A Righteous Branch

“Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I have led  this people  forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might  raise up   unto me  a righteous  branch  from the  fruit  of the loins of Joseph.”1

Lehi and his family were brought to this land to be separate, like Joseph of Egypt who was separated from his brethren.2

“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.”3

Branch, fruit, and seed. What are we talking about here? This is covenant language. Covenants, or promises, were made to Joseph of Egypt and Lehi fulfilled a big part of that covenant and prophecy. “For behold, he (Joseph of Egypt) truly prophesied concerning all his seed. And the prophecies which he wrote, there are not many greater. And he prophesied concerning us, and our future generations; and they are written upon the plates of brass.”4 “All his seed” could very well include you and me.

Lehi receives his own covenant as part of the fulfillment to Joseph of Egypt.5 “But, said he, notwithstanding our afflictions, we have obtained a land of promise, a land which is choice above all other lands; a land which the Lord God hath covenanted with me should be a land for the inheritance of my seed. Yea, the Lord hath covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever, and also all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord.”6

 

The House of Israel

When Jacob (Israel) blesses his sons, he prophecies concerning them and their posterity all the way down until our day. “And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days.”7 This should remind us of what Joseph Smith said about Adam, “I saw Adam in the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman. He called together his children and blessed them with a patriarchal blessing. The Lord appeared in their midst, and he (Adam) blessed them all, and foretold what should befall them to the latest generation.”8

He continues, “This is why Adam blessed his posterity; he wanted to bring them into the presence of God. They looked for a city, etc., “whose builder and maker is God.” (Hebrews 11:10.) Moses sought to bring the children of Israel into the presence of God, through the power of the Priesthood, but he could not. In the first ages of the world they tried to establish the same thing; and there were Eliases raised up who tried to restore these very glories, but did not obtain them; but they prophesied of a day when this glory would be revealed. Paul spoke of the dispensation of the fullness of times, when God would gather together all things in one, etc.; and those men to whom these keys have been given, will have to be there; and they without us cannot be made perfect.”9

According to Joseph, “This is why Adam blessed his posterity; he wanted to bring them into the presence of God.” This has been the object of God’s work from the beginning and it is the purpose of the Gospel.10 We will see this theme over and over again.

Joseph was the favored son and he obtained the birthright in Israel because Reuben, the firstborn son of Jacob’s first wife, lost the privilege by transgression.11 “Because of the birthright, Joseph was entitled to a double portion of the inheritance from his father, Jacob. Ephraim was assigned to preside, or lead, the family of Israel. Ephraim and Manasseh were each given one part of the double portion of inheritance and became two of the “tribes of Israel.”12 Joseph’s blessing is as follows:

Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall: The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:)
 
Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb: The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren.”13

The complete fulfillment of Josephs of Egypt’s Covenants has yet to be seen. For now we can see that his blessing contained the language that the Lord references, “that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph.”14 Lehi is a “righteous branch” or a “fruitful bough.”

 

Lehi’s Tree

Lehi also speaks of this tree and its branches. If we study the Book of Mormon closely we can see what the meaning of covenant making entails. We know Lehi had a covenant, and by parsing the text we can gain understanding of what results from his covenant with the Lord.

“Yea, even my father spake much concerning the Gentiles, and also concerning the house of Israel, that they should be compared like unto an olive tree, whose branches should be broken off and should be scattered upon all the face of the earth. Wherefore, he said it must needs be that we should be led with one accord into the land of promise, unto the fulfilling of the word of the Lord, that we should be scattered upon all the face of the earth. And after the house of Israel should be scattered they should be gathered together again; or, in fine, after the Gentiles had received the fulness of the Gospel, the natural branches of the olive tree, or the remnants of the house of Israel, should be grafted in, or come to the knowledge of the true Messiah, their Lord and their Redeemer.”15

It should be noted that Lehi isn’t influenced by Zenos as we might assume, Nephi tells us “Behold, I say unto you, that the house of Israel was compared unto an olive tree, by the Spirit of the Lord which was in our father.”16 The Lord the Vineyard is concerned with the trees of his vineyard and seems to teach many of the prophets through the analogy and symbols of trees.17

Notice that remnants of the house of Israel will be grafted in, “or come to the knowledge of the true Messiah, their Lord and their Redeemer.” Nephi gives us a key to understanding what it is we’re dealing with. Lehi is considered a branch of Joseph as we’ve learned from Jacob, and we know he was rejected for testifying of the Messiah.18 Lehi lived among those in apostasy, those who were rejecting the “the true Messiah, their Lord and their Redeemer.” Yet Lehi repented and worked works of righteousness, he was redeemed from the fall, therefore he was brought back into the Lord’s presence.19 This key informs us that grafting in, done by cutting and binding, is related to salvation itself, or being redeemed from the fall.20

 

Nephi and His Brothers

Nephi also comments on this same tree right after he “desire[d] to behold the things which [his] father saw.”21 Nephi “beh[e]ld the things which [he]… desired,”22 because he “[b]elieve[d] … that [his] father saw the tree.”23 He tells us, “I beheld my brethren, and they were disputing one with another concerning the things which my father had spoken unto them.”24 Nephi asks why the dispute? “And they said: Behold, we cannot understand the words which our father hath spoken concerning the natural branches of the olive tree, and also concerning the Gentiles.”25 After strongly encouraging them to ask God when questions arise over scripture, he tells them some of the meaning of the tree:

Behold, I say unto you, that the house of Israel was compared unto an olive tree, by the Spirit of the Lord which was in our father; and behold are we not broken off from the house of Israel, and are we not a branch of the house of Israel?26

Notice that when Nephi’s brothers ask “What meaneth the tree which he saw? And I said unto them: It was a representation of the tree of life.”27 From Lehi and Nephi we learn that the tree represents God’s family, or the “House of Israel,” and it represents THE “Tree of Life” in the Garden of Eden.28 Jacob knows this, and perhaps this is why his prophecy is The Allegory of the Olive Tree from Zenos.29 That tree is called the Mother tree, which Nephi knows something about.30 This should make us ponder for decades. We, being cast out into the lone and dreary world, have to make a journey back to the garden and the Tree of Life. How ever will we find the way and how do we pass the cherubim and flaming sword?31

 

A Branch in the Latter Days

Jacob also speaks of this branch:

“And behold how great the covenants of the Lord, and how great his condescensions unto the children of men; and because of his greatness, and his grace and mercy, he has promised unto us that our seed shall not utterly be destroyed, according to the flesh, but that he would preserve them; and in future generations they shall become a righteous branch unto the house of Israel.”32

Joseph’s promises have turned into promises to Lehi and his posterity. The Nephites and Lamanites fulfill those promises, and they will continue to fulfill them as we’ll see these covenants are still in our future. Joseph of Egypt knew that this broken branch of his would be remembered in the latter days by the Lord. Again notice the connection with the Messiah being manifest to them.

“Wherefore, Joseph truly saw our day. And he obtained a promise of the Lord, that out of the fruit of his loins the Lord God would raise up a righteous branch unto the house of Israel; not the Messiah, but a branch which was to be broken off, nevertheless, to be remembered in the covenants of the Lord that the Messiah should be made manifest unto them in the latter days, in the spirit of power, unto the bringing of them out of darkness unto light—yea, out of hidden darkness and out of captivity unto freedom.”33

The same promise is offered to us, the Gentiles, “And it shall come to pass, that if the Gentiles shall hearken unto the Lamb of God in that day that he shall manifest himself unto them in word, and also in power, in very deed, unto the taking away of their stumbling blocks—And harden not their hearts against the Lamb of God, they shall be numbered among the seed of thy father; yea, they shall be numbered among the house of Israel; and they shall be a blessed people upon the promised land forever; they shall be no more brought down into captivity; and the house of Israel shall no more be confounded.”34

By this we too can be numbered among the seed of Lehi, how merciful the Lord has been to us, what an opportunity if we will grab hold onto the rod, or branch, extended to us by the Good Shepherd. If we could only hear his voice calling us “from the way toward the garden.”35 The place where Mary found him, and like bookends the place where both Mary’s held him.36 The place where he intends to embrace us with his arms of mercy and love.37

 

Other Branches

Lehi wasn’t the only branch broken off, in fact he wasn’t the first. We can see from Jacob 2:31 that the Lord has “my people in the land of Jerusalem,” and others as he states, “yea, and in all the lands of my people.” This would include the ten tribes of the northern kingdom who were lost and scattered before Lehi was born. We can’t know for sure how many other righteous branches, like Lehi, that the Lord careful placed throughout the world. Nephi understands this,

“Behold, the Lord hath created the earth that it should be inhabited; and he hath created his children that they should possess it. And he raiseth up a righteous nation, and destroyeth the nations of the wicked.38 And he leadeth away the righteous into precious lands, and the wicked he destroyeth, and curseth the land unto them for their sakes.39

Notice all of the common threads to Jacob 2-3. Leading away the righteous to precious lands, destroying the wicked, and cursing the land. Wickedness is the consequence of not keeping the commandments, and “wicked practices” makes one wicked. At His return, the Lord intends to destroy the wicked. “These are they who are liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.”40 The Lord intended for a fruitful righteous branch from Lehi’s posterity, not a wicked unproductive one that practiced “wickedness and abominations.” “Wickedness never was happiness.”41

 

Breaking Branches

A question we should seek to understand is why are these branches broken off to begin with? Isaiah gives us some understanding as to why this happens:42

“And again: Hearken, O ye house of Israel, all ye that are broken off and are driven out because of the wickedness of the pastors of my people; yea, all ye that are broken off, that are scattered abroad, who are of my people, O house of Israel. Listen, O isles, unto me, and hearken ye people from far; the Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name.”43

Again the message is to “my people.” We know that those in Jerusalem were wicked and destroyed in 587 B.C..44 Jacob confirms what Isaiah said about the state of decay from those in Jerusalem by quoting the Allegory of the Olive Tree, “And it came to pass that after many days it began to put forth somewhat a little, young and tender branches; but behold, the main top thereof began to perish.”45

“The infrastructure, the hierarchy, the temple, the priestly class, the learned Rabbis and the schools of thought were rotting. They were nothing like what would be required to produce fruit. They were religious but heritical. They were devoted, but not His sons and daughters. The family line was broken. They needed to be adopted back again, because they lacked the power to remain connected.”46

With the tree in this state, “it came to pass that the master of the vineyard saw it, and he said unto his servant: It grieveth me that I should lose this tree;” The Lord thought he was going to lose the tree. Yet if we look at Laman & Lemuel, they thought the people were “a righteous people.”

“And we know that the people who were in the land of Jerusalem were a righteous people; for they kept the statutes and judgments of the Lord, and all his commandments, according to the law of Moses; wherefore, we know that they are a righteous people; and our father hath judged them, and hath led us away because we would hearken unto his words; yea, and our brother is like unto him. And after this manner of language did my brethren murmur and complain against us.”

Again, the Lord was worried that he would lose the tree, and Laman & Lemuel were blind to state of wickedness of the people of Jerusalem, even calling them “a righteous people.” It seems it can be difficult to discern the time in which you live as we only know the world into which we are born. The challenge is to recognize this world has very little to offer, to then be reborn and to awake and arise. Nephi tells us more about their condition, “For I, Nephi, have not taught them many things concerning the manner of the Jews; for their works were works of darkness, and their doings were doings of abominations.”47 He refuses to teach his children about their wicked abominations, which included polygamy, and under his reign he is successful as a “ruler and teacher.”48

From this state of wickedness, God in his wisdom removed these “young and tender branches.” Through Jacob he reminds the Nephites, “I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem,”49 the place where the land was cursed and prevented real growth. “Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old.”50

In the Lord’s wisdom, he removed these branches at least 2,600 years ago. From the allegory we only know that there are “many” of these “young and tender branches.” According to the Allegory, the Nephites were the ones, “planted in a good spot of ground.”51

“And behold, saith the Lord of the vineyard, I take away many of these young and tender branches, and I will graft them whithersoever I will; and it mattereth not that if it so be that the root of this tree will perish, I may preserve the fruit thereof unto myself; wherefore, I will take these young and tender branches, and I will graft them whithersoever I will.”52

The Lord grafts them, “whithersoever I will.” “For if I will” says the Lord of Hosts, and in the case of Lehi it was his will to command him to leave Jerusalem in order to preserve them as a righteous branch. Why does He do it? “I do it that I may preserve unto myself the natural branches of the tree; and also, that I may lay up fruit thereof against the season, unto myself;”53 His process is to, “raise up unto me a righteous branch,” to “lay up fruit… unto myself,” and “raise up seed unto me.” He takes those “young and tender branches” from the “mother tree,” and places them throughout the vineyard by commanding them. He does it “according to his will and pleasure.” that he might “raise up” branches, fruit, and seed.54

This is how the Lord has, as the Master of the Vineyard, so carefully and patiently put effort into producing fruit from His people. Yet “his people” tend to rebel, to reject his word and find themselves under condemnation as we’ve seen from the latter day Gentiles and the Nephites.55 The plants must respond to the Lord’s efforts. They “might” be raised up, “perhaps” they will respond. There are no guarantees. We can be sure the Lord will make the effort, but it is up to each of us to respond.

These broken branches would have also received commandments from the Lord. I doubt any of them were commanded differently than Lehi’s commandment to have only one wife, as no Genesis story teaches anything other than monogamy.56 If God wanted plural marriages, then why not send multiple branches together? Raising up seed can’t be achieved this way, it requires obedience to God’s commands and we’ll learn more about Lehi’s commandments in the next post.

God would have commanded these branches to write his words, like the Nephites and the Jews.57 In the end, those who have been scattered will eventually be gathered in along with these sacred writings.58 These writings will be considered their rich treasures as the only thing of any worth is God’s word.59 The world will be judged by the words in them, our state will be determined by how much of the word is inside of us, or in other words, how much light we’ve been clothed with.60

When the Lord was crucified, God’s judgement was witnessed amongst the branch of Lehi.61 After 2,000 years of laboring with those at Jerusalem, and 600 years of labor in the vineyard in the Americas, there were few who received his word and found themselves gathered in and avoiding the destruction. “how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, who have fallen; yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, ye that dwell at Jerusalem, as ye that have fallen; yea, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens, and ye would not.”62

The Lord confirms that there are still “other tribes whom they know not of,” that he has and will minister to.63 This is all the work of the Father. “I say unto you again that the other tribes hath the Father separated from them; and it is because of their iniquity that they know not of them.” The reason the Jews don’t know about the other tribes is because of their iniquity. What could be preventing us from knowing about these same lost tribes?

If we jump back to the allegory, you’ll notice the theme of cutting and planting, and eventually cutting and grafting in. There is a long process going on that involves covenants. These are promises made to Abraham, to Joseph of Egypt, and to Lehi. These promises not only include the House of Israel, but they include us the Gentiles. If you are hearing this, these promises are still unfolding and they will affect you and me. It is apparent to me that “seed” is related to this covenant process of laboring in the vineyard, planting, nourishing, pruning, grafting, and finally having these trees bear fruit.

“But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life. And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst. Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you.”64

 

My People

This shouldn’t be a question whether or not Lehi and his family are included in the phrase “my people,” but our conventional interpretation forgets all those who have fallen under that umbrella. If Lehi qualifies as “my people,” then that should help give us context to the meaning of verse 30. The Lord warned the men in Lehi’s family that, “…they shall not lead away captive the daughters of my people”65

Let’s start looking to see if verse 30 applies specifically to Lehi and his posterity in the Book of Mormon. We’re they commanded to “raise up seed?”

>>> Part 2.5 | Raise up Seed
 

Notes & Sources

  1. Jacob 2:25
  2. “The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren.”Genesis 49:26
  3. Jacob 2:30
  4. 2 Nephi 4:2
  5. Lehi uses a prophecy in the plates of brass from Joseph of Egypt and shapes it into his own prophecy. If you compare 2 Nephi 3 with JST Genesis 50, you will notice the differences that Lehi makes. Compare the two side by side: Joseph of Egypt Prophecy

    Since both of these chapters come from Joseph Smith, it would make more sense to have them match in order to “prove” the authenticity. However we miss the differences and don’t recognize that Lehi uses the prophecy as his own.

  6. 2 Nephi 1:5, We’ll talk more about this in future posts.
  7. Genesis 49:1
  8. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 158
  9. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 158-159.
  10. Moses 1:39, John 17:3, and 3 Nephi 27:13–22
  11. 1 Chronicles 5:1–2
  12. Jacob Adopts Joseph’s Sons
  13. Genesis 49:22–26
  14. Jacob 2:25
  15. 1 Nephi 10:12–14
  16. 1 Nephi 15:12
  17. Jacob 5:47, During this week when we’ve remembered the resurrection, I can’t help but think if Mary “supposing him to be the gardener.” After all she was correct. – John 20:14–16
  18. “And it came to pass that the Jews did mock him because of the things which he testified of them; for he truly testified of their wickedness and their abominations; and he testified that the things which he saw and heard, and also the things which he read in the book, manifested plainly of the coming of a Messiah, and also the redemption of the world.” 1 Nephi 1:19
  19. “And it came to pass that he saw One descending out of the midst of heaven, and he beheld that his luster was above that of the sun at noon-day.” 1 Nephi 1:9

    “But behold, the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.” 2 Nephi 1:15

  20. “And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you.” Ether 3:13

    Grafting, cutting, binding is all covenant language. Ancient covenant making involved cutting, see Jewish Encyclopedia: Covenant

  21. 1 Nephi 11:3
  22. 1 Nephi 11:6
  23. 1 Nephi 11:4
  24. 1 Nephi 15:2
  25. 1 Nephi 15:7
  26. 1 Nephi 15:12
  27. 1 Nephi 15:21–22
  28. 1 Nephi 10:12, and 1 Nephi 15:12,16,21–22
  29. “And now, behold, my brethren, as I said unto you that I would prophesy, behold, this is my prophecy—that the things which this prophet Zenos spake, concerning the house of Israel, in the which he likened them unto a tame olive tree, must surely come to pass.” Jacob 6:1
  30. Jacob 5:54,56,60 and 1 Nephi 11:21,18
  31. Alma 12:21–37
  32. 2 Nephi 9:53
  33. 2 Nephi 3:5
  34. 1 Nephi 14:1–2
  35. Moses 5:4
  36. 1 Nephi 11:20–21

    “Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.”John 20:17

    The JST modifies “touch me not” to read “hold me not” and gives us greater insight on the intimate moment exchanged between the two.

  37. 2 Nephi 1:15
  38. While the Jaredites came before Israel, we can see this pattern playing out throughout history. We have their history as a warning to us, the Gentiles. See, Ether 2:8–11
  39. 1 Nephi 17:36–38
  40. D&C 76:102–108
  41. Alma 41:10
  42. Nephi quotes Isaiah from the plates of brass and this verse is different from the translation of the Masoretic Text in our King James Version of Isaiah 49:1, as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
  43. 1 Nephi 21:1
  44. 2 Nephi 1:4
  45. Jacob 5:6
  46. Jacob 5: 3-6
  47. 2 Nephi 25:2
  48. “The word “ruler” doesn’t mean king, and it doesn’t mean president, and it doesn’t mean boss. (Abraham 3:23) Abraham was chosen to be one of them: Abraham lived and died with almost an insignificant number of people who gave heed to him. He lived, essentially, as a family man, but he was going to be made a ruler [Denver drew a ruler on the whiteboard—a measuring stick]. He would set a standard; he would be someone by whom you could measure the truth. In the Book of Mormon, the word “ruler” is equated with “teacher.” That’s who Abraham was. That’s the rule that Abraham marked out as the plan or the pattern, the example, the baseline—the very thing that, if you follow, will bring you closer to God.” – Added Upon
  49. Jacob 2:25
  50. Jacob 2:26

    Here is a list of the polygamist in scripture, and it’s worth studying the kings in Israel & Judah: Monogamy vs. Polygamy – Examples from the Scriptures

  51. Jacob 5:25
  52. Jacob 5:8
  53. Jacob 5:13
  54. The allegory informs us of at least four such branches. – Jacob 5:20–25
  55. see part 1.1, Wresting the Scriptures

    The greater things are available to us now, see this series: Greater things.

    “And all they who receive the oracles of God, let them beware how they hold them lest they are accounted as a light thing, and are brought under condemnation thereby, and stumble and fall when the storms descend, and the winds blow, and the rains descend, and beat upon their house.” – D&C 90:5, see also 3 Nephi 28:8–11

  56. Genesis 1:28, Genesis 9:1, Moses 2:28, Abraham 4:28, Ether 2:1, & 1 Nephi 16:7
  57. 2 Nephi 29:11–13
  58. 2 Nephi 29:14
  59. D&C 133:20, & 1 Nephi 5:21, & 1 Nephi 13:23, & 1 Nephi 19:6–7, & 2 Nephi 3:7, & 2 Nephi 25:7–8, & 2 Nephi 28:2, & 2 Nephi 33:3, & Mormon 8:14
  60. 2 Nephi 29:11, Alma 12:13, D&C 85:7
  61. 3 Nephi 8, 3 Nephi 9, 3 Nephi 10
  62. 3 Nephi 10:5
  63. 3 Nephi 15:15,20 & 16:4
  64. Alma 32:41–43
  65. Jacob 2:33