When this story began, Lehi was the prophet. Then he became old and died and returned to heaven where he saw God again. And so Lehi’s son Nephi became the prophet. Then Nephi became old and died and returned to heaven where he saw God and Lehi again. Because Lehi and Nephi were gone, Jacob became the prophet.
During their lives, the prophets did important things. Mostly they taught people about Jesus. But Jacob and Nephi and Lehi all knew that one day they would get old and die and no longer be the prophet. And they all worried what would happen once they were all gone. How would the prophets know what to teach? Would the people listen? And so Jacob, like his brother Nephi and like his father Lehi, spent a lot of time writing down the things they thought were important.
They wrote all the time. They wrote some stuff on wood, other stuff on paper, and a few things on stone. But the stone was very heavy and it was hard to read or move around from place to place. The paper and wood were nice for a while but it too would get old and begin rotting and breaking and became very hard to read. And so the prophets wrote the most important things on plates of metal. Precious metal.
The metal was special like gold but that’s not what made it precious. It was precious because it didn’t corrupt or grow old or die like sticks, and paper, and people. If you wrote on a piece of this metal, the writing just stayed around for hundreds, thousands, millions of years. That’s why it was precious. And that’s why the prophets spent so much time writing the words on these precious pages. So that it would last longer than them and longer than their children and longer than their cities and longer than their civilizations, and longer than anything else they could write on. This metal was the most eternal thing they knew besides their own souls. And only God could write on souls.
Over the years, the prophets kept many books. One of the biggest books was about the history of the people. Another book was a little smaller because it wasn’t just about what happened. It was their attempt to see God in what had happened. They tried to understand how God had helped and preserved them. They tried to see the miracles in the world all around them. And they tried to tease out all the things God wanted them to learn from their trials and successes.
And while the prophets lived, they would teach the people what they learned about God in their lives. They would help people see the miracles. And they would explain what God thought about their trials and successes. And God would write on the people’s souls the prophets would write in their metal books.
And it’s thanks to what all these prophets wrote that we even know about Lehi and Nephi and Jacob and most importantly, it’s thanks to their writings that we know that they all knew about Jesus. All of them. Not just Jacob, Nephi, and Lehi, and all the other prophets in the Book of Mormon, but also Moses and Abraham and all the older prophets in the Bible. They had different names for Jesus, but they understood about him. That he would come. That he would save us.
But for some people that wouldn’t be enough. Some people didn’t like having to read and trust what the prophets said. They wanted to know more. They wanted to understand everything. They didn’t want to have doubts. They didn’t want to have faith. And so they rejected Jesus because they thought they wanted something better than Jesus. Something now. Something they could understand. Something they could hold in their hand.
Jacob and all the prophets knew there was nothing better than Jesus. And that even though some people would reject Jesus, Jesus would not reject them. Because Jesus is like a big rock. You can stub your toe on it. You can kick it. You can hate it. But it’s still there strong and hard as ever. And when you need something strong and hard as a rock to build your house one, it’s there waiting and willing to support you.
Jacob wanted everyone to understand how God was like this rock and so he began another story about a bunch of olive trees.