The Old Man and the Tree

A retelling of the prophecy and parable of Zenos, Jacob 3.

(Read this in conjunction with The Parable of the Olive Tree)

Once upon a time, an old olive farmer was in distress.  His favorite olive tree, one he had planted in the middle of his vineyard, was beginning to die.  It grieved the owner that he would lose the tame tree and the delicious fruit it bore.  In an effort to save the tree, he did the things a good vineyard-owner would do: he pruned away the dead branches, he dug around it to aerate the soil, and fertilized to nourish the roots.

His hard work, however, brought little return:  a few new green shoots came forth from the base of the tree, but the majority of the branches were still about to perish.

Grieved by the results, the vineyard owner talked with his right hand man about what to do. 

'Let's do two things to insure I'll continue to have this wonderful fruit,' the master said:  'First, let's cut out these dying branches from this tame tree, and get some branches from the thriving wild olive tree, and graft them back onto my tame tree.  You see, the roots of my tame tree are still alive, and if the new wild grafts can just take hold, maybe they will still produce the wonderful fruit I desire.  Second, let's cut off these new green shoots that sprouted from recent fertilization--we'll plant them in another part of the vineyard.'

The work was done:  the master cut off and hid the young shoots from the tame mother tree into other parts of the vineyard; simultaneously he pruned the mother tree's dead branches and grafted on thriving branches from a wild olive tree.

Many years passed by.  After a long time, the master said to his right hand man, "Let's go check on the vineyards' progress." 

The first stop was to check on the tame mother tree.  To the owner's delight, grafting the wild branches onto the dying mother tree had done the trick.  The new grafts were pulling moisture from the roots, and we're producing good fruit--just like the original fruit the master desired.  Without the wild tree's grafts, the tame tree would've perished.

Then the master said:  "Let's check on the progress of the little branches we transplanted into other parts of the vineyard."  Enough time had elapsed to allow the saplings to grow into adult trees.

To check on the remnant transplants, they made three stops.  At the first stop, where the soil had been poor,  a sapling had been planted.  Lo and behold, it was now a thriving tree, bringing forth good fruit, just like the original.  The second stop, to an even poorer section of ground than the first, presented another healthy tree producing good fruit.

At the third and last stop, this time to a choice spot of ground, the master and his right hand man found interesting results:  a large tree had grown from the remnant sapling, but strangely enough,  it was producing two kinds of fruits:  half was good, like the original, and half was bad, and good for nothing.

The master's first inclination was to remove all the bad branches from this last tree.  He suggested all the bad branches be cast into the fire and burned, but the right hand man suggested that perhaps if they nourished the whole tree, that perhaps it might be able to bring forth completely pure fruit.  The master agreed to the plan.  They nourished not only this tree, but all the trees in the vineyard.

Now that all the trees had once again been nourished, the master and helper left the vineyard for a long time.  Many more years later, they knew the end was drawing near, and it was time to pluck the desired fruit and store it for the season.  They returned to the vineyard for a final progress check.

At this visit, however, they discovered a strangely different situation in the vineyard.

The original mother tree, which had the wild branches grafted onto it, was producing lots of different kinds of fruit, but none of it was good.  Although the master knew it's roots were still viable and pure, the wild branches had overtaken the tame tree.  The master lamented that if the tame tree couldn't produce good fruit again, it was good for nothing but to be burned.

At that, the master and helper headed for the transplants.  To his dismay, the master realized that all three remnants had stopped producing the good fruit:  they  had all become corrupt.  If fact, the master discovered something terrible about the last transplant:  although it previously produced both good and bad fruit, now the corrupt branches of the tree had totally overwhelmed the good branches.  No good fruit was to be found. 

He lamented that in leaving the bad branches on the tree at his first visit, with hopes that they would improve through nourishment, these very branches now strangled the good out of existence.  The master continued that, previous to planting this third transplant, he had totally cleared away the trees that cumbered the ground previously.

At this, the master was grief stricken.  With no good fruit on these trees as the original, there was nothing to do but burn them all.  He had been diligent in nourishing the vineyard, but the trees had failed to respond.

In thoughtful pondering, he made this observation:  'I know that the original mother tree, the tame tree, still has roots that are alive and can produce good fruit.  And, I know the source of the trees are common, so if they could just nourish each other…….That's it', he shouted!  The transplants will get nourishment from the parent, and the parent will get nourishment from the children!'

The master had one final plan to get the original fruit back. 

Since the transplants still have genetics from the mother tree, let's prune off some of the worst part of the mother tree, then graft part of the remnants back onto it.  It's like bringing her children home to her.  Also, let's take part of the original mother tree, and after pruning off the worst branches of the remnants, let's put her branches back on them.  It's like taking mom to the kids.  Ultimately we'll have original branches on original roots--if they can only nourish each other, we may get the original fruit back.'

But a wise warning came from the master to his servant: don't remove too much bad at once, or all the trees will die from shock.  Instead, as good branches grow, remove the bad only little by little to keep the tree in balance.

The master viewed that a portion of the trees was extremely corrupt, and he himself removed just those branches and cast them into the fire. 

But at this point, the master knew the job ahead was a delicate task would require much help.  He commissioned his right hand man to call other helpers--ones who could and would obey the master's command without question, and follow through with every detail with exactness.  The Helper found other men who fit the description, but there were only a few.

The newly hired servants went forth with their might, and the Lord of the vineyard went with them, directing their work and laboring along side the servants.

To the delight of all, the final plan was working and natural fruit was beginning to appear in the vineyard.  The life blood of the tame mother tree was nourishing the off-spring re-grafted to her; and simultaneously, the transplants' pure essence was providing life for the remnants once broken off.  And on all trees, as the pure natural branches emerged, wild branches began to be plucked off, and all trees began to thrive exceedingly, bearing delicious fruit.

With all diligence, the servants of the Lord of the vineyard performed the work according to all the commandments of the master. They labored together until all the bad had been cast out of the vineyard and the trees--the mother and her transplants-- were once again producing the delicious fruit desired by the master.

With joy, the master announced that his vineyard was no more corrupt, and in nourishing the vineyard for this last time, the natural fruit had been produced and preserved.

The servants were commended for their efforts and were invited to enjoy with the master, the wonderful fruit of their labors.

As they savored the delicious fruit in a vineyard now free of corruption, the master prophesied that one day, when evil fruit once again crept into his vineyard, he would have the good separated and preserved unto himself.  And the bad would be cast into its own place.  And at this time, he would burn the vineyard with fire.

A few helps to understand the parable:

Good Fruit: People correctly responding to the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Corrupt Fruit People not responding to the gospel, or responding to incorrect doctrine.
Vineyard: The geographical world.
Tame Tree: The house of Israel (covenant people)
Wild Tree: The Gentiles (all outside the House of Israel)
The transplanted shoots: Remnants of the House of Israel relocated, such as Lehi's family.
The Master: God the Father
The 'Right Hand Man: Christ His Son
Nourishing trees, vineyard: Preaching the true gospel of Christ
Extra Servants: Endowed Priesthood of last days.
Grafting: Sharing the gospel and bringing them in unto the covenant
Remnant tree w/ both fruits: Nephite/Lamanite people.  Some believed, some didn't
Visitation after first effort: Christ's coming as a man, visited House of Israel and lost sheep.
Visitation at the end: Christ's coming to the church, to endow the priesthood in the last days.