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“The parable of Zenos, recorded by Jacob in chapter five of his book, is one of the greatest parables ever recorded. This parable in and of itself stamps the Book of Mormon with convincing truth. No mortal man, without the inspiration of the Lord, could have written such a parable. It is a pity that too many of those who read the Book of Mormon pass over and slight the truths which it conveys in relation to the history, scattering, and final gathering of Israel” (Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., 5 vols. [1957–66], 4:141).
“One writer has said of this extended symbolic portrayal, ‘One Jewish legend identifies the tree of life as the olive tree, and with good reason. The olive tree is an evergreen, not a deciduous tree. Its leaves do not seasonally fade nor fall. Through scorching heat and winter cold they are continually rejuvenated. Without cultivation the olive is a wild, unruly, easily corrupted tree. Only after long, patient cultivating, usually eight to ten years, does it begin to yield fruit. Long after that, new shoots often come forth from apparently dead roots. [The appearance of gnarled trunks gives] the impression of travail—of ancient life and renewing life.’ [Truman Madsen, “The Olive Press: A Symbol of Christ,” in The Allegory of the Olive Tree, ed. Stephen D. Ricks and John W. Welch (1994), 2.]
“As Lehi himself taught, no symbol could serve more powerfully and profoundly of God’s expansive, constant, redeeming love—including especially the love represented in the gift of his Only Begotten Son—than does the olive tree” (Christ and the New Covenant, 163–64).
Jeffrey R. Holland: There is much more here than simply the unraveling of convoluted Israelite history. Of greater significance in this allegory is the benevolent view of God that it provides. He is portrayed here as one who repeatedly, painstakingly, endlessly tries to save the work of His hands and in moments of greatest disappointment holds His head in His hands and weeps, ‘What could I have done more for my vineyard?’ (Jac 5:41, 47, 49) This allegory is a declaration of divine love, of God’s unceasing effort as a father laboring on behalf of His children. As one writer has noted, ‘Zenos’s allegory ought to take its place beside the parable of the prodigal son. Both stories make the Lord’s mercy so movingly memorable.’ (Heroes from the Book of Mormon, 37)