Jacob 1:1-4 Most Precious
After Nephi’s death (verse 12) his younger brother Jacob became the custodian of the small plates of Nephi, and he calls his portion “the plates of Jacob” (Jacob 3:14). Jacob carefully followed Nephi’s instruction to include on the plates only “the things which I considered to be most precious” (Jacob 1:2) and “preaching which was sacred, or revelation which was great, or prophesying” (verse 4; see also 1 Nephi 6:3-6; 9:3-4). The book of Jacob—along with the teachings of Jacob that Nephi recorded in 2 Nephi 6-10—qualify Jacob as a major contributor to the record that later became the Book of Mormon, and we owe him a great debt of gratitude.
Jacob 1:6-8, 15-19 “We Labored Diligently”
Jacob’s labor was not only to record scriptures for us in our day, for he relates that he and his brother Joseph “labored diligently among our people, that we might persuade them to come unto Christ” (verse 7). And understandably so, for all was not well among the Nephites. Jacob identifies three great sins among them (these sins also characterize our day): Sexual immorality (verse 15), materialism (verse 16), and pride (verse 16).
Then Jacob contributes one of scripture’s clearest statements about the responsibility of priesthood holders: “For I, Jacob, and my brother Joseph had been consecrated priests and teachers of this people by the hand of Nephi. And we did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence; wherefore, by laboring with our might their blood might not come upon our garments” (verses 18-19; see also 2 Nephi 9:44). This highlights the duty (and consequences for failure) of all priesthood brethren in their ministering roles. (Of course, the sisters of all dispensations also have the calling to minister, but there are no statements in the scriptures nor in the teachings of latter-day prophets that contain warnings against the sisters, such as those expressed by Jacob regarding the brethren.)
Jacob 2:1-3 Reasons to Serve Diligently
Continuing his theme of priesthood responsibility, Jacob again mentions “the responsibility which I am under to God, to magnify mine office with soberness” (verse 2). In these verses we can derive three reasons for serving diligently: One’s duty toward God (verse 2; see also D&C 107:99-100); to save one’s own soul (verse 2; see also D&C 4:2, 4); and one’s love and “anxiety” for the people he serves (verse 3; see also 1 Nephi 1:5; 2 Nephi 6:3; 33:3; Jacob 4:3, 18; D&C 127:12). Our greatest motivation in service should be our love for God and for our fellowmen, but it is also clear that we have been given duties to which we must be true, and that our service helps us along the path toward salvation.
Jacob 2:4-6, 12-16, 20-35 More on the Three Sins of the Nephites
As seen in 1:15-16 as well as in the chapter 2 heading, this discourse of Jacob again identifies three sins among the Nephites: The love of riches (verses 12-13); pride (verses 13, 16, 20-21); and unchastity (verses 22-23, 35). But what comes before sin? Jacob also identified the precursors to sin, which can be things in our thoughts (verse 5) and in our hearts (verse 6). Then Jacob teaches his people how to overcome their disobedience, and we must take his counsel to heart in our own lives today, regarding how we may repent and improve:
- “Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance” (verse 17).
- “Before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God…. And ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer to the sick and the afflicted” (verses 18-19). This is particularly intriguing because here we learn the Lord’s only justification for seeking riches, which is to help those in need.
- “There shall not any man among you have save it be one wife” (verse 27; see also 3:12). The particular sin of Jacob’s people in this regard was the movement among the men to take on additional wives and/or concubines (see verses 23-24). It is made clear that plural marriage is a practice that the Lord sometimes commands His people, but not the Nephites: “For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things” (verse 30). Also, “And now behold, my brethren, ye know that these commandments were given to our father, Lehi; wherefore, ye have known them before” (verse 34; see also Jacob 3:3-7).
Jacob 2:7-10, 31-35; 3:1-2 How the Lord Feels about Women
It is a sweet experience to go through these verses and identify what the Lord (through his prophet Jacob) feels toward his daughters on earth, as well as children. These verses also reveal some of the tragic effects that men’s sins can have upon the women and children in their lives. In 3:1-2, Jacob offers sweet counsel and promises to the sisters and children, referring to them as “the pure in heart” (verse 1; see also 2:10). An additional choice promise to the sisters and children (and to all of us) is that “the pleasing word of God” can heal their “wounded souls” (verse 8). Can you think of times when the word of God brought healing to your soul?
Jacob 4:3-13 More of Jacob’s Loving Counsel
Jacob’s sincere love and concern for his people again come out in these verses, as well as his powerful testimony of the greatness and goodness of God. This provides us a model for our own callings, ministering, and testimonies today. Examples include:
- “We labor diligently to engraven these words upon plates, hoping that our beloved brethren and our children will receive them with thankful hearts, and look upon them that they may learn with joy” (verse 3).
- “…that they may know that we knew of Christ, and we had a hope of his glory many hundred years before his coming” (verse 4).
- “We search the prophets, and we have many revelations … and our faith becometh unshaken” (verse 6).
- “… [God’s] grace, and his great condescensions unto the children of men” (verse 7).
- “Behold, great and marvelous are the works of the Lord” (verse 8).
- “Take counsel from his hand … he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy” (verse 10).
- “Beloved brethren, be reconciled unto him through the atonement of Christ [with] a good hope of glory in him” (verse 11).
- “Why not speak of Christ, and attain to a perfect knowledge of him” (verse 12).
- “These things are manifested unto us plainly, for the salvation of our souls” (verse 13).
Jacob 4:14-18 Jacob’s Prelude to the Allegory of the Tame and Wild Olive Trees
Do you ever feel like you merely stumble through the scriptures, or go through them blindly? At times, this can afflict any of us. Jacob’s desire is to help make the scriptures more clear, specifically as he shares Zenos’s great allegory of the tame and wild olive trees (which follows in chapter 5).
Jacob was born in the wilderness after Lehi’s family had left Jerusalem, but he learned about the people his family had left behind, and why they rejected “words of plainness” (Jacob 4:14). In Jacob 4:14-16, we learn the following about the Jews of Lehi’s Jerusalem:
|Reasons the Jews could not understand||Results of the Jews’ failure to understand|
|They were a stiffnecked people||They became spiritually blind|
|They despised the words of plainness||They stumbled and fell|
|They killed the prophets||God took away His plainness from them|
|They sought things they could not understand||God gave them things they could not understand|
|They looked beyond the mark (“the mark” is Christ)||They rejected “the stone” (the stone is Christ)|
|They desired things they could not understand||They lost their safe and “only sure foundation” (Christ)|
Is there hope for such people? Yes. In verse 17 Jacob states his purpose, which is to show how those who have rejected “the sure foundation” can yet “build upon it,” so that it becomes the “head of their corner” (which means the same as the “chief cornerstone,” which is Jesus Christ; see Ephesians 2:20; see also Isaiah 28:16; Matthew 21:42; Acts 4:11.) May we all be soft-hearted, receive God’s prophets and their teachings, look for Christ in all our study and our life’s focus, and make Him our “sure foundation.”