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BYU Studies Vol. 39 (2000)
Joseph Smith spent Sunday afternoon, April 7, 1844, in a grove behind the Nauvoo Temple. There he gave a funeral sermon, which lasted for over two hours, dedicated to a loyal friend named King Follett, who had been crushed by a bucket of rocks while repairing a well.1 Known today as the King Follett Discourse and widely believed to be the Prophet’s greatest sermon,2 this address was Joseph’s most cogent and forceful presentation of his Nauvoo doctrine on the nature of God, including the ideas of a plurality of Gods and the potential of man to become as God.3 Several times in the first part of the discourse, Joseph expressed his intention to “go back to the beginning” in searching out the nature of God, and a little before midway through the sermon, he undertook a commentary on the first few words of the Hebrew Bible in support of the speech’s doctrinal positions.
When a group of LDS scholars collaborated in 1994 under the auspices of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies to publish a book on the allegory of the olive tree in Jacob 5, few substantial works on olive production in the ancient world existed. Now, two new archaeological books add a wealth of information to our understanding of the importance of the olive in ancient life. The first mention of the olive in the Book of Mormon is found in Lehi’s prediction of the Babylonian captivity and the coming of the Lamb of God. Lehi compared the house of Israel to an olive tree whose branches would be broken off and scattered upon all the face of the earth (1 Ne. 10:12). After being scattered,the house of Israel would be gathered and the natural branches of the olive tree, or the remnants of the house of Israel, would be grafted in, or come to a knowledge of the true Messiah (1 Ne. 10:14). In this passage, Lehi probably drew upon Zenos’s allegory, found on the plates of brass. In incredible horticultural detail, that allegory compares the house of Israel to an olive tree. Yet that Old World information was apparently lost among Lehi’s descendants in the New World. After the fifth chapter of Jacob, the olive is not mentioned again in the Book of Mormon.