring for the trees. And yet, sometimes things are out of the Lord's control in the same way that I felt like I spent time and followed the user's manual to a T and still the cacti, or the tree was unable to be saved, notwithstanding our own work and labor. 

C: I particularly love stories in the scriptures that kind of pushed back on a cultural understanding of what faith or what kind of relationship we should have with God. And I feel like this allegory of the olive tree is one of those because just like in the story of Job, they're a little bit similar, there's this kind of belief, I feel like especially right now, culturally, where it's kind of a vending machine faith, right? You put in obedience or you put in faith, or you put in your checklist of all the things you're supposed to do, and then you get blessings out, right? Like you can press like A-1 and get your dream house or you can press C-3 and get all of the things that you could ever want in your life, because you've turned in your obedience card that has it all checked down. But what this story really illustrates is that you can do everything right, and still fail, and not even fail once, but fail again and again and again. And the best part, the real kicker is that you can be God and do everything right, and it still failed. And so I love this story because it kind of just shows that failure is kind of a universal thing and you can work and give it your best try and never give up, and still have the experience of frustration and grief and sorrow, because that is what the work is really all about.

E: There's a passage that I want to read from the Book of Mormon for the Least of These texts about verses 31 through 34. And it says “In our own work, we may put in enormous amounts of energy and resources and not get the results that we want. While this may feel like our own failing, it may be comforting to realize that this happens even to the Lord of the vineyard. Even God may work hard and have things not turn out the right way. We need to know that laboring in the kingdom doesn't guarantee a happy ending. This may be the most sobering message of the allegory.” This is really striking to me because oftentimes I feel like the experiences and the rhetoric that gets shared in the church is, “Well, I just had faith and I pushed through this hard time and look at me now, I am the hero of this story, everything that I wanted I got,” in this type of checklist or vending machine way. “I followed all the commandments. I had faith through my trials. I didn't question. I didn't doubt. I continued to read my scriptures. And so I won, like all of my fruit is good.” But the allegory says, “Hey, like that's not always the case because there are things that are outside of our control, because people make their own choices, because circumstances and struggles and environmental factors, they're their own act active agents that we don't always have a say over.”

C: Another fascinating concept that we wanted to talk about is found in chapter 5 verses 39 through 41. And these are just so good that I'm going to read them to you really quick. It says, “and it came to pass that they, the Lord and the servant, went down into the nethermost parts of the vineyard, and it came to pass that they be held that the fruit of the natural branches had become corrupt also. Yeah, the first and the second and also the last. And they had all become corrupt. And the wild fruit of the last had overcome that part of the tree which had brought forth good fruit, even that the branch had withered away and died. And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard wept, and said unto the servant, what could I have done more for my vineyard?” 

E: These are super emotional verses for me. And I think what's interesting here is that while the servant and the Lord of the vineyard are partners, they're full participants, they share equally in the work and the labor, and they bring the same type of care to the vineyard here, we see the Lord taking full responsibility and holding himself fully accountable for the ways that these trees have withered and died and are not producing good fruit. But we don't see the Lord pointing a finger and saying, “What more… why didn't you do more? I was here the whole time and you didn't do this thing.” The Lord or God and all of God's goodness and grace and mercy takes on the full responsibility and the entire weight of what is happening in the vineyard. So verses 41 through 50, this is the Lord's lament. This is where the Lord is experiencing deep sorrow and deep grief and full exhaustion for the ways that they have labored, and they're not coming up on a happy ending. And we hear the Lord repeat this line, “What more could I have done for my vineyard?” three times. And it reminds us that sometimes we simply come to our wit's end. We have done everything and there is actually nothing more that we could have done. But I think in a similar way, we can relate to the Lord because I'm sure we've often cried out in prayer or in grief or in anguish and saying, what should I have done? What do I do? How do I move forward? I can't see what to do next.

C: And so coming back again to the idea of the different players in the story here, right here in the middle of the Lord's lament, we see the servant kind of just really shine. He just has this moment where he says to the Lord, “Spare a little longer.” He’s not like, “Come on, you did everything. It's fine. It's great.” He has no advice for what else they should do, it is just “Hold on, hang in there. Keep going, wait a little bit longer.” And for me personally, I hate those answers because those are the hardest ones because I'm always like, “No, I want my fix right now. I don't want to wait.” But sometimes the waiting is the only thing that you can do. And so the servant, I feel like, was very wise, but also so loving. There wasn't any kind of argument against the Lord's lament. He's not trying to say, “Oh, don't beat yourself up about it.” He was just saying, “Hang in there, wait a little longer. 

E: What I love about the servant's response of “Spare it a little bit longer,” is that the Lord is ready to totally give up and say, “There's nothing more we can do, we just got to throw it all into the fire and start from scratch.”

C: Literally the whole vineyard.

E: Right, not just even one tree. But at the moment when the servant kind of pushes back and says, “Maybe there's a moment of mercy here.” The Lord is so quick to agree and say in verse 51, “Yea, I will spare a little longer for it grieveth me that I should lose the trees of my vineyard.” And what a merciful response, because this is the way that I hope that my God responds to me when I not producing good fruit or when I haven't felt the nourishing care of the Lord. And I'm making decisions that perhaps aren't helping me reach my full growth potential. I would rather the Lord every single day say, “I'm going to spare it a little bit longer. It's going to break my heart to lose you. And I'm going to be merciful and loving, and I'm going to still nourish and care for you and dig around your roots because I know how heartbreaking it will be not only for the Lord, but for you to be separated from God's care.”

C: I think too, this is a really kind of refreshing contrast from the chapters that we've been reading, especially the Isaiah chapters that we read in First and Second Nephi where it almost felt like the Lord took this attitude of, “Well, you're not doing what I told you to do, so I'm going to send you all into perdition and watch you burn for the rest of your days.” And it was this very frightening and almost angry God that we saw in those Isaiah chapters. And so this idea of the Lord taking the first opportunity to extend mercy, I think is just such a loving picture of the Lord and I feel like a really accurate representation of what it looks like when the Lord is taking into account all of the trees, or all of the people, in his care. 

E: I think that contrast between the God that shows up in the Isaiah chapters that is all powerful and ready to destroy anyone that doesn't abide by God's words, that God in comparison to this God, this Lord of the vineyard who is slower and quiet, who is careful, who is vulnerable, who gets upset but then is so quick to show mercy, this is a different type of God. This is a weak God. And when I was reading chapter 5, I just kept thinking, “Why do I love seeing this weak God? Why do I love seeing the weakness of God here?”

C: I love this question Elise. And one of the things that it reminds me of was, a couple of years ago I was listening to a podcast episode from a podcast called A Thoughtful Faith. And we'll link this particular episode in the show notes, but what the episode covered was talking about art, especially religious art, and more specifically LDS religious art. And the guest was talking about how if you kind of observe all of the art that depicts the savior in the LDS culture, we see a very specific kind of Christ. And think about your favorite artwork of Christ now, as I kind of described, but she says you can kind of see more of like a heroic Savior.  He's a little bit more elevated in the art. And he is, for example, one of my old favorites was this picture of Christ emerging from the tomb. And He was coming out of the tomb so gloriously and so heroically, and you can kind of see toned muscles and just this kind of soft glow behind Him. And it's just very, I mean, seriously heroic. That is the best way I can describe it. Herculean. I have conquered all and here I am and all of my glory, and it's just this very specific depiction of the Savior, and something that really struck me from hearing about this was that the speaker was also talking about how for her, the art that spoke most to her was the paintings or depictions of the Savior that focused more on the softer side of Him. The suffering, the weakness, because somehow for her that made the Savior more relatable. And so as I really kind of think about that, I think as my faith has grown and changed and transitioned a little bit, I do find myself more drawn to depictions of the Savior who is not in all of His glory. Not that, not that I don't want that to, but somehow… I just love the idea that we can see the Savior acting in love and acting in compassion rather than this all conquering, all glorious, heroic Savior. And for some reason I, lik you Elise, I love seeing a weak God, a weak Savior because it's the compassion, and the compassion for suffering, and the love that meets us there is almost more impactful for me than the heroic God.

E: I agree. And there really is a branch of philosophy and theology and it's called Weak Theology and it just talks about just exactly what Channing and I are trying to sort through right now -- what is it about the weakness of God, the God who shows up in kind of a humanistic, limited state, the God that says “I'm working and laboring in very similar ways like you, actual human beings on earth.” And I think the idea of a weak God or the weakness of God invites us to participate more in the work alongside God in the same way that we see the partnership formed between the Lord of the vineyard and the servant in the vineyard, because the all powerful, the omnipotent, the omniscient or the all-knowing God doesn't need our help. Right? This God is capable of doing anything, of saving everyone, or destroying everyone, and can really just kind of come in and stomp around and rearrange things for how God sees best fit. But with the weakness of God, it's a limited God. There's only so much that we see the Lord of the vineyard can do. And still the trees and the branches and the roots, they might not make it because they're making their own choices. But the idea of the weakness of God inviting our participation, here and now, to participate in God's work, that is a very different type of God and a God who I am so in love with.

C: Well, I think it inspires more trust, too. I am more likely to trust and love and lean into a God who is like me, who I feel has been through my same experiences, who intimately understands what it's like to work hard and then fail. Who knows what it's like to be human. And I think sometimes in our own depictions, not just in art, but in our own mental depictions of God, He can kind of seem detached like, “Oh, here's my checklist, complete my checklist or you will burn.” And that's not the kind of like God that inspires love or honor or worship in me, it's mostly fear. And I hate that somehow we've intertwined fear and love together. That's a whole other thing that we're going to have to unpack at a later date, but there is a difference I think, and it really comes down to what image of God we are holding in our minds as we're reading sacred texts, as we're talking about God in our testimonies, and in our classrooms, and even in our own inner dialogue. Do we see the God of Isaiah or do we see the Lord of the vineyard? And not that either one is wrong, but each one inspires a different type of worship.

E: Yes. And there will be times when we need all of those manifestations of God, right? Sometimes I do need the hard justice God to show up for me because I am suffering and I need others to be held accountable for the ways that they have wronged me, right? So there is a time and a place for that God, but personally, for me right now, I am more drawn to this weak God or the weakness of God, because it invites my questions. The Lord and the servant in the vineyard, they feed off of each other. They take each other's feedback into consideration, and I love that idea that God really listens to me and is concerned for me and is willing to go to bat for me. And with me, this is a different type of God. It's a vulnerable God.

E: And now as we turn to chapter 7, the end of Jacob, Channing and I were both so sad when we were talking about this. We wish that there was more Jacob. We want to read more Jacob, because we think he's a different type of author. He's a different type of prophet. He is sensitive. He feels great worry and anxiety over the state of his people. I think that he's concerned about community and I think he contrasts with Nephi’s words at the end of Nephi’s writings are really kind of like, “I love you, but if you don't listen to these words, you're disobeying God, you must not trust God.” And Jacob's words are much more uncertain and you really see the sorrow that comes out in Jacob in a way that perhaps is similar to the sorrow that we see in the Lord of the vineyard. 

C: Yeah, so you can really see this sensitivity and this gentleness and this uncertainty come out in chapter 7, verse 26. Jacob says, “And it came to pass that I began to be old. And the record of this people being kept on the other plates of Nephi, wherefore, I conclude this record, declaring that I have written according to the best of my knowledge, by saying that the time passed away with us. And also our lives passed away, like as it were unto us a dream, we being a lonesome and solemn people, wanderers, cast out from Jerusalem, born in tribulation, in a wilderness and hated of our brethren which caused wars and contentions, wherefore, we did mourn out our days.”

E: Oh, Jacob, it’s so heart-wrenching because we have to remember that Jacob was born in the wilderness. This has been his entire life. He didn't know Jerusalem before, he didn't know their life before, all he has is stories to hold on to, but really he feels like they're strangers, they're wandering. They have no place to call home. They have no place to rest or to feel comforted by. It's a time of tribulation. And even though Jacob says, “Oh, we lived out our life like a dream.” It's not a pleasant dream. It's a nightmare. They are mourning their days. 

C: These verses are so poetic, which is why I love them. It's just this really intimate glimpse into what Jacob felt like his life was, and it even contrasts a lot of his sermons really well, too. He just says, “This is my life guys. And it's been hard, but I've done the best I can. And I hope that it's enough.” We were really, really sad to see him go. I feel like we don't get enough prophets like Jacob, he's just the coolest. 

E: And he's concerned about the community. He's concerned about issues of social justice and equality, like we talked about in last week's episode. He feels like he's doing the best he can, and yet he's still uncertain of if he did enough for the people, right? All he says when he talks about the way that he's writing, he says  “I've done the best that I can. I've just written according to the things that I know, and I hope that this will impact my people or that it will save my people, or that at some moment they might find something to call home.” If we go to verse 27, this is the last we hear of Jacob. He's saying his goodbyes. He writes, “And I make an end of my writing upon these plates, which writing has been small,l and to the reader, I bid farewell, hoping that many of my brethren may read my words, brethren and all, adieu.” And so this really is a laying down of his life that says, “I don't know. All I can hope is that you feel my care and concern for you, that these words will act as a balm, that you might find your home at some point.” Once when Channing and I were hanging out, we were like, “Oh, let's play this super fun game to know each other more and to deepen our friendship because we were super cool like that. So we were asking each other really deep life questions. And one of the questions was, if you only had three days to live, what would you do? And I was so overcome by sadness because one of the things that makes me very anxious and very worried about the end of my life is that, will the people I love know that I love them? And how can I make sure that everyone knows that I have cared for them? And so I feel very drawn to these last words of Jacob, because I think he's wanting the same things. I think he's feeling that same type of weight and that same type of love for the people he's grown up with, that he's shared his life with, that have helped raise him. He wants them to know that he loves them. And yet he also knows that he has to go, and he has to give everything to God. And that's really what the final word is, right? Adieu means “to God” or “with God” and sometimes that's all the certainty that we have is that we hope, and we trust, we will be with God

C: Friends, thanks for joining us today. We know this has been kind of a heavier episode, but we're so excited to share it with you because contained in this story and contained in these chapters is such beautiful depictions and ideas, and just learning about a new side or a new way that God is acting in the world and in our lives. And so we're just so glad that you're here and we got to talk today about the nature of God, about God's grief and God’s sorrow, the weakness of God, what role we play in this allegory of the olive tree, and how sad we are to see Jacob go. Ugh, I don't want to leave Jacob, but next week is going to be fun too beause Enos is pretty awesome. But thanks again, thanks for joining us every week. It's so meaningful to know that what we share with you is speaking and speaking to you and resonating with you because that's really what this podcast is all about. It's community, and we hope that we're filling a need and bringing you into conversation with the scriptures. So thanks friends. And we'll see you next week.

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