Book of Jacob

by Clyde J. Williams

Written by Jacob, fifth son of Lehi, sometime after 545 B.C., the work follows the pattern outlined by Nephi 1 for making entries on the small plates by including sacred sermons, significant revelations, prophecies, and some historical information. Jacob, a Nephite prophet, wrote to persuade all men to "come unto Christ" (Jacob 1:7).

The book appears to have been written in three stages. The first constitutes an important discourse by Jacob at the temple, in which he called his people to repent from immorality, materialism, and pride (chaps. 2-3). He counseled men and women to be generous with their possessions, promising that, if they sought the kingdom of God before seeking riches, they would be blessed with sufficient wealth to assist others (2:17-19). Jacob strongly warned his people against sins of immorality because many had transgressed the law of chastity, including practicing polygamy not authorized by the Lord (2:30). He reminded his hearers that the Lord "delight[s] in the chastity of women" and that the sins of the men had broken the hearts of their wives and children (2:22-35).

The second part contains prophecies concerning the Atonement of Christ, the rejection of Jesus of Nazareth by many Jews, and the scattering and gathering of Israel (chaps. 4-6). Jacob desired that later generations would "know that we knew of Christ, and we had a hope of his glory many hundred years before his coming" (4:4). The major component of this section is Jacob's quoting of the allegory of the tame and wild olive trees (chap. 5). Written by Zenos, an Israelite prophet whose writings were preserved on the brass plates, this allegory outlines in symbolic narrative the prophetic story of the scattering and gathering of Israel, including Lehi's descendants, from the establishment of Israel to the end of the earth.

The third segment recounts Jacob's experience with an anti-Christ named Sherem, who with skill and power of language endeavored to flatter and deceive people away from belief in Christ (7:1-4). Sherem had accused Jacob of blasphemy and false prophecy and had tried to convince people that there would be no Christ. In the end, Sherem was confounded by Jacob and, after seeking for a sign, was smitten by God and died shortly thereafter (7:7-8, 13-20). Recovering from Sherem's divisive teachings through searching the scriptures, Jacob's people were able to experience anew the peace and love of God (7:23).

(See Basic Beliefs home page; Book of Mormon home page)


Matthews, Robert J. "Jacob: Prophet, Theologian, Historian." In The Book of Mormon: Jacob Through Words of Mormon, ed. M. Nyman and C. Tate, Provo, Utah, 1990.