I’m not sure why the fruit itself is so rarely discussed when we study Jacob 5 in our classes. We know from the parable that it is so easy to produce “all kinds of fruit” and that groups of people (branches) generally do a terrible job of judging good fruit from bad. I’m sure if you had asked members of a Sunday School class to each privately write down what they thought the “natural fruit” actually is, you would get ten different answers (“all kinds of fruit”). We also know how particular the Lord of the vineyard is about the fruit. He wants exactly the natural fruit and nothing varying. He doesn’t have ten different answers in mind. We also know that only bringing forth natural fruit can preserve a branch from burning. It seems like identifying exactly what the natural fruit is should be a top priority.

I could be wrong, but I think that most people in a Sunday School class would identify the fruit as something we are already doing as Latter-day Saints, believing as they do that things are essentially as God intended them to be. They might say “temple work”, or “making and keeping covenants,” or maybe more generally say that “the natural fruit are all the things that distinguish the LDS Church from other Churches.” I suggest that we don’t assume anything, and instead look to the scriptures and Joseph Smith’s teachings to identify the fruit. If it turns out to be something we are already doing, then wonderful! If not, we should be grateful for the correction.

Here are the attributes of the natural fruit from Jacob 5:

It is “natural” – Bringing it forth is the sole purpose of the vineyard. Though other fruit is far more common, it is “unnatural” or “wild”.

It is fruit – The roots, trees, and branches are all genealogical in nature. Perhaps the fruit is as well (we’ll see).

It is suitable for preservation – The Lord wants to “lay up fruit against the season” where the vineyard will be burned.

The Lord will take it unto himself; it will be his and it will be with him – The Lord wants to “lay up fruit against the season, unto mine own self.”

The fruit preserves against burning – If the fruit is utterly absent from the vineyard, the whole vineyard is fit to be burned. The servants of the Lord will burn all branches which fail to produce it.

This dichotomy between preservation and burning echoes the parable of the wheat and the tares. It also echoes several other parables:



Net & Fish

Olive Tree


Mustard Seed

Gathered into the barn
Gathered into Vessels
“Laid up” in store
“turning” or sealing to the Fathers (meaning the patriarchs)
Fowls lodge in the branches (fowls meaning the angels of heaven)

The story in all of them is consistent: the world will be cleansed by fire and there is a specific work to be done to preserve at least a few people. Fortunately we have a lot of material from Joseph Smith about that work of preservation.

In Joseph Smith- History verses 37-39, Joseph quotes the angel as saying:

” 37 For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall burn as stubble; for they that come shall burn them, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.

 38…Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

 39 …And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.

Here we learn a couple things. The Earth will “burn as an oven” because “they that come” shall burn them. This refers to Christ and to the host of angels that comes with him (Matt. 25:31; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; Jude 1:14-15). The earth would be utterly wasted if not for the presence of some who are fit to be preserved because their hearts have “turned” to their fathers. The fathers spoken of here are those patriarchs who received promises from God, promises which we also need to receive for ourselves (have them planted in our hearts). Those fathers are among the holy angels who will return with Christ, and there must be a group of people on earth to receive them in a familiar and friendly relationship (Moses 7:63; JST Genesis 9:22-23).

Joseph Smith’s explanation of that verse is essentially the same in his 13 August 1843 sermon (http://www.boap.org/LDS/Parallel/1843/13Aug43.html)

He first refers to the coming destruction and Malachi’s remedy:

in the End [Earth] shall be burned and few men left–but before that God shall send unto them Elijah the prophet and he shall reveal unto them the covenants of the fathers with relation to the children and the covenants of the children in relation to the Fathers that they may have the privilege of entering into the same in order to effect their mutual salvation (Coray Notebook)

He then ties this to Revelation 7:2-3, which reads

“And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.”

Joseph explains the meaning of this scripture:

A measure of this sealing is to confirm upon their head in common with Elijah the doctrine of election or the covenant with Abraham. Which which when a Father & mother of a family have entered into their children who have not transgressed are secured by the seal wherewith the Parents have been sealed. And this is the Oath of God unto our Father Abraham and this doctrine shall stand forever. (Coray Notebook)

William Clayton’s record of that sermon includes Joseph’s clarification that “the doctrine of election” and “the covenant with Abraham” means making one’s calling and election sure, which is the Everlasting Covenant:

Also where it says and they shall seal the servants of God in their foreheads &c it means to seal the blessing on their heads meaning the everlasting covenant thereby making their calling & election sure.(Wm. Clayton Diary)

Joseph would later clarify that the word “turn” in the Malachi/Moroni prophecy about Elijah should be translated “bind or seal .(http://www.boap.org/LDS/Parallel/1844/21Jan44.html).

In one of my favorite sermons, at the end of his life, Joseph was even more explicit about the meaning of the Malachi/Moroni/Elijah prophecy:

Make your calling and election sure go on from grace to grace untill you obtain a promise from God for yourselves that you shall have eternal life. this is eternal life to know God and his son Jesus Christ, it is to be sealed up unto eternal life and obtain a promise for our posterity. Whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, this is the power of Elijah to seal or bind or turn the hearts of the fathers to their children (Burgess Record http://boap.org/LDS/Parallel/1844/10Mar44.html)

So for Joseph, fulfilling Malachi’s promise didn’t just require an appearance from Elijah to him and Oliver Cowdery to bestow some kind of authority that could be passed on man to man. It required any saint who wished to be preserved to

  • go from grace to grace until you obtain a promise from God for yourselves that you shall have eternal life
  • to know God and his son Jesus Christ
  • To be sealed up to eternal life and obtain a promise for our posterity
  • to obtain the sealing power ourselves, that whatsoever WE bind on earth shall be bound in heaven. Look at Joseph’s statements about Father Cutler in this sermon to see how that happens. As Elijah, Peter, Nephi Son of Helaman, and Joseph Smith (in D&C 132) all received sealing authority by the direct covenant of God, Joseph repeatedly taught that we each needed to as well.

Here in Joseph’s description of “sealing” we begin to see all the attributes of the natural fruit:

It is fruit – Once a couple has their calling and election made sure, their children are born under that covenant. Thus for them to bear children and raise them in righteousness is to bring forth good fruit. This doctrine has been lost to Correlation, but a pale echo of it remains in the idea of children “born in the covenant” after an LDS temple marriage. The covenant of eternal life is perpetuated genealogically, though it must be renewed by each generation as Isaac did after Abraham (Abr. 1:2-4;  http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/letter-to-silas-smith-26-september-1833)

It is suitable for preservation – This is how the relationships we forge on earth can be perpetuated. Anything that is not sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise on someone whose calling and election are sure will be shaken and destroyed (D&C 132:14)

The Lord will take it unto himself, it will be his and it will be with him – The process of making our calling and election sure requires us to know Christ and the Father personally, so we can receive promises, priesthood, and authority to seal from them (D&C 84:36-40; D&C 132:22-24). Joseph restated the promise that in the end, all who remain shall know God from the least to the greatest, and said “How is this to be done? It is to be done by this sealing power & the other comforter spoken of”  (http://www.boap.org/LDS/Parallel/1839/27Jun39.html).

In one sermon about the John 14, Joseph paraphrases Christ’s personal ministry as “I will come to you, abide with you forever, Seal you up to Eternal life… I will put promises in your hearts, that will not leave you that will Seal you up.” (http://www.boap.org/LDS/Parallel/1839/8Aug39(3).html). We need promises planted in our hearts, and it is Christ as the Second Comforter who can put them there.

The fruit preserves against burning – If the humanity fails to receive the offer of Elijah’s power, the whole earth will be smitten with a curse. If the Latter-day Saints fail to do so, then the Lord can and will invite other people. As Joseph said in his preface to D&C 88: “for if Zion [meaning the Latter-day Saints] will not purify herself, so as to be approved of in all things, in His sight, He will seek another people.” 

There is one last attribute of the Fruit which we haven’t attributed to Sealing yet: It is “natural”

In what way is it natural for the unredeemed children on earth and in the spirit world to be sealed to the Fathers who are in heaven? Answering this requires going back to the beginning and understanding God’s original intent for mankind.

In Moses 5, God reaches out to Adam and Eve as they reach out to him. He sums up the purpose of his efforts: “as thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will.”

To be redeemed means to be brought back into God’s presence, the reverse process of the fall (Ether 3:13). Hence the relationship between “fallen” and “redeemed” in that verse. This is not a promise God intends to fulfill only after Adam’s death. Adam correctly concludes in the next verse “in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God.” He was redeemed while yet alive, and obtained promises for himself and his posterity, a process we commemorate in the Temple Endowment. God makes the same offer to “all mankind, even as many as will”. That includes us, which is why we are told to think of ourselves as if we were Adam and Eve during the ritual. God intended all people on earth to be redeemed and enter his presence in life. That is the natural state of mankind. The unnatural state dominates because almost all of Adam’s children have immediately rejected the invitation (Moses 5:12-13). The natural fruit has only rarely been seen in individuals, and even more rarely in groups (Zion).

The natural fruit means joining our family, including our posterity, into the family of God to whom the Earth rightfully belongs, joining the Church of the Firstborn who will descend from heaven and inherit the Earth (Moses 6:68; D&C 93:22; D&C 76:58-59; Mosiah 27:25).  God intended for all mankind to inherit and perpetuate that covenant and family from the beginning, but we have not. We have instead, with very few exceptions, brought forth wild fruit. The children of Adam have been very religious, and the Latter-day Saints are certainly no exception. Unfortunately religiosity is not what God requires.

I hope the wisdom is apparent in not assuming that “the natural fruit” must be something the Latter-day Saints are already doing. There is a view of the LDS Church, its doctrine, and its practices that is perpetuated by both leaders and members alike, which portrays the Church as inerrantly following God’s program of salvation. When the Church doubles down on it’s marketing efforts, we call it “hastening the work of salvation.” When we perform temple rituals we claim we are “creating eternal families”. We paint the target of “the work of salvation” around wherever the arrow of our practices, policies, and doctrine have happened to land after its winding 180 year flight.  All the while we are generally completely ignorant of how to be preserved. If the true work of salvation involves obtaining the sealing spoken of by Joseph Smith, and we fail to speak of it, fail to teach others how to obtain it, fail to teach that it is necessary, and instead offer an alternate soteriology in its place, then what are we really “hastening”?

In a letter written early in the history of the Church, Joseph told us how to occupy the “burned” category in the parables. Just as the wheat are gathered into the family of God, redeemed, and promised salvation, the Tares are gathered and bound as well:

” the servants of God go forth warning the nations, both priests and people, and as they harden their hearts and reject the light of truth, these first being delivered over to the buffetings of Satan, and the law and the testimony being closed up, as it was in the case of the Jews, they are left in darkness, and delivered over unto the day of burning; thus being bound up by their creeds, and their bands being made strong by their priests, are prepared for the fulfilment of the saying of the Savior–‘The Son of Man shall send forth His angels, and gather out of His Kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire, there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.'” (JS, Letter, Kirtland, OH, to the elders of the church, Dec. 1835; Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, Dec. 1835, pp. 225–230.)

If we have creeds (Correlated systems of doctrine) that teach a different system of salvation than the one revealed through Joseph Smith, we ought to set those aside. Joseph did predict that people would teach a different version of the gospel among the saints:

Oh! I beseech you to forward, go forward and make your calling and your election sure—and if any man preach any other gospel with that which I have preached, he shall be cursed, and some of you who now hear me, shall see it & know that I testify the truth concerning them; (May 12 1844, Bullock Report http://www.boap.org/LDS/Parallel/1844/12May44.html)

If we are occasionally presided over by priests who choose those creeds over the truth, we are responsible for not allowing their bondage to bind us. We can leave it to God to apply the cursing sealed on them by Joseph. As a lowly member, I study hard to escape that bondage and ensure that my understanding is free from the traditions that always attempt to replace true doctrine. I rely on the scriptures and Joseph Smith’s words to make sure I’m drawing my water upstream of the cattle.

I’ll end with this statement of great hope from Joseph Smith:

These men [the Fathers] are in heaven, but their children are on the earth. Their bowels yearn over us. God sends down men for this reason. “And the Son of Man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that give offense and them that do iniquity.” (Matthew 13:41.) All these authoritative characters will come down and join hand in hand in bringing about this work.

The Kingdom of God is like a grain of mustard seed. The mustard seed is small, but brings forth a large tree, and the fowls lodge in the branches. The fowls are the angels. Thus angels come down, combine together to gather their children, and gather them. We cannot be made perfect without them, nor they without us; when these things are done, the Son of Man will descend, the Ancient of Days sit;

we may come to an innumerable company of angels, have communion with and receive instruction from them…Let us seek for the glory of Abraham, Noah, Adam, the Apostles, who have communion with [or knowledge of] these things, and then we shall be among that number when Christ comes. (July 1839, Willard Richards Notebook)