Olive Trees

Well, according to Texas A&M University, olive trees are not well-suited for the roller-coaster climate of North Texas. While the temperature range here isn’t a major issue for mature olive trees, the range over a rapid period of time, such as going from the upper 80s to below freezing within a day or two during January-March, is what kills the olive trees, which is a pity.

So why did I come to know this about olive trees? I wanted to grow them. Why? because I wanted to understand better the allusions to olive trees in my scriptures, and I started reading about them. Olive trees are magnificent things and, if cared for, can last for centuries – even millennia. The cultivation of olive trees, in particular, is a beautiful process that lends itself to symbolism both deep and profound.

Even though I can’t grow them where I live, I can still read up on them. There’s a fantastic book I found online that I’ve started and I plan to finish it. The Allegory of the Olive Tree by Ricks and Welch explores the symbolism of the olive tree in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon, and it points out how the parable of the olive tree found in Jacob 5 (longer than, but similar to Paul’s olive tree parable in Romans 11) is such a deep metaphor for people that make covenants with God.

Which then makes me look even closer at the purported divine origin of the Book of Mormon. For, if it is difficult to grow olive trees for North Texans, it’s impossible for folks up in New York and Vermont, where Joseph Smith lived, and particularly so after the explosion of a volcano in Sumatra that plunged the globe into a short period of bitterly cold climatological variations. How would a young farmboy from New England, with no access to Theophrastus’ “Enquiry Into Plants”, know anything at all about olive tree cultivation? And yet, the account given in Jacob, which goes beyond Paul’s account in terms of detail, jives amazingly well with the advice given by Theophrastus from the classical era in regards to proper cultivation of olive trees to maximize both the quality and quantity of fruit.

Not that Theophrastus alone was an authority on olive cultivation: it’s just that a boy that learned to read from a family Bible didn’t have a rack of books at home that dealt with agricultural practices for the Mediterranean climate. And yet, the counter-intuitive and involved practice of olive tree maintenance is evident in Jacob 5. The author of that passage was not someone unfamiliar with the olive tree. The author of that passage had intimate knowledge of the olive tree and how it should be grown.

To me, it is self-evident. To others, it can be the same as I see it, or a coincidence of varying degrees of likelihood. So be it. To those interested in olive tree imagery in Jewish and Christian religious traditions, the above link contains many non-Book of Mormon related essays to be well worth reading over. There are a number of other Jewish and Christian essays regarding olive trees on the Internet that I’ve also looked over that gave me some great insights: let me, therefore, vouch for and share this resource with other people with a fondness or fascination with the amazing olive tree.

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